Archive for klezmer

“Kimt der shadkhn Shame” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Ordinarily, I would not include such a fragmentary performance in this blog, as this version of Kimt der shadkhn Shame (the name “Shame” is pronounced with two syllables “Sha-me,” rhymes with “mame”) performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW). But the investigation into the song is intriguing. I broadcast an earlier version of this research in Yiddish on the Yiddish Forward Radio Hour on WEVD seven or eight years ago. My commentary here will also be abbreviated.

At a yard sale in Monticello, NY, the heart of the Jewish Catskills, I bought several old Yiddish 78s including one with two songs by Leon Kalisch recorded in Lemberg 1905-06. Kalisch was part of the Lemberg Yiddish theater world revolving around „Gimpel‘s Teater‟ (see: Gimpel‘s grandson‘s website; Michael Aylwards forthcoming article on Gimpel‘s theater and Jewish recordings in Lemberg on his website; and the entry on Kalisch and Gimpel in the Yiddish theater Lexicon).

Leon Kalisch

Additionally, Kalisch‘s songs and other Lemberg Yiddish singers are featured on Gerda and Franz Lechleitner‘s „phonomuseum‟ website. When I heard Kalisch sing „Der schames‟ I immediately recognized LSW‘s song:

 The 78 record label indicated that Der schames originated from the Yosef Lateiner (1853-1935) play Der seder, and I fortunately was able to buy a copy but did not find the song in the text. I donated the 78s I bought at the yard sale to Lorin Sklamberg at the YIVO sound archives and he transferred them to CD for me and he turned me onto other recordings with what I call the „Lena From Palesteena‟ melody-motif. By this I mean the melody of the phrase “Lena is the Queen of Palesteena just because she plays the concertina.”

The popular 1920s song „Lena from Palesteena” was written by Con Conrad and J. Russel Robinson, and first recorded with words by Eddie Cantor in 1920. Here is a great old version by Frank Crumit:

On page 81 of his book Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World, Henry Sapoznik connects the melody to the klemzer tune Noch A bisl played here by accordionist Mishka Ziganoff in 1921. 

Lorin Sklamberg identified the Romanian language recording Colo’n Gradnita (There in the Little Garden) performed by S. Bernardo, no date, recorded in Bucharest, with only piano accompaniment. Bernardo is a great singer, obviously Jewish and includes “Oy veys” and some other Yiddish words:

Sklamberg also found a recording of a young Aaron Lebedeff singing the song Tate ziser (Syrena 12560) recorded in Europe (Warsaw?), no date but probably the late 1910s, (and no relation to the klezmer tune by that name recorded by several bands). Lebedeff is clearly riffing off Bernardo’s earlier recording:

Finally, Sklamberg dug up Simon Paskal’s Eppess noch, with words by Louis Gilrod, recorded in New York, 1913 – A typical comical Yiddish theater song about American Jewish life, with emphasis on food (Noch a bisl, Eppess noch – there seems to be a theme emerging).

There is much more to write about the musical reincarnations of the „Lena from Palesteena‟ motif, and I believe Prof. Martin Schwartz of Berkeley and others can play Greek, Turkish and other people‘s variants of this motif on recordings. It seems to be assumed that the Yiddish use of it came after the Romanian, but the Kalisch recording is the earliest I have found.

Back to LSW‘s song and its connection to Der Schames as sung by Kalisch. The rare rhyme „brie‟ and „Ishes tsnie‟ appears in both, so they are definitely related. Kalisch is about a shames (synagogue beadle); LSW‘s about a shadkhn named Shame. So the two lead characters are also too closely related phonetically to dismiss the notion the songs are from a single source. However, the narratives of the songs differ: LSW‘s Kimt der Shadkhn Shame is ultimately a maskilic song about the Hasidic rebbe, the “Datshn‟ (Germans – modernized Jews) and the „apikorsim,‟ the non-believers; while Kalisch‘s Der shames is clearly a theater song closely related to a play’s plot. In the song collection Der badkhn by (E)Luzer Bergman, Warsaw 1927, 1930, there is included a version that is obviously a variant of LSWs song, including the line about the „apikorsim.‟

LSW’s singing has been presented more than any other on this blog, but in Kimt der shadkhn Shame you can finally hear her perform a more upbeat comic song, even if the song is incomplete. Here is her rendition, recorded in the Bronx by Leybl Kahn in 1954 (the first chorus is incomplete– a long pause in the middle of the recording has been removed):

Kimt a shadkhn Shame
tsi mayn tate-mame
a shidikh hot er gur far mir. 

The matchmaker Shame comes
to my parents;
he has a match just for me. 

A meydl a groyse brie,
un di mame‘z an ishes-tsnie
shoyn in git, es ekt dekh di velt.

A girl, a wonderfully clever girl,
and her mother is a modest woman.
Fine and good – the world comes to an end.

