Archive for Lifshe Schachter Widman

Mark Varshavski’s “Vi halt ikh dus oys?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2018 by yiddishsong

Vi halt ikh dus oys? – How Can One Stand It?
Words and Music: Mark Varshavski
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recorded by Leybl Kahn NYC 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Vi halt ikh dus oys is surely one of the saddest songs from a composer, Mark Varshavski (aka Warshavsky) known for his classic nostalgic and upbeat songs such as Oyfn pripetshok, Milner’s trern and Di mezinke oysgegebn.

In her brief discussion with Leybl Kahn before and after she sings, LSW connected the -message of the song to the Zionist movement; a commentary on the eternal wandering of the Jews. She also affirms that she learned it from an aunt in her small town of Zvinyetshke in the Bukovina.

For a full biography of Mark Varshavski (1848 – 1907) see the YIVO Encyclopedia.

mark varshavsky picMark Varshavski in Berdichev, 1900 (YIVO)

In her very emotional performance, the singer Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] stays remarkably close to the original text which is attached at the end of the post from the volume “Yidishe folkslider fun M. M. Varshavski” One interesting textual change, however, is in the line where LSW sings:

Farentfer di kashe, Got di bist groys
[Answer the question – God you are vast/supreme]

In Varshavski’s original text it reads:
S’farenfert di kashe, Got du bist groys
[The question is answered by – God you are vast/supreme]

The folklorized words by LSW address God directly, reflecting a more intimate relationship with God than in Varshavki’s version.

I could not find a previous recording of this song, neither on record, CD nor in field recordings. However, a song about Mendel Beilis and his infamous trial (1911-1913), accusing him of a blood libel is based on this Varshavski song. Lorin Sklamberg, YIVO sound archivist and lead singer for The Klezmatics, sang Dos lid fun Mendel Beilis at YIVO in 2013:

Thanks for help with this week’s post to Lorin Sklamberg.

TRANSLITERATION

Vi halt men dus oys? Farshtey ikh nisht kh’lebn.
Es iz shoyn fin Got azoy mir bashert.
Bay veymen s’iz a yontif dus shtikele leybn:
Bay mir iz dus leybn shvarts vi di erd.
Far vus un far ven, fregt mekh nit eyner.
Farentfer di kashe – Got di bist groys.
Es triknt in mir der marekh fun mayne beyner,
un ikh halt dus nit oys; ikh halt dus nit oys.

Vi halt men dus oys? Es iz avade a vinder.
Vi ikh shlep mayne krank, geshvolene fis.
Ikh blondze arim mit mayne ureme kinder
un vi ikh kim iz finster in vist.
A du ken ikh nisht shteyn, a du tor men nit lign.
azoy tsit men fin mir mayne koykhes aroys.
Vu ikh gey her ikh eyn nign –
Ikh halt dus nit oys; ikh halt dus nit oys.

A yeder fin aykh, say rakh say urem,
hot dus alte beys-oylem shoyn gezeyn.
Dort lign alte, tsebrokhene kvurim,
un fun dort hert men a geveyn.
Azoy iz tsebrokhn iz mir yeder eyver,
di velt iz mir fintster khotshe zi iz groys.
Oy, dek dikh af gikher, di fintserer keyver.
Vayl ikh halt dus nit oys, ikh halt dus nit oys.

TRANSLATION

How can one stand this? I swear I don’t understand.
It must be decreed from God.
For those who enjoy a little of life –
For me is life black as the earth.
Why and for what reason? No one asks me.
Answer the question, God you are supreme.
The marrow of my bones is drying
and I can no longer stand it, I can no longer stand it.

How can I stand it? It is truly a wonder.
I drag my sick, swollen legs.
I wander aimlessly with my poor children
and wherever I come, I feel dark and deserted.
There I may not stand; here I may not lay.
And in this way my strength disspipates.
Wherever I go I hear only one tune –
I cannot stand this; I can no longer stand this.

