Archive for marriage

“In toyznt naynhindert ferter yor” Performed by Feigl Yudin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In toyznt naynhindert ferter yor (In the Year One Thousand Nine Hundred and Four), performed here by singer Feigl Yudin for a 1980 (circa) concert produced by the Balkan Arts Center (now the Center for Traditional Music and Dance) is one of a number of Yiddish songs about the Russo-Japanese war; a conflict that was fought between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan from 1904 – 1905.

The build-up to the war began in the late 1890s as one can see from the variants of this song which all begin with a different year – 1899 – “In toyznt akht hundert nayn un nayntsiktn yor”. See: Beregovski/Slobin Old Jewish Folk Music page 231, with music, and also see the endnotes there for other variants. A version is also found in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archives (ed. Slobin/Mlotek, 2007) with music.

At the bottom of this post we have attached an interview with Yudin from an issue of the magazine Sing Out!, Volume 25, #5, 1977.

Another Yiddish song from the Russo-Japanese war – “Di rusishe medine” – sung by Majer Bogdanski can be heard on his CD “Yidishe Lider”  (Jewish Music Heritage Recordings, CD 017.)

I received help with the text of Yudin’s song from Paula Teitelbaum, Jason Roberts, Sasha Lurje and Zisl Slepovitch. Though, I am still not sure, in the first verse, what is meant by the expression di godnikes por/ gor (?) Your comments on this are welcome. Also note she does not sing the obvious dialectical rhyme in the third verse “miter” with “biter”.

1) Toyznt naynhindert ferter yor,
Iz geven in Rusland a shlekhter nabor
Men hot opgegebn di gotnikes po/.gor (?)
Far mir iz geblibn di ergste fir yor.

2) Zay zhe mir gezunt mayn tayerer foter,
A gantse fir yor verstu nebekh fin mir poter.
Oy, zay zhe mir gezunt un bet far mir Got,
Men zol mir nit naznatshen in dalniy vostok.

3) Zay zhe mir gezunt mayn tayere muter.
Dir iz dokh shlekht un mir iz dokh biter.
Oy, zay zhe mir gezunt un bet far mir Got,
Men zol mir nit naznatshen in dalniy vostok

4) Zay mir gezunt mayn tayere kale.
Nokh dir vel ikh benken, oy, mer vi nokh ale.
Oy, zay zhe mir gezunt un bet far mir Got,
Men zol mir nit naznatshen keyn dalniy vastok.

5) Dalniy vostok volt geven on a sakone
Es zol nor nit zayn vi a panske milkhome.
Oy, zayt zhe ale gezunt un bet far mir Got.
Men zol mir nit naznatshen oy, in dalniy vastok.

1) The year one thousand nine hundred and four,
there was a terrible recruitment/draft.
A few recruits were sent into service –
These were my worst four years.

2) Fare well my dear father,
Alas, four long years will you be rid of me
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

3) Fare well my dear mother,
You feel so bad and I feel miserable.
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

4) Fare well my dear bride.
I will long for you, o, more than the rest.
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

5) The Far East would be without danger
if there were no lordly war [war created by the Lords].
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

1904a1904b1904c

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“Khanele mayn lebn” Performed by Norman Salsitz

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2016 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This  week’s song was contributed by Bret Werb, Music Collection Curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Wurb interviewed and recorded Norman Salsitz singing in New Jersey in 2002 Khanele mayn lebn. The recording is provided courtesy of the USHMM Archives and used with permission.

As Mr. Salsitz explains in the introduction in English, the well-know songwriter Nokhem Shternheim, who was from the Polish Galician town of  Rzeszow ( Rayshe in Yiddish) often visited and stayed with them in Kolbuszowa (Kolbushov in Yiddish). Mr. Salsitz believed that Sternheim composed this song for Salsitz’s sister, but it turns out to be a Mordkhe Gebirtig song “Khanele un Nokheml” that has been recorded by Chava Alberstein and Mike Burstein. Thanks to singer/collector Leo Summergrad who follows this blog for pointing out the correct composer.

220px-Gebirtig
Mordkhe Gebertig

For more information on Shternheim – 1879    – 1942 – and a collection of his songs see “Hobn Mir a Nigundl: We have a little tune: The Songs of the Yiddish Troubadour Nokhem Shternheim” edited by Gila Flam and Dov Noy, Jerusalem 2000. In any case it is interesting that Sternheim, apparently, sang songs by Gebirtig.  There are added lines in Salsitz’s version that refer to her mother and father that do not appear in the printed Gebirtig version. Did Sternheim compose those?

SternheimNokhem Shternheim

The part B of the melody is the same as the part B of the song “Moyd fun Gas” (Girl of the Streets)    written by Shloyme Prizament and can be found in his collection Broder zinger, Buenos-Aires, 1960.    Arkady Gendler and “The gonifs” (singer Jeanette Lewicky) both recorded a version of “Moyd fun gas”.

