Archive for New York

“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

“Iz Reyzele a meydl” Performed by Chaya Fiyzerman Friedman

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

Iz Reyzele a meydl
Reyzele is a Girl
Performance by Chaya Fiyzerman Friedman
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

A student at University of Texas at Austin, Brooke Fallek video recorded her grandmother, Chaya Fiyzerman Friedman (b. 1929, Vilna) in New Jersey, Fall 2014, singing this song about a toy donkey (eyzele) which she learned by sneaking into the Yiddish theater in the Vilna ghetto.

REYZELEFOTO

Picture of a Jewish girl in Poland, 1930s

Fallek writes about her grandmother –  “Her mother hid her in a knapsack at the time of the selection at the closing of the ghetto. They were sent to the Stutthof concentration camp in Latvia. She had to hide in camp since she was a child and should have died A Nazi soldier found her and took a liking to her – he had a daughter her age.

Both she and her mother survived and went to Berlin after the war to a Displaced Persons camp. She came to New York, attended high school and married David Friedman – also a partisan survivor, in 1950. They were married for 53 years until his death. They have 3 children and 8 grandchildren.”

Iz Reyzl a meydl, a shtiferke a bren.
Hot Reyzl in a fentster an eyzele derzen.
Vert Reyzl tsetumlt, zi vil an eyzele vos lakht.
Hot papa ir anumlt fun yard aza gebrakht.

Ay, ay ay Reyzele hot zi an eyzele
mit fislekh kurtsinke, oyern lang.
A kvetsh a knepele, rirt zikh dos kepele,
Shoklen un viglen zikh af yo un neyn.

Oy, an umglik hot getrofn
shloft Reyzl nisht bay nakht.
Der eyzl iz tsebrokhn
iz Reyzl umgebrakht.

Ay, ay ay Reyzele,
hot gehat an eyzele.
mit fislekh kurtsinke, oyern lang.

Reyzl, a girl full of mischief and zeal.
Suddenly spotted in the window a donkey.
So Reyzl gets excited – she wants a laughing donkey.
So papa brought her one from the fair.

Ay, ay, ay Reyzele has a little donkey,
with short legs and big ears.
Push a button and the head moves,
and shakes and rocks to say yes and no.

Oy a catastrophe happened;
Reyzl can’t sleep at night.
The donkey is broken,
so Reyzl got upset.*
[*umgebrakht usually means “killed”, perhaps “oyfgebrakht” is what she meant?]

Ay, ay, ay Reyzele
once had a donkey.
with short legs
and long ears.
reyzl1 reyzl2 reyzl3

There are two professional recordings of this song, one by the singer and collector, Lea Szlanger in Israel on her LP “A Nig’n After My Heart – Mayn eygener nigun”. In Szlanger’s version the donkey “eyzele” becomes a rabbit “heyzele” (thanks to Lea Szlanger for sending the recording and words.)

Lea Szlanger in Song


Transliteration/Translation of Lea Szlanger’s performance:

Iz Reyzele a meydl, a shtiferke a bren.
Hot Reyzele in fentster a hezele derzen.
Un Reyzele zi vil nor, a hezele vos lakht.
Hot ir der foter fun yarid a hezele gebrakht.

Oy, oy, oy Reyzele, hot zi a hezele
mit lange oyerlekh un fislkeh kleyn.
A kvetsh a knepele, shoklt zikh dos kepele;
Shoklt zikh un vigt zikh – yo, yo un neyn.

Men tut a kvetsh a knepele hert zikh a gezang.
Oyfn haldz a glekele, klingt es gling, glang, glang.
Dan fregt zikh Reyzele far vos dos hezele
hot fislekh kurtsinke un oyern lang?

Zi tsertlt im un tulyet; zi shloft mit im bay nakht.
Zi kusht im un zi haldzt im un Reyzele zi lakht.
Un kinderlekh in droysn fun Reyzelen makhn shpot
“Zet nor, zet nor sara groysn heyzl reyzl hot”

Oy, oy, oy Reyzele, hot zi a heyzele
mit lange oyerlekh un fislekh kleyn.
A kvetsh a knepele, shoklt zikh dos kepele;
Shoklt zikh un vigt zikh yo, yo un neyn.

Men tut a kvetsh a knepele hert zikh a gezang.
Oyfn haldz a glekele, klingt es gling, glang, glang.
Dan fregt zikh Reyzele far vos dos heyzele
hot fislekh kurtsinke un oyern lang?

Reyzele is a girl, a scamp, a dynamo.
Reyzele saw a rabbit in the window.
And Reyzele, she only wants a rabbit that laughs.
So her father brought her a rabbit from the fair.

