“Khidesht zikh nisht” Performed by M.M. Shaffir

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2020 by yiddishsong

Khidesht zikh nisht / Don’t be surprised
A song composed and sung by M. M. Shaffir, recorded in the Bronx by Itzik Gottesman, 1974.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This post marks the tenth year anniversary of the blog “Yiddish Song of the Week”!  We have been more than a little pleased with the effect it has had on singers, researchers and lovers of Yiddish song. We welcome all field or home recordings of Yiddish songs, particularly if they are lesser known or rarely sung nowadays. The quality of the recording or talent of the singer are not significant issues in this blog. Here is to ten more years!

Khidesht zikh nisht is the fourth and last song on this blog written and sung by the Montreal poet M. M. (Moyshe-Mordkhe) Shaffir (1909 – 1988); all recorded in the Bronx around the Gottesman’s dining room table in 1974. He dedicated this song to another Yiddish poet in Montreal, Ida Maze (1893 – 1962, pronounced “Ayde”, also known as Ida Massey) whose home became the Yiddish literary salon of that city. Something she said inspired Shaffir to write it but unfortunately I could not understand the whole story from the recording. 

1936Montreal Yiddish writers 1936: back row left M. M. Shafir, next to him Shabsai Perl. Front row: Ida Maze left, Kadya Molodowsy center, Yudika, right. From the collection of the Jewish Public Library in Montreal.

Shaffir sings three verses which were printed with the music in his collection A stezhke (1940). Those pages which include the Yiddish text are attached. In a later collection he added three more verses.

TRANSLITERATION

Khidesht zikh nisht, vus ikh bin
azoy sheyn gevorn.
Di mame zugt, a khusn kimt,
Oyb nisht haynt iz morgn. 

Don’t be surprised that
I became so pretty.
Mom says a prospective groom is coming,
if not today then tomorrow. 

Di mame zugt az fin Candren.
Vus art es mikh fin vanen?
Ale mayne khavertes
zenen mikh mekane.

Mom says that he’s from Candren [town in Bukovina]
What do I care where from?
All my girlfriends
will envy me.

Di zin iz hant an ondere
un ondere di veygn…
Kh’volt gefreygt di mameshe –
sheym ikh mikh tsi freygn.

The sun today is different
and different are the roads…
I would put a question to my mom
but am ashamed to ask.

Kh’ob ungetin a likhtik kleyd
un a shnirl royte kreln –
epes zugt in mir dus harts
az kh’el im gefeln.

I put on a bright dress
and a necklace of red beads –
something tells me in my heart
that he will like me.

From M.M. Shaffir’s collection A stezhke (1940), p. 158:
Shaffir1

“Zishe Breitbart” Performed by Yitzchak Milstein

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2020 by yiddishsong

Zishe Breitbart Sung by Yitzchak Milstein
Recorded by Toby Blum-Dobkin, 2/19/1977, Brooklyn NY. 

Commentary by Toby Blum-Dobkin. Song lyrics and transcription appear at the end of the post, including Milstein’s opening and closing spoken remarks. 

About the Singer Yitzchak Milstein

I first recorded Yitzchak Milstein singing the ballad of Zishe Breitbart in 1973, when I interviewed Mr. Milstein for the YIVO Yiddish Folksong Project, directed by Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. The project team aimed to define and document Yiddish musical specialists and to compose portraits of such individuals [Blum-Dobkin 1975]. I again recorded the song in 1977, when I wrote an article about Zishe as a folk hero. I translated the song into English, and also transliterated it to reflect features of Milstein’s Yiddish pronunciation [Blum-Dobkin 1978].  

MilsteinPhoto

Yitzchak Milstein

I conducted ten interviews with Yitzchak Milstein for the Yiddish Folksong Project, between 2/27/1973 and 9/18/1974.  Each interview lasted approximately 90 minutes. All the interviews were conducted in Yiddish, with some songs and narrative in other languages. I translated portions of the interviews and songs into English, directly from the recordings. Bella Gottesman transcribed all the interviews and songs in Yiddish, also directly from the recordings. 