The English transcription and translation of the song follows the singer’s version and dialect. We are attaching Gebirtig’s words in Yiddish and music as they appear in the book “Mordkhe Gebirtig zingt”, IKUF, 1963

Khanele mayn lebn

Sung by Norman Salsitz, recorded in New Jersey, 2002, by Bret Werb.

Khanele mayn leybn, Khanele di man,
Ikh vil di zolst mir geybn
Dus reytsl tsu farshteyn (faryshtayn)

Ven di kimst af mayne zinen,
Meygn royshn di mashinen,
Un dus biglayzn vern kalt.

Hob ikh azoy lib in gern,
Shuen lang fin dir tsu klern.
Un tsu zen far mir dayn tayer lib geshtalt.

Numkheml mayn leybn,
Nukheml di mayn.
Ikh vil dir bald geybn dus reytsl tsu farshteyn.

Dos bavayst di host mikh gern.
Dokh _____[?} tsu klern.
Es vet kayn toyve zayn far mir.

Vayter nemen kh’vel dayne zinin.
Vest koym af broyt fardinen.
Un ikh vel hingern bay dir.

Khanele mayn leybn, khanele du mayn.
Vos iz dos far an entfer?
Ikh ken dikh nisht farshteyn.

Ikh red fun libe. In mitn drinen
kimste veygn broyt fardinen
Hot a libe shaykhes den mit broyt?

Ikh vays ven me libt a khusn
miz men af a mol zan entshlosn
tsi di greste oremkayt un noyt.

Nukheml, mayn leybn, Nukheml di mayn.
Aza hayse libe
ken ikh nisht farshteyn.

Ikh hob gehert fin mayn mamen ,
Mit di greste libeflamen
Hot der tate zi amol gelibt.

Dokh ven zay hobn noyt gelitn.
hobn zey zikh arimgeshlitn,
Tsi iz den aza libe nisht batribt?

Khanele mayn leybn, Khanele di mayn.
Vuz iz dus far an entfer?
Ikh ken dikh nisht farshteyn.

Tsi hosti libe shlekht farshtanen.
Dus hot kayn shaykhes mit dayn mamen.
Nor di host moyre far dem noyt.

Vil ikh koyfn tsvey mashinen,
Di vest helfn af broyt fardinen
Un farzikhert vet zan indzer broyt.

Nukheml mayn leybn, nukheml di mayn
Di host dikh yetst bakimen,
Ikh ken dikh shoyn farshteyn.

Di vest dort nisht bay mir oysfirn,
Ikh vel zikh nisht bay dir unrirn.
Shoyn genig geplugt zikh in genay.

Ikh vil fastriges mer nisht tsien,
Yungerhayt zikh nisht farblien,
Ikh vil lebn uin genisn fray.

Khanele mayn lebn, khanele di mayn.
Di host nokh azelkhe taynes,
Vus vet nokh shpeyter zayn?

Gelt, nukh gelt ,vesti bagern.
Mir dus leybn tsi fartsern
ven fardin ikh vel nisht azoy fil.

Du a het [?], un du af klayder,
In bin ikh dokh nor a shnayder.
Ikh zey s’vet zan a troyerike shpil.

Nukheml mayn leybn, Nukheml di mayn.
Di bist geveyn mayn khusn,
mayn man vesti nisht zan.

Khanele my dear, my Khanele
I want you to
explain this riddle for me.

When you come into my head
the machines may whirl,
and the pressing iron can get cold.

I so love and am so glad
to think about you for hours
and to see before me your dear, lovely self.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml,
I will soon
explain this riddle to you.

This shows how you are fond of me,
yet ___ to think of me.
It will not be doing me any favors.

If I further take your purpose –
you will barely earn enough for bread
and I will go hungry with you.

Khanele my dear, my Khanele,
what kind of answer is that?
I cannot understand you.

I speak of love and out of nowhere
you speak of earning enough for bread.
What does love have to do with bread?

I know that when you love a fiance
You must once and for all commit yourself in spite of
the greatest poverty and hardship.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml
such passionate love
I cannot understand.

I heard tell from my mom:
with the greatest flames of love
did my father once love her.

Yet when they suffered hardship
they went from place to place [literally: sledded around]
Is not such a love a troubled one?

Khanele my dear, my Khanele
What kind of answer is this?
I don’t understand you.

Perhaps you have misunderstood love?
This has no connection to your mother.
But you are fearful of such poverty.

So I want to buy two [sewing] machines
so you will help earn our bread,
and thus ensured will be our income.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml.
You have made yourself clear.
I now understand you.

You won’t get me to do what you want,
and I won’t be touched by you
I’ve suffered enough by sewing.

I won’t sew any more basting stitches
and wilt away in my youth.
I want to live and enjoy freely.

Khanele my love, my Khanele.
You have such complaints,
what will be later?

Money, and more money is what you crave,
and you’ll devour me
when I don’t earn so much.

