Archive for fire

“Di farfirte” Performed by Leo Summergrad

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2019 by yiddishsong

Di farfirte / The Woman Who was Led Astray
Words and (music?) by Morris Rosenfeld
Sung and recorded by Leo Summergrad

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This poem appears in the first volume of Morris Rosenfeld’s  (1862 – 1923)  poetry. Leo Summergrad learned it from his mother and I have only found one reference to the song: a query in Chana and Yosl Mlotek’s Forverts column “Leyner dermonen zikh lider”. But the two compilers had never heard of the song.

photo (1)Leo Summergrad’s mother, Minnie, and father, Abram Summergrad, on the right side. His in-laws Moishe and Esther Korduner are on the left.

Rosenfeld’s original poem is composed of three 14-line stanzas and we have printed it this way, though in Summerfeld’s handwritten transcription, which we attached, he has divided it into the more common 4 line stanzas. We are also attaching the printed version from Volume I of Rosenfeld’s collected works.

Though we are not sure who composed the music, we do know that Rosenfeld composed melodies to his poetry and sang them at readings.

Thanks to Leo Summergrad for contributing this recording.

1
Gedenkstu vi du host mir libe geshvorn,
gegrint hot der eplboym tsvishn di korn.
Der foygl hot ruik geblikt fun di tsvaygn
un ales arum iz gelegn in shvaygn.
O, ver hot es damolst gevust dayn kavone.
Geshtumt hobn himl un erd un levone.
Ven du host geshvorn far mir mit a fayer,
az eybik farblaybstu mayn eyntsik getrayer.
Du hot mikh farkisheft, du host mikh batrunken.
Ikh bin vi batoybt in dayn orems gezunken.
O, dan iz dayn umreyner vuntsh dir gelungen.
Du host in mayn heyliktum frekh ayngedrungen.
Mayn ere geroybt un mayn lebn tserisn.
Mikh biter baleydikt un endlikh farshmisn.

Do you remember, you swore your love for me.
The apple tree was greening among the rye.
The bird calmly watched us from the branches
and everything around us lay in silence.
O, who could then have known your intention.
Silent were heaven and earth and the moon,
when you swore to me with a fire,
that eternally you would remain my one true one.
You cast a spell on me; you intoxicated me.
I was as if deaf when i lay in your arms.
O, then you succeeded with your filthy desire;
into my sacred shrine you insolently penetrated.
You robbed me of my honor and tore my life apart.
Insulted me bitterly and finally whipped me.

2
Bin orm un elnt vos darfstu zikh shtern?
Fleg ikh bay dir shtendik zikh betn mit trern.
Un du bist dokh raykh un gebildet un eydl.
Gey zukh dir a shenere, raykhere meydl.
O, zol mir der fayer fun elnt farbrenen,
fleg ikh tsu dir zogn du darfst mikh nit kenen.
Farges on mayn sheynkeyt, ikh darf nit keyn gvires.
O loz mikh in armut, ikh zukh keyn ashires.
Gedenkstu di nakht ven mir zaynen gegangen
der mond iz vi zilber in himl gehangen.
Fun goldene shtern bakranst undzer svive
vos hobn geshmeykhlt vi kinder nayive.
Gedenkstu yene nakht? O, du darfst ir gedenken.
Ikh shenk es dir, Got zol in himl dir shenken.

I am poor and alone, why bother yourself.
I had always with tears pleaded with you.
Yet you are wealthy, educated and gentle.
Go find yourself a prettier, richer girl.
O, let the fire of loneliness burn me up,
I used to say to you, you should not know me.
Forget about my beauty; I need no valor.
Leave me poor, I do not search for riches.
Do you remember the night when we walked;
the moon was like silver hanging in the sky.
Golden stars crowned our surroundings
and smiled like naive children.
Do you remember that night? O, you should remember it.
I give it to you as a gift; God should give you it as a gift in heaven.

3
Ikh hob zikh bay dir mit rakhmones gebetn.
O, rays mikh nit oys vest mikh shpeter tsetretn.
O, loz mikh! ikh vel mir tsvishn di mashinen
an erlekhn man, a gelibtn gefinen.
A shapmeydl bin ikh, vos hob ikh tsu klaybn.
Bin orem geborn, vel orem farblaybn.
Dokh, du host mit zise un kuntsike verter
geshvorn az du nor muzst zayn mayn basherter.
Tsu sheyn bin ikh, hostu gezogt, tsu farvyanen
far mir iz a beseres lebn faranen.
Gedenkstu di nakht tsi iz lang shoyn fargangen
der vint hot koym vos geshoklt di zangen.
Arum di natur hot gekukt un geshvign
o, ver hot gerekhnt du zolst mikh batribn.