Mr. Milstein was born in Shidlovtse (Szidlowiec), Poland, in 1914. His mother Rokhl had a booth of ‘galenterye’ at the shtetl market. His father Motek (Mordkhe) was a ‘holts tokazh’ – a wood turner. Yitzchak worked as a tailor in Shidlovtse and seasonally in Warsaw. His childhood home was filled with music. He remarked, “In our home, almost everyone sang. . . were there better entertainments?. . . I remember that my father had a ‘liderbikhl’ – a Yiddish song book..  [with songs about] city girls and farmers’ girls…When my father was young he also acted in the drama circle, in [Goldfaden’s] Di Kishefmakherin – The Sorceress.” Even when Yitzchak’s father became more religious, he did not forbid Yitzchak from attending performances and acting in amateur dramatics. Yitzchak remembered that his father “said it was ‘b’yerushe’ – part of my legacy.”  The family had a mandolin, and Yitzchak learned by observing others.

In 1942 Yitzchak Milstein was forced into labor at the Skarszysko Hasag camp, and was subsequently incarcerated in several other Nazi camps. He was liberated in April 1945 and housed in the Displaced Persons camp in Feldafing, Germany. He emigrated to the the US in 1950 and settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, resuming work in his trade of tailoring.  He also resumed his avocation, singing. Mr. Milstein’s other avocation was keeping the memory of his shtetl Shidlovtse alive. He was active in the effort to publish Shidlovtse’s ‘yizker bukh’ – memorial book – for which he created artwork and essays  [Milstein 1974]. For Yitzchak Milstein, it was a matter of pride to reproduce a performance or song ‘genoy’ – as correctly and faithfully as possible. “I am a tape recorder,” he explained to me.

The Song ‘Zishe Breitbart’ 

Yitzchak Milstein had heard the ballad of Zishe Breitbart in the 1920’s from a ‘hoyfzinger’ – a street singer in Shidlovtse. The text of the ballad along with pictures of Zishe Breitbart were sold by street singers in broadside form. I am indebted to Chana Gordon Mlotek for directing me to other versions of the Breitbart song, and for pointing out the elements that the Breitbart ballad had in common with traditional ballads [Mlotek 1974].

PhotoBreitbart

Zishe (Sigemund) Breitbart

Zishe (Siegmund) Breitbart, son of a blacksmith, was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1883. His fame was based both on his physical strength and his unique personality. He toured widely, and in 1923 performed for the Keith vaudeville theaters in New York. The New York Times reported on Breitbart’s 1923 arrival in the United States:

“Among other feats of strength he claims to be able to lift ten or twelve persons with his hands, twist bars of iron like scraps of paper, crack Brazil nuts between his fingers, and haul a wagon with ten persons along the road by his teeth.” The article notes that Breitbart “says he is so sensitive that he would walk into the roadway to avoid trading upon a worm. . . he likes music and writes poems, but doesn’t like prize fighting. He declined an offer received by telegram at the pier to go to Saratoga Springs and have a tryout with Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight champion. ‘For me it is not,’ the strong man of Poland said.” [New York Times 1923].  

Breitbart’s death at the age of forty-two apparently resulted from blood poisoning initially contracted during a performance in Radom, Poland, when he scratched or punctured his leg with a nail.  He died in Berlin in 1925.

Zishe Breitbart’s crowd-pleasing persona and sense of mission as a Jewish hero made a lasting impression [Blum-Dobkin 1978; Bart 2014; Gillerman 2010].  He appeared in the silent film [Der Eisenkoenig 1923] and is the subject of a feature film [Invincible 2001].  It has even been posited that Zishe Breitbart was an inspiration for the character of Superman [Gordon 2011]. 

Milstein Comments

From Khane & Yosl Mlotek’s Song of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song (Workmens Circle, 2004):

Breitbart1Breitbart2Breitbart3

Selected Sources:

Bart, Gary.  Interviewed by Christina Whitney,  Wexler Oral History Project, National Yiddish Book Center, Amherst MA, November 21, 2014.

Blum-Dobkin, Toby.  “Case Study of a Traditional Yiddish Folksinger.” Unpublished paper, 1975.

Blum-Dobkin, Toby.  “Zishe, the Yiddish Samson.”  The Parade of Heroes: Legendary Figures in American Lore.” edited by  Tristram Potter Coffin and Hennig Cohen, Anchor Press, Garden City NY, 1978: 206-213, 557-558.

Der Eisenkönig.  Film directed by Max Neufeld, 1923. 

Gillerman, Sharon.  “The Strongest Man in the World.” YIVO Encyclopedia, 2010.

Gordon, Mel.  “Step Right Up and Meet the World’s Mightiest Human: A Jewish Strongman from Poland who Some Say Inspired the Creation of Superman.”  Reform Judaism, Summer 2011.  