Here for a hat [?] and here for clothes,
but I am only just a tailor.
I see this will be a sad game.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml
I was indeed engaged to you
but you will not be my husband.

KhaneleYID2

KhaneleYID1

“Rosh-yeshivenik” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, Rosh-yeshivenik, is sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, from Zvinyetchke, Bukovina. She was recorded by Leybl Kahn in 1954 in the Bronx.

It is a song to pass the time, using the alef-beys (Yiddish alphabet), as its structure. The first son’s name “Avreml” starts with an alef, the second son’s name “Burekhl” with a beys, the third son’s name “Getsl” with a gimel and so on. In other versions, after the naming of ten sons, ten daughters are then named. 

In Folklor-lider, Volume Two, edited by Z. Skudutski (Moscow, 1936) pages 374-375, we have a Yiddish song text with no melody on a similar theme:

Yisgadal veyisgadash shmey rabo, [opening of the kaddish prayer]
Vos amol iz geven iz haynt nishto. [What was is no more]
Taytidl, didl, didl, didl, didl, didl, day.

Amol iz geven a yid a oysher, [Once there was a rich man]
iz er geven a kaptsen a groyser,  [who was very poor]
Taytidl, didl, didl, didl, didl, didl, day.

Hot er gehat tsen tekhter  [He had 10 daughters]
Di ershte hot geheysn Osenyu [The first letter is an alef]
Di tsveyte hot geheysn Beylenyu [The first letter is a beys]

This is followed by a similar Ukrainian song text.

I have only heard the word “Rosh-yeshivenik” in this song. The usual word is just “Rosh-yeshive” (director of a yeshiva, or religious school for boy) and I have to wonder whether in an earlier version it was not “Yeshuvnik”, a simple village Jew who was often made fun of.

What I enjoy about LSW’s singing here is how the “oy” ornamentation, of which she is the master, is used for a humorous effect. In a way, she is parodying her own singing style: the words are bringing us only good news, but the “oys” and “oy veys” are comically telling us the opposite.

Der rosh-yeshivenik
S’iz a mul iz geven a rosh-yeshivenik.
Oy, oy, a rosh-yeshivenik,
Oy, oy, a rosh-yeshivenik,
Oy vey, oy vey, a rosh-yeshivenik.

Once there was a Rosh-yeshivenik [Director of a Yeshiva]
Oy, oy, a Rosh-yeshivenik
Oy, oy,  a rosh-yeshivenek
Oy vey, oy vey, a rosh-yeshivenik.

Der rosh-yeshivenik hot tsu mazel khasene gehat.
Oy, oy,  khasene gehat.
Oy, oy khasene gehat.
Oy vey, oy vey, khasene gehat.

The rosh-yeshivenik, with good fortune, got married
Oy, oy got married.
Oy, oy, got married.
Oy vey, oy vey, got married.


Der rosh-yeshivenik hot tsu mazl kindelekh gehat.
Oy, oy, kindelekh gehat.
Oy, oy, kindelekh gehat.
Oy vey, oy vey, kindelekh gehat.

The rosh-yeshivenik, with good fortune, had chidren.
Oy, oy, had children.
Oy, oy had children
Oy vey, oy vey had children

Dos ershte hot geheysn Avreymele.
Oy, oy, Avreymele.
Oy, oy, Avreymele.
Oy vey, oy vey, Avreymele.

The first one was called Avreymele.
Oy, oy Avreymele,
Oy, oy Avreymele,
Oy vey, Oy vey Avreymele.

Dos tsveyte hot geheysn Burekhl.
Oy, oy Burekhl.
Oy, oy, Burekhl
Oy vey, Oy vey, Burekhl.

The second one was called Burekhl,
Oy, oy Burekhl,
Oy, oy Burekhl,
Oy vey, Oy vey Burekhl.

Dos drite hot geheysn Getsele.
Oy, oy, Getsele
Oy, oy, Getsele
Oy vey, oy vey Getsele.

The third one was called Getsele.
Oy, oy Geltsele.
Oy, oy Getsele
Oy vey, Oy vey Getsele.

roshyeshiva1roshyeshiva2

“Lindenboym” Performed by Beyle Schaechter Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman is more commonly sung with different Yiddish words and called “Di verbe – The Willow.”

Hayim Bialik
Haim Nakhmen Bialik

The text is based on a poem by the Hebrew-Yiddish poet Haim Nakhmen Bialik, written in Hebrew in 1908. Apparently there were several translations of the poem into Yiddish, and in Chernovitz, Romania this is the translation that was used.

Recorded in the Bronx by Itzik Gottesman, 1980s.

Spoken by Beyle:
Bialiks Di verbe hobn mir a bisl andersh gezungen.
We sang Bialik‘s “The Willow‟ a little differently.

Nisht of berg un nisht of nider,
shteyt a lindnboym, a mider.
Ayngeboygn ful mit bleter,
un er zogt vos vet zayn shpeyter.