With compassion I pleaded with you.
O, don’t tear me out; stomp on me later.
O, leave me, so that among the machines
I will find an honest man, a lover.
I’m a shopgirl, what is my choice –
I am poor and will remain poor.
Still, with sweet and artful words
you swore that you must be my destined one.
Too beautiful am I, you said, to every wilt.
For me there is a better life awaiting.
Do you remember the night or is it far in the past?
The wind barely moved the stalks.
The nature around watched and was silent.
O who would have thought you would sadden me so.

4
Atsind zogstu vilstu mikh mer nit bagegenen
ikh hob derkegn, ikh kum zikh gezegenen.
Ikh veys az du gist zikh an anderer iber.
Nu, vintsh ikh dir, mazel-tov, mazl mayn liber.
Du bist keyn bal-khayim, dayn shem iz genezn
Di shuld zi iz mayne, yo, mayne gevezn.
Ikh hob nit gegloybt az du vest mikh baroybn
Ikh hob nit gevust nokh dem umglik fun gloybn.
Ikh hob nokh di mentshn genoy nit bagrifn.
Ikh hob nit gevust az di tsung iz geshifn.
Neyn, du bist nit shuldik; Ikh kum dir fartsayen
Ikh vil dikh farlozn, ikh vil dikh bafrayen.
Vi kum ikh, an oysvorf, in elnt geshlosn
farlangen mayn maysters a zun far a khosn?

Now you say you no longer want to see me.
I, to the contrary, come to bid farewell.
I know that you now love another:
so I wish you good luck and good fortune my love.
You are a living creature, your name will recover.
Guilty am I, yes I was the guilty one.
I did not believe that you would rob me.
I did not know of the tragedy in believing.
I did not know that the tongue is sharpened.
No, you are not guilty; I come to ask your pardon.
I want to leave you; I want to liberate you.
How could I, an outcast, trapped in loneliness,
ask my boss’s son to be my groom?
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“In mayn hartsn brent a fayer” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2018 by yiddishsong

In mayn hartsn brent a fayer / A fire burns in my heart
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954 NY

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Another lyrical love song sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) from the Leybl Kahn recordings of 1954.

Katchor1Katchor2Lifshe Schaechter Widman & Leybl Kahn by Ben Katchor

Two similar versions of the song without the melody were collected by Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe and Oyzer Pipe in Sanok, Galicia and published in the YIVO-bleter volume 11, Jan – May, 1937 in Yidishe folkslider fun Galitsye, page 62. I have mentioned before in this blog that of all the pre-World War Two collections of Yiddish folksong, the Pipe brothers’ Galicia, Poland, collections come closest to LSW’s Bukovina repertory.

Note that LSW sings “malekh- hamus”, which is her dialect form for “malekh-hamoves” (angel of death).

Regarding the comic strip above: the artist Ben Katchor imagined how these 1954 recording sessions might have looked in his advertisement for the cassette Az di furst avek. The strip appeared in the collection Picture Story 2 (NY. 1986, edited by Ben Katchor).

In mayn hartsn brent a fayer / A fire burns in my heart

TRANSLITERATION

In mayn hartsn brent a fayer
nor me zeyt nisht keyn royekh aroys.
Ekh hob gemeynt bist a malekh fin deym himl.
Tsum sof bisti mayn malekh-hamus

Mayne eltern tien mikh freygn,
vus ikh gey azoy arim  betribt.
Vi ken ikh zey mayn shmarts dertseyln,
az ekh hob mekh in dir farlibt.

Az ikh hob mekh in dir farlibt.
hot keyn shum foygl af der velt hot nisht gevist.
Haynt iz a rash in ale gasn,
az indzer libe iz imzist.

Az di libe iz imzist;
Es geyt mir azh un a geveyn.
Far veymen blaybt den di veytik
Az nisht nor bay mir aleyn.

TRANSLATION

A fire burns in my heart
but no smoke can be seen.
I thought you were an angel from heaven,
turns out you’re the angel of death.

My parents ask me
why I go around so sad.
How can I tell them of my pain –
that I have fallen in love with you.

That I have fallen in love with you –
not a bird the world over knew about it.
Today there’s much talk in all the streets
that our love is for naught.