Invincible.  Film directed by Werner Herzog, 2001.

Milstein, Yitzchak.  “Khronik fun khurbn in Shidlovtse.”  Shidlovtser Yizker Bukh/Yizkor Book Szydlowiec, edited by Berl Kagan  Shidlovtser Benevolent Association, NY (1974): 344-368.

Mlotek, Chana Gordon.  “Perl fun der yidisher poezye.” Forverts 1973.The New York Times August 27, 1923.

 

“Ven di zun iz mir fargangen” Performed by Avi Fuhrman

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Ven di zun iz mir fargangen / When the sun has set
A Chanukah Song sung by Avi Fuhrman
Recorded at Circle Lodge, NY, 1984 by Itzik Gottesman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Avi Fuhrman (aka Avrom, Avraham, Abraham) learned this Chanukah song from his father in the 1930s in Chernovitz (then Romania, today – Ukraine). We have yet not been able to identify the writer or composer.

Avi FuhrmanFoto

Avi Fuhrman

“Maoz tsur” is usually translated as “Rock of Ages” but literally – “Stronghold of Rock”. The rock is usually interpreted as God.  

In Fuhrman’s native Bukovina Yiddish dialect “maoz tsur” is pronounced “muez tsir”. But in this performance Fuhrman sings “Muez tsur” which does not rhyme with the intended rhyming words: “shir” “mir” “frier”.

Special thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski who helped with the transcription. 

TRANSLITERATION AND TRANSLATION

Ven di zin iz mir fargangen,
kalt in fintster iz di nakht.
Un di shterndlekh fun deym himl
hobn zeyere eygelekh farmakht.

When the sun has set for me,
cold and dark is the night
And the stars of sky
have closed their eyes.

Ikh ken keyn veyg shoyn nit gefinen.
Ikh blondzhe, blondzhe un a shir.
Hob ikh mir a lekhtele ungetsindn,
dos lekhtele heyst dokh muez tsur.

I cannot find any path;
I wander, lost without stop.
So I lit a candle
and the candle is called maoz tsur. 

Un ikh lern mir bay dem lekhtele
bleter groyse, mit oysyes fil.
Un dervarem mir derbay dem kerper,
vayl es vert mir shreklekh kil.

And I study at my candle
large pages full of letters.
And it warms my body,
because I feel so terribly cool.

Bald farges ikh mayne tsores
vos ikh trug arim oyf mir.
Un ikh zing mir in mayn goles,
zey, vus shvaygstu muez tsur?

Soon I forget my troubles
that I carry around with me.
And I sing in my exile:
See, why silent maoz tsur?

Grekn zenen mir bafaln,
mit zeyere tume hent.
Farumreynikt undzer templ
undzer leybn hobn zey geshendt.

Greeks attacked me
with their polluting hands.
They made filthy our Temple;
our life they defiled.

Zey hobn toyte shtume gotn
ahin arayngeshtelt tsu mir.
Ikh hob far veytik oysgeshrign:
“Zey, vos shvaygstu muez tsur?”

They placed dead, silent gods
in there for me.
From pain I shouted out:
Look! Why are you silent maoz tsur. 

Der barimter Makabeyer
Khashmonoyim mit zayne zin.

[Fuhrman speaks – “Vayter gedenk ikh nisht di verter”]

The famous Maccabee
of the Hasmoneum, and his sons.

Zey hobn dem soyne bald fartribn,
dem templ reyn gemakht vi frier.
Ikh hob far freyd oysgeshrien,
Zey, vos shvaygstu muez tsur?

They drove the enemies away.
The Temple they restored.
For joy I shouted out:
See, why are you silent maoz tsur?

Fuhrman: [spoken] Vus se feylt darfsti aleyn zikhn.

Whatever is missing, you have to find yourself.

fuhrman1fuhrman2fuhrman3

“Tseyde-laderekh” Performed by Moti Friedman and Serl Birnholtz

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Tseyde-laderekh / Provisions for the Journey (A Hasidic Song)
Commentary by Janet Leuchter and Itzik Gottesman

This week we bring two performances of a Hasidic song, Tseyde-laderekh (Provisions for the Journey). In Moti Friedman’s version we hear a representation of the Hasidic men’s singing tradition. In Serl Birnholtz’s version, the song becomes more “folky,” both textually and musically. The transcription and translation of both versions is found after the commentary. Birnholtz’s version is also presented in Yiddish, attached below. 

