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“Erev yon-kiper noent tsu kol-nidre” Performed by Sore Kessler

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2016 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

The singer of this week’s ballad, Erev yon-kiper noent tsu kol-nidre (The Eve of Yom-kippur, Right Before Kol-Nidre), is Sarah (Sore) Kessler. The recording is from the Ruth Rubin Collection at YIVO. Rubin recorded it in 1949.

This song tells of a Jewish girl running away with a non-Jewish boy on the eve of Yom-kippur. In Kessler’s version he is referred to as a “sheygets”.  In two other versions from the Sofia Magid collection (Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008) he is called an “eyn orl fun kristen geboyrn” (one who is uncircumcised born a Christian).

yom-kippur-3-erev
“Yom Kippur Eve” by Mayer Kirshenblatt from the book “They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust” (courtesy Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett)

We have included the Kessler audio, the transliteration and translation, scans of the Magid versions and a PDF of the Yiddish words in Yiddish as sung by Kessler. The transliteration reflects her Yiddish dialect.

The singer, Soreh Kessler, from the Polish town of Czyżew (Yiddish name:”Tshizheve”) between Warsaw and Bialystok, recorded songs for Ruth Rubin at the beginning of Rubin’s field recording project in New York, 1947 to 1949.

When comparing the Magid versions and Kessler’s version it is clear that a crucial scene has been left out of Kessler’s: the one in which the Christian boy tells the runaway girl that he never loved her and was just kidding. She then returns to find that her parents died from grief.

One word is not clear to me – the fourth line of the first two stanzas – “____ un tinkl”. In Magid’s versions the word is “nakht” but here it sounds like “khmurne”, which means gloomy.

Recording is courtesy the Max and Frieda Weinstein Archive of Recorded Sound at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (Lorin Sklamberg, Sound Archivist). Thanks also to Dr. Paul Glasser for help with the town name.

TRANSLITERATION

SPOKEN: Dos lid hob ikh gehert in mayn shtetl Czyzew in poyln. Az es vet shoyn zayn tsvantsik, oder finf un tsvantsik yor tsayt.

Erev-yon-kiper noent tsi kol-nidre,
ven me geyt shoyn in talis in kitl.
un der futer der frimer er bentsht zayn bas-yekhidl,
In droysn vert khmurne (?) un tinkl.

Di muter di frime bay Got burekh-hi tit zi beytn,
bay di veksene likhtlekh in vinkl.
Ze bentsht oykh ir tokhter, ir bas-yekhidl.
In droysn vert khmurne un tinkl.

Ven di bas-yekhidl iz in hoyz aleyn farblibn,
a simen hot es zi im gegeybn.
Dort kletert eyner ariber iber dem parkan.
Dos iz ir gelibter geveyzn.

Ven futer un miter zenen tsurik aheymgekimen
zeyer bas-yekhidl nisht getrofn.
Dort bay di shkheynim hert zikh a troyerike shtime,
az mit a sheygetz iz zi antlofn.

Borves un naket lozt zi zikh loyfn,
iber berg un shteyner un toln.
Azoy vi zi iz nor tsu ir elterns hoyz gekimen –
kayn futer, kayn muter nisht getrofn.

Oyf deym beys-almon lozt zi zikh loyfn.
Zi iz shoyn arunter fun zinen.
Oyf deym beys-almon oyf dem mamenyus keyver
a teyter hot men zi gefinen.

TRANSLATION

Spoken: I heard this song in my town Czyzew in Poland. It must be 20 or 25 years ago.

On the eve of Yom-Kippur just before Kol Nidre
When one goes in talis and kitl  [prayer shawl & white linen coat]
And the pious father blesses his only daughter
Outside it is gloomy and dark.

The pious mother prays to God, may he be blessed,
by wax candles in the corner.
She also blesses her daughter, her only daughter.
Outside is gloomy and dark.

When the only daughter remained alone at home,
she gave him a sign.
There climbs someone, over the fence –
that was her lover.

When father and mother returned home,
they did not find their only daughter.
From the neighbors you could hear a plaintive cry –
she ran off with a non-Jewish boy.

Barefoot and naked she wildly runs
Over mountains and stones and valleys
She approached her parent’s house –
but no father, no mother did she find.

