“Hayda-liu-liu” was performed by Mordkhe Schaechter in 1954 in New York and was recorded by Leybl Kahn.
Mordkhe Schaechter (1927 – 2007) was a well known Yiddish linguist, grammarian, writer, master teacher and Yiddishist. He was also my uncle, my mother‘s younger brother and was born and grew up in Chernovitz, Romania. Together with my parents and my grandmother, after the war, he lived in the Displaced Persons camp of the Rothschild Hospital in Vienna, 1947 -1950. My mother Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman and Mordkhe collected folklore and historical materials among the Jews in the DP camp and sent them to YIVO in NYC. When Leybl Kahn, as a member of the I. L. Cahan Folklore Club, recorded Mordkhe‘s mother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman in NY in 1954, Mordkhe took the opportunity at one session to record for Kahn some of the children‘s folklore material he recorded in Vienna. This week is his fifth yortsayt so this blog entry is in his memory – click here to read his obituary in the New York Times.
This lullaby is popularly known in Hebrew as Numi, Numi, originally entitled ‟Shir Eres‟ [lullaby]. Many versions can be heard on Youtube such as this animated one:
Joel Engel (1868 – 1927) was the composer and Yekhil Halperin (or Heilperin) (1880 – 1942), the Hebrew lyricist. It is generally acknowledged that Engel used a Yiddish lullaby as the melody but I cannot find a recording nor a printed version of the Yiddish original. I am hoping the readers of the YSW blog will help me out on this one. The lyrics of Numi, Numi (Halperin‘s lyrics) are similar to what Schaechter sings – click here for the Hebrew words.
But since Halperin‘s words were put to Engel‘s melody in the 1920s, I am hesitant to write that Schaechter is singing the ‟original‟ Yiddish version. Perhaps enough time had passed so that Schaechter‘s version was already influenced by the Hebrew one?
This song by Nitsa Rantz was recorded at the same concert as Rantz’s song Mayn shifl that we had earlier posted in in our blog, at the club Tonic on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 2009. Rantz is accompanied by Jeff Warschauer on guitar.
Nitsa Rantz in Paris, Late 1940s
In their column “Lider demonen zikh lider” [Readers remember songs] in the Yiddish Forward newspaper, Feb. 7th 1992, page 15. Chana and Joseph Mlotek printed the words of Nitsa Rantz’s version of this song.
The columnists note that Rantz called the song “Viglid fun der frantzeyzisher revolutsye” [Lullaby of the French Revolution], and that they had found a printed version in a Workmen’s Circle songbook, 1934.
A version was sung during the Holocaust in the Vilna ghetto and was printed in Shmerke Katcherginski’s collection “Lider fun getos un lagern”, 1948. The singer Rokhl Relis called it “Dos lid fun umbakantn partisan”. Instead of the guillotine, the father is killed in a gas chamber.
Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman sings a similar version to Rantz’s, and there is enough difference in the text to make it worthwhile to post it on the Yiddish Song of the blog at some point. A beautiful version is found in the Stonehill collection at YIVO, sung by an as yet unidentified man, (Reel 9).
Shlof shoyn kind mayns vider ruik ayn. Shtil es flit shoyn di levone-shayn. Fun der vaytns finklen shtern, Kuk nisht kind af mayne trern. Shlof shoyn kind mayns vider ruik ayn.
Sleep my child once more quietly. Quietly the moonlight flies . From the distance stars are twinkling. Child do not look at my tears. Sleep my child once more quietly.
Es vet der tate mer nisht kumen. Im hot men fun undz genumen. Iber di gasn im geshlept, af dem eshafod gekept. Blaybn mir dokh eynzam kind aleyn.
Your father will no longer come. They took him away from us. They dragged him through the streets, on the guillotine they cut his head. So we remain lonely, my child.
Reder geyen in fabrikn, menstshn geyen underdrikn. Dort ahin iz er gegangen, vu es raysn zikh di klangen. Vu di shteyner zenen royt baflekt.
Wheels turn in the factory, the people go oppressed. There is where he went, where the noises wildly sound, where the stones are stained red.
Unter der fon hoykh gehoybn, hot er mit a tifn gloybn, az er muz bafrayen shklafen, firn zey tsu a naym hafn, Tsu a groyser, sheyner, nayer velt.
Under the flag raised high, with a firm belief that he must free the slaves, take them to a new harbor, to a great, beautiful new world.
Brider, zog (Brother, Say) is by the 19th century Yiddish poet Sholem Berenshteyn. No one seems to be sure of his life dates (and not even his first name – some say Shmuel) but he lived in Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, and died before 1880. In 1869 he published his collection Magazin fun yidishe lider far dem yidishn folk in Zhitomir, which was reprinted several times.