That our love is for naught
keeps me crying.
With whom will stay this pain
if not only with me.

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Shmuel-Zaynvil and Oyzer Pipe, Yidishe folkslider fun Galitsye, YIVO-bleter volume 11, Jan – May, 1937:
Pipe-brent

“Ver s’hot nor in blat gelezn: Der Bialystoker pogrom” Performed by Frahdl Post

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2018 by yiddishsong

Ver s’hot nor in blat gelezn: Der Bialystoker pogrom
Whoever has Read the Newspaper: The Bialystok Pogrom

Performance by Frahdl Post, Recorded by Wolf Younin 1970s.

This week’s song was submitted by Henry Carrey. The singer Frahdl Post is his grandmother, the mother of a previously featured singer, Leah Post Carrey (aka Leyke Post). Frahdl was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine in 1881 and died at the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged in the Bronx in 1976.

Carrey writes:

“Frahdl Herman Postalov, a/k/a Fannie Post, grew up in Zhitomir, Ukraine in a lower middle-class home, one of four sisters and two brothers. Her father Dovid-Hersh Herman had a shop where grain was sold. His wife, Rivke Kolofsky worked in the shop.

FrahdlPost

Frahdl Post

As a young girl, she always like to sing and dance and took part in amateur theatricals. Performing ran in the family. Her father was  a part-time cantor with a pleasant voice and Frahdl and her brother Pinye teamed up to perform at local parties. She told us that she learned her vast repertoire of many-versed songs by going to a store with friends every day where newly written songs would be purchased and then shared by the girls. She also used to stand in the street outside the local jail and learn revolutionary songs from the prisoners who could be heard through the windows. She remembered attending revolutionary meetings in the woods, and singing all the revolutionary songs, although she herself was not an activist.

One day she went to a fortune-teller who told her that her future husband was waiting at home. When she got home, she saw my grandfather, Shloyme, who had been boarding with her aunt. In 1907 they married and within a year her husband Shloyme was off to America to seek his fortune leaving a pregnant wife. Frahdl and my mother Leyke left to join him about four years later in 1913.

Eventually she got to Halifax, Nova Scotia but was denied entry to the US because she had a highly contagious disease called trachoma. Fortunately, she was somehow allowed into Canada instead of being sent back to Europe  as was customary. After four months of treatment in Montreal , Frahdl was cured and they left for Boston, where my grandfather had settled. Frahdl had two more children Rose and Hymie in the next three years.

During the 1920’s, Shloyme decided to move from Boston and start a tire business for Model-T’s in Arlington – a suburb of Boston where there were only three other Jewish families. However, my grandmother still took the tram into the West End of Boston to buy most of her food.  Understandably , the children  were influenced by the non-Jews around them and once brought a “Chanukah Bush” home and put up stockings on the mantel. My grandmother threw the tree out and filled the stockings with coal and onions from “Sente Closet”.  My mother, Leyke, who even at a young age was a singer, had been secretly singing with the Methodist choir. One day the minister came to the door to ask my grandmother’s permission to allow my mother to sing in church on Christmas Eve. That was the last straw for my grandmother and they moved back to the West End.

My grandmother always sang around the house both the Yiddish and Ukrainian folksongs she had learned in Zhitomir and the new Yiddish theater songs she heard from other people or later on the radio and on recordings. All the children learned the songs and Leyke incorporated them into her repertoire when she became a professional singer.”

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman:

The song Ver s’hot nor in blat gelezn describes the Bialystok pogrom which occurred on June 1, 1906. Two hundred Jews were killed and seven hundred wounded – a particularly violent pogrom.

A number of verses are similar to other pogrom songs. The same song but only five verses long, with a reference to a pogrom in Odessa (1871? 1881? 1905?) is heard on Ruth Rubin’s Folkways album The Old Country and is printed in the YIVO collection Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive sung by Mr. Persky of Montreal. We have attached two scans of the song as it appears in the book, words and melody.

Click here for a previous posting about another song about pogroms (including Bialystok).

There it is noted that “The song is folklorized from a poem by Abraham Goldfaden, Di holoveshke (The Ember). I find only the third verse of Goldfaden’s poem to be adapted in this song. Three scans of Goldfaden’s original poem are attached as they appear in the 1891 edition of Dos yidele. In Post’s version it is the fifth verse.