Each of you, the rich and the poor
has surely seen out Jewish cemetery.
There lay old, broken graves
and from deep in the graves one hears a cry.
Thus is broken in me every limb.
The world is as dark as it is vast.
O, cover me up you dark grave
Because I can no longer take it, I can no longer take it.

vi halt 1 yidvi halt 2 yid

warshavkiBookWarshavski1Warshavski2

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“Mame a kholem” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2018 by yiddishsong
Mame, a kholem (Mother, A Dream)
Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
recorded by Leybl Kahn, NY 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The motif of the lover who returns as a beggar is as old as Homer’s Odyssey and is found in ballads throughout the world. In this Yiddish ballad version, the former lover is not disguised as a beggar but has indeed become one because of his “character”.

JewishBeggar by Rembrandt“Jewish Beggar” by Rembrandt

I consider this ballad to be one of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s [LSW] masterpieces. Not only because it is certainly among the older songs in her repertoire, but because of the deeply emotional way she performs it, concluding with the dramatic last verse in which the woman reveals to her mother who is at the door.

In typical old ballad style, the dialogue prevails: first between mother and daughter, then between daughter and beggar (former lover) and finally, again, between daughter and mother. There is a break in the narrative after the third verse when the dialogue changes and at this point Leybl Kahn, who is recording the song, feels compelled to ask LSW to continue.

This transition from third to fourth verse is noteworthy. A new plot/scene develops at this point. It leads me to believe that originally there might have been two ballads that were combined to form one.

Supporting this idea are the awkward transitions between the two scenes in all the versions. We also have examples of separate ballads. Singer/researcher Michael Alpert recorded Fanya Moshinskaya, (born 1915 in Babyi Yar, Kiev), singing a ballad of the first scene – ‘Oy a kholem’. And he has recorded Bronya Sakina (1910 – 1988) from Olvanisk (Holovanivsk/Golovanevsk, Ukraine) singing a ballad – “Derbaremt aykh”- depicting the beggar/lover scene. Alpert currently sings both of them and sometimes combines them.

In addition, there are two other versions of just the beggar/lover ballad with no first “kholem” part in the Soviet Folklor-lider volume 2 1936, page 202-204,. Song #62  – “Shoyn dray yor az ikh shpil a libe” and #63 – “Vi azoy ikh her a lirnik shpiln”.  The singer for #62 was Rive Diner from Bila Tserkva, Ukraine, 1926. The singer for #63 was Yekhil Matekhin from Sobolivke, Ukraine, recorded in 1925.

A nine-verse Odessa variant without music of the LSW combined ballad – “Oj, a xolem hot zix mir gexolemt” – can be found in Folklor-lider volume 2 1936, page 201-202 song# 61. This was republished by Moyshe Beregovski with music in his Jewish Folk Songs (1962) #34 pp. 75-77, reprinted in Mark Slobin’s Beregovski compendium Old Jewish Folk Music 1982, p. 353 – 355. The singer was Dine Leshner from Odessa, 1930.

In Leshner’s ballad, the transition verse between the two scenes, verse four, is presented in first person from the beggar’s viewpoint, not in dialogue. It would be quite confusing for the listener to figure out who is speaking, and I imagine the singer would almost be required to stop singing and indicate who is speaking (as LSW does at this transition point!).

Another variant of the combined version was collected by Sofia Magid in 1934 in a Belarus kolkhoz “Sitnya”, from the singer Bronya Vinokur (PON 103, full text on page 580, “Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, 2008. The audio recording can be heard on the accompanying DVD). The initial dialogue is between a man and his mother. He then travels to the rebbe, and comes to her as a beggar. She curses him in the last verse.

Oyb du host a froy mit a kleyn kind,
Zolstu zikh muttsen [mutshn] ale dayne yor.
Oyb du host mir frier nit genumen,
Konstu sheyn nit zayn mayn por.

If you have a wife and child,
May you suffer all your years.
If you did not take me before,
Then you can no longer be my match.

Hardly the romantic ending we find in the LSW version.

