Archive for Moshe Beregovski

“In dem vaytn land Sibir‟ Performed by Chana Yachness and Rukhele Yachness

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2013 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

It was very sad and shocking news to hear that Chana Yachness passed away on September 29th, 2013. She grew up in the leftist (“linke”) Yiddish circles of New York, loved Yiddish culture and was a wonderful link to that world. She was beloved by all and this week‘s contribution to the Yiddish Song of the Week is in her memory.

Chana and ted
Chana Yachness and her husband, Ted Haendel.
Photograph by Emily Socolov.

Her mother Rukhele Barak Yachness was a fine Yiddish singer and actress and in this recording (which I recorded in the Bronx, 1999) they sing together a revolutionary folksong In dem vaytn land Sibir that can be found in the volume of Moshe Beregovski’s writings and transcriptions edited by Mark Slobin, Old Jewish Folk Music (1982, see below). It‘s obviously not a perfect recording with bantering and joking – Chana sings the name of Yiddish actor “Maurice Schwartz‟ instead of “khmares shvarts‟, but it is the only recording I can find of the song. Their spirited interpretation gives one the sense of how a Yiddish revolutionary song used to be performed, especially by Jewish choruses.  Note that in the Beregovski volume there is a second verse; Chana and Rukhele sing the first and third.

Many of the Yiddish songs that are sung by di linke today, including In dem vaytn, were learned from the folk operetta  A bunt mit a statshke (A Revolt and a Strike) assembled from songs printed in Beregovski‘s song collection of 1934 by the choral leader and conductor Jacob Schaefer and critic Nathaniel Buchwald. This operetta was not only performed by the choruses of the time, 1930s, but in the Yiddish leftist camp Kinderland (at Sylvan Lake, Dutchess County, NY) where Chana no doubt learned it in the late 1940s and 1950s. See the recent documentary on Kinderland – Commie Camp

The West Coast musician Gerry Tenney had long planned with Chana Yachness to produce this operetta again; see Hershl Hartman‘s post on A Bunt mit a statshke on the email-list Mendele from 1997.

In the distant land Siberia
Where the sky is always covered by clouds,
I was banished there,
for one word – for freedom.
I was beaten with the whip,
so I would no longer say
“Let there be freedom – to hell with Nicholas‟

Soon will come the happy time,
Soon we will know from near and far,
that Russia is bright, that Russia is free.
“Let there be freedom – to hell with Nicholas‟

YachnessItzik

YachnessLyrics1

YachnessBeregovski1

YachnessBeregovski2

“Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes” Performed by Zinaida Lyovina and Dasya Khrapunskaya

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Dmitri Slepovitch

Nina Stepanskaya (1954–2007) and I recorded Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes (“שבת לכבֿד , טאָב-יום לכבֿוד “, In Honor of the Holiday, In Honor of Shabes) in Pinsk in June, 2005 from two sisters, Zinaida Lyovina (b.1928) and Dasya Khrapunskaya (b. 1931), both born in Turov, Zhytkavichy region (rayon), Gomel oblast, 169 km east of Pinsk. Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes is a variant of Gabe, vos vil der rebbe, which has been featured previously in the Yiddish Song of the Week.

The father of the sisters (they were four siblings) became their first source for learning the Yiddish songs. Not to a lesser extent he became a source of their inspiration as they created their own songs, translated several Russian songs into Yiddish and composed new verses for popular Yiddish songs. Zinaida and Dasya told us that the father would never take them with him to the synagogue, but he sang at home, infusing the Passover seder and other home ceremonies with the delicious taste of rare and beautiful Jewish songs.

One of their father’s songs is Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes (In Honor of the Holiday, In Honor of Shabes). It is a quite typical dialog song between a rebbe (Hasidic sect leader) and a gabe (gabbai, synagogue assistant) known in several melodic versions (e.g., the one in the Hazamir choir repertoire published in Copenhagen in 1937).