In the Frahdl Post recording, the 10th verse ends abruptly before the song’s conclusion. Fortunately, Henry Carrey was able to add the last verse (and an alternate line) based on other recordings of his grandmother, so the transcription and translation include this final verse but it is cut off in the audio recording.

Wolf Younin (1908 – 1984), who recorded this song, was a well-known Yiddish poet, lyricist (Pozharne komande, Zing shtil, Der yid, der shmid, Ober morgn) and journalist. His column Shprakhvinkl included much Jewish folklore. Younin’s NY Times obituary is available here:

Thanks to Henry Carrey for this week’s post. The transliteration is based on his version. I changed some words to reflect her dialect.

TRANSLITERATION

Ver s’hot nor di blat geleyzn
Fun der barimter shtot Bialistok
Vos far an imglik dort iz geveyzn
In eyne tsvey dray teg.

Plitsling, hot men oysgeshrign,
“Shlugt di yidn vi vat ir kent! “
Shteyner in di fenster hobn genumen flien.
A pogrom hot zikh oysgerisn in eyn moment.

Blit gist zikh shoyn  in ale gasn,
In se shpritst zikh shoyn oyf di vent.
Yidn hot men geharget, oysgeshlugn.
Mit zeyer blit hot men gemult di vent.

Dort shteyt a kale oyf di harte shteyner,
Ungetun in ir vays khipe-kleyd
Un leybn ir shteyt a  merder eyner
un er halt dem khalef in der hant gegreyt.

Dort ligt a froy , a yinge,  a sheyne,
farvorfn, farshmitst ligt zi oyfn mist.
Leybn ir ligt a kind a kleyne;
zi tit ir zoygn ir toyte kalte brist.

Vi zey zaynen nor in shtub arayngekimen,
un zey hobn di mentshn git gekent.
Vus iz geveyn in shtib hobn zey tsebrokhn.
Di mentshn upgeshnitn hobn zey di hent.

Vi zey zaynen nor in shtub arayngekimen,
Mit ayn tuml, mit a groysn rash.
Vus iz geven in shtub hobn zey tsebrokhn,
Kleyne kinder arupgevorfn funem dritn antash.

Ver s’iz  baym umglik nisht geveyzn
Un er hot dem tsorn nisht gezeyn.
Mentshn hobn geshrign “Oy vey un vind is mir”.
Aroysgelozt hobn zey a groys geveyn.

Vi men hot zey in hospital arayngebrakht,
Keyner hot zey gor nisht derkent.
Mentshn hobn geshrign “ Oy, vey un vind is mir”.
Zey hobn gebrokhn mit di hent.

Oy, du Got, [Recording ends at this point ]

Oy, du Got du bist a guter,
Far vo’zhe kukstu nisht fun himl arop ?
Vi mir laydn shver un biter
[Or alternate line: Batrakht zhe nor dem yidishn tuml]|
Farvos dayne yidn, zey kumen op.

TRANSLATION

Who has not read in the papers
Of the well-known city Bialystok
Of the tragedy that befell it.
in a matter of three days.

Suddenly someone cried out
“Beat the Jews as much as you can!”
Stones thrown at windows started flying
A pogrom erupted in one moment.

Blood already flows in all the streets
And is spurting already on the walls.
Jews were killed and beaten
With their blood the walls were painted.

There stands a bride on the hard stones
Dressed in her white bridal gown.
Next to her stands a murderer
And he holds the knife ready in his hand.

There lies a woman, young and beautiful
Abandoned, tortured, she lay on the garbage,
And next to her lies a small child
She nurses it from her dead, cold breast.

As soon as they entered the house
And they knew the people well,
Whatever was in the house they broke
The people’s hands they cut off.

As soon as they came into the house
With  noise and violence
Whatever was in the house they broke;
Small children were thrown down from the third floor.

Whoever was not at this tragedy
Did not see this great anger.
People yelled “O woe is me”
Letting out a great cry.

When they brought them to the hospital
No one could recognize them.
People cried out “Woe is me”
And wrung their hands .