I would like to take the liberty of suggesting some word changes in LSW’s version for any singers out there thinking of performing the song. These suggestions are based on the other versions and on the way LSW’s daughter, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG] sang the song.

1) Clearly the last line in the first verse of LSW’s ballad, which doesn’t rhyme with “gedakht”, is a mistake. BSG sang instead the rhymed line –

“Az mayn gelibter shteyt baym bet bay nakht” [“That my lover is standing at my bed at night”]

But in Magid’s version and in the Alpert/ Moshinskaya’s version this line reads  – “un fun mir hot er zikh oysgelakht” (and he laughed at me”) And in the Folklor-lider version the line reads “un fun mir hot er khoyzek gemakht” (“and he mocked me”)  So the mocking of the girl is the “character” flaw that results in his becoming a beggar.

2) Instead of “futerland” Bronya Sakina sang “geboyrn-land” which strikes me as folkier and more appropriate, though in one of the Folklor-lider versions, the daughter does use “foterland” as well.

3) Instead of LSW’s “derkh mayn kharakter”, – “because of my character”, – others sing “durkh a libe” and “durkh a gelibter– “because of a love”, “because of beloved”. This also strikes me as the older concept and more in line with the whole song.

4)  Instead of  LSW’s “untershtitsung” – “nedove” is more traditional.  Both mean “alms”, “donation”.

5) LSW sings “iftsishteln di hant” – “to raise up the hand”. Usually that would be “oystsushtrekn di hant” – “to reach out your hand”.

6) For the last line she sings “vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.” (“because this is the one who was my lover”) but shorter and to the point is “vayl dos iz mayn gelibter geveyn” (because he was my lover”). BSG sang it this way.

TRANSLITERATION
1)  Mame, a khulem hot zikh mir gekhulemt,
Oy, mame, a khulem hot zikh mir gedakht.
Oy, a khulem hot zikh mir gekhulemt,
az man gelibter shteyt leybn mayn bet.

2)  Oy a khulem tokhter tur men nit gleybn
Vayl a khulem makht dem mentshn tsim nar.
Morgn veln mir tsi dem rebe furn.
A pidyen veln mir im geybn derfar.

3)  Vus ken mir den der rebe helfn?
Tsi ken er mir geybn deym vus eykh hob lib?
In mayn hartsn vet er mame blaybn
Biz in mayn fintsern grib.
In mayn hartsn vet er mame blaybn.
Biz in mayn fintsern grib.

Spoken:  Leylb Kahn says  “Dos gantse lid”

LSW: “Es geyt nokh vater.”
Leybl: “Lomir hern vayter.”
Spoken: LSW – “Es dakht zikh ir, az der khusn
kimt aran..”

4) Hots rakhmunes af mir libe mentshn
hots rakhmunes af mir in a noyt.
mit alem gitn zol nor Gotenyu bentshn.
Hots rakhmones un shenkts a shtikl broyt.

5) “Far vus zhe geysti azoy upgerisn?
Shemst zikh nisht iftsishteln di hant?
Fin vanen di bist bin ikh naygerik tsi visn.
Rif mir un dayn futerland.

6) Geboyrn bin eykh in a groys hoz.
Dertsoygn bin eykh eydl un raykh,
derkh mayn kharakter bin eykh urem gevorn
in intershtitsing beyt eykh du fin aykh.

7) Tsi vilt ir mir epes shenkn?
Git zhet mir in lozts mekh du nisht shteyn.
Tits mikh nit azoy fil krenken,
Vayl dus hob eykh mir mitgenemen aleyn.

8) Oy, mamenyu gib im shoyn a neduve.
Gib im shoyn un loz im do nisht shteyn.
Gib im avek a halb fin indzer farmeygn,
vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.
Gib im shoyn a halb fin indzer farmeygn,
vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.

TRANSLATION
1)  Mama, I dreamed a dream,
oh mame, a dream i had imagined.
Oh a dream i had dreamed,
That my love was near my bed.
[..stands near me at night]

2)  O daughter, a dream should not be believed.
Because a dream can lead you astray.
Tomorrow we will travel to the Rebbe
and give him payment for this.