Not on hills, not down below,
stands a linden tree, exhausted.
Bent over, full of leaves,
and he says what will later be.

Kh‘vel tsum boym mayn kop tsileygn,
un af mayn khusn vel ikh freygn –
Boym, tsi vet er nokh farzamen?
Boym, fun vanen vet er shtamen?

I will lay my head on the tree,
and will ask about my groom –
Tree, will he arrive (too) late?
Tree, from where will he come?

Tsi fun poyln, tsi fun vanen?
Tsi fun Lite, tsi fun danen?
Tsi trugt er perl, gold in pekl?
Tsi an urem tfilin-zekl?

From Poland? From where?
From Lithuania or from here?
Does he carry pearls, gold in his sack?
Or a poor man‘s tfilin-bag?

Un vi vet er zayn, boym ziser?
Tsi a sheyner, tsi a miser?
Tsi a bokher? Tsi a gegeter?
Tsi an alter yid zayn vet er?

And what kind will he be, dear tree?
A beauty or ugly?
Not yet married or divorced?
Or will he be an old Jew?

lindenboym

Four Songs, One Melody

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In this week‘s entry the reader will get four Yiddish songs for the price of one. What connects them is the same melody. I am not the first to write on the popularity of this tune. The Israeli Yiddish song-researcher Meir Noy wrote an article זמר סובב עולם [The tune that circles the world]  in the Israeli publication אומר, April 13, 1962. I could not find the article yet, so am not sure what he includes.

The first song and perhaps the oldest is a beggar song –  Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?); the second song  Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele) is a typical lyrical love song. These are sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW, 1893 – 1974), recorded in 1954 in NYC and originate from her Bukovina repertoire that she learned in the small town of Zvinyetchke in the 1890s-early 1900s. I have found no variants of the beggar song, and one of Yosele mit blimele (Oy vey mame,  in the Pipe-Noy collection, see below, page 270-71 with music). The first line as my mother remembers it sung was “Vu iz mayn vugn, vu zenen mayne ferd?” which fits better into the melody; it does indeed sound as if  LSW forgot a syllable or two when she sings it here, and forces it into the melody.

In the interviews that Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett of New York University recorded with LSW in the early 1970s shortly before her death, LSW said that much of her repertoire, particularly the songs about life‘s difficulties, was learned from the older, married women in town, while the younger unmarried women taught her the hopeful love songs. Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd would fall into the category taught by the married women (vayber) while Yosele mit blimele would be a typical song performed during the Sabbath afternoon walks that the unmarried girls took into the woods. In terms of style, the beggar song is sung slower and more mournful, while the love song is more playful.

LSW sings other versions of Yosele mit blimele including a second verse: 

Az du vest kumen, tsum dokter bay der tir, 
zolst im gebn a vink, azoy vi ikh tsu dir. 
Zolst im gebn a  tuler in der hant. 
Vet er shoyn visn vus mit dir iz genant 

When you come to the doctor’s door,
you should give him a wink, like I give to you.
you should give him a dollar in his hand;
so he will know what embarrased you.

A verse which implies an abortion! But in such a light-hearted song it seems quite incongruous.

The third song – In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room) – is sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (born 1920) and was recorded May 13th 2011 (last week) in the Bronx. She learned this song in one of her afternoon Yiddish classes in Chernovitz, (then Romania) either at the Morgnroit school (Socialist Bundist) or the Yidisher shulfareyn, a Yiddish cultural group, in the 1920s, early 1930s. Basically the same version was collected by the folklorists Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe and his brother Oyzer Pipe in their hometown of Sanok (in yiddish- Sunik), Galicia, then Poland. Dov and Meir Noy published the Pipe brothers collection in Israel (Folklore Research Studies , Vol. 2, Jerusalem 1971),  and a copy of that version is attached with the music. See the footnote to the song by Dov and Meir Noy (p. 326) for other songs with this melody, and the reference to Meir Noy‘s article mentioned above.

In a kleynem shtibele is a worker‘s song, text written by the writer and ethnographer A. Litvin  (pseudonym of Shmuel Hurvits 1863 – 1943) and the complete original text (Di neyterkes) can be found in M. Bassin‘s Antologye: Finf hundert yor yidishe poezye, volume one 258-259, NY 1917.

The fourth song with the same melody is In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). The Freedman Jewish Sound Archive has information on three recordings: a version by David Medoff (1923); Kapelye (the album „Future and Past‟, sung by Michael Alpert); and the German group Aufwind (from the album „Awek di junge jorn‟). We have included a link to the Medoff performance. See Mark Slobin and Richard Spotwood‘s article on Medoff (David Medoff: A Case Study in Interethnic Popular Culture in American Music, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Autumn, 1985), pp. 261-276.

AUDIO RECORDINGS:

Song 1: Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Song 2: Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Song 3: In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room). Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, recorded May 12, 2011 by Itzik Gottesman.

Song 4: In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). Performance by David Medoff, recorded 1923.

TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS

Song 1: Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd?
Az ikh bin aroysgefurn, hot getsitert himl un erd.
Hant bin ikh urem; shtey ikh ba der tir.
Kimen tsu geyn di sholtikes un lakhn (up?) fin mir.

Where are my wagon and horse?
When I first drove out, heaven and earth shook.
Now that I am poor, I stand at the door.
So the scoundrels come by to mock me.

Vi iz mayn tsiring vus ikh hob gebrakht fin vin?
Vus mayn vab un kinder zenen gegongen ongetin?
Hant az ikh bin urem, shtey ikh far der tir.
Kimen tsu geyn di sholtikes un lakhn up (?) fin mir.

Where is the jewelry that I had brought from Vienna?
That was worn by my wife and children.
Now that I am poor, I stand by the door.
So the scoundrels come by to mock me.


Song 2: Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Yosele mit Blimele zey zitsn af a bank.
Oy vey Blimele, ikh bin azoy krank.
Kh‘hob aza krenk, ikh shem zikh oystsuzugn,
Der dokter hot mir geheysn khasene-hobn.

Yosele and Blimele are sitting on a bench.
Oh dear Blimele, I am so very ill.
I have an illness, I am embarrased to reveal –
The doctor ordered me to get married.

Khasene hobn – es geyt dir nor in deym.
Khasene hobn – ken men glaykh ven (?) me vil aleyn.
Khasene hobn – darf men hubn gelt.
Ken men opfirn a sheyne velt.

Getting married – is all you can think of.
Getting married is easy if you want to do by ourselves.
Getting married – you need money for that,
and then you can have a beautiful world.

Yingelekh un meydelekh hot shoyn nisht keyn moyre.
Khasene hubn – es shteyt dokh in der toyre.
As der shnader shnadt – shnadt er mit der mode
un az der rebe vil a vab, meygn mir avode.

Boys and girls, you no longer have to fear.
Getting married – It says so in the Torah.
When the tailor tailors, he cuts according to the fashion
and if the Rebbe wants a wife, then we may too of course.

Song 3: In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room). Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, recorded May 12, 2011 by Itzik Gottesman.

In a kleynem shtibele, bay a langn tish.
Zitsn dortn meydelekh un dreyen mit di fis.
Zey dreyen di mashindelekh fun fri biz nakht
Un azoy vern tutsnvayz hemdelekh gemakht.

In a small room, at a long table,
There sit girls and turn with their feet.
They turn the machines from early to night.
And thus by the dozens, shirts are produced.
Girls, so small, tell me why are you pale?

Meydelekh ir kleninke, zogt vos zent ir blas?
Hemdelekh ir vaysinke, zogt vos zent ir nas?
Meydelekh un hemdelekh, zey reydn nisht keyn vort.
Nor di mashindelekh zey geyen imer fort. 

Shirts so white, tell me why are you wet?
Girls and shirts, they do not speak a word.
But the machines, they keep going forever.

Song 4: In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). Performance by David Medoff, recorded 1923.

Transliterated lyrics courtesy of the German klezmer band Aufwind may be found on the Zemerl website by clicking here.

“Yaninke” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Pete Rushefsky

One of the leading contemporary composers of Yiddish song, Josh Waletzky (b. 1948) grew up in a family that was deeply embedded in the secular Yiddish world of Camp Boiberik and the Sholem Aleichem folkshuln.

Photograph of Josh Waletzky by Jenny Levison

As Itzik Gottesman writes “Camp Boiberik was a secular Yiddish culture camp which existed from 1923 to 1979 near Rhinebeck, New York (the camp site is now owned by the Omega Institute). Camp Boiberik was part of the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute, a non-political Yiddish cultural organization with its center in New York and Sholem Aleichem Folk shuln (schools) in a number of states in the U.S. The Director and guiding spirit for most of Camp Boiberik’s existence was Leibush Lehrer (1887-1964), a leading Yiddish pedagogue, writer, philosopher and lyricist.” The camp took its name from a mythical vacation resort described by Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem.

Waletzky’s mother, Tsirl, was born in 1921 to parents who had immigrated to New York from Galicia. While her parents maintained a traditionally observant household, Tsirl became involved in the secular Yiddish movement, finding her niche as a visual artist.

Tsirl Waletzky at Camp Boiberik

Tsirl illustrated a large number of publications by secular Yiddish organizations such as the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute and the Arbeter Ring (Workmen’s Circle). Readers may be most familiar with Tsirl’s illustrations for the popular songbooks compiled by Khane and Yosl Mlotek for the Arbeter Ring, Mir Trogn a Gezang, Pearls of Yiddish Song and Songs of Generations. For many years, Tsirl taught art workshops at Boiberik’s adult resort.  Her artwork can be seen today in a number of museums.