Oy God [recording ends here but should continue with…]

Oy God you are good
why don’t you look down from heaven?
How we suffer hard and bitter
[alternate line: “Look upon this Jewish chaos”
Why your Jews are so punished.

bialystok yid1bialystok yid2bialystok yid3

Ver es hot in blat gelezn (From YIVO publication Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive):

bialystok lyrics

ruth rubin post 2

Abraham Goldfaden’s poem Di holoveshke (The Ember), published in Dos yidele (1891)

ember1

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“Oy vey rebenyu” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by yiddishsong

Oy vey rebenyu
Performance by Josh Waletzky
Video-recorded at Center for Traditional Music and Dance’s office, New York City, by Peter Rushefsky, Ethel Raim and Benjy Fox-Rosen, January 28th, 2012.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

New York Yiddish singer Josh Waletzky learned this maskilic/anti-Hasidic song from from his grandfather Morris (Moyshe) Waletzky. Oy vey rebenyu has been recorded in a similar version by Jan Bart, with another version by Cantor Isaac Goodfriend.

The Soviet folklorist Z. Skuditski pointed out the similarity to the Mikhl Gordon song Mayn Tshuve (see note in Folklor-lider, volume 2) and it has been considered a Mikhl Gordon song ever since (I could not obtain the original Gordon version). However this anti-Hasidic song was later adapted and interpreted in some circles as a song to praise the rebbe, not mock him.

Interpretations praising the rebbe:

The Yiddish poet Yermye Hescheles (1910 – 2010), from Glina, Galicia, Poland,  told me that on the holiday of Lag B’omer, when the melamed (teacher in the kheyder) walked with them into the woods, he taught the children this song in praise of the rebbe. (I would imagine that the verse with the cook Trayne was cut).

Di Naye Kapelye in Budapest recorded the song – only the refrain – in a slow, spiritual interpretation, on their album –  “A mazeldiker yid” released on the Oriente Musik label.

According to band leader Bob Cohen, the source is a tape recording made in Maramures in 1970 by Romanian-Jewish ethnomusicologust Ghizella Suliteanu of a Roma band from Borsa led by Gheorghe Stingaci Covaci.

Refrain:

Oy vey rebenyu, ikh shuteye un tsiter
un in hartsn brent a fayer.
un in hartsn brent a fayer.
Yakh vil zayn a khosidl a guter,
a khosidl a getrayer.
Yakh vil zayn a khosidl a guter,
a khosidl a getrayer.

O rebbe I stand and shiver
In my heart burns  fire.
I want to be a good khosid,
a faithful khosid.

Bay dem davenen vel ikh zikh shoklen,
makhn alerley hevayes.
Far dem rebn mit zayne khasidim
geyt mir oys dos Hayes.

When I pray I will rock,and make all kinds of gestures.
For the rebbe and his khasidim,
my strength gives out.

Vinter in di greste keltn.
Far dem rebn mit zayne Chasidim
gey ikh aynleygn veltn.

Winter in the greatest cold.
For the rebbe and his khasidim
I will tear down entire worlds.

Refrain

In Folklor-lider, vol. 2 the verses are:

A kalte mikve vel ikh zikh makhn
vinter in di greste keltn.
Far dem rebenyu, far zayne khsidimlekh
vel ikh kereven veltn.

A cold mikve I will prepare
winter in the greatest cold.
For the rebbe, for his hasidim
I will turn over worlds.

A vareme shal vel ikh zikh koyfn
zumer in di greste hitsn.
A zaydenem gartl vel ikh mir koyfn,
a hitl mit zibetsn shpitsn.

A warm shawl will I buy
summer in the greatest heat.
A silk belt will I buy, 
a hat with 17 corners.

Dem rebn vel ikh leygn in fodershtn alker
tsuzamen mit der kekhne Trayne.
Un ale kshidemlekh veln hobn tsum rebn
gor a groyse tayne.

I will put the rebbe in the front den
with the cook Trayne.
And all the Hasidim will complain
to the rebbe. 

oyveyrebenyu1

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“Nakhtishe lider” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The author of the text to “Nakhtishe lider”, Herz Rivkin was born Herzl Heisiner in Capresti, Bessarabia (today Moldova) in 1908, and died in a Soviet gulag, November 14, 1951. The poem is taken from  his only printed poetry collection “In shkheynishn dorf”  [From the Neighboring Village], Bucharest, 1938. Reprinted in Bucharest, 1977.

Herz Rivkin

The composer of the melody is unknown. The performer of this week’s posting, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (my mother), learned this song in Chernovitz in the 1930s. The only recording of the song is by Arkady Gendler on his CD “My Hometown Soroke”,  2001. That version is incomplete with two verses by Rivkin, and a third by Gendler.  Gendler titles the song “Nakhtike lider” which is the original title in Rivkin’s book.