3)  O, how can the Rebbe help me.
Can he give me the one I love?
In my heart he will always remain.
Till my dark grave.

SPOKEN:
Leylb Kahn: The whole song
LSW: There is more.
Leybl: Let’s hear more.
LSW: She thinks that her groom has entered…

4) “Take pity on me dear people.
Take people on me in my need.
May God bless you with all good things.
Take pity and give a piece of bread.”

5)  “Why are you going around in rags?
Are you not ashamed to hold out your hand?
Where are you from? I would like to know.
Tell me your fatherland.”

6)  “I was born in a big house,
Raised noble and wealthy.
Because of my character, I became poor,
and for a donation from you I now beg.”

7)  “Do you want to give me some alms?
Then give me and don‘t leave me standing here.
Don‘t torture me so,
For I have already suffered enough.”

8)  “O mother give alms right now,
Give him now, and don‘t let him stand there.
Give him away a half of our fortune,
For he was once my beloved.”

screen-shot-2018-02-08-at-4-15-21-pm.pngkholem itzik2

Folklor-lider Volume 2 1936, pp. 202-204,. Song #62  – “Shoyn dray yor az ikh shpil a libe”:
12

and #63 – “Vi azoy ikh her a lirnik shpiln”:

34

Jewish Folk Songs (1962) #34, ed. Moyshe Beregovski,  pp. 75-77, reprinted in Mark Slobin’s Beregovski compendium Old Jewish Folk Music 1982, p. 353 – 355:

Beregovski Mame A

“Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, 2008:
MagidMameAkholem

Post edited for web by Samantha Shokin.

“Af mayn tatns dakh” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2018 by yiddishsong
Af mayn tatns dakh (On My Father’s Roof)
Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG)
recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx 1991.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

From 1947 to 1951 Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG)  lived in displaced persons camps in Vienna. Two of them were Arzberger and Rothschild Hospital where her husband, Jonas Gottesman was the chief physician. She arrived there after two years in Bucharest. Since she was born in Vienna in 1920 (but grew up in Chernovitz) she could legally leave Bucharest at that time, while her husband, mother and brother had to cross into Austria illegally.
DP Beyle Lifsha

In Vienna circa 1949, from left: Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (mother), Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (daughter), friend Mitsi Weininger.

BSG believed she learned this song in Vienna during this time and wrote down the words in a notebook. In 1991 we found that notebook and I asked her to sing the songs she had written down in it.

The first line of the refrain “Sheyn bikh ikh sheyn, sheyn iz oykh mayn nomen” and text of the second verse are better known with a different melody in a  children’s song. Ruth Rubin includes it in her print collection Jewish Folk Songs and recorded it. More recently it can be heard on the CD “Voices of Ashkenaz”, featuring the singing of Svetlana Kundish and Deborah Strauss.

TRANSLITERATION:

Af mayn tatns dakh hengt a gildener krants
hant oder morgn, vu’zhe darf ikh zorgn?

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun same rabunim.

Bay di rabunim iz di Toyre groys,
ikh vel zan a kalele – a  bliendkie royz.

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun loyter rabunim.

Holtz in der kamer, a vaser in hoz.
Ale mise bukhirim fun shteytele aros.

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun loyter rabunim.

Eyner vet zan maner,  a sheyner, a faner,
Zetst zikh nor nit leybn mir, bist nokh nit mit mane.

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun loyter rabunim.

Got vet dir bashern vesti mane vern,
Vesti zetsn leybn mir, vet keyner dikh nisht shtern.

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun loyter rabunim.

Fli feygele fli,  fli zhe tsi man khusn!
Vet er mir shikn a halbn livyusin.

Sheyn bin ikh sheyn, sheyn iz mayn numen,
Vel ikh nemen a khusndl fun loyter rabunim.

TRANSLATION:

On my father’s roof hangs a golden wreath.
Today or tomorrow: so why should I worry?

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.

For the rabbis the Torah is great:
I will be a bride – a blossoming rose.