To the cemetery she wildly runs.
She has already lost her mind.
On the cemetery on her mother’s grave
they found her dead.

yomkippur1words
yomkippur2words
yomkippur3words
yomkippur4words

EREV YOM KIPUR FROM SOFIA MAGID COLLECTION (Grozinger and Hudak-Lazic, 2008):

magidyk1magidyk2magidyk3magidyk4

Shmad Ballads Performed by Zelda Roif and Libe Manuel

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

When ballads have been presented on the Yiddish Song of the Week we have sometimes emphasized the parallels with other international ballads. This week we present a ballad type that is not to be found internationally, certainly not in the Anglo-British-American tradition – a ballad that describes the conversion of a child to the Christian faith; a shmad-ballad. The verb shmadn in Yiddish means to convert to Christianity.

This week’s entry has two versions of the same shmad-ballad. There are a number of others and judging by the geographic spread of the singers, we could conclude that it is at least as old as the 19th century.

1) The first version Zitst di mome (As Mother is Sitting) comes to us courtesy of the AHEYM (Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memoirs) project at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. This project has been directed by professors Dov-Ber Kerler and Jeff Weidlinger. Special thanks to AHEYM project manager Anya Quilitzch who prepared the video clip.

The singer Zelda Roif  of Kishinev (Chișinău), Moldova, sings in her Bessarabian dialect, marked especially by her toto-mome-loshn. Tate (father) in her dialect becomes tote, mame becomes mome and geshmadt becomes geshmodt (converted). Her version has a distinctly Romanian flavor since the daughter Sonyele falls in love with a shepherd (cioban).

In classic ballad form, the first few verses set the action then turn into a dialogue between mother and daughter, in which the mother tries to convince her daughter not to convert. The mother fails and the last two lines spoken by the daughter – “I can’t stand the Jewish faith” is quite a powerful (unhappy) ending.

2) The second ballad Bentsik der shoykhet (Bentsik the Ritual Slaughterer) is sung by Lillian Manuel of Suchowola in northeast Poland, and the recording and comments were provided by her grandson, the Yiddish linguist Dovid Braun.

By comparing the two ballads we see the similar dialogue structure though in different settings. The ending of Bentsik der shoykhet is also quite shocking.

The Yiddish shmad-ballad song type deserves a longer analysis than is possible here. Among other versions collected is one in Sofia Magid’s work printed in “Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic (Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008) – “Rokhele” (pages 288-289) recorded in Volyn, 1928. The Magid version is a variant of the two presented today and recounts how Rokhele ran away with the priest’s son. In the longer text provided (page 555) a similar dialogue between parent and daughter can be found. A recording of the song is included in the DVD that comes with the volume.

Please find Yiddish texts at the end of this posting.

ZITST DI MAME (Performed by Zelda Roif, Kishinev, Moldova)


Zitst di mame un
arbet a zok.
Kimt men ir zogn,
az ir tokhter Sonyele hot zikh geshmodt.


Mother is sitting and
mending a sock,
when they come to tell her
that her Sonyele has converted.

Loyft zi zi zikhn,
tsvishn ole shkheynim.
In ir tokhter Sonyele
iz nishtu bay keynem.

So she runs to search her
among all the neighbors.
And her daughter Sonyele
is not found by anyone.

Loyft zi zi zikhn
tsi tshubanes tir.
In ir tokhter Sonyele
shteynt akeygn ir.

So she runs to look for her
at the door of the shepherd.
And her daughter Sonyele
is standing across from her.

Sonyele, Sonyele
kim tsu mir aheym.
Ikh vel dir gibn
vus di vi’st aleyn.

Sonyele, Sonyele
Come home to me.
I will give you
whatever you want.

Ikh vel dir gibn
kleyder un dan..
in a yidish yingele
far ayn man.

I will give you
clothes and then..
and a Jewish boy
for a husband.

Bay mir bisti ‘gan
mit shikh un kaloshn.
Vest khasene hobm far tshuban (In Romanian= cioban)
vesti oysgeyn far a groshn.

At my place you wore
shoes and boots.
If you marry the shepherd
you will die for a penny.

Bay mir bisti ‘gan
mit a vas, zadn kleyd.
Vest khasene hobn far Tshuban
vesti vashn yidish greyt.

With me, you wore
a white, silk dress.
If you marry the shepherd
you will wash Jewish laundry.

[Spoken]
Hot zi geentfert der miter:
She answered her mother:

Trabt avek man miter
ikh ken zi nisht ladn.
Di yidishe nemune
Ikh ken zi nisht farladn.

Drive away my mother,
I can’t stand her.
The Jewish faith
I can’t stand it.

