Ari Kinsberg commented on this blog, responding to a post I had made at Hirhurim, so I'm promoting my response to a post.
>most people i know simply don't care for a chazzan who
>shlepps with oy yoy yoys and very often is just not that good.
Well, neither do I, but it's a fine line, and often depends on how well you know the chazan. For instance, Cantor Goffin (one of the big guys at the Belz Cantorial School) at LSS (where I grew up) shleps things out somewhat, but you can feel how he means every word. I've timed his Shabbos mussaf amidah, and it's 17 minutes: 9 through kedushah, 8 for the rest. At my fanciest, it's not more than 12-13 minutes, 7 through Kedushah, 5-6 for the rest, but then I'm not professionally trained.
On the other hand, Cantor Malovany (the other big guy at Belz) does Selichos like a throwback to Yossele Rosenblatt. With a choir. It's an experience. You can see he means it, but I really don't need that geshlept Slichos. He did a marvelous job at my great-aunt's funeral, though, not stretched at all.
However, if you get a rent-a-cantor who does a long drawn-out fancy service, it's often hard to tell how much is kavvanah, and how much is gaavah (we used to get that at the LSS downstairs service on High Holidays - my parents didn't have money to spring for Main Sanctuary seats).
But that leads to the attitude I see among many in my own shul, of "I don't like chazzonus", because the showy aspect has, for too many, overshadowed the kavvanah aspect. So even the one or two cadenzas I do in RH/YK davening (most often mincha in my new shul, used to be shacharit in the old place where there was a dearth of local talent) can draw complaints.
I like them, they frame the service (one on Ram V'Nisa, a sort-of drawn-out turn, and one on mekadesh Yisrael veyom hazicaron (3 turns up, an arpeggio down, ending on another turn; 9 measures in 2/4)). Similarly I like to do a somewhat geshlept end of Yekum Purkan (start off with a nice opener) and Shema Yisrael in kedushah, both copied from Cantor Goffin, and somewhat abridged because I don't have his ability. Just timed the V'chol Mi, came to 1:07, and Shma-Hu Elokeinu to 1:00.
People used to like the long, repetitive, redundant, fancy stuff, and found it inspiring. Times change. However, I do agree with Cantor Goffin and R' Rich Wolpoe that nusach is imporant. The Shlomo Carlebach tunes for the piyutim are nice, congregational singing is fun, but it only works if one also has a solid grip on nusach. A lot of tunes, e.g. Aleinu, Unesaneh Tokef, Maariv nusach - are considered "misinai" tunes, going back at least to the 14th century, uniting all of Ashkenaz Jewry with each other and with its heritage. Falling out of the High Holidays nusach into, e.g., Yom Tov, which is easy enough to do if you haven't practiced enough, especially in Yaaleh Veyavo, can be jarring, ending a bracha G-D-c instead of on a minor triad (G-Eb-c) - that half-tone is the difference between YT and HH.
Fortunately, the biggest complainers about that don't come to shul all that often.