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.

Wood in the shed, water in the house
All ugly boys – get out of town.

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.

One will be mine – a handsome  and a fine one.
But don’t sit next to me – you’re not mine yet.

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.

God will destine it for you and become mine.
If you will sit next to me, then no one will bother you.

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.

Fly, birdie, fly, fly to my groom.
And he will send me half of the Leviathan.

Pretty, I am pretty and pretty is my name.
I will only choose a groom from among the rabbis.
BSG1BSG2

“Avreymele melamed” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

The amusing children’s song Avreymele melamed (Little Abraham, the Jewish Elementary School Teacher) tells the story of the shlimazl (bearer of poor luck) of the shtetl. This week’s posting features a performance of Avreymele by Lifshe Schaechter Widman in the Bronx in 1954 (recording by Leybl Kahn):

The song became popular thanks to numerous cantors who included it into their repertory. The transformation from LSW’s folksong to the cantorial version is notable. LSW’s verses rhyme and have a distinct melody throughout. She playfully sings “shirem hashirem” instead of “shir hashirem”, turning the “Song of Songs” into the “Umbrella of Umbrellas.”

f23ab2af7d5e72bfa94ad6553c627887--elementary-schools-schools-in

The much longer cantorial versions feature a recitative style with no rhyming verses. For an example of the cantorial version, see this video featuring the Cantor Simon Spiro, complete with chorus and orchestra, arranged by Maurice Goldman and produced by the Milken Archive:

Many Yiddish folksongs entered the cantorial repertoire thanks to Menachem Kipnis’ successful Yiddish songbooks and performances throughout Poland between the world wars. Kipnis (1878 – 1942)  was a singer, cantor, folklorist, journalist and photographer. It is clear that his version, which has many more verses than LSW’s, was the basis for the cantorial versions. Attached at the end of this post are scans of Kipnis’ “Avremele Melamed”. The version of the song in A. Z. Idelsohn’s Thesaurus of Oriental Hebrew Melodies (Vol. 9)  is also taken from Kipnis’ collection.

Cantor David Kossovitsky, Oberkantor Boas Bischofwerder, Mike Burstyn (in Hebrew) and Gojim (Austria) among other cantors and singers have had a lot of fun with this song. Though cantors have taken the song far from its folksong roots, the playful call-and-response – implied in LSW’s and heard in Spiro’s version –  was not lost along the way.

When the song was translated into Hebrew and performed in the Israeli musical איש חסיד היה [Ish khasid haya] by Dan Almagor (1968) it attained a new and wide audience.

Here is a recent performance of the song in the Israeli musical:

The nature of the song almost invites singers to create new verses about a shlimazl. One of my favorites is performed by the Columbia University Jewish vocal group Pizmon, who sing in Yiddish but add a verse in English at the end:

And who do you think it was
who came late to shul
and his cell phone went ringing
right in the middle of the rebbe’s dvar toyre?

Thanks this week to David Braun for help with the transcription. 

Transliteration / Translation:

Spoken by LSW: Dus is a kinderlidl: Avreymele melamed.

Avreymele melamed
Avreymele melamed.
Oy! Ze’ mir gegangen zikh budn –
Avreymele melamed.
Gehat hob ikh a shudn.
Avreymele melamed.
Oy! Tsulib dem shirem-hashirem,
Avreymele melamed,
makhn di yidn pirem.
Avreymele melamed.
Oy! Avreymele melamed.
Bist Avreymele!