BENTSIK DER SHOYKHET (sung by Lillian Manuel, known in her shtetl Suchowola, NE Poland, as “Libe Yankl dem shvartsns”, to her grandson David / Dovid Braun, in the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged, Bronx, NY, ca. 1988)  *see comments by David/Dovid Braun at the end of this translation.

Bentsik der shoykhet mitn zaydenem khalat;
Feygele zayn tokhter hot zikh opgeshmadt.

Bentsik the [kosher] slaughterer with his silken robe;
Feygele his daughter has converted to Christianity.

Bentsik der shoykhet shpant ayn ferd-un-vogn
kedey er zol kenen zayn Feygelen deryogn.

Bentsik the slaughterer hitched up his horse and wagon,
So that he could catch up to his Feygele.

Bentsik der shoykhet geyt arayn in a kvartir.
Gefunen hot er Feygelen bam kloyster fun tir [in kloyster bam tir].

Bentsik the slaughterer goes into an inn.
What he’s found is Feygele in church by the door.

“Kum aher mayn tokhter, kum tsu mir aheym.
Ikh vel dir gebn vos du vilst aleyn.”

“Come here my daughter, come home to me.
I will give you whatever you want.

Ikh vel dir gebn gelt un nadan
un tsu dertsu a sheynem yungn-man.”

I will give you money and dowry
and on top of that a handsome young man.”

Bentsik der shoykhet, er falt tsu di fis
un im af tselokhes dem sheygets a kish.

Bentsik the slaughterer, he falls to their feet
and to spite him, [she gives] the gentile boy a kiss.

Bentsik der shoykhet, er falt tsu di tishn [griber]
un im af tselokhes tseylemt zi zikh iber.

Bentsik the slaughterer falls to the tables [graves, pits],
and to spite him she crosses herself.

Feygele iz gegangen in zaydene zokn.
Az zi vet peygern vet klingen di glokn.

Feygele was wearing silken socks/stockings.
When she croaks, the [church] bells will ring.

Af morgn bay tog:   a yomer, a klog!
Bentsik der shoykhet iz geshtorbn in mitn tog.

The next afternoon:   alas and alack!
Bentsik the slaughterer died in the middle of the day.

Notes by David Braun:

In the Yiddish original, I have placed in square brackets [ ] a few words Mrs. Manuel sang on an occasion a few years earlier when in better health and with a yet crisper memory. It is clear how those words make better sense and/or form a more satisfactory rhyme. Also, the final two stanzas were reversed in that earlier rendition, which makes more sense: walking neither with shoes nor barefoot but in socks or stockings is a sign of mourning. So first her father Bentsik has died, then she has donned traditional Jewish mourning garb, and finally we are warned that when the end comes for her, the apostate, mourning will be signaled by church bells.

After first becoming acquainted with this song in her repertoire, I compared her version to others in the folkloristic literature and discovered that in some, the gentile youth who is the object of Feygele’s romantic interest is named. With that information, I jogged her memory and ended up eliciting this additional stanza that she doesn’t sing on the recording – it clearly belongs after the stanza following Bentsik’s promise of dowry and all other good things. Feygele insists:

Kh’vil nit kayne kleyder, kh’vil nit kayn nadan.
Aleksandern hob ikh lib un er vet zayn mayn man.

‘I don’t want any clothes, I don’t want any dowry.
Alexander is who I love and he will be my husband.’

With this stanza, we’re enlightened as to what’s behind Feygele’s conversion from yiddishkayt, and religious philosophy doesn’t seem to be the motivating factor.
zitstdimome

zitztdimome2

 

bentzishokhet

“Dos fleshl/Tshort vos’mi” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2013 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Jane Peppler

Researching “Cabaret Warsaw,” a cd of music created and performed by Jews in Warsaw between the wars, I was pointed to a 1929 book called “35 letste teatr lider fun Azazel un Sambatiyon” (Azazel and Sambatiyon being two kleynkunst venues popular at the time). I found the book at Brooklyn’s Chasidic “Library Of Agudas,” along with six tiny books of theater songs and monologues (lyrics only) published in 1933 and 1934 by bookseller and record shop owner Itzik Zhelonek (Zielonek). I decided to track down the melodies for as many of these songs as possible (for more information click here); Itzik Gottesman sent me a version of one of them sung by Jacob Gorelik – this week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, known as “Dos fleshl” (the bottle) or “Tshort vos’mi” (The Devil Take’s It).
fleshele pic

Gorelik learned the song from a guy in Central Park – back when it was a place people went to “sing and play” (he contrasted that to its present reputation as a place to buy drugs). He didn’t know the man, or where the song came from, but he said it shares its melody with the Russian song “Kare Glaski” (“Brown Eyes,” see Russian lyrics below).