The best source for his biography is Zalmen Reisin‘s Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, volume 1. Reisin considers him one of the first Yiddish folkpoets and even the poet Mikhl Gordon („Maskhe‟, „Di bord‟) considered him a better poet than himself. As Reisin points out, his work sometimes touches upon typical maskilic themes (anti-Hasidic, Russian patriotism) but he mostly stays clear of them, and his most popular poems became songs with traditional themes such as Brider zog and Sholem-Aleykhem which the Bessarabian folksinger Arkady Gendler sings on his recording, released in 2001, Mayn shtetele Soroke, produced by Jeanette Lewicki.
The most extensive discusssion of the song Brider, zog is in Joseph and Chana Mlotek‘s book Perl fun der yidisher poezye which was recently translated into English by Barnett Zumoff as Pearls of Yiddish Poetry, Ktav Publishing. The song was originally titled Zmires has 15 verses; what was sung were the first four verses.
I have attached the Yiddish words and music in the version found in Z. Kisselhof‘s Lider zamlung far der yidisher shul un familye, St. Petersburg 1911 which is very close to the version sung here.
The unidentified singer is clearly more of a „pro‟ than we are used to hearing in the songs posted on this blog. But listening to her interpretation of khasidic song does raise interesting questions about the “art song” interpretation of khasidic style. The late, great Masha Benya, among others, comes to mind in this regard. This singer turns a song, which melodically could be quite boring, into an interesting performance.
A powerful song lamenting the horrors of war. A soldier lies wounded in the hospital and writes to his mother and fiancé.
This recording is from Ruth Rubin’s field recordings courtesy of Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archive. It was recorded in 1955 in Montreal. The singer is named Harry Ary, he is the same singer who sings “In Droysen iz Finster” from Ruth Rubin’s “Jewish Life: The Old Country” LP of field recordings. I love his delivery and especially the very slight differences between each verse. He may be my favorite male singer on that record.
Note the difference in the opening phrase on the first, and later verses; at the beginning of the second and third verses, he sings a sharp fourth instead of the natural fourth.
On the second and third verses, when he repeats the last two lines, I especially like the different way that he treats, “mayn harts” and “mayn kale.” The variations have very much the same shape, but are sung varied slightly each time. Also his final cadences at the end of each verse are of particular interest to me, for he sings almost a quarter tone sharper than a flat second (in the mode), and this is of course intentional. This difference in tuning is often overlooked in transcriptions and re-interpretations of folk sources, however these controlled variations in pitch are what make this singer particularly interesting.
I will write you a letter Mamenyu,
And Mamenyu, I write of my health,
Oy, my hand was amputated,
And in both eyes, Mamenyu, I am blind.
I lie in the hospital, wounded,
And the doctors stand around me,
My heart is gushing with blood,
My dear Mamenyu is not near me.
I write a letter to my bride,
And I write of her alone,
That she should rip up the engagement,
And go with someone else to the khupe. (translation by Benjy Fox-Rosen)
Itzik Gottesman writes: Below is the version of the song from “Yidishe folks-lider” edited by Moyshe Beregovski and Itzik Feffer, Kiev 1939, page 119. The melody is essentially the same, and the words vary only slightly. However one textual change should be noted: in the Beregovski-Feffer version the singers says in the second line of the third verse “I write to you only about myself” which is the opposite of Harry Ary’s version.”
“Klezmorim mayne” is a recording of an unidentified singer recorded by Ben Stonehill in the lobby of the Marseilles Hotel (Broadway and 103rd street in Manhattan) in summer 1948.
The Ben Stonehill Collection
Lorin Sklamberg’s article in News from YIVO about the Ben Stonehill Collection should be read in its entirety. It’s a fascinating story. Sklamberg is the sound archivist at YIVO in addition to being the lead singer for the Klezmatics.
In 1948 Mr. Stonehill (1906-1965), armed with a home recording device, preserved the singing of some 1078 songs by Jewish displaced persons temporarily housed in a Manhattan hotel “and for several weeks interviewed hundreds of informants, gathering performances of both well-known and obscure Yiddish folk and theater songs, Hasidic nigunim and songs of the Holocaust as sung by singers ranging from strictly amateur performers to some remarkable vocal artists, including the Vilna poet-partisan Shmerke Kaczerginsky.” He transferred the recordings from wire to reel before his death and left copies at Yeshiva University, Yad Vashem, Library of Congress and YIVO. Janina Wurbs digitized and completed a preliminary catalogue.
