“Kimt der shadkhn Shame” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Notes by Itzik Gottesman
Ordinarily, I would not include such a fragmentary performance in this blog, as this version of Kimt der shadkhn Shame (the name “Shame” is pronounced with two syllables “Sha-me,” rhymes with “mame”) performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW). But the investigation into the song is intriguing. I broadcast an earlier version of this research in Yiddish on the Yiddish Forward Radio Hour on WEVD seven or eight years ago. My commentary here will also be abbreviated.
At a yard sale in Monticello, NY, the heart of the Jewish Catskills, I bought several old Yiddish 78s including one with two songs by Leon Kalisch recorded in Lemberg 1905-06. Kalisch was part of the Lemberg Yiddish theater world revolving around „Gimpel‘s Teater‟ (see: Gimpel‘s grandson‘s website; Michael Aylwards forthcoming article on Gimpel‘s theater and Jewish recordings in Lemberg on his website; and the entry on Kalisch and Gimpel in the Yiddish theater Lexicon).
Additionally, Kalisch‘s songs and other Lemberg Yiddish singers are featured on Gerda and Franz Lechleitner‘s „phonomuseum‟ website. When I heard Kalisch sing „Der schames‟ I immediately recognized LSW‘s song:
The 78 record label indicated that Der schames originated from the Yosef Lateiner (1853-1935) play Der seder, and I fortunately was able to buy a copy but did not find the song in the text. I donated the 78s I bought at the yard sale to Lorin Sklamberg at the YIVO sound archives and he transferred them to CD for me and he turned me onto other recordings with what I call the „Lena From Palesteena‟ melody-motif. By this I mean the melody of the phrase “Lena is the Queen of Palesteena just because she plays the concertina.”
The popular 1920s song „Lena from Palesteena” was written by Con Conrad and J. Russel Robinson, and first recorded with words by Eddie Cantor in 1920. Here is a great old version by Frank Crumit:
On page 81 of his book Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World, Henry Sapoznik connects the melody to the klemzer tune Noch A bisl played here by accordionist Mishka Ziganoff in 1921.
Lorin Sklamberg identified the Romanian language recording Colo’n Gradnita (There in the Little Garden) performed by S. Bernardo, no date, recorded in Bucharest, with only piano accompaniment. Bernardo is a great singer, obviously Jewish and includes “Oy veys” and some other Yiddish words:
Sklamberg also found a recording of a young Aaron Lebedeff singing the song Tate ziser (Syrena 12560) recorded in Europe (Warsaw?), no date but probably the late 1910s, (and no relation to the klezmer tune by that name recorded by several bands). Lebedeff is clearly riffing off Bernardo’s earlier recording:
Finally, Sklamberg dug up Simon Paskal’s Eppess noch, with words by Louis Gilrod, recorded in New York, 1913 – A typical comical Yiddish theater song about American Jewish life, with emphasis on food (Noch a bisl, Eppess noch – there seems to be a theme emerging).
There is much more to write about the musical reincarnations of the „Lena from Palesteena‟ motif, and I believe Prof. Martin Schwartz of Berkeley and others can play Greek, Turkish and other people‘s variants of this motif on recordings. It seems to be assumed that the Yiddish use of it came after the Romanian, but the Kalisch recording is the earliest I have found.
Back to LSW‘s song and its connection to Der Schames as sung by Kalisch. The rare rhyme „brie‟ and „Ishes tsnie‟ appears in both, so they are definitely related. Kalisch is about a shames (synagogue beadle); LSW‘s about a shadkhn named Shame. So the two lead characters are also too closely related phonetically to dismiss the notion the songs are from a single source. However, the narratives of the songs differ: LSW‘s Kimt der Shadkhn Shame is ultimately a maskilic song about the Hasidic rebbe, the “Datshn‟ (Germans – modernized Jews) and the „apikorsim,‟ the non-believers; while Kalisch‘s Der shames is clearly a theater song closely related to a play’s plot. In the song collection Der badkhn by (E)Luzer Bergman, Warsaw 1927, 1930, there is included a version that is obviously a variant of LSWs song, including the line about the „apikorsim.‟
LSW’s singing has been presented more than any other on this blog, but in Kimt der shadkhn Shame you can finally hear her perform a more upbeat comic song, even if the song is incomplete. Here is her rendition, recorded in the Bronx by Leybl Kahn in 1954 (the first chorus is incomplete– a long pause in the middle of the recording has been removed):
Kimt a shadkhn Shame
tsi mayn tate-mame
a shidikh hot er gur far mir.
The matchmaker Shame comes
to my parents;
he has a match just for me.
A meydl a groyse brie,
un di mame‘z an ishes-tsnie
shoyn in git, es ekt dekh di velt.
A girl, a wonderfully clever girl,
and her mother is a modest woman.
Fine and good – the world comes to an end.
Oy, oy, khotsh nem un gib im shoyn shadkhones-gelt
sheyn in git, es ekt dekh di velt.
Oy, give him the matchmaker‘s fee right away,
Fine and good, the world comes to an end.
[The chorus is incomplete due to a break in the recording]
Kimt a datsh, a higer
tsu mayn fliaskedrige,
a tshive vil er fin im aroys.
A local modern, enlightened Jew,
comes to my unsightly person,
and wants an answer from him, straight away.
Er iz a raykh kind,
un far zayne zind,
batsuln vil er mit a pidyen a gitn.
He is a wealthy child,
and for his sins,
he wants to pay a high fee to the Hasidic rabbi
Oy, oy, vi kent ir dus gor farshteyn?
Tsitsekikn dem rebns mine,
ven se brent af im di shkine.
Apikorsim, vi kent ir dus farshteyn?
Oy, oy, how could you understand this?
To look upon the Rebbe‘s countenance,
when the Divine Presence burns on him;
Apostates! How could you understand.