The words Gorelik sang were quite different from the lyric printed in “35 letste teatr lider” (texts to both versions are below). Sometimes singers “folk process” what they’ve heard, or they forget the words and re-imagine them from scratch.

Here is the song as sung by Jacob Gorelik, recorded in his NYC apartment, 1985, by Itzik Gottesman:

Gorelik’s spoken introduction, transcribed and translated by Itzik Gottesman:

Dos Fleshl introduction YiddishA special genre of songs are about drunks. Because, basically, the background of every drunk is a sad one: a person is not born drunk – troubles, bad habits, bad family; the father was a drunk. And here we have a song of a drunk, and he tells us, more or less, of his life. I don‘t know the father, the mother [of the song]; I don‘t know who wrote the song and who created the melody. Possibly it‘s an old theater song, very possiblew but it has the taste of a folksong. I heard it my first years in America in Central Park. I lived then at 110th street, near the park. And in those years the park was not just a place to sell drugs, or for other deviates. The park was the for the youth. We came and sang, played, sang. We were not afraid. We even slept there till 2:00 at night near the reservoir. And there I heard someone sing this song of a drunk. I don‘t remember his name.

The song of a drunk – ‘Tshort Voz’mi’, which means – The Devil Take It.
Gorelik’s version, transcribed and translated by Jane Peppler:

Yo, hob ikh in der velt alts farlorn
A yosim geblibn bin ikh fri
Mayne fraynt hob ikh, hob ikh shoyn lang farlorn
Mayn fraynt iz nor dos fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I’ve lost everything in this world,
I was orphaned at an early age.
I lost my friends long ago,
Only my bottle is my friend
The devil take it.

Ikh hob a mol a nomen gehat
azoy vi di greste aristokrasi
un haynt hob ikh im shoyn lang fargesn
vi ruft men mikh, freg baym fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I used to have a name like the great aristocrats
Now I’ve forgotten my former reputation,
What people call me now, ask the bottle
The devil take it.

Ikh hob a mol a heym gehat
Ergets vayt, ikh veys nisht vu
Haynt gey ikh arum na venad
Vu iz mayn heym?
Freg baym fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I used to have a home somewhere
Far away, I don’t know where.
Now I go around without a homeland.
Where is my home? Ask the bottle.
The devil take it.

Ikh hob a mol a gelibte gehat
Iz zi dokh tsu a tsveytn avek
Un haynt hob ikh fil, un lib nisht keyner
Mayn gelibte iz nor dos fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I used to have a sweetheart,
She’s left me for someone else.
And now I have so much, but I don’t love anybody
My sweetheart? Just this bottle.
The devil take it.

Here is the text printed in the 1929 collection:

Geven bin ikh a mentsh eyner
Bakant geven in der gantser velt
Haynt iz far mir alesding farlorn
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! Tshort vosmi!

I used to be well known in the whole world
Now everything is lost to me because of you, my bottle,
The devil take it

Gehat hob ikh a kale Gitele
Antlofn iz zi, der tayvl veyst vu
Zi hot mir geton mayn lebn derkutshen
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! tshort vosmi!

I had a bride, Gitele,
She’s run away, the devil knows where
She tormented my life thanks to you, my bottle
The devil take it

Men varft mir shteyner nokh in di gasn
“Shlogt im!” shrayt men, “dem bosyak.”
Zogt mir, menshn, farvos tut ir mikh hasn?
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! Tshort vozmi!


People throw stones at me in the street.
“Hit that bum,” they cry,
Tell me, people, why do you hate me?
Because of you, my little bottle,
Oh, the devil take it.

Vu iz mayn foter? Vu iz mayn muter?
Vu iz mayn heymat, zogt mir vu?
Fun vandern iz mir shoyn mayn lebn farmiest
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! Tsort vozmi!

Where is my father? My mother?
My homeland? Tell me, where?
My life is ruined by wandering,
Because of you, my little bottle
The devil take it.

S’vert mir erger in di letste tsaytn
Kh’bin shoyn alt un krank un farshmakht
Un, ikh shtarb avek, mayne libe laytn,
durkh dir, mayn fleshele, oy, a gute nakht!

Lately things have gotten worse for me,
I’m old and sick and languishing
I’m dying, my dear people,
Because of you, my little bottle,
oy, good night!