Oy, oy, khotsh nem un gib im shoyn shadkhones-gelt
sheyn in git, es ekt dekh di velt.

Oy, give him the matchmaker‘s fee right away,
Fine and good, the world comes to an end.

[The chorus is incomplete due to a break in the recording]

Kimt a datsh, a higer
tsu mayn fliaskedrige,
a tshive vil er fin im aroys.

A local modern, enlightened Jew,
comes to my unsightly person,
and wants an answer from him, straight away.

Er iz a raykh kind,
un far zayne zind,
batsuln vil er mit a pidyen a gitn.

He is a wealthy child,
and for his sins,
he wants to pay a high fee to the Hasidic rabbi

Oy, oy, vi kent ir dus gor  farshteyn?
Tsitsekikn dem rebns mine, 
ven se brent af im di shkine. 
Apikorsim, vi kent ir dus farshteyn?

Oy, oy, how could you understand this?
To look upon the Rebbe‘s countenance,
when the Divine Presence burns on him;
Apostates! How could you understand.

“Klezmorim mayne” from the Ben Stonehill Collection

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

“Klezmorim mayne” is a recording of an unidentified singer recorded by Ben Stonehill in the lobby of the Marseilles Hotel (Broadway and 103rd street in Manhattan) in summer 1948. 

The Ben Stonehill Collection

Lorin Sklamberg’s article in News from YIVO about the Ben Stonehill Collection should be read in its entirety. It’s a fascinating story. Sklamberg is the sound archivist at YIVO in addition to being the lead singer for the Klezmatics.

In 1948 Mr. Stonehill (1906-1965), armed with a home recording device, preserved the singing of some 1078 songs by Jewish displaced persons temporarily housed in a Manhattan hotel “and for several weeks interviewed hundreds of informants, gathering  performances of both well-known and obscure Yiddish folk and theater songs, Hasidic nigunim and songs of the Holocaust as sung by singers ranging from strictly amateur performers to some remarkable vocal artists, including the Vilna poet-partisan Shmerke Kaczerginsky.”  He transferred the recordings from wire to reel before his death and left copies at Yeshiva University, Yad Vashem, Library of Congress and YIVO. Janina Wurbs digitized and completed a preliminary catalogue.

“Klezmorim mayne”

The song “Klezmorim mayne” can be found at YIVO on Stonehill CD #3, song #43.  There are many gems in the Stonehill collection, but I think it’s greatest worth will be as a reflection of the broad Jewish musical world in the 1930s in Eastern Europe; in other words, a key to help us answer the question, what did the Jews sing before the war?  Old fashioned ballad hunters like myself will be disappointed since most of the collection consists of popular, well-known songs, but then once in a while someone will sing a song like “Klezmorim mayne”, an old death ballad from the 19th or even perhaps 18th century, and – wow! Nothing makes me smile more than an old death ballad.

Noyekh Prilutski’s second volume of Yiddish folksongs (1913) which has no melodies included, does  include a number of variants of this particular ballad that is built upon the alef-beys. The singer here forgets the stanza for the letter “ז” – zayin – which none of the hotel lobby spectators seem to notice, but they do notice when he confuses lines in another verse and laughter is heard. The singer, unfortunately unidentified, does not lose his cool in the midst of this ridicule and continues to sing beautifully. Great performance under pressure.  Below is the text in standard Yiddish, then an English transliteration in the singer‘s Yiddish dialect, intercut at every verse with the translation.

Klezmurim mayne,
klezmurim mayne zise,
(Oy) Shpilts mir of dus shtikele,
far mayn gsise.

My klezmer,
My dear klezmer,
Play for me that melody
before I die.

Di alef makht,
Ov hurakhmim shoykhayn bimroymim
Di bist a futer
iber ale yesoymim.

The alef makes the sound of
“Our merciful father who dwells in the heavens,”
You are a father
over all the orphans.

Di bays makht – bays a hoz.
A shud avektsevarfn,
Kimt tsi gayn der malekh-hamuves
dem khalef tsikopns tsi sharfn.

The beyz sounds like – beys a house.
A shame to throw it away.
Then the angel of death comes
and sharpens his knife at the head of the bed.

Oy di giml makht – gold in zilber
duz iz dokh a heyvl-havulim.*
A yeder mentshns leybn
iz dokh azoy vi a khulem.

O the giml makes – gold and silver.
This vanity of vanities.
Every person’s life
in no more than a dream.

Oy, di daled makht – di hent in fis
zay tien in mir kiln.
un dus fayfele in deym harts,
tit in mir shpiln.

O, the daled makes – the hands and legs
are starting to get cold.
and the little flute in my heart,
starts to act up.

Oy, di hay makht – hayle hadvurim.**
Oy, hayle hadvurim,
A Yedn mentshns leybn,
iz dokh azoy vi a khulem.

