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“Shteyt in tol an alte mil” Performed by M.M. Shaffir

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2019 by yiddishsong

Shteyt in tol an alte mil / An Old Mill Stands in the Valley
Words by M. M. Shaffir,  Music -“adapted from a Romanian folk melody”
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The poet M. M. Shaffir (1909 -1988) was born in Suchava/Suceava (in Yiddish – “Shots”), Bukovina, Austria-Hungary; today – Romania. He immigrated to Montreal in 1939 and published 18 books of poetry. He was known for his love of Jewish folklore and his expert knowledge of the Yiddish language.

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M.M. Shaffir, Screen Shot from Cindy Marshall’s Film “A Life of Song: a Portrait of Ruth Rubin”

He was a close friend of the linguist, writer and editor Mordkhe Schaechter, and visited him in the Bronx several times.  At one of these occasions in 1974, the Sholem-Aleichem Cultural Center organized an event honoring his visit and afterward he sang three songs that he had composed at the Gottesman home across the street.

In this post we look at the first of those three songs, a doina-style melody Shteyt in tul an alte mil. He included the words and music in his collection Bay der kholem multer (Montreal, 1983) which are attached.

Several lines in his performance differ from the printed poem. On top of the musical notation, Shaffir wrote “loyt a Romeynishn folksmotiv” – “adapted from a Romanian folk melody.” To compare a Romanian traditional song to Shaffir’s composition Romanian music researcher Shaun Williams suggested listening to this Romanian doina sung by Maria Tanase:

Singer and scholar Michael Alpert also suggested listening to this Romanian “epic ballad”:

In Cindy Marshall’s film “A Life of Song: A Portrait of Ruth Rubin”, Shaffir can be seen in the episode where Rubin records singers in Montreal. The photo of him in this blog is taken from that scene. The entire film can be seen at YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Legacy website.

TRANSCRIPTION

1) Shteyt in tul an alte mil.
Veyn ikh dortn in der shtil.
Shteyen dortn verbes tsvey
Veyn ikh oys mayn harts far zey.

2) Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
iz gefaln mayn Andrei.
Ergets af a vistn feld.
Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.

3)Deym boyars tsvey sheyne zin
zenen nisht avek ahin.
Nor Andrei hot men opgeshikt
hot a koyl zayn harts fartsikt.

4) Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.
Ergets oyf a vistn feld.
Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
S’iz mir vind un s’iz mir vey.

TRANSLATION

An old mill stands in the field
where I cry there quietly.
Two willows are there
and I cry my heart out for them.

Somewhere distant in cold and snow
my Andrei has fallen.
Somewhere on a barren field
his heart stopped beating.

The boyar’s two handsome sons
did not go there.
Only Andrei was sent
and a bullet devoured his heart.

His heart stopped beating
somewhere on a barren field.
Somewhere far in cold and snow,
Woe is me, how it hurts!

From Bay der kholem multer by M.M. Shaffir (Montreal, 1983) pp. 72-73:
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