Singer Michael Alpert has initiated and directs a concert program with singer/bandura player Julian Kytasty which brings together Jewish and Ukrainian singers and musicians in a collaborative program, the title of which “Night Songs from a Neighboring Village” was inspired by this song.

I recorded my mother’s performance of “Nakhtishe lider” at home in the Bronx in the 1980s. The audio quality of the recording is unfortunately not stable (be careful when listening – the volume increases significantly at 0:27), but Schaechter-Gottesman’s singing here is a wonderful example of what I would call urban interwar Yiddish singing and contrasts powerfully with the older plaintive, communal shtetl-style of her mother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman.

Nakhtishe lider fun shkheynishn dorf
farblondzen amol tsu mayn ganik.
Zey leshn mayn troyer; zey gletn mayn umet.
Zey flisn vi zaftiker honig.

Night Songs from the neighboring village.
Lose their way to my porch.
They extinguish my sadness; they caress my melancholy.
They flow like juicy honey.

Lider khakhlatske, muntere, frishe.
Vos shmekn mit feld un mit shayer.
Zey filn di luft un mit varemkeyt liber,
vos shtromt fun a heymishn fayer.

Ukrainian Songs, upbeat and fresh
that smell with field and barn.
They fill the air with a loving warmth,
that streams from an intimiate fire.

Nakht iz in shtetl, ikh lig afn ganik.
Ver darf haynt der mames geleyger?
Iz vos, az s’iz eyns? Iz vos, az s’iz tsvey?
Iz vos az shlogt dray shoyn der zeyger?

It’s nighttime in town; I lay on my porch.
Who needs today my mother’s place to sleep?
So what if it’s one? So what if it’s two?
So what if the clock strikes three?

Her ikh un ikh veys nisht iz yontif in dorf.
Tsi es hilyen zikh glat azoy yingen.
Az vos iz der khilek? Oyb s’vet bald, mir dakht
di levone oykh onheybn tsu zingen.

I listen and I don’t know if it’s a celebration in the village,
or just some kids are singing.
But what is the difference? If soon, it seems
The moon will also start to sing.

Azoy gisn amol zikh fun skheynishn dorf
heymishe, zaftike tener.
Biz s’heybt on frimorgn tsu vargn di nakht
un ez heybn on kreyen shoyn di heyner.

In this way pours out, from the neighboring village
intimate, juicy melodies.
Until the early morning begins to choke the night
and the roosters start to crow.

“Tunkl brent a fayer” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

For more on Jacob (Yankev) Gorelik see the previous post on “A baysphil.” He sang Tunkl brent a fayer (“A Fire Burns Dimly”) in his apartment in the “Chelsea hayzer” (Penn south), on 7th avenue and 25th street in Manhattan, circa 1985.  This song about an “agune,” a women who was abandoned by their husband, is part of a genre of agune-songs in Yiddish. Chaim Grade’s Yiddish novel The Agunah (translated in English with that title) depicts the complexity of dealing with the agune, and the rabbinic disagreements over when to declare the woman free to remarry.

I believe one hears the influence of the great singer Sidor Belarsky in Gorelik’s singing, even when he sings his mother’s songs from his hometown. I have included the spoken introduction below because it was typical of how Gorelik would frame a song he was about to perform for a larger audience. It’s interesting how he implies that by attending the Yiddish theater, the immigrant was thereby just a short hop from meeting new women and abandoning the wife in the old country.

The scanned music and words are from the songbook Songs of Generations compiled by Chana and Yosl Mlotek. Gorelik had, apparently, sent Tunkl brent a fayer to the Mloteks  who ran a column “Readers remember” in the Yiddish Forward newspaper. Chana Mlotek continued to write the column  after Yosl Mlotek’s death in 2000.

A song of an “agune,” an abandoned woman, that I heard from my mother, may she rest in peace.

There was a time, the emigration, the great emigration at the beginning of the 20th century and earlier, and many wandered out to America. Towns were emptied out. Many women remained with children. They didn’t hear anything from their husbands. Some were faithful and sent over their most recent earnings to their wives; shared it with their wives and children.

Others forgot. In the “Golden Land” they forgot about their old home. They wanted a little joy and happiness and started to go to the theater; met other women and forgot that they had “an old home,” a wife and child. And such women were called “agune” – “she was connected” as long as the husband did not free her. And songs were composed on this on the spot.

I had heard such a song among the folk, and another one I heard from my mother, may she rest in peace. She had a golden voice when she sang. In general my mother sang minor-keyed (sad) songs.