Version 1 sung by Moti Friedman, recorded by Janet Leuchter, New York City, 1985:

Version 2 sung by Serl Birnholtz, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx 1985

Cantor Janet Leuchter has written an extensive article on this song “Provisions for the Journey; a Rarity in the Lost Field of Yiddish Song” in the Journal of Synagogue Music, Volume 35, 2010, which can be read at by clicking here (see pages 120-144).

For this Yiddish Song of the Week post Leuchter has written the following summation:

Tseydo laderekh (or ladorekh) is a song that likely originated in religious circles in the 19th century.  It’s rarely heard and has never appeared in printed collections, but a few variants are known orally among some Hasidim and their descendants.  Tseydo laderekh (Hebrew) is a biblical expression that means “food for the road”—or more broadly, “provisions for the journey.” In medieval rabbinic writing, the expression often came to mean the type of mitzvot (religious commandments) defined as good deeds (rather than rituals). In the 19th century, tseydo laderekh was used in moralistic literature that had wide circulation among the Jewish masses as well as in Lithuanian yeshivot and Hasidic circles. 

tseydu4

The song could be categorized as a musar lid, a didactic song with text urging moral behavior. The song’s relatively complex structure suggests a folklorized sermon or poem. Its melody is suggestive of traditional talmudic study mode (lernen shteyger). The broad melodic form is typical of a Yiddish religious genre that alternates between non-metered verses (as in Ashkenazi study and prayer) and a metered chorus. In another variant, the melody and text are more extended, with the melody rising in pitch and dramatic intensity like a hasidic nign (wordless melody). But instead of returning to the initial melody, it descends to a third section, before returning to a one-line metered chorus.  

Tseydo Ladorekh – Moti Friedman’s version
Transcribed and Translated by Janet Leuchter with assistance from Sheva Zucker

TRANLITERATION (Friedman/Leuchter)

Tseydo-ladorekh nemt aykh,
brider, mit.

Ven ayner gayt uf a veyg,
upgetsaylte tsvay dray teg,
esn darf er zakh mitneymen meyr.
In es kimt fur zeyer oft,
shlekhte tsaytn umferhof,
az der ban ken nisht vayter geyn.

Tsi ist amul a vint in a shney,
di veg iz in gantsn ferveynt [farveyt?-IG],
der ban ken nisht vayter geyn.

Derum ven ayner furt uf a rayze
darf er zakh mitneymen meyr shpayze
hingerik vet er nit darfn zayn.

(Refrain): Tseydo, tseydo-ladorekh
aykh, brider, mit. 

Der ver es tit zikh furbraytn der laydet kayn
Tseydo nemt aykh, brider, mit ahin,
vayl oyfn veyg ken men shoyn gur nisht tin.
Tseydo ladorekh nemt aykh, brider, mit.

Aroys, der groyser gevir,
vus shoymrim shteyen bay dayn tir.
Efsher hosti a mentshlekh gefil?
In ven es kimt ayn uremen tsi dir,
efen im oyf brayt dayn tir,
im empfangen mitn gantsn harts.

Bevurn ikh dir, brider, du,
kdey di zolst hubn of yenem shu,
in efsher vet dir dort beser zayn.

Bevurn ikh dir, brider, mayn leben,
in efsher vet men ayn shvakh upgeyben.
In efsher vet dir dort beser zayn.

(Refrain…)

Tsi hosti aynem gringer gemakht?
Tsi hosti aynem nitsn tsebrakht?
Tsi hosti geholfn oy an uriman?

(Bevurn ikh… )

(Refrain)

TRANSLATION (Friedman/Leuchter)

Provisions for the journey,
brothers, take with you. 

When one goes on his way
for two, three days,
he must bring more food with him.

And very often (hopefully not)
bad times occur
When the train cannot go further.

Sometimes there are wind and snow,
the road is bleary
the train cannot go farther.

Therefore when one goes on a trip,
he must bring with him more food
so that he does not go hungry.            

(Refrain) Provisions for the journey, 

The one who prepares never suffers.
Provisions, brothers, take with you there,
for on the road nothing more can be done. 

Provisions for the way, brothers, take with you.

Come out, wealthy man,
whose guards stand by your gate!
Have you maybe a human feeling?
And when a poor man comes to you,
open wide your door
and receive him with all your heart.