Waletzky’s father, Sholom (1919-1975), was from a family active in the early years of the American Yiddish culture movement.  Sholom’s parents Moyshe (Morris) and Fradl (Frieda) were both from Mezritsh, near Lublin (in what is today Poland), but they met and married after immigrating to New York. Moyshe and Fradl were founding contributors to the relocated YIVO Institute in New York, the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute and Camp Boiberik.

Sholom Waletzky spent two years at the University of Wisconsin, but did not graduate. He enlisted in the Army during World War II, and after serving returned to New York to work in the plumbing trade for his father. Sholom joined the plumber’s union and once even picketed his father’s shop during a strike!  Later Sholom became a general contractor involved with renovation projects, and managed public works projects for the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey.

Sholom Waletzky

Josh describes his father as a “sponge” for songs. During the 1930s, Sholom even sang in a German chorus in New York.  He was known in the Sholem Aleichem community as an excellent singer with a wide repertoire, and was often called on to perform at programs as well as informally at parties, or at long singing sessions held at the Boiberik adult resort’s tea house.  He recorded an album of holiday songs for the Sholem Aleichem shuln.

Tsirl and Sholom met in the yugnt-fareyn (youth organization) of the Sholem Aleichem movement, and settled down to have three children (Josh is the middle child), first in New Jersey and then the Bronx.  Josh remembers Sholom frequently singing for the family in the home and on long car trips. Josh writes “my father’s transfixing Yiddish songs spoke to me directly of his inner life, even as they connected me to a communal past in Eastern Europe and the New York City of his youth.”

Passover seders were a showcase for the family’s song repertoire. Josh remembers many member of his grandparent’s generation having a particular song that they were known for, and could be expected to sing at the seder table .

Josh grew up with his family spending summers at Camp Boiberik, and there he continued to expand his own song repertoire and knowledge of the culture. At age nineteen, Josh was appointed Boiberik’s Music Director, a post formerly held by a succession of Yiddish music luminaries such as composers Lazar Weiner and Vladimir Heifetz, and musicologist Khane Mlotek.

Camp Boiberik, 1940s. Tsirl Waletky is on the left side of the front row; composer Vladimir Heifetz is third from right in the back row; Alfie Fogel, a sculptor and occasional lyricist, is second from right in the back row.

During eight years as Music Director, Waletzky was responsible for compiling and composing songs for camp programs, including the annual felker yontev (peace festival) and mit-sezon (mid-season) pageants, and Friday night and Saturday morning services.

He frequently collaborated with Fishl Kolko, Boiberik’s Culture Director, on developing new musical/theatrical material for the camp, and revitalized an older Boiberik tradition of writing original musicals for the camp. Though a secular Yiddishist, Kolko had a wide knowlege of East European Yiddish culture, including Hasidism. Kolko was highly influential in Josh’s musical development, encouraging him to create new musical settings of Yiddish poetry.

Josh continued to work at Boiberik during the summer while an undergraduate at Harvard and a graduate student in film at NYU. In 1970, he collaborated with Zalmen Mlotek to compose the musical Chelm, undzer shtetl (Chelm, Our Town), and later contributed a number of compositions to the 1977 album Vaserl (Water), both commissioned by Yugntruf-Youth for Yiddish.

In 1979 Josh helped to found Kapelye, one of the seminal bands of the early klezmer revival. Kapelye included a number of other pioneering musicians working to revitalize Yiddish music – Michael Alpert (vocals/violin), Eric Berman (tuba), Lauren Brody (vocals/accordion/piano), Ken Maltz (clarinet) and Henry Sapoznik (vocals/violin).  Josh is featured on vocals and piano on Kapelye’s debut album, Future and Past (1981).

During the 1980s Josh directed, edited and composed the scores for two acclaimed documentaries about Jewish life in eastern Europe, Image Before My Eyes (1981) and Partisans of Vilna (1986). The Partisans soundtrack co-produced by Waletzky was nominated for a Grammy.

Waletzky also directed the Oscar-nominated 1992 film Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann about the legendary Hollywood film composer, and edited the 1995 Emmy-award winning PBS documentary, In the Fiddler’s House, about violinist Itzhak Perlman’s explorations in klezmer music.

Waletzky’s 2001 album of new compositions, Crossing the Shadows (Ariber di shotns), reflected material he had developed over two decades, and stands alongside Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman’s albums as one of the most important contemporary contributions to the canon of Yiddish song.

Through a successful career as a filmmaker (including directing and producing documentaries about Schaechter-Gottesman and Yiddish writer Itche Goldberg for The League of Yiddish), Waletzky continues to compose, and is currently collaborating with younger musicians such as clarinetist/composer Michael Winograd.

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week (and the blog’s first video posting) is a performance by Josh of Yaninke, a song he learned from his father, Sholom. As Josh tells it, Yaninke is the first song he remembers learning from his father, perhaps because of the repetitive form.

Josh does not recall his grandparents ever singing the song, and speculates that Sholom learned it through the Sholem Aleichem movement. “Yaninke” is a Slavic name, and the narrative’s bucolic setting might lead one to suspect that it is a Yiddish version of a Slavic peasant folksong.

