Archive for Bronx

“Dos borvese meydl” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2020 by yiddishsong

Dos borvese meydl / The Barefoot Girl
Text by Morris Rosenfeld (1862-1923), music by Morris Rosenfeld?
Sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG], recorded by Itzik Gottesman, 1980s, Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This is another melody to Morris Rosenfeld’s poem “Tsu a borvese meydele” written in the late 1890s or early 1900s. In a previous post we heard Esther Gold sing the same song with some different verses to the melody of David Edelshtadt’s song “In kamf (Mir zaynen gehast un getribn)”. I have heard at least one other melody to the song but could not record it at the time.

rosenfeldMorris Rosenfeld

When there is only one known melody to a Rosenfeld song I am inclined to credit him as composer since he did copyright the music to at least one of his famous songs ‘Mayn rue plats”, and we know that when he lectured he also sang. In a video interview on the Yiddish Book Center’s website with the Yiddish poet Hinde Zaretsky, she recalled seeing the poet Rosenfeld in Claremont Park in the Bronx, then almost blind, singing his songs.

Since there are at least three melodies to the song, I have left a question mark after listing the composer.

The singer BSG sings two last verses. The first she learned at home, the other she learned in Jewish school in Chernovitz. BSG changes very few words from the original Rosenfeld text. In these cases I put the original words in brackets.  One important change: Rosenfeld writes “Der Got, velkher kukt dikh nit on?” (The God who ignores you) but BSG sings “The street that ignores you”.

BSG sings this song on her CD Bay mayn mames shtibele with Lorin Sklamberg’s accordion accompaniment. Images of the original Rosenfeld poem in Yiddish are attached at the end of the post.

TRANSLITERATION

Es hot i geshneyt, i geregnt
In geyendik shnel durkhn gas.
A meydele hob ikh bageygnt
halb naket in burvus in nas.

Zi hot mit ire burvese fislekh
gepatsht deym fargosenem brik
in epes azoy vi fardrislekh
geshant hot ir kinderisher blik.

O, zug mir, kleyn meydele, vihin geysti
durkh reygn, durkh vint un durkh kelt?
O, zug mir, man kind, khotsh farshteysti
vi iberik di bist of der velt?

Di velt vus zi lozt dikh du zikhn
a leybn fun elnt in noyt.[leyd]
Vus vil dane fis nisht bashikhn
Nisht hiln dan gif in a kleyd.

O zug, zenen dir fremd di gefiln
dir falt gur nisht an der gedank.
Az ven di zolst dekh itst du farkiln
Dan falsti avek in verst krank?

O, ver vet dir demolt kurirn?
ver vet far dir epes tin?
Di velt vus zi lozt dekh du frirn
Di gas vus zi kikt dekh nisht un?
[Der Got, velkher kikt dikh nisht on?]

Vi vat ikh farshtey iz mistame
fin lang shoyn un nisht nor fin hant
di nakete gas dan mame
di shteyner fin ir dane frand

Derfar miz ikh veynen in klugn.
Derfar heyb ikh of a geshrey
ven mekh zoln tsuris dershlugn
vus vert fin man kind? oy vey!

Alternate last verse:

Derfar miz ikh veynen in klugn
O dos ken nokh zan mit man kind.
ven mikh zoln tsuris dershlugn
un im zol farvarfn der vint.

TRANSLATION

It was both raining and snowing,
and while walking in the street
I met a girl
half naked and barefoot and wet.

With her barefeet
she slapped the soaked cobblestones
and it in almost irritated way
her childish glance beamed.

O, tell me, little girl, where are you going
through the rain, wind and cold?
O, tell me, my child, do you at least understand
How superfluous you are in this world?

The world that lets you search here
a lonely life in poverty.
That does not want to shoe your feet,
nor cover you body with clothing.

O, tell me, are you not aware of these feelings;
It hasn’t even crossed your mind,
that if you were here to catch cold
then you would be stricken down sick?

O, who would then cure you?
who would do something for you?
The world that lets you freeze?
The street that does not give you a second look?

As I understand it, it probably
has been for long, and not just today,
that the bare street is your mother
the cobblestones are your friend.

And so I must weep and lament,
and so I must raise a cry:
If troubles were to strike me
what would happen to my child? Oy, vey!

Alternate last verse:

And so I must weep and lament,
O, this could yet happen to my child,
if troubles were to strike me
and the wind would carry him off.
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“Vus a mul brent dus fayer greser” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2020 by yiddishsong

Vus a mul brent dus fayer greser / The Fire Burns Stronger Each Day
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn NY  1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Yet another lyrical love song from the repertory of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW). In this dialogue, the women speaks first then the second and third verses are spoken by the man. postcardIn the Ruth Rubin Archive, Frida Lobell begins her version with the following verse:

Keyner veyst nisht vi mir iz biter (No one knows how bitter I feel)
keyner veyst nisht vi mir iz shlekht. (No one knows how bad I feel)
Keyner veyst nisht vi ikh tsiter (No one knows how I shake)
az di furst fin mir avek. (When you leave me) 

Other versions of this version can be found in “Folkslider in Galitsye”, Oyzer Pipe and Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe, YIVO-bleter vol. Xl no. 1-2, 1937 songs #36 and #37 and Cahan Yidisher folklor, 1938, #55. But LSW’s last line, “Your beauty will fade like the dew in the open field” is the most poetic.