Spoken by LSW: This is a children’s song: Avreymele melamed [Avreymele the Elementary Schoolteacher]

Avreymele melamed.
Oy! We went bathing
Avreymele melamed,
and suffered a loss –
Avreymele melamed.
Oy! Because of the “umbrella of umbrellas”,
Avreymele melamed,
Jews celebrate Purim,
Avremele melamed.
Oy! Avreymele melamed.
You’re indeed Avreymele.
avreymelemelamed1kipnis2

From Kipnis, Akhtsik folks-lider (Warsaw, 1925):

kipnis1kipnis2

“Yoyne-hanuvi” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2017 by yiddishsong

 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

We are posting this recording of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman singing Yoyne-hanuvi (Jonah the Prophet) for Yom-Kippur since Maftir Yoyne, the Bible story of Jonah is read during the mincha (afternoon) service. The recording was made by Leybl Kahn in the Bronx in 1954. Two newer interpretations of this song based on LSW’s version have been recorded: the German/USA  group Myridian on their recording of 2004 and one by the singer Eleonore Biezunski and her group Yerushe on the CD Yerushe/Heritage in 2016 (you can hear part of the song at this link).

jonah_whale

This song might have had special meaning for LSW since her father was named “Yoyne.” He died of cholera in 1894 when she was one-year old. His grave is still to be found in the Jewish cemetery of (Yiddish name) Zvinyatchke (aka Zvinyace, Zvineace, Zveniachyn), Ukraine on the Dneister river.

The sudden break in the narrative (and melody) from the story of Jonah to a direct appeal to God from the woman singer makes this a very unusual song. I have found no other versions. This recording first appeared on a Global Village  Music cassette release of LSW’s songs Az di furst Avek (1986).  Upon another listen I have changed a few words in the transcription since that release. The transliteration reflects LSW’s dialect.

Yoyne-hanuvi iz fin Got antlofn.
Er hot nisht gevolt kayn shlikhes geyn.
Oyf dem shif hot es im getrofn
ven dus shif hot ungehoybn intergeyn.

Gevald! Varft men goyrl oys.
Veymen me zol in yam araynvarfn.
Goyrl iz aroys:
Yoyne-hanuvi min-hastam.

Inter dray misles hot Got bashert a nes.
A fish hot im ousgeshpign tsirik
Hobn di yidn gezeyn, vus se iz gesheyn.
Nisim fin Got aleyn.

Azoy zolst mir vazn vi mayn man tsi shpazn.
Uptsihitn zekh fin deym toyt.

Dus ken nisht keyner, nor di Got eyner.
Rateven Yoynen finem toyt.

Dus ken nisht keyner, nor Got di eyner.
Uptsirateven Yoynen fin deym toyt.

Jonah the prophet ran away from God;
He did not want to go on his mission.
There on the sea it happened to him –
when the ship started to sink.

Help! So they throw lots
to determine whom to throw into the sea.
The lots concluded that:
Jonah the Prophet of course.

In three days God performed a miracle.
A fish threw him back out.
And thus the Jews saw what had occurred –
miracles from God himself.

So you should show me
how to provide for my husband,
to save him from death.

No one can do this,
only you God –
who rescued Jonah from death.

yoyne1

yoyne2

yoyne3

“Spi mladenets/Shluf mayn feygele” Performed by Esther Korshin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s post features a medley that combines three distinct lullabies sung by Esther Korshin in 1946. Yiddish lullabies, as most Yiddish folksongs, are women’s folk poetry. But with the genre of lullaby the element of improvisation plays a bigger role as we see in this week’s post.

Esther Korshin picEsther Korshin, August 1957. Courtesy of Oliver Korshin.

1) The first part consists of the Russian lullaby Spi mladenets moy prekrasniy (Sleep My Wonderful Boy) better known as “Cossack Lullaby”

2) This is followed by a Yiddish verse of a lullaby beginning with the line Shluf mayn feygele (Sleep My Little Bird) sung to the same melody as Cossack Lullaby.

3) The lullaby medley concludes with a different Yiddish lullaby also beginning with the line Shluf mayn feygele.

Parts one and two are connected by melody; parts two and three are connected by the lyrics. See below for the recording, notes on the songs and finally the lyrics.

Spi mladenets moy prekrasniy

The popular Russian lullaby Spi mladenets  usually referred to as “Cossack Lullaby” was written in 1840 by Mikhail Lermontov (1814 – 1841). It has been folkorized over the years and Korshin’s version differs slightly from the original poem.