I warn you here, brother,
so that you will not go lacking at that hour
and perhaps you’ll be better off.
I warn you, my dear brother,
and perhaps you will be praised
and perhaps your way will be better there. 

(Refrain…)

Have you eased someone’s path?
Have you been of use to someone?
Have you helped a poor man?
(I warn you here brother….)

(Refrain)

A Note About the Singer Serl Birnholtz by Itzik Gottesman:

My father’s younger sister, Aunt Serl (nee Gottesman) Birnholtz, was visiting us in the Bronx from Holon, Israel and sang this Hasidic song at our dining room table. She was born in Siret, Romania (Seret in Yiddish) in 1927 and she emigrated to Israel after the war. Siret was home to one of the Vishnitzer rebbes and also had many followers of the Sadagerer Rebbe.

SerlGitlLouis

Serl Birnholtz with Louis Birnholtz and Serl’s mother Gitl Gottesman in Israel, late 1940s

I have heard only one recorded version of this song; that is on the CD Gramen fun altn kheyder, produced by the Bobov Hasidim in Brooklyn. (Yiddish text attached). This recording features the singing of the Ziditshoyver Rebbe, who stems from a Galician Hasidic dynasty. The third and fourth verses of his version are completely different from Birnholtz’s and she sings it with a much faster tempo. Also changed to a folkier Yiddish language are a number of Germanisms that one hears in Moti Friedman’s version. 

 TRANSLITERATION of Serl Birnholtz’s version by Itzik Gottesman

Chorus:

Tseydu, tseydu tseydu-laderekh nem dir brider mit.
Vayl der vos nemt zikh tseydu mit,
hingert keym mul nisht.
Tseydu nem dir mit ahin,
vayl oyf dem veyg kenst gornisht tin.
Tseydu-laderekh nem dir brider mit. 

Az eyner furt afn veyg
af getseylte tsvey, dray teyg,
tseydu zol er zikh mitnemen oyf mer.
Vayl es treft zikh zeyer oft,
az der shlekhter veyg farkhapt im dort.
Ungreytn darf men zikh af mer. 

Tseydu, tseydu tseydu-laderekh nem dir brider mit.
Vayl ver es nemt tseydu mit,
hingert keyn mul nisht.
Tseydu nem dir mit ahin,
vayl oyf dem veyg kenst gornisht tin.
Tseydu-laderekh nem dir brider mit. 

Her oys du groyser gvir,
vos vekhter shteyen far dayn tir
un dayn froy of pyane shpilt.
Az eyner munt bay dir
efnt zolst far im di tir.
Helf im gikher, zay nisht opgekilt.

Di mitsves ba dan leybn
kedey me zol dir a gitn shvakh nukhgeybn.
Barekhn dir ven du bist in der noyt.
Di neshume zi geyt oys;
far keyn shim gelt koyft men zi oys.
Ungreytn darf men zikh af mer 

Tseydu, tseydu tseydu-laderekh nem zhe  brider mit.
Vayl ver es nemt zikh tseydu mit,
hingert keyn mul nisht.
Tseydu nem dir mit ahin,
vayl oyf dem veyg kenst gornisht tin.
Tseydu-laderekh nem dir brider mit. 

TRANSLATION (Birnholtz/Gottesman)

Chorus:

Provisions for the journey take along,
for he who takes these provisions along
will never hunger.
Provisions take with you there
Because on the way you can do nothing
Provisions for the journey take along.

When someone travels on the way
for just a couple of days.
He should take more provisions along.
Because it happens very often
that the journey could be bad,
Prepare to take extra!

Listen you very wealthy man,
for whom guards stand at your door,
and your wife plays on the piano.
If someone asks you for something,
open wide the door for him.
Help him faster, do not turn cold.

The good deeds you have done in your life
so that one can praise you.
Think about it when you are in need.
The soul is extinguished.
and no amount of money can help you out.
Prepare yourself with more!

(Refrain)

Below transcription of of Tseydu-laderekh as sung by Serl Birnholtz, 1985 (transcription by Itzik Gottesman)

tseydu5

tseydu6tseydu7

Below transcription from the CD Gramen fun altn kheyder, produced by the Bobov Hasidim in Brooklyn:

tseydu1

tseydu2

tseydu3

“Fun vanen nemen zikh di libes?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

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Fun vanen nemen zikh di libes? / How do romances begin?
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, The Bronx, New York City

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Though once fairly well-known and found in field recordings and several printed collections, I do not believe this lyric love song was ever recorded commercially other than on the CD Bay mayn mames shtibele, sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s (LSW’s) daughter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. Here we present a version by LSW herself.