Yiddish text – Gorelik’s version:

dos fleshele yiddish 1

dos fleshele yiddish 2

Карие глазки (Brown Eyes)

Карие глазки, где вы скрылись.
Мне вас больше не видать.
Куда вы скрылись, запропали,
Навек заставили страдать.

Выньте сердце, положите
На серебряный поднос.
Вы возьмите, отнесите
Сердце другу, пока спит.

Мил проснётся, ужахнётся.
Милый помнит обо мне.
Мил потужит, погорюет
По несчастной сироте.

“Bay der fintsterer nakht” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

A print version of Bay der fintsterer nakht can be found in I. L. Cahan “Shtudyes vegn yidisher folksshafung” YIVO, 1952, NY, in an article given the title for this volume “Peyrushim af 24 lider” that his student at the YIVO institute in Vilna, Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe, had prepared for publication. This article consisted of Cahan’s comments on Yiddish songs that Pipe had collected in his hometown of Sanok [in Yiddish “Sunik/Sonik”], Galicia. Pipe had collected a version of “Bay der fintserer nakht” in 1934 from a singer who said it was sung 30 years earlier. The song is in Cahan, 1952, page 185, and has three verses, rather than two verses and one refrain, as Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (1894-1974) (LSW) sings it.

According to interviews with LSW conducted by Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, NYU, in 1972-73, the song was sung by the plagers/plogers (sufferers). The plagers were young Jewish men who were about to be inducted into the Austria-Hungarian army and wandered from town to town, usually in groups, so they would intentionally fail the draft because of their poor health. See my article “Plagers: a folkloristishe shtudye” [Plagers: a folkloristic study], Forverts, January 7th, 2010, page 4, which refers to the literature on plagers in Yiddish.

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s Hometown of Zvinyetchke, Bukovina, Ukraine
Photo by Itzik Gottesman, 2010

In this recording of LSW made by Leybl Kahn in New York City in 1954, she clearly sings the song too high in this performance, as can be heard in the last verse.

Bay der fintsterer nakht is unusual textually – it doesn’t fall into the usual categories of men’s songs – not religious, not political, not a work song, not humorous, not nationalist. It’s partly a lament on how miserable life is, and partly a love song; topics we would usually hear in women’s songs.

Bay der fintsterer nakht
lig ikh mir bayshtendik*, oy, un trakht.
zayt ikh bin fin mayn heym avek.
ikh ken shoyn nit kimen keyn kayn tsvek.
Ver se vil nit, dertsapt mir mayn blit.

In the dark night,
I lay constantly, oy, and think,
since I have left my home.
I cannot reach any goal.
Who ever wants can bleed me.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
Vi farbitert iz mir dus harts
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Ver ken den film mayn shmerts.
Derekh ayn imgliklekher libe
Imtsugeyn in di gasn aleyn,
Tsu zayn fin mayn heym fartribn.
Oy elnt bin ikh vi a shteyn.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
How bitter is my heart.
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Who can feel my pain?
Because of an unfortunate love,
I wander the streets alone.
To be driven from my home – 
Oy, lonely am I as a stone.

Mayn mame hot mikh gelozt shtudirn.
Zi hot gevolt az fun mir zol zayn a lat
Fun deym alemen hot zikh gur oysgelozt.
Ikh ti mir blind arimshpatsirn.
Elnt bin ekh, in na venad.

My mother allowed me to study,
She wanted something to become of me 
[lit – she wanted me to become a respectable person]
From all of this, nothing turned out.
Blindly I wander around,
lonely am I and homeless.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
Vi farbitert iz mir mayn harts
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Ver ken den film mayn shmerts?
un derekh a finsterer libe
arimtsugeyn in di gasn aleyn,
Tsu zayn fin mayn heym fartribn.
Oy, elnt bin ikh vi a shteyn.

Oy, oy, oy, oy,
How bitter is my heart
Oy, oy, oy, oy,
Who can feel my pain?
Because of a dark love
to wander in the streets alone.
To be driven from my home – 
Oy lonely am I like a stone.

*bayshtendik – though I am unfamiliar with this word, my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (LSW’s daughter), and I assume it means the same as „shtendik‟.

 

“Tayere Toni” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

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

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

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

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

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

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

Pete Rushefsky adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoken Dialogue after the song:

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


“Der blinder” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2011 by yiddishsong

Der blinder (The Blind Man), about a blind beggar, was written by the Yiddish poet Mani Leib (1884-1953, immigrated to the U.S. in 1905) and is included in his volume Lider, NY, 1918. p. 52. The poem is untitled in the original publication.

