Archive for July, 2010

“Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?” Performed by Mr. Harris

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , on July 20, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

I recorded Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder? (“What Did You Learn My Child in Cheder?”) at a zingeray/song gathering in the Bronx in 1983, at the home of Merke (Mary) and Tuvia Levine, on Gun Hill Road. I cannot recall the singer‘s full name– Harris was his last name.

This children‘s folksong that follows the letters of the alef-beys has a number of variants. In Pipe‘s collection from Sanok, Galicia, his version begins „Az du zest, yingele, an alef, vi azoy makht es?‟ In my mother and grandmother‘s version it begins „Vos lernstu yingele?‟ (see Pipe‘s variation on page 202-205, it has verses all the way to „yud,‟ and the footnote by Dov and Meir Noy on page 316 in Shmuel Zanvel Pipe Yiddish Folksongs From Galicia, ed. Dov and Meir Noy, Israel, 1971). There are some interesting differences in the words that are „taytshed‟ in each stanza. In Beregovsky-Feffer‘s collection, Kiev, 1938, the music is also printed. All the variants are similar, textually and melodically, but never exactly the same. Most other versions ask the question „Vos makht es in eynem?‟ (What does it sound like together?) but Harris sings it as an imperative „Makht es in eynem‟ or „Put it together‟….which also makes sense. In the opening verse, when Harris sings „nokh a taytsh‟, it‘s clear that he should have then sung „a shtekele‟ and not „ay ay‟ for a second time.

Harris, Merke and Tevye Levine were part of the linke (leftist) Yiddish cultural scene that did not usually mix with Arbeter-Ring members or Zionists. Our “scene‟ from the Sholem-Aleichem Folk Institute, played down politics, and emphasized the cultural aspects so we mingled fine. By the late 1970s, the Yiddish world was so depleted that the walls between left, center and right, were falling down on behalf of Yiddish culture, so the Levines became prominent members of the Sholem-Aleichem Folkshul on Bainbridge Avenue. Thirty years earlier they were active in their own linke shuln, but by the 1970s, those folkshuln no longer existed. Our zingerays included them more and more. That older generation of linke Yiddishists is gone; Itche Goldberg, who died recently at 102, was perhaps the last of them, and I cannot think of anyone who is alive anymore to even ask about the singer‘s– Mr. Harris‘s– first name.


Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?
Alef
Vos iz taytsh „alef‟?
ay, ay
Nokh a taytsh?
ay, ay
Makht es in eynem
Ay, ay, a shtekele.
Hekher – a shtekele, shtarker – a shtekele

What are you learning my child in cheder?
Alef
What is „alef‟?
ay, ay
Another meaning?
ay, ay
Put it together
Ay, ay, a little stick
Louder – a little stick, Stronger – a little stick

Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?
Beys
Vos iz taytsh „beys‟?
Berl
Nokh a taytsh?
Bunzhik
Makht es in eynem
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a shtekele.
Hekher – a shtekele, Shtarker – a shtekele

What are you learning my child in cheder?
Beys
What is „beys‟?
Berl
Another meaning?
Bunzhik
Put it together
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a little stick
Louder – a little stick, Stronger – a little stick

Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?
Giml
Vos iz taytsh „Giml‟?
Gib zhe
Nokh a taytsh?
gikher
Makht es in eynem
Gib zhe gikher
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a shtekele.
Hekher – a shtekele, Shtarker – a shtekele

What are you learning my child in cheder?
Gimel
What is „gimel‟?
So give!
Another meaning?
Faster
Put it together
So give faster!
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a little stick
Louder – a little stick, Stronger – a little stick

Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?
Daled
Vos iz taytsh „daled‟?
Darer
Nokh a taytsh?
Drunzhik
Makht es in eynem
Daradrunzhik
Gib zhe gikher
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a shtekele.
Hekher – a shtekele, Shtarker – a shtekele

What are you learning my child in cheder?
Daled
What is „Daled‟?
Thin
Another meaning?
Drunzhik
Put it together
A really thin person [daradrunzhik]
So give faster!
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a little stick
Louder – a little stick, Stronger – a little stick

Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?
Hey
Vos iz taytsh „hey‟?
Heyb zhe
Nokh a taytsh?
Hekher
Makht es in eynem
Heyb zhe hekher
Darerdronzhik
Gib zhe gikher
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a shtekele.
Hekher – a shtekele, Shtarker – a shtekele

What are you learning my child in cheder?
Hey
What is „hey‟?
Lift!
Another meaning?
Higher!
Put it together
Lift it higher!
A very thin person,
So give faster!
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a little stick
Louder – a little stick, Stronger – a little stick



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“Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher” Performed by Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , on July 14, 2010 by yiddishsong

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.

Ta-da-da…..

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.

Ta-da-da…