Lifshe1972Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, 1972

In the I. L. Cahan collection (1957) there are three versions of the song (#26, 27, 28) from the Kiev region, the Vilna region and Podolia region; so the song has been “traveling” over a wide area for a while. One of the verses in those versions (#27)  continues the counting of excuses:

Dem dritn terets zolstu zogn,
du host dikh gelernt shvimen.
Dem fertn terets zolstu zogn,
az du host dayn tsayt bakumen [bakimen]

The third excuse you should give
is that you were learning how to swim.
The fourth excuse you should give
is that you are having your period.

Thus making this the only Yiddish song I have found so far that mentions menstruation.

YIDDISH TRANSLITERATION & TRANSLATION

Fun vanet nemen zikh di libes
fin deym shpeytn in fin dem lakhn.
Indzer libe hot zikh geshlosn,
in eyne, tsvey of der nakhtn.

How do romances begin?
From mocking and from laughing.
Our love was sealed –
during one, two evenings.

Tsvelef shlugt zikh shoyn der zeyger.
Fir mekh up aheym.
Vus far a terets vel ikh zugn
Bay mayn mamen in der heym?

The clock has already rung twelve.
Take me home.
What excuse will I say
at my mother’s at home?

Dem ershtn teyrets zo’sti zugn,
az di host geneyet shpeyt.
Dem tsveytn teyrets vesti zugn –
az di host geblondzet dem veyg.

The first excuse you should give
is that you sewed late.
The second excuse you should give
is that you got lost on the way.

Vus toyg mir dayne teyritsem.
Fir mekh up ahem.
Di mame vet dus tirele farshlisn,
in droysn vel ikh blaybn shteyn.

What do I need your excuses for?
Take me home.
Mother will lock the door
and I will be stuck outside.
FunVanetYIDSnip

Three Yiddish Songs to the tune of the Italian pop classic “Return to Sorrento”

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Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In this posting, we examine three Yiddish Songs set to the tune of the Italian pop classic Return to Sorrento:

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by
Leybl Kahn
2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets sung by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, and recorded by Itzik Gottesman in Mexico City, 1988.
3) Sore-Yente a song found in Meyer Noy’s collection at the National Library in Jerusalem, and performed by Sharon Bernstein, piano and vocal, and Willy Schwarz on accordion, Florence, Italy 2001.

sorrento

This week we highlight three Yiddish songs that use the melody of an Italian pop classic Torna a Surriento (Return to Sorrento) music by Ernesto De Curtis (1875 – 1937), copyright 1905. The original lyrics were by his cousin Giambattista De Curtis. Here is a Dean Martin recording of the Italian song which we chose because it has a translation of the Italian lyrics (click here to listen).

There are even more Yiddish songs that use this melody, among them: in 1933 after the murder of Haim Arlosoroff in Tel-Aviv, a song was composed to this melody and a song sheet was published (A tragisher mord in Tel-Aviv/A Tragic Death in Tel Aviv). A song about the Polish Jewish strongman Zishe Breitbard (1883 – 1925) also uses a version of the melody (see Mlotek, Songs of the Generations, page 147-148 ).

Thanks this week to Aida Stalnicovitz Vda Fridman and Sharon Bernstein.

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter (I Have Suffered Much Mother) 
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn in NYC.

Lifshe introduces the song by saying “S’iz a lidl vus me hot gezingen in der ershter milkhume (It’s a song that was sung in the First World War).” The four verses are entirely in the mother’s voice, apparently addressed to her mother, as indicated in the first line.

TRANSLITERATION
Fil gelitn hob ikh miter
bay der as[ent]irung fun mayn kind.
Gearbet hob ikh shver in biter
Far vus lad ikh nokh atsind.?

Iz mayn zin nokh mayn nekhome
Vi iz er fin mir avek?
Afarshundn iz er in der milkhume.
Un a seykhl in un a tsvek.

Ziser Got ikh beyt ba dir
loz mikh nokh a nes gesheyn.
Eyder eykh vel shtarbn
Vil eykh mayn kind nokh eyn mol zeyn.