The poem was set to music by Pinchos Yasinowsky (or Jassinowsky, 1886-1954, immigrated to the U.S. in 1917), who also composed the music for “Mayn shifl” previously posted on Yiddish Song of the Week.

I recorded Isaac “Tsunye” Rymer singing it in our living room in the Bronx in the 1980s, introducing it as a song by Mani Leib. He always sang unaccompanied in this slow, heartfelt way. He was in already in his nineties when he sang this.

Though it is included in at least two Yiddish song collections where it is given two different titles 1) “Der blinder” in Zing mit mir, NY, the 1945 edition, compiled by Mikhl Gelbart 2) “In di vign” in Yiddish Poets in Song – Yidishe dikhter in gezang, NY 1966, edited by Mordecai Yardeini, I have yet to find a recording of the song.

Attached are scans of the song from Yiddish Poets in Song, which include photos of Leib and Yasinowsky. An additional musical arrangement is in the Yardeini book but is not attached.

The poem text plays with the many uses and meaning of “tsu” (to) in Yiddish. In the transcription in Yiddish Poets the line reads „Un baym toyer shloft der blinder‟ (“and at the gate the blind man sleeps”), but in the 1918 collection it reads (and Rymer sings) – „ ligt der blinder‟ (“the blind man lies”), leaving it open whether he is alive or not.

In the cradles, children cry,
mothers rock them along;
Liulinke, lui, lui
Luilinke, lui, lul.

With a sack goes the blind man,
Drags his rest with him;
The blind man knocks in a gate,
But the gate is shut.

Cries the blind man
in his sadness,
God, you at least should hear me,
Liulinke, liu-liu

And at the gate, lies the blind man
The night covers him over.
In the cradles, children cry
mothers rock them along.
Liulinke, liu, liu
Llulinke, liu, liu.

“Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

„Shtey shoyn of tokhter mayn getraye‟ (“Wake Up My Faithful Daughter”) is the only Yiddish song I know that mentions coffee, and though I drink 3 double espressos daily, I thought I would post this song sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) for a different reason: a recent interesting article on family violence and Yiddish song written by Adrienne Cooper and Sarah Gordon. Originally published in Lilith magazine, and republished on-line on the Arty Semite blog of the Forward newspaper (in four parts).

In the first song example given in that essay – „A gutn ovnt Brayne‟, the first stanza ends with „zint ikh hob dem merder derkent‟ („Since I‘ve known this murderer‟). As you can also see in the song „Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye‟, merder/murderer is apparently another way to say „wife beater‟ in Yiddish.

As for „Shtey shoyn of‟ – LSW sings the first verse beautifully, somehow getting off track in the second verse – it‘s a line too short, and the melody changes – and then again getting back on track in the third verse and ending the powerful and sad song with her emotional style.

Musically, listen to the way she ornaments so subtly with „oy‟. Textually – in three short verses with vivid imagery we have a complete, melancholy short story in the classic mother-daughter dialogue form, so common in Yiddish folksong.

I think it‘s particularly touching that the mother has the final word. Perhaps other singers or versions perform additional verses in which the daughter responds; I have not found any, and this version certainly fits into LSW‘s gloomy view of the woman‘s world; a woman recently married, no less. This recording of LSW was made by Leybl Kahn in New York City in 1954.

Oy shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye
dayne lipelekh zenen dir farshmakht.
Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye
dayn kave zi shteyt shoyn fartik gemakht.
Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye
Dayn kave, zi shteyt dir fartik gemakht.

O wake up my faithful daughter,
Your lips are so pale; [literally – languished, fading]
Wake up my faith daughter,
your coffee is waiting for you, already made.

Oy mame, oy miter, vos toyg mir mayn leybn af der velt?
Az dem vos ikh hob lib ken ikh nit nemen,
mit vemen vel ikh opfirn mayn velt?
Az dem vos ikh hob lib ken ikh nit nemen,
mit vemen vel ikh opfirn mayn velt?

O mama, o mother, what good is my life in the world?
If I cannot take the one I love
with whom shall I spend my life? [literally – conduct my world]

Oy, dayne bekelekh hobn geblit vi di royte epelekh
far ayn glik hob ikh mir dus forgeshtelt.
haynt, az di bist arayn tsu dem merder in di hent aran.
af eybik hot er farimert dir dayn velt.
di bist arayn tsu dem merder in di hent arayn.
oy, af eybik hot er farimert dir di velt.

O your cheeks were blooming like the red apples,
I imagined this meant happiness.
Now, that you have fallen into that murderer‘s hands,
he has forever saddened your world.