The rhythmical structure of this song brings together a free time recitative in the verse and the clear 6/8 time in the refrain. The given type is inherent to a vast corpus of Yiddish songs, primarily those representing either a dialog (as in this case) or a monologue in first person.

A remarkable feature of this performance (not only of this song, but also of many others that we heard from the two sisters) is that Dasya and Zinaida tend to sing in harmony, most typically in third, sometimes meeting in unison. The reason for that rather non-typical manner of Ashkenazi Jewish vocal performance lies – not surprisingly – in the Belarusian cultural milieu. The two sisters, as some of our other interviewees in Belarus, explained to us that they “felt like singing in harmony because it was customary among their Belarusian friends and they often used to sing with them (before the WWII) in such way.”

Singing in harmony is one of a few amazing regional markers in Yiddish music performance known from both recent recordings and Beregovsky’s and Maggid’s collections, that all give a clear perspective on a given regional style and, in a wider sense, represent a regional soundscape as adapted by and mirrored in a local Jewish tradition.

The following video of Zinaida Lyovina’s and Dasya Khrapunskaya’s remarkable performance of “Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes” is featured in Dmitri Slepovitch’s new program, “Traveling the Yiddishland,” produced for the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theater. The show integrates video taken from Slepovitch’s and Nina Stepanskaya’s field research in Belarus with live performances of the music arranged by Slepovitch for his ensemble.


Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – Latkes mit shmalts,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in haldz.
 
Gabbay! – What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? – Latkes with goose fat,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy throats.
 
Chorus:

Lekoved yontef,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
Lekoved Shabes,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
Lekoved yontef,
Bim-bam-bam-bam,
Lekoved Shabes, bim-bam.
 

In honor of the holiday,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
In honor of Sabbath,
Bim-bam-bam-bam.
In honor of the holiday,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
In honor of Sabbath, bim-bam.

Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – A telerl mit yoykh,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in boykh.
 

Gabbay! ­– What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? ­– A plateful of chicken soup,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy stomachs.
 
Chorus
 
Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – A telerl mit fish,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in di fis.
 

Gabbay! ­– What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? ­– A plateful of fish,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy feet.

 Chorus

“Ikh tu dir a brivele shraybn” performed by Harry Ary

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Benjy Fox-Rosen

A powerful song lamenting the horrors of war. A soldier lies wounded in the hospital and writes to his mother and fiancé.

This recording is from Ruth Rubin’s field recordings courtesy of Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archive. It was recorded in 1955 in Montreal. The singer is named Harry Ary, he is the same singer who sings “In Droysen iz Finster” from Ruth Rubin’s “Jewish Life: The Old Country” LP of field recordings. I love his delivery and especially the very slight differences between each verse. He may be my favorite male singer on that record.

Note the difference in the opening phrase on the first, and later verses; at the beginning of the second and third verses, he sings a sharp fourth instead of the natural fourth.

On the second and third verses, when he repeats the last two lines, I especially like the different way that he treats, “mayn harts” and “mayn kale.” The variations have very much the same shape, but are sung varied slightly each time. Also his final cadences at the end of each verse are of particular interest to me, for he sings almost a quarter tone sharper than a flat second (in the mode), and this is of course intentional. This difference in tuning is often overlooked in transcriptions and re-interpretations of folk sources, however these controlled variations in pitch are what make this singer particularly interesting.


I will write you a letter Mamenyu,
And Mamenyu, I write of my health,
Oy, my hand was amputated,
And in both eyes, Mamenyu, I am blind.

I lie in the hospital, wounded,
And the doctors stand around me,
My heart is gushing with blood,
My dear Mamenyu is not near me.

I write a letter to my bride,
And I write of her alone,
That she should rip up the engagement,
And go with someone else to the khupe.
(translation by Benjy Fox-Rosen)

Itzik Gottesman writes: Below is the version of the song from “Yidishe folks-lider” edited by Moyshe Beregovski and Itzik Feffer, Kiev 1939, page 119. The melody is essentially the same, and the words vary only slightly. However one textual change should be noted: in the Beregovski-Feffer version the singers says in the second line of the third verse “I write to you only about myself” which is the opposite of Harry Ary’s version.”