A variant of Yaninke, Oyf di vegelekh (On the Paths), was recorded by folklore scholar Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett in Toronto in 1969 from her cousin Mariam Nirenberg, and released on the 1986 album Folksongs in the East European Jewish Tradition (Global Village Music). YIVO published a folio to accompany the Nirenberg recording providing extensive biographical and musicological annotations prepared by Kirshenblatt-Gimblett with Mark Slobin and Khane Mlotek.

The folio authors identify three published collections containing variants of the song: “This song about Yaninka appeared previously in Lomir ale zingen 51, with a melodic variant, and in a mimeographed collection Lider vos vern gezungen in der arbeter-ring shul, Nov. 1937, no. 79 with a note that the song is from Russian. The same melody with other words ‘Oyf di felder vu s’veyen vintn’ (appears) in Beregovski-Fefer 456, Saculet no. 125.”  Nirenberg learned the song in the 1920s in Tsharnovtshits (Czarnawczyce, Poland), just across the Bug River from Brisk Litovsk (Brest, Belarus). An excerpt of Nirenberg’s recording follows:

I recorded Nirenberg’s version of the song with Boston-based Yiddish singer Rebecca Kaplan Muranaka on our CD Oyf di vegelekh/On the Paths: Yiddish Songs with Tsimbl (Yiddishland Records, 2004). We included a newly-composed instrumental entitled the “Yanyinke Sirba” as a “chaser.” You can hear our performance here:

And finally we have Josh Waletzky’s performance of Yaninke.  Recorded November 8, 2010 at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance and the Center for Jewish History’s program Josh Waletzky – Boiberik and Beyond: Yiddish Songs for the 21st Century. The program was presented as part of CTMD and CJH’s An-sky Institute for Jewish Culture Series.

Di zun in feld iz lang fargangen, (3x)
kumt Yaninke klaybn zangen. (2x)

The sun in the field has long set,
Yaninke comes gathering sheaves.

Es loyfn vegn iber vegn, (3x)
kum, Yaninke, zets zikh lebn. (2x)

Roads are running over roads,
Come, Yaninke, sit down next to me.

Ikh vel zikh lebn dir nit zetsn, (3x)
vayl mentshn veln mikh nit shetsn. (2x)

I won’t sit next to you,
People won’t think well of me.

Vos art es dir vos mentshn zogn?
Vos art es dir vos mentshn redn?
Vos art es dir vos mentshn zogn?
Loyf, Yaninke, khvel dikh yogn.

What do you care what people say?
What do you care what people talk?
What do you care what people say?
Run, Yaninke, and I’ll chase you.

Koym khap ikh dikh, dan blaybstu mayne. (3x)
Loyf, Yanyinke, bist a fayne. (2x)

If I catch you, you’ll be mine.
Run, Yaninke, you’re a fine one.

Az du bist a fayne, dos veysn ale, (3x)
kum, yaninke, zay mayn kale. (2x)

Everyone knows you’re a fine one,
Come, Yaninke, be my bride.

Waletzky additionally recalls a verse that he often performs as the opening verse of the song, though his father did not sing it:

Af di felder, vu di vintn vyeyen (3x)
geyt Yaninke korn zeyen. (2x)

On the fields, where the winds are blowing,
Yaninke goes sowing rye.

Below is a scan of the lyrics of Nirenberg’s version from the Kaplan/Rushefsky CD (typography by Ari Davidow, Yiddish keyboarding by Itzik Gottesman):

“Der shadkhn” Performed by Clara Crasner

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Ethel Raim

Der shadkhn (The Matchmaker) is a humorous song describing the special skills that a shadkhn needs for his trade. The performer, Clara Crasner, was a truly marvelous singer who possessed a vast repertoire of Yiddish songs. I only regret never having met her or having heard her sing in person. We’re so fortunate that her son-in-law, Bob Freedman, made a recording of her singing in 1972. Clara’s singing is wonderful – feisty, straight forward and yet beautifully nuanced, and narrative to the core.

Picture of Clara Crasner with her daughter Molly Freedman

Here’s an excerpt of Crasner’s biography written by her daughter, Molly Freedman:

“My mother Clara Fireman Crasner was born in 1902 in Shargorod, not far from Vinnitsa, in the Ukraine. She learned many Yiddish songs as a child in the shtetl. She left Shargorod in 1919, stayed in Romania with relatives for two years, (and learned more songs there) while waiting for immigration papers from an older brother in New Jersey. My mother was always singing Yiddish folk songs at home while she did her housework. She knew many, many songs and I learned the songs from her as a child. Clara lived in Philadelphia until about 1970 and then moved to Miami Beach, where she was part of a group of senior citizens who had a regular Yiddish singing session on the beach every day. My husband recorded Clara in 1972 at our home in Philadelphia. She was just singing her favorite songs from memory. She came back to Philadelphia in the mid-80s and lived at the Jewish Geriatric Center where she continued to sing, sometimes alone and also with other seniors. She lived to be 97 and often would remember songs that we had not heard before, while we were driving in the car…  She was the inspiration for my love of Yiddish music and my husband and I continue to collect and share our music through our website at the University of Pennsylvania.”

