“Leyg ikh mir in bet arayn” Performed by Janie Respitz

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

There has been much written about the once popular Yiddish song לייג איך מיר אין בעט אַרײַן (Leyg ikh mir in bet arayn / I Lay Me Down in My Bed) and its transformations, but I cannot find one LP/CD recording of the “original” Yiddish song and so I’m glad to have Montreal Yiddish singer Janie Respitz’s version (video recorded in October of 2017).

The Yiddish text, transliteration, translation and music to this song appears in Chana and Joseph Mlotek’s collection Pearls of Yiddish Song (see below) and there it is identified as a poem by Joseph Rolnick / Rolnik (1879 – 1955) and music written by the Yiddish poet Bertha Kling (1886 – 1979).

A translation of Rolnik’s autobiography זכרונות (Zikhrones / Memories) from Yiddish by Gerald Marcus is available in English entitled With Rake in Hand: Memoirs of a Yiddish Poet, 2016. There he writes that that this poem, adapted from a folksong, became very popular after Kling composed music for it; but he was ashamed of how the poem, which he considered unimportant, had become a hit. He walked out of a room if they greeted his entrance by singing it.

About the transformations of this Yiddish song… The Hebrew-language website Zemereshet  זמרשת presents a popular Hebrew version הרכבת (Harekevet / The Train), as well as the children’s song בין הרים ובין סלעים  (Beyn horim uveyn slaim / Between Mountains and Rocks). Historian David Assaf’s blog עונג שבת Oyneg Shabes presents additional versions and a more detailed history of the story of the song (in Hebrew). 

The Rolnik poem has inspired two new musical compositions. The first is by the Pulitzer prize and Grammy winning modernist minimalist composer David Lang (“Bang on a Can”) entitled I Lie.

The second has been composed by UK-based Yiddish singer Polina Shepherd, and is here sung by Yana Ovrutskay:

Shepherd currently performs this song with the group “Sklamberg and the Shepherds” (also featuring Lorin Sklamberg of The Klezmatics and clarinetist Merlin Shepherd). Both Shepherd’s and Lang’s compositions  include the fourth verse of the original poem which is included in the Mlotek booklet but not sung in the folklorized versions.

From Chana and Joseph Mlotek’s Pearls of Yiddish Song:

Rolnick1Rolnick2

 

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