“Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher” Performed by Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer
Notes by Itzik Gottesman
Tsunye Rymer was born in Krasna, Ukraine (Yiddish “Krosne”) and grew up and learned to drink among Bratslaver Hasidim in town. He was an incredible reciter of Sholem-Aleichem. He memorized 20 monologues, because he thought he was going blind in his youth (he lost vision in one eye), and wanted to entertain himself in later years. Two LPs of his recitations were produced and you can hear them on the Judaica Sound Archives website.
Picture of Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer by Beyle Schaechter Gottesman
Rymer loved to party, and his gregariousness is reflected in his expressive and passionate singing style. He was a mainstay in our Yiddish cultural world in the Bronx centered at the Sholem-Aleichem Folk Shul 21 on Bainbridge Avenue. He owned a dry cleaning store. Rymer died in 1995, I believe, in his early 90s.
I hope to post a number of Rymer‘s songs. One of his staples, „Fishelekh in vaser,” has become well-known thanks to the singing of Michael Alpert. Most of these recordings are taken from these Bronx zingerays (singing get-togethers) in the 1980s and 1990s. On this performance of this song, I particularly like how much heart he puts into the “Ta-ta-ta” refrain, which most singers would just sing “on automatic.”
One point of Yiddish grammar that is confusing in the song. A scissor in Yiddish is feminine „Di sher.‟ According to the Uriel Weinreich dictionary, the dance is masculine „der/dem sher.‟ Rymer mixed up the two genders, as you can hear.
The folksong „Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher‟ (“Play for Me the New Sher”) has been recorded by Ruth Rubin, Masha Benya and Shura Lipovsky. Rymer‘s last verse is different from theirs. This recording of Rymer was made at a zingeray at the Gottesman home in the Bronx in 1988.Pete Rushefsky adds: The music for „Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher‟ is familiar as the opening sections of the well-known sher medley played in New York City, also collected in Belarus by Sophia Maggid in 1934 from Dovid Veksler, an amateur violinist from Mozyr, Gomel oblast (I thank Dmitri Slepovitch for this information). Sher is the quintessential East European Jewish square dance. Given the length of time required to dance a sher (often 20-30 minutes or more), klezmer musicians would string together a variety of different melodies into a medley to accompany the dance. Over time, these medleys became codified, with different communities adopting unique sher medleys. For more information about sher, see Walter Zev Feldman’s entry on “Traditonal Dance” in the YIVO Encyclopedia. Additionally, Hankus Netsky has documented the evolution of the sher medley known to Philadelphia in his Ph.D. dissertation, “Klezmer: Music and Community in 20th Century Jewish Philadelphia” (Wesleyan University, 2004).
Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher, di naye sher,
vos iz aroysgekumen.
Ikh hob zikh farlibt in a yingele.
Ikh ken tsu im nisht kumen.
Play for me the new Sher, the new Sher
That has just come out.
I fell in love with a boy,
But I cannot go to him.
Kh‘volt tsu im gegangen,
voynt er zeyer vayt.
Kh‘volt im a kush gegebn,
Shem ikh zikh far layt.
I would go to him,
but he lives very far.
I would give him a kiss,
But I am ashamed in front of people.
Nisht azoy far laytn,
vi far Got aleyn.
Ikh volt tsu im aheymgegangen,
Az keyner zol nisht zen.
I am not ashamed in front of people,
as for God himself.
I would go home with him,
Nobody should see us.
Di naye sher iz shoyn alt gevorn,
Dos yingele iz shoyn a zeyde.
Di alte iz shoyn oykhet groy.
A lebn af zey beyde.
The new sher has already aged,
The boy is now a grandfather.
The old woman has also turned gray,
May they both live a long life.