Oy, oy, oy Reyzele, has a rabbit
with long ears and little legs.
Push a button and the head rocks,
Nods and rocks – yes, yes and no.

Just push a button and you hear a song.
On her throat a little bell that rings -gling, glang, glang.
Then Reyzele asks herself why does this rabbit
have such short legs and big ears?

She caresses it and cradles it; she sleeps with it at night.
She kisses it and embraces it and Reyzele, she laughs.
And children outside make fun of Reyzele –
“Just look what a big rabbit Reyzl has!”

Oy, oy, oy Reyzele, has a rabbit
with long ears and little legs.
Push a button and the head rocks,
Nods and rocks – yes, yes and no.

Just push a button and you hear a song.
On her throat a little bell that rings -gling, glang, glang.
Then Reyzele asks herself why does this rabbit
have such short legs and big ears?

reyz1reyzl2reyz3The second recording of the song is by Henny Durmashkin on her LP  “Lider tsu gedenken” – “Songs to Remember” (thanks to Lorin Sklamberg of the YIVO Sound Archives for sending the mp3 and LP cover with photo of singer and biographical information – click image to enlarge). Her version is very close to Szlanger’s.

henny-durmashkin-pic-use

Durmashkin was also from Vilna; her father Wolf Durmashkin was a Vilna conductor before the war and in the ghetto. Henny’s sister Fanny Durmashkin accompanies her on piano. A film on these remarkable sisters was made in 2007 – “Creating Harmony: the Displaced Persons Orchestra at St. Otillien.” An article from the New Jersey Jewish Standard tells the story.

A shortened printed version of the song appears in the Parisian collection, 1948  – “Mir zingen” published by Gezelshaft kinder-fraynt, p. 109. An even shorter recorded version is found in the Ben Stonehill collection.

So this song about a rocking toy donkey (or rabbit) is clearly from Vilna/Vilnius, 1930s or perhaps created in the ghetto; but the author and composer are unknown. Fiyzerman sings a verse, or part of a third verse, that the other versions do not include, about the toy being broken.

“Mayn shifl” Performed by Nitsa Ranz

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Nitsa Ranz was born in Poland in 1922 and emigrated to America in 1950. Mayn shifl (My Cradle) was recorded at an event that I produced called Generations of Yiddish Song: A Concert of Mostly Unaccompanied Rarely Heard Yiddish Songs at the club Tonic on New York City’s Lower East Side on January 9th, 2001.

The other singers that day were Michael Alpert, Janet Leuchter, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, Paula Teitelbuam, Joshua Waletzky, and Jeff Warschauer. Ranz had a unique singing style, and though the song turned out to be American in origin, as I later found out when I discovered the song sheet (see below),  she sings with much of the traditional style in her voice.


The poet of the song, Leah Kapilowitz Hofman (1898 – 1952), was a pioneer of Yiddish children’s poetry in the US. Mayn shifl can be found in her collection In kinderland, published in 1919 in New York. The song’s music was set by composer Pinchos Jassinowsky (1886-1954), who wrote the music to several well-known Yiddish songs including Der kremer (words by A. Liessin).

Az di mame leygt mikh shlofn
in mayn vigele,
vigt zi mikh un zingt a lidl
 fun a tsigele.

When my mother puts me to sleep,
in my cradle,
she sings me a song as she cradles,
about a little goat.

Vert mayn vigele a shifl;
for ikh vayt avek.
Oyfn groysn yam, un ken nit
kumen tsu kayn breg.

My cradle becomes a ship,
so I travel far away.
On the big ocean, I cannot
come to a a shore.

Un di khvalyes oyfn vaser
loyfn mit geshrey;
hoybt zikh af mayn kleyne shifl
glaykh ariber zey.

And the waves on the water
crash with a shriek;
but my little ship
lifts right over them.

Kumen yam-fish bald tsu shvimen,
 vinken zey tsu mir;
Az ikh zol tsu zeyer palats
nemen a shpatsir. 

Sharks soon come a‘ swimming
and wink to me;
that I should take a walk
to their palace.

Flit mayn shifl oyfn vaser,
firt mikh tsu a land,
vu es zitst mayn gute mame,
mit a bukh in hant.

My boat flies on the water,
takes me to a land,
where my good mother sits,
with a book in her hand.

Shtel ikh op mayn kleyne shifl
shtayg fun ir aroys
Bin ikh vider lebn mamen
zetst zikh af ir shoys

So I stop my little ship
and I disembark
Again I am near my mother
and sit in her lap.

“Klezmorim mayne” from the Ben Stonehill Collection

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

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

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

The Ben Stonehill Collection

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

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

“Klezmorim mayne”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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