Dentsmult vel ikh riyik shtarbn.
Got tsi dir keyn tanes hubn.
Loz mayn kind khotsh eyn mul mir
nokh, “mamenyu” zugn.

TRANSLATION
Much have I suffered mother,
from the drafting of my child.
I worked hard and bitter.
Why do I still suffer?

My son is still my comfort
Where did he go and leave me?
Disappeared into the war,
for no logic, for no reason,

Dear God I pray to you
May another miracle take place.
Before I die,
I want to see my son once more.

Then I would calmly die
God, have no complaints to you..
Let my child say to me –
just once more “my mother dear”.

Fil Gelitn

2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter)
Performance by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Mexico City, 1988.

StalnicovitzPhotoReyzl Stalnicovitz, photo by Itzik Gottesman

Reyzl Stalnicovitz was born in 1935 in Xalapa, district of Vera Cruz, Mexico. She was a teacher at the I. L. Peretz shul (“Di naye yidishe shul”) in Mexico City, and passed away in  1996.

Of the three songs presented in this post, this song was by far the most popular and has been printed in several collections and can be found in the field recordings of Ben Stonehill, Sarah Benjamin and at the National Library in Israel. As for commercial recordings: Lea Szlanger sings it on her CD Lea Szlanger In Song.

The text was originally a thirteen verse poem by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) that first appeared in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910 (see below). There it was titled Dem shoykhets tokhter: balade (The shoykhet’s daughter: ballad) followed by the inscription – Dos hobn kinder in shtetl dertseylt (This Was Told by Children in Town).

The plot – Reyzl wants to marry Motl but the father, a shoykhet (kosher slaughterer) boils with anger as she combs her hair because she refuses the match he made. He then cuts her golden locks. Then it gets “weird”: she swims into the Vistula (Yiddish = Vaysl) river and builds a little shelter for herself along the bank until her hair locks grow again.
Stalnicovch sings four verses. This ballad was almost always shortened when sung. For example in the Arbeter Ring’s extremely popular songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY), only five verses are printed (that scanned version, words and music, are attached below).

TRANSCRIPTION
Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets.
Zi hot a yunge harts on zorgn.
Zi tants un freyt zikh mit ir lebn.
Vi a shvalb mitn frimorgn.

Es bakheynen ir di oygn
Es bakreynen ir di lokn.
Un a shtoltse iz zi shtendik.
Zi vet far keynem zikh nit beygn.

Un ir tate iz a frumer
un dertsu a groyser kaysn.
Ven di tokhter kemt di lokn
Heybt er on di lipn baysn .

Un der tate veyst nokh gornisht
Vos in shtetl veysn ale:
Az Reyzl hot shoyn a khosn.
Un me ruft ir Motls kale.

TRANSLATION
Beautiful is the shoykhet’s daughter Reyzl
She has a young heart with no worries.
She dances and is joyful with her life
as a swallow is with the morning.

Her eyes make her pretty
Her locks are a crown on her;
And she is always proud.
She will bow for no one.

Her father is religious
and also quick to anger.
When he combs her locks,
he starts to bite his lips.

And her father doesn’t know anything
what everyone knows in town:
that Reyzl has a groom,
and they call her Motl’s bride.

Spoken (transliteration):
Dos iz vos ikh gedenk. Ober di mame flegt mir dertseyln az s’iz geven epes a gantse tragedye, vayl der tate hot nisht gevolt az zi zol khasene hobn. Vayl er iz geven a sotsyalist, a yingl, un er iz geven a frumer yid. Er hot gevolt zi zol khasene hobn mit a yeshiva bokher. Un zi’s antlofn mitn bokher.

Spoken (translation):
That’s what I remember. But the mother used to tell me that it was a whole tragedy because the father did not want her to get married. Because he (the groom) was a socialist boy and he (the father) wanted him to marry a Yeshiva student. And she ran away with the boy.

Sheyn iz Reyzele

3) Sore-Yente
Performance by Cantor Sharon Bernstein, Florence, 2001 (accompanied by Willy Schwarz on accordion)

The third song that uses the melody of Sorrienta is Sore-Yente – a word play on the original Italian title. This was collected by Meir Noy in Israel in 1962 from Shmuel Ben-Zorekh, who learned it from an immigrant from Minsk. A scan of Meir Noy’s original notation, words and music are attached below.