Click the following link for the The Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive.

Itzik Gottesman adds:

A version of the song “Der shadkhn” can be found in the book Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin, page 82-83. There it is called “A shadkhn darf men kenen zayn” and the melody is printed on page 82. Rubin writes that the song originates from the pen of Avrom Goldfaden. The words are somewhat different.

Ethel Raim, Michael Alpert and I traveled to the Yiddish Summer Weimar program the last week of July (2010) to teach traditional unaccompanied Yiddish folksong style – the focus of this blog. Ethel and Michael taught the vocal style, and I spoke on the songs and singers of this tradition. I believe this was, if not the first, then one of the first attempts to pass on this tradition to a new generation of singers, and kudos to Alan Bern, director of Yiddish Summer Weimar, who also co-taught, for his suggestion and decision to teach this. The students were seriously interested in learning the songs and style and were wonderful. Ethel taught another of Clara Crasner’s songs in her class at Weimar “A meydl in di yorn.”

Di lid hot mayn shvegerin gezungen; zi’s a Malover, Podolyer gubernye. Mayn shvegerun un mayn brider zingen es.
Zey zogn az zeyer futer hot es zey oysgelernt, mit a sakh yurn tsurik. Di lid heyst “der shadkhn.”

This song was sung by my sister-in-law. She is from Malov, Podolye. My sister-in-law and my brother sing it.
They say that their father taught it to them many years ago. The song is called “Der shadkhn.”

A shadkhn tsi zayn iz a gute zakh.
Es iz fun Got a brukhe.
Me makht zikh a bisele kushere gelt.
Un me tit nit keyn groyse melukhe.

To be a matchmaker is a good thing.
It is a blessing from G-d.
One earns a little honest money.
And you don’t have to work too hard.

Refrain:
Tsu deym darf men kenen a koysye makhn.
Makhn mit di hent,
Fun a shadkhn meyg men lakhn
Tsuzamen gefirt di vent mit di vent.

For this you need to take a drink.
Take it with your hands.
You can laugh at the matchmaker-
who brings together a wall with a wall.

Un az di mekhiteyniste vil nit di kale
darf men ir makhn meshige
Me darf ir azoy dem kop fardreyen
Zi zol shrayen gevold zi’s a klige!

And if the mother-in-law doesn’t want the bride,
You have to make her go crazy.
You should drive her so nuts,
That she yells “Wow, she’s is a smart one”.

Refrain:
Tsu deym darf men kenen a koysye makhn.
Makhn mit di hent,
Fun a shadkhn meyg men lakhn
Tsuzamen gefirt di vent mit di vent.

For this you need to take a drink.
Take it with your hands.
You can laugh at the matchmaker-
who brings together a wall with a wall.

Un az der mekhitin vil nisht dem khusn.
Darf men im makhn dil.
Me darf im azoy dem kop fardreyen
Er zol shrayen “Gevald ikh vil!”

And if the father-in-law doesn’t want the groom,
You should make him batty.
You should drive him so nuts
that he yells “Wow, I want!”

Refrain:
Tsu deym darf men kenen a koysye makhn.
Makhn mit di hent,
Fun a shadkhn meyg men lakhn
Tsuzamen gefirt di vent mit di vent.

For this you need to take a drink.
Take it with your hands.
You can laugh at the matchmaker-
who brings together a wall with a wall.

Un az di kale iz finef un tsvantsik yor alt
Fregt der khusn mir.
Zug ikh im az zi’s akhtsin yur
un dus iberike halt ikh mir.

And if the bride is 25 years old
and the groom asks me about it.
I tell him that she’s only 18,
and the leftover years, I will keep for myself.

Refrain:
Tsu deym darf men kenen a koysye makhn.
Makhn mit di hent,
Fun a shadkhn meyg men lakhn
Tsuzamen gefirt di vent mit di vent.

For this you need to take a drink.
Take it with your hands.
You can laugh at the matchmaker-
who brings together a wall with a wall.

Un biz ikh nem up dus shadkhones-gelt
Tserays ikh tsvey pur shikh.
Un az ikh nem up dus shadkhones-gelt.
Khapt zey ale dus riekh.

By the time I pick up the matchmaker fee
I tear up two pairs of shoes.
And when I finally pick up the matchmaker fee,
The devil take them all!

Refrain:
Tsu deym darf men kenen a koysye makhn.
Makhn mit di hent,
Fun a shadkhn meyg men lakhn
Tsuzamen gefirt di vent mit di vent.

For this you need to take a drink.
Take it with your hands.
You can laugh at the matchmaker-
who brings together a wall with a wall.