TRANSLITERATION

“Vus a mul vert dus fayer greser,
ven ikh zey dekh mit a tsveyter geyn.
Shtekhn vel ikh meykh mit a meser.
Mer zol ikh fin dir dus nisht zeyn.”

“Shtekh dekh nisht, mayn tayer zis leybn,
vayl dayn plage iz dokh gur imzist.
Ikh bin tsi mazl a khusn gevorn
in dir loz Got bashern veymen di vi’st.

Di vi’st dekh meynen, di bist di shenste,
in di angenemste af der velt.
Dan sheynkeyt vet fargeyn
azoy vi di rose afn frayen feld.
Oy, dayn sheynkeyt vet fargeyen
vi di rose afn frayen feld.”

TRANSLATION

“The fire burns stronger each day
when I see you standing with another.
I will stab myself with a knife –
I don’t want to see this any more.” 

“Don’t stab yourself my beloved
For your suffering is for naught.
I am now luckily engaged,
and may God grant you whomever you want. 

You thought you were the most beautiful
and the most pleasant in the world.
Your beauty will fade
like the dew in the open field.”

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“Az in felder geyt a regn” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2020 by yiddishsong

Az in felder geyt a regn/When it rains in the fields
Sung by Jacob Gorelik, lyrics by Wolf Younin with music by Maurice Ruach
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center, Bronx, 1980s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Jacob Gorelik probably learned this song as a member of a Yiddish chorus in NYC or from a chorister, since it is part of a longer “Folk Oratorio/Ballet for Chorus” (1947) called “Fun Viglid biz Ziglid”; words by poet, lyricist, journalist, teacher Wolf Younin (1908 – 1984) and music by composer, writer, choir leader, Maurice (Moyshe) Rauch (1910 – 1994). On Rauch see this link, while for information on Younin see his obituary.

GorelikDrawing“Gorelik at the microphone” drawing by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

In the Ruth Rubin Archive at YIVO, Yehudis Wasilievsky (Gorelik’s neighbor in the Chelsea-Elliiot Houses in Manahattan) sings another song from this oratorio – “Granatn”.

The Goldene Keyt/The Yiddish Chorale with Zalmen Mlotek conducting, recorded the work on their compact disc “Mir zaynen do tsu zingen”, 1997. The Jewish People’s Philharmonic Folk Chorus in NYC, Binyumen Schaechter conductor, performed the oratorio in 2008. The composer Mark Zuckerman transcribed the words and music for this performance — view his choral arrangement of the song at the end of this post.

Thanks to Binyumin Schaechter and Mark Zuckerman for help with this week’s post.

*Note: Gorelik’s text differs only slightly from Younin’s libretto, so we put in brackets Younin’s original words next to the way Gorelik sings them.

TRANSLITERATION (Gorelik’s text)

Az af [in] felder geyt [shpritst] a regn, vern grozn nas
un di zangen oykh, un di zangen oykh.
In mayn hartsn brent a fayer, nor ver ken zen dem roykh?
In mayn hartsn brent a fayer, nor ver ken zen dem roykh?

Tsvishn felder, tsvishn velder flist a griner taykh
un er vert gornit mid, un vert gornit mid.
Zingt a foygl tsu a foygl: oy, ikh hob dikh lib.
Zingt a foygl tsu a foygl: oy ikh hob dikh lib.

Ven ale beymer zaynen feder, [Ven yeder boym zol zayn a feder
ale yamen tint un papir der veg, [fun papir der veg]
ale yamen tint un papir der veg.
Undzer libe tsu bashraybn volt es nit geklekt
Undzer libe tsu bashraybn volt es nit geklekt

Az in felder geyt a regn vern grozn nas
un di zangen oykh, un di zangen oykh
in mayn hartsn brent a fayer, nor ver ken zen dem roykh?
in mayn hartsn brent a fayer, nor ver ken zen dem roykh?

TRANSLATION

When it rains in the fields the grass becomes wet,
and the stalks as well, and the stalks as well.
In my heart a fire burns, but who can see the smoke?
In my heart a fire burns, but who can see the smoke?

If the trees were all feathers, and the oceans were ink
and the paths made of paper, and the paths made of paper.
It would not suffice to describe our love.
It would not suffice to describe our love

In fields, in woods,
a green river flows and does not tire at all,
does not tire at all.
A bird sings to another bird: “I love you”
A bird sings to another bird: “I love you”

When it rains in the fields the grass becomes wet,
and the stalks as well, and the stalks as well.
In my heart a fire burns, but who can see the smoke?
In my heart a fire burns, but who can see the smoke?
gorelik1

gorelik2

Excerpt of choral score for “Fun viglid biz ziglid” by Mark Zuckerman:Fun viglid biz ziglid 23-page-0Fun viglid biz ziglid 24-page-0

“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

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

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2020 by yiddishsong

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

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2019 by yiddishsong

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