O the hey makes – “these be the words” [Deuteronomy 1.1]
“These be the words”
Every person’s life
Is just like a dream.

Oy, di vuv makht – vayse klayder,
zey tien dem mentsh bashaynen.
Oy, rifts aran mayn vayb un kinderlekh,
Lomikh zay farn toyt bavaynen.

O the vuv makes – white clothes
beautify the man.
Call in my wife and children
and let them lament me before I die.

Oy di khes makht – khevre kedoyshim***
ir zent dokh haylike mentshn.
Rifts aran mayn vayb un kinderlekh,
Lomir zey farn toyt bentshn.

The khes makes – the khevre kadishe [burial society]
you are holy people.
Call in my wife and children
Let me bless them before I die.

Oy, di tes makht – tint in feder
mit deym ken men dokh ales bashraybn.
oy git mir (ayer?) tint in feder,
lomikh testament shraybn.

The tes makes – ink and pen,
with this you can describe everything.
Give me (your?) ink and pen,
and let me write my testament.

Di yid makht – yo, yo yo!
Ikh hob gemaynt kh’el aybik leybn.
Atsindn**** rift men meykh,
kh’zol din-vekhesbn opgeybn.

The yud makes – yes, yes, yes!
I thought i would live forever.
Now call I am called upon
to give a full reckoning.

Oy din־vekhesbm opgeybn
dos iz dokh zayer shlekht.
oy herts mikh oys raboysay,
tsindst un tsu kopns di lekht.

To give a full reckoning,
is indeed very bad.
So listen to me gentlemen,
light by my head the candles.

Di lekht ungetsinen,
tsevishn mane palatsn,
oy vay tsu mayne yesoymendlekh,
zey hobn shoyn nit keyn tatn.

The candles have been lit,
among my palaces.
Woe to my little orphans,
they have no more father.

* usually without the indefinite article “a” which makes it singular.
**hayle hadvruim. In the bible “Eyle hadvurim,” but in the singer’s Polish Yiddish dialect, he adds the “h” sound before “Eyle”, thus the phrase can now be used for the “Hey” letter in the alef-beys of the song.
***khevre kadoyshim. A folksy form of khevre kadisha?
****atsindn. A form of atsindert ־ now

קלעזמאָרים מײַנע,
קלעזמאָרים מײַנע זיסע.
שפּילט מיר אויף אַ שטיקעלע,
פֿאַר מײַן גסיסה

די „א‟ מאַכט — אבֿ הרחמים
שוכן במרומים
דו ביסט אַ פֿאָטער
איבער אַלע יתומים

די „ב‟ מאַכט ־ בית אַ הויז
אַ שאָד אַוועקצוּוואַרפֿן.
קומט צו גיין דער מלאך־המוות
דעם חלף צו קאָפּנס צו שאַרפֿן

אוי, די „ג‟ מאַכט — גאָלד און זילבער
דאָס איז דאָך אַ הבֿל־הבֿלים.
יעדער מענטשנס לעבן
איז דאָך נישט מער ווי אַ חלום

אוי, די „ד‟ מאַכט — די הענט און פֿיס
זיי טוען אין מיר קילן.
און דאָס פֿײַפֿעלע אין דעם האַרץ
טוט אין מיר שפּילן

אוי, די „ה‟ מאַכט — אלה הדבֿרים
אלה הדבֿרים.
יעדער מענטשנס לעבן
איז דאָך אַזוי ווי אַ חלום

אוי, די „ו‟ מאַכט — ווײַסע קליידער
זיי טוען דעם מענטש באַשיינען.
רופֿט אַרײַן מײַן ווײַב און קינדער,
לאָמיך זיי פֿאַרן טויט באַוויינען.

אוי, די „ח‟ מאַכט — חבֿרה קדושים,
איר זענט דאָך הייליקע מענטשן.
רופֿט אַרײַן מײַן ווײַב און קינדערלעך,
לאָמיך זיי פֿאַרן טויט בענטשן

אוי, די „ט‟ מאַכט — טינט און פֿעדער
מיט דעם קען מען דאָך אַלעס באַשרײַבן.
אוי, גיט מיר אײַער טינט און פֿעדער,
לאָמיך טעסטאַמענט שרײַבן

אוי, די „י‟ מאַכט — יאָ! יאָ! יאָ!
כ‘האָב געמיינט איך וועל אייביק לעבן.
אַצינדערט רופֿט מען מיך,
איך זאָל דין־וחשבון אָפּגעבן

דין־וחשבון אָפּצוגעבן
דאָס איז דאָך זייער שלעכט.
אוי, הערט מיך אויס רבותי,
צינדט אָן צוקאָפּנס די ליכט

די ליכט אָנגעצונדן
אין אַלע מײַנע פּאַלאַצן.
אוי ווי צו מײַנע יתומהלעך,
זיי האָבן שוין ניט קיין טאַטן