TRANSLITERATION
Mit a nign fun akdomes
shteyt baym fentster Yosl-Monish,
Far der sheyner Sore-Yente
Zingt er dort tsu ir a lid:

Kum tsu mir mayn sheynes benken,
Eybik vel ikh dikh gedenken.
Kh’vel mayn lebn far dir shenken.
Vayl ikh bin in dir farlibt.

Azoy lang iz er geshtanen
vi der groyser pipernoter
un zi hert im vi der koter
un geyt derbay af gikh avek.

TRANSLATION
With a melody from Akdometh
stands at the window Yosl-Monish
For the beautiful Sore-Yente
there, he sings this song:

Come to me my longed for beauty
I will long for you eternally.
I will give you my life
For I am in love with you.

He stood there for so long
like a giant dragon.
She totally ignores him
And walks quickly by him.

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910:
ReyzlWords1ReyzlWords3ReyzlWords4ReyzlWords5ReyzlWords2

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) from the Arbeter Ring’s songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY):

Arbeter Ring1
Arbeter Ring2

Sore-Yente in Meir Noy’s Notebook:
Sore Yente Vol 1, p74-page-0

“Der shpigl mitn zeyger” Performed by Avi Fuhrman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2019 by yiddishsong

Der shpigl mitn  zeyger / The Mirror and the Clock
Sung by Avi Fuhrman
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, at Circle Lodge Camp, NY, Summer 1984.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

The text to this song was written by the classic 19th century Yiddish writer and satirist Yoel Linetski (1839 -1915) and can be found in his poetry collection Der beyzer marshelik (The Cruel Jester), 1869. The original has 12 verses, a dialogue between a mirror and a clock (scans are attached). Fuhrman remembers only one verse plus the “tra-la-la” refrain but thanks to him, as far as I know, we now have the melody.

MarshalikTitlePAge
Title page of Linetski’s Der beyzer marshelik (1869)

We have previously posted another of Linetski’s songs “Di mode”.  Yet another of his songs “Dos redele iz di gore velt” can be heard on Ruth Rubin’s fieldwork album Jewish Life: The Old Country (Smithsonian Folkways) and more recently on Jake Shulman-Ment’s recording A redele (Oriente Musik, 2015) sung by Benjy Fox-Rosen.

The text to the song (nine verses) also appears in the Yiddish song collection Der badkhn (“The Wedding Jester”, Warsaw, 1929) by Eliezer Bergman and we have attached those scanned pages. The version there is closer to Fuhrman’s and like his, and unlike the original, begins with the mirror speaking, not the clock.

The dialogue centers on the vain snobbishness of the mirror; an object that at that time was found in only the homes of wealthy families, as opposed to the clock who served all classes.

Avi (Avrom) Fuhrman was born in Chernovitz, then Romania, in 1922.  He says that all of his songs were learned from his father who often sang. Fuhrman was active in Yiddish theater in Chernovitz from a very young age.

PhotoAbrahamFuhrman

Both parents had tailoring workshops where singing was often heard. Fuhrman was a fine singer at a young age and was a soloist with Cantor Pinye Spector (Pinye Khazn) of the Boyaner Hasidim in Chernovitz.  He attended an ORT school.  During the war he was in Baku in Azerbaijan and participated in the Yiddish theater there , particularly in the “Kharkover Ensemble”. He returned to Romania, then Poland then Salzburg, Austria.  He and his wife and in-laws were on an (illegal) aliya to Israel but the path forced them to hike over a mountain and his in-laws could not manage it so they eventually came to the US in 1951.

The last line of this verse is a pun since “shpiglen zikh” can mean both “to see oneself in the mirror” as well as “delight in”

TRANSLITERATION

Batrakht nor dayn vert di narisher zeyger
Mit deym khitrerer mine firsti deym shteyger.
Di shrayst un du klopst un beyts dikh bay laytn.
Me varft dikh, me shmitst dikh in ale zaytn.
Vi shteyt mir gur un tsi reydn mit dir?
Aza nogid vi ikh bin, az me shpiglt zikh in mir.
Tra-la-la-la…..

TRANSLATION

Consider your worth you foolish clock,
With a sleazy face you lead your way of life.
You yell and you beat and plead with people.
You get thrown, beaten in all sides.
It’s beneath my dignity to talk to you.
Such a wealthy one as I whom all delight in me.
Tra-la-la-la

ShpiglYID

From Yoel Linetski’s Der beyzer marshelik, 1869:

zeyger1

zeyger2.png

zeyger3