“Mayn lomp vert farloshn” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week is a performance of the opening verse of Mayn lomp vert farloshn (My Lamp is Being Extinguished), a very old death ballad, by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW). The recording was made as part of the Leybl Kahn recordings of LSW, done in New York City in 1954. Schaechter-Widman was born and raised in Zvinyetchke, Bukovina; for more information on the singer, see previous posts.

The only other recording I know of this ballad is to be found on accompanying DVD to the publication Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008. This important publication consists of the field recordings of the Soviet ethnomusicologists Sofia Magid and, to a lesser degree, of Moishe Beregovski. The transcription of the words to the song (which is fragmentary), the transcribed melody and comments on text and melody can be found on pages 226 – 230. But a fuller textual transcription done by Beregovski or someone in his research team can be found on pages 539-540.

The singers were a blind mother and daughter, Rivke Verbitskeya, 52 and Esther Verbitskeya 25. Both were members of a Soviet worker’s cooperative (ARTEL) for the blind in Shpole, Ukraine, recorded by Beregovski in 1940 in Kiev (let’s call it the “Kiev Variant”). Their performance, singing the melody together with no harmony, is fascinating. It’s not the kind of song one would usually sing as a duet, but considering that they are blind and have probably sung it together many times to accompany their work or pass the time, it is understandable.

A variant is also printed (without music) in Pinkes (S. Niger, ed.) 1912/13, page 410. in the collection of Khaye Fayn from Podbroze, Vilne region (“Podbroze Variant”)

Another variant can be found in Beregovski’s collection and in S. Z. Pipe’s collection (with music!) of Galician folksongs edited by Dov and Meir Noy, Yidishe folkslider fun Galitsye (Volume 2, Folklore Research Center Studies, Jerusalem, 1971). p. 101 and notes on variants p. 29 (“Galicia Variant”).

Pipe’s collected songs always seem to be the closest to LSW’s Yiddish folksongs from Bukovina, and I think one can safely say that central/eastern Galicia and Bukovina could be considered the same territory in terms of folklore (no great surprise really, since they were both Austria-Hungary before the first World War).

So we have the music to three different variants; a rare treat for an old ballad. Musically the Galicia Variant connects the Kiev Variant to the Bukovina one.

Schaechter-Widman sings it slower and more emotionally (as is her traditional style) than the Verbitskeyas in Kiev and slower than is indicated in Pipe’s collection.

But textually speaking, the richest material on this song can be found in Noyekh Prilutski’s 2nd volume of Yidishe folkslider, Warsaw, 1913, pages 26 – 41, with many long variants from Warsaw and other Polish towns – Tomashov, Srotsk. The song, in classic ballad form, is aways a dialogue usually between the dying person and the angel of death.

The line “mayn lomp vert farloshn” or “der lomp vert farloshn” appears in all of them except one, though it doesn’t always start the ballad.

How old is this ballad? As I might have written before, the only way we can judge this is to look at the variants and see where they were recorded, and in this case, the area covered of where the song was performed is very large – from the Vilna area, to Warsaw to Ukraine , Galilcia and Bukovina. So, as regards the ballad’s age I would say early 19th century, late 18th century.

[Please note: the English transliteration follows the dialect of the Yiddish more closely than the Yiddish-alphabet version]

Mayn lomp vert farloshn
un ikh hob keyn gits nokh nit genosn,
un ikh miz shoyn geyn fin der velt.
Ver vet rakhmunes hubn af mayne kleyne kinderlekh?
Un ver vet zey hitn fin der kelt?


My lamp is being extinguished
and I have not yet had any pleasure to derive,
and I must already leave this world.
Who will have pity on my small little children?
Who will protect them from the cold?