The song “Klezmorim mayne” can be found at YIVO on Stonehill CD #3, song #43. There are many gems in the Stonehill collection, but I think it’s greatest worth will be as a reflection of the broad Jewish musical world in the 1930s in Eastern Europe; in other words, a key to help us answer the question, what did the Jews sing before the war? Old fashioned ballad hunters like myself will be disappointed since most of the collection consists of popular, well-known songs, but then once in a while someone will sing a song like “Klezmorim mayne”, an old death ballad from the 19th or even perhaps 18th century, and – wow! Nothing makes me smile more than an old death ballad.
Noyekh Prilutski’s second volume of Yiddish folksongs (1913) which has no melodies included, does include a number of variants of this particular ballad that is built upon the alef-beys. The singer here forgets the stanza for the letter “ז” – zayin – which none of the hotel lobby spectators seem to notice, but they do notice when he confuses lines in another verse and laughter is heard. The singer, unfortunately unidentified, does not lose his cool in the midst of this ridicule and continues to sing beautifully. Great performance under pressure. Below is the text in standard Yiddish, then an English transliteration in the singer‘s Yiddish dialect, intercut at every verse with the translation.
klezmurim mayne zise,
(Oy) Shpilts mir of dus shtikele,
far mayn gsise.
My dear klezmer,
Play for me that melody
before I die.
Di alef makht,
Ov hurakhmim shoykhayn bimroymim
Di bist a futer
iber ale yesoymim.
The alef makes the sound of
“Our merciful father who dwells in the heavens,”
You are a father
over all the orphans.
Di bays makht – bays a hoz.
A shud avektsevarfn,
Kimt tsi gayn der malekh-hamuves
dem khalef tsikopns tsi sharfn.
The beyz sounds like – beys a house.
A shame to throw it away.
Then the angel of death comes
and sharpens his knife at the head of the bed.
Oy di giml makht – gold in zilber
duz iz dokh a heyvl-havulim.*
A yeder mentshns leybn
iz dokh azoy vi a khulem.
O the giml makes – gold and silver.
This vanity of vanities.
Every person’s life
in no more than a dream.
Oy, di daled makht – di hent in fis
zay tien in mir kiln.
un dus fayfele in deym harts,
tit in mir shpiln.
O, the daled makes – the hands and legs
are starting to get cold.
and the little flute in my heart,
starts to act up.
Oy, di hay makht – hayle hadvurim.**
Oy, hayle hadvurim,
A Yedn mentshns leybn,
iz dokh azoy vi a khulem.
O the hey makes – “these be the words” [Deuteronomy 1.1]
“These be the words”
Every person’s life
Is just like a dream.
Oy, di vuv makht – vayse klayder,
zey tien dem mentsh bashaynen.
Oy, rifts aran mayn vayb un kinderlekh,
Lomikh zay farn toyt bavaynen.
O the vuv makes – white clothes
beautify the man.
Call in my wife and children
and let them lament me before I die.
Oy di khes makht – khevre kedoyshim***
ir zent dokh haylike mentshn.
Rifts aran mayn vayb un kinderlekh,
Lomir zey farn toyt bentshn.
The khes makes – the khevre kadishe [burial society]
you are holy people.
Call in my wife and children
Let me bless them before I die.
Oy, di tes makht – tint in feder
mit deym ken men dokh ales bashraybn.
oy git mir (ayer?) tint in feder,
lomikh testament shraybn.
The tes makes – ink and pen,
with this you can describe everything.
Give me (your?) ink and pen,
and let me write my testament.
Di yid makht – yo, yo yo!
Ikh hob gemaynt kh’el aybik leybn.
Atsindn**** rift men meykh,
kh’zol din-vekhesbn opgeybn.
The yud makes – yes, yes, yes!
I thought i would live forever.
Now call I am called upon
to give a full reckoning.
Oy din־vekhesbm opgeybn
dos iz dokh zayer shlekht.
oy herts mikh oys raboysay,
tsindst un tsu kopns di lekht.
To give a full reckoning,
is indeed very bad.
So listen to me gentlemen,
light by my head the candles.
Di lekht ungetsinen,
tsevishn mane palatsn,
oy vay tsu mayne yesoymendlekh,
zey hobn shoyn nit keyn tatn.
The candles have been lit,
among my palaces.
Woe to my little orphans,
they have no more father.
* usually without the indefinite article “a” which makes it singular.
**hayle hadvruim. In the bible “Eyle hadvurim,” but in the singer’s Polish Yiddish dialect, he adds the “h” sound before “Eyle”, thus the phrase can now be used for the “Hey” letter in the alef-beys of the song.
***khevre kadoyshim. A folksy form of khevre kadisha?
****atsindn. A form of atsindert ־ now