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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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“Erev-Yonkiper nokhn halbn tog” Performed by Yankl Goldman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2018 by yiddishsong

Erev-Yonkiper nokhn halbn tog / On the Eve of Yom-kippur, In the Afternoon
Sung by Yankl Goldman
From the Ruth Rubin Legacy Archive of  Yiddish Folksongs, YIVO Institute, NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Untitled drawingThis is a variation of the most common nineteenth century Yiddish murder ballad which often begins with “Tsvelef a zeyger”. But this version is unusual because the performer Yankl Goldman says before he sings that the boyfriend/suitor is a non-Jew and this is the reason why her parents reject him.

Other than the name “Panilevitsh”, there is no indication in the song itself that he is not Jewish. The version follows very closely to many other versions in which all the characters are Jewish.

Thanks to sound archivist Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives for the recording. 

TRANSLITERATION

Spoken by Yankl Goldman: “A libeslid vos me hot gezungen nukh a tragishn tsufal ven der gelibter hot ermordet zayn gelibte tsulib dem vos di eltern hobn nisht tsigelozn, az zi zol khasene hobn mit em vayl er iz nisht geven keyn yid.”

Un di lid geyt azey –
Erev-yonkiper in halbn tog
ven ale meydlekh tien fun di arbet geyn.
Dort dreyt zikh arum Panalevitsh.
Git er Dvoyrelen oyskukn.

Azoy vi er hot zi derzeyn,
zi geblibn far zayn[e] oygn shteyn.
“Un itst iz gekumen di libe tsayt
Di zolst mir zogn yo tsi neyn.”

Tsi libst mikh yo, tsi di libst mikh nit
mayne eltern zey viln dikh nit.
Oy, mayne eltern tien mir shtern,
Ikh zol far dir a kale vern.

Azoy vi er hot dos derhert
Es hot im shtark fardrosn
aroysgenumen hot er deym revolver
un hot Dvoyrelen dershosn.

[Ruth Rubin: “Oy!”]

Azoy vi er hot ir dershosn.
Iz zi gefaln af a groysn shteyn.
Troyerik iz di mayse, ober lebn –
lebt zi shoyn nisht meyn.

TRANSLATION

Spoken by Yankl Goldman: “A love song that was sung after a tragedy, when the lover killed his beloved, because her parents would not allow her to marry a non-Jew.”

On the eve of Yom-kippur, in the afternoon
when the girls leave work,
Panalevitsh is hanging out,
waiting impatiently for Dvoyre.

As soon as he saw her
she stopped right before his eyes.
“And now has come the right time
for you to tell me – yes or no”.

“What does it matter if
you love or don’t love me
my parents do not want you.
Oy, my parents have ruined
my becoming your bride.”

As soon as he heard this
he was very chagrined.
He took out a revolver
and shot Dvoyre dead.

[Ruth Rubin says in background “oy!”.]

When he shot her
she fell upon a large stone.
Sad is the story, but
she lives no more.

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“Tayere Toni” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

I have found only one other version of Tayere Toni – in the Pipe collection “Yiddish Folksongs from Galicia” edited by Meir and Dov Noy, Jerusalem, 1971 page 118-119. There the names of the lovers are Bronye and Bernard. From the Pipe version it is clear that the song is a ballad – Bernard does indeed die in the third verse, and in the fourth verse Bronye shoots herself and they are buried together in one grave. A motif much more common in non-Yiddish ballads, rare in Yiddish ones.

From Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s shorter version, recorded in 1954 in the Bronx by song collector Leybl Kahn, a ballad-story is implied but is left hanging, and I have to wonder did Lifshe not sing the other verses because she did not know them or because they did not appeal to her? Didn’t ring true or Jewish? The fact that she doesn’t repeat any of the lines also implies that we are dealing with a ballad, a story in song; Lifshe was more inclined to repeat lines in lyric love songs than in ballads.

Though the use of German names in Tayere Toni would lead one to believe that the song is relatively new, the beautiful melody sounds very old to me. Her singing, as always, is haunting and so complex given the relative simple melody. By the way, the great folklorist I. L. Cahan (not to be confused with Leybl Kahn) “disqualified” a song that Shmuel Zanvil Pipe had collected because the character’s name in the song was Moritz. “Moritz”, wrote Cahan, could not be part of any folksong.

But today we have to respectfully disagree with Cahan (and I think Pipe wasn’t too happy about his judgement in this case either). Jews in the Galician and Bukovinan territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had German names, and were no less “folky” because of it.

Pete Rushefsky adds:

Musically, Tayere Toni reinforces the conversation between Bernard and his beloved Toni with a subtle harmonic interplay in the key of Bb minor.

The first two lines of each stanzas are rendered in Bb minor and harmonized by Bb minor, F major and Bb minor: a simple I Minor – V Major – I Minor progression that effects a light waltz-like melody as Bernard attempts to woo Toni. Harmonically each of Bernard’s two lines stand on their own – there is a simplicity and purity to his love.

Toni’s answers in the stanza’s third and first half of the fourth lines contradict Bernard, and are voiced to resolve (incompletely) on the C of a dominant F major chord. Toni’s response requires the full duration of her two lines to resolve harmonically, and for a moment, a listener tuned to Jewish modal tendencies wonders if she might distance herself further from his sentiments with a full modulation to F-freygish (also known in cantorial literature as “Ahava Raba”, or “altered Phrygian” – F, Gb, A, Bb, C, Db, Eb).

But despite a rapidly ascending then descending movement in the last line that is frequently seen in freygish melodies, Toni does not reach down to the tell-tale subtonic Eb which would confirm F-freygish. Rather, at the end of the stanza, Toni’s cadence resolves back to the tonic Bb. Though there is complexity in her responses and desires, in the end, these two are fated to live and die together.

“Tayere Toni, kim aher tsi mir
Nem dir a beynkl, zets zikh anider lebn mir.”
“Tayerer Bernard, ikh ken nisht zitsn leybn dir.
Di mame vet araynkimen, un vet shrayen af mir”

“Dear Toni come over here to me,
Take a chair, and sit next to me.”
“Dear Bernard, I can’t sit next to you.
My mother will enter and will yell at you.”

“Tayere Toni, ikh ken dikh nisht fardarbn.
Zeyst dekh az ikh halt shoyn baym shtarbn.”
Tayerer Bernard, vest nokh vern gezint.
Tayerer Bernard, di bist mayn tayer kind.”

“Dear Toni, I can’t ruin you.
Can’t you see, that i am dying.”
“Dear Bernard, you will become well,
Dear Bernard, you are my dear child”.

Spoken Dialogue after the song:

LEYBL KAHN: Dos lid hot ir gehert fun vanen?
Where did you hear this song?
LSW: Dos hob ikh gehert in Zvinyetchke.
I heard this in Zvinyetchke.
LK: In der Bukovina.
In Bukovina?
LSW: Yo, di Bukovina.
Yes, Bukovina.
LK: To vi kumen azoyne nemen vi Toni un Bernard?
So where do the name Toni and Bernard come from?
LSW: Bay undz hot men dokh daytshmerish gezingen.
We sang, after all, Germanized Yiddish.
LK: Menshn fleygn hob azoyne nemen.
People used to have such names?
LSW: Ye, avade.
Yes, of course