The melody was the basis for Yiddish lullabies by Avrom Goldfaden (1840 – 1908) and J. L. Gordon (Yehude-Leyb Gordon 1830 – 1892). See: Ruth Rubin Voices of a People, pp. 260-261.

Jewish mothers wished for many things for their sons in Yiddish lullabies but growing up to be a soldier, as in this one, was not one of them. So it is no wonder that such a hope would be expressed in Russian not Yiddish. Her performance of this song reflects how intertwined Russian and Jewish culture were.

Shluf mayn feygele 1

After concluding the Cossack Lullaby, Korshin switches from Russian to Yiddish to sing two verses with the same melody. This is Goldfaden’s lullaby that originally began with the line “Shlof in freydn” (sleep in peace) and was printed in his collection of poetry Di Yidene (The Jewess, Odessa, 1872)  Attached at the end of this post is the complete original poem (Yidene 1, 2, 3). By 1901 it was an anonymous Yiddish folksong in the Ginsburg-Marek collection. A version closer to Goldfaden’s original poem, including music, can be found in  Eleonor and Joseph Mlotek Songs of Generations, p. 4.

Interesting that in “Shluf mayn feygele 1” Korshin sings  “Ay-liu-liu”, one of the Yiddish equivalents of “hush-a-bye” but also the Russian equivalent – “bayushki bayu”, making the connection between the Yiddish song and the Russian one even tighter.

Readers of the Yiddish Song of the Week blog will remember that another lullaby with the first line Shluf/Shlof mayn feygele but a different melody, sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman.

Shluf mayn feygele 2

This is a popular Yiddish lullaby with many variants. Here is a link to another version on the web, sung by Jill Rogoff.

For more on Yiddish lullabies see: Dov Noy “The Model of the Yiddish Lullaby” in Studies in Yiddish Literature and Folklore, ed. Dov Noy, Jerusalem, 1986.  On the lullaby in Jewish literature and culture, Hebrew and Yiddish, see the entry “Lullabies” by Dov Noy and Aliza Shenhar in Encyclopedia of Jewish Folklore and Traditions.

Thanks to Samantha Shokin of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance for the Russian transcription and translation, Jennifer Herring for the recording, and Cantor Janet Leuchter for connecting us with the Korshin family. 

Spi mladenets moy prekrasniy:

Spi mladenets moy prekrasniy,
bayushki-bayu.
Tiho smotrit mesyats yasniy,
v kolybel’ tvoyu.

Stanu skazyvat’ ya skazku,
pesen’ku spoyu.
Ty dremli, zakryvshi glazki,
bayushki-bayu.

No otets tvoy, stariy voin,
zakalyon v boyu.
Spi moy angel, bud’ pokoen,
bayushki-bayu.

Ya sedeltse boevoe,
shelkom razoshyu.
Spi ditya moyo rodnoye,
bayushki-bayu.

Спи младенец мой прекрасный,
баюшки баю.
Тихо смотрит месяц ясный,
колыбель твою.

Стану сказывать я сказкy,
песенку спою.
Ты дремли, закрывши глазки,
баюшки-баю.

но отец твой, старый воин,
закалён в бою.
Спи мой ангел, будь покоен,
баюшки-баю.

Я седельце боевое,
шелком разошью.
Спи дитя мое родное,
баюшки-баю.

Sleep, my wonderful boy,
bayushki-bayu.
The clear moon is
quietly looking into your cradle.

I will tell a fairy tale,
I will sing a song.
You slumber, with your little eyes closed,
bayushki-bayu.

But your father, an old soldier,
was wounded in battle.
Sleep my angel, be at rest,
bayushki-bayu.

The battle horse’s saddle,
I will embroider with silk.
Sleep my dear child,
bayushki-bayu

Shluf mayn feygele 1

Shlof mayn feygele,
makh tsi dayn eygele
Ay-lyu-lyu-lyu-lyu
Shlof mayn zindele
Shlof mayn kindele
Bayushki bayu

Ay-lyu-lyu-lyu-lyu
Ay-lyu-lyu-lyu-lyu
Shluf mayn zinenyu.
Shluf mayn feygele.
Makh tsi dayn eygele
Ay-lyu-lyu-lyu-lyu
Shluf mayn feygele;
makh tsi dayn eygele.
Ay-liu-liu-liu Liu…

Shluf mayn feygele 1

Sleep my little bird,
close your eye.
Ay-lyu-lyu-lyu-lyu
Sleep my dear son
Sleep my dear child
Bayushki bayu

Ay-lyu-lyu-lyu-lyu
Ay-lyu-lyu-lyu-lyu
Sleep my dear son,
Sleep my little bird
Close your eye,
Ay-lyu-lyu-lyu-lyu
Sleep my little bird,
close your eye.
Ay-liu-liu-liu Liu…

Shluf mayn feygele 2

Shluf mayn feygele
farmakh dayn eygele
Ay-lyu-lyu
shluf mayn kindenyu
zay gezintenyu
Ay-lyu-lyu

Shluf mayn feygele
makh tsi dayn eygele
Ay-lyu-lyu-lyu
Sluf mayn kindenyu
Zay gezintenyu
Makh dayn eygelekh tsu.

Sleep my little bird
close your eye
Ay-lyu-lyu
Sleep my dear child
and be well
Ay-lyu-lyu

Sleep my little bird
close your eye
Ay-lyu-lyu-lyu
Sleep my dear child
and be well.
Close your eyes.

Yidene1yidene2Yidene3

 

“S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg (The Holy Days Have Arrived) is a song that takes place before Rosh-hoshone and Yom-kipper when it is a tradition to visit the departed family at the cemetery.

YIVO

Photo courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

In the cemetery, a voice is heard of a recently deceased woman who died in childbirth, and she sings of her anguish about her new born child and her husband whom she loved.

S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg
Ven me darf geyn af keyver-oves
Az ikh bin gekimen in halbn veg
Hob ikh mikh dermont in mane makhshoves.

Plitsem hert men a kol
fin a frishn korbn.
Fin a yunger kimpiturin.
Vus iz ersht nisht lang geshtorbn.

Vi iz mayn yinger man?
Ver vet im arimnemen?
Vi iz mayn pitsele kind?
Ver vet im zeygn gebn?

Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt
Ven gehat hob ikh es [epes?] tsu krign.
Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt
Fin mayn man, fin mayn libn.

The holy days have arrived
time to visit family in the graveyard
When I was half way there,
I remembered my ruminations.

Suddenly a voice is heard
from a fresh victim:
A woman who died in childbirth
Just a short while ago.

Where is my young husband?
Who will embrace him?
Where is my little child?
Who will breastfeed it?

When I am reminded of that time
when I had what I wanted.
When i think of that time,
Of my husband whom I loved.sizgekumen1sizgekumen2

When one thinks about love songs in Yiddish, the vast majority are sung by unmarried girls who dream of the man they love and how wonderful life will be after the wedding. Few are the songs, such as this, in which the woman openly expresses love for her young husband. Lifshe Shaechter Widman’s (LSW’s) powerful emotional style matches the words perfectly.

In this case, the wife sings of her love from her grave and the song immediately reminds us of another song performed by LSW, Afn beys-olyem, also known as Di shtifmuter and originally penned by Mikhl Gordon.

In addition to this field recording of LSW made by Leybl Kahn in the Bronx, 1954, there are two other published versions of S’iz gekimen di heylike teg. One, collected by Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe in Galica, does indeed take one verse taken from Gordon’s song. see Dov Noy and Meir Noy, Yidishe folkslider fun galitsye (Tel Aviv, 1971), page 110 – 112.

In Pipe’s version the song is strictly an orphan song and has a refrain.

Pipe1Pipe2

The second version can be found in Shloyme Bastomski’s song collection, Baym kval – folkslider, Vilna, 1923 (page 81, song #22) and he calls it Di shtifmuter, the same title as Gordon’s song. This second version emphasizes the wicked step-mother who will mistreat the child.

bastomski- heylike teg