Archive for Pete Rushefsky

“Ze vi gru” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2014 by yiddishsong

Ze vi gru (See How Gray)
Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman
Recorded 2013, Bronx, by Itzik Gottesman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Before we enter the new year, let us do our part to remember that 2014 marked 100 years since World War One and post a song about that time.

In memory of her first yortsayt (memorial anniversary), the 2nd day of Khanike, I am posting the last song that I recorded from my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, a few months before she died. At 93 years of age she could still sing well.

DP Beyle LifshaVienna 1948-49. From left: Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, Mitsi Weininger.

I cannot find the full text for the song, but my mother knows it from Chernovitz, which was Romania when she grew up. We both agreed that it was about WWI but have no other information on the song. Could “in akhtsetn geboygn” refer to something else other than 1918? The rhyme “nayes” (news) and “Ashmoday’es” (Asmodeus’s) is wonderfully original.

As usual, any help finding more lyrics to this unusual song would be appreciated.

(The transliterated Yiddish reflects her dialect; the lyrics written in the Yiddish alphabet are transcribed in standard Yiddish.)

Ze vi gru der himl iz.
Gru vi dayne oygn.
S’iz der Balkan shoyn fun tsar
in akhtsetn geboygn.

See how gray the skies are;
Gray as your eyes.
The Balkan has already, from grief,
bent over in the 18th. [1918?]

Kruen brengen psires un.
Loyter shlekhte nayes.
Kruen brengen psires un.
Psires Ashmodayes.

Crows bring us over news,
just bad news.
Crows bring us over news,
News from (or “of”) Ashmodai. [the devil]

ZeViGru

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“Oy vey rebenyu” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by yiddishsong

Oy vey rebenyu
Performance by Josh Waletzky
Video-recorded at Center for Traditional Music and Dance’s office, New York City, by Peter Rushefsky, Ethel Raim and Benjy Fox-Rosen, January 28th, 2012.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

New York Yiddish singer Josh Waletzky learned this maskilic/anti-Hasidic song from from his grandfather Morris (Moyshe) Waletzky. Oy vey rebenyu has been recorded in a similar version by Jan Bart, with another version by Cantor Isaac Goodfriend.

The Soviet folklorist Z. Skuditski pointed out the similarity to the Mikhl Gordon song Mayn Tshuve (see note in Folklor-lider, volume 2) and it has been considered a Mikhl Gordon song ever since (I could not obtain the original Gordon version). However this anti-Hasidic song was later adapted and interpreted in some circles as a song to praise the rebbe, not mock him.

Interpretations praising the rebbe:

The Yiddish poet Yermye Hescheles (1910 – 2010), from Glina, Galicia, Poland,  told me that on the holiday of Lag B’omer, when the melamed (teacher in the kheyder) walked with them into the woods, he taught the children this song in praise of the rebbe. (I would imagine that the verse with the cook Trayne was cut).

Di Naye Kapelye in Budapest recorded the song – only the refrain – in a slow, spiritual interpretation, on their album –  “A mazeldiker yid” released on the Oriente Musik label.

According to band leader Bob Cohen, the source is a tape recording made in Maramures in 1970 by Romanian-Jewish ethnomusicologust Ghizella Suliteanu of a Roma band from Borsa led by Gheorghe Stingaci Covaci.

Refrain:

Oy vey rebenyu, ikh shuteye un tsiter
un in hartsn brent a fayer.
un in hartsn brent a fayer.
Yakh vil zayn a khosidl a guter,
a khosidl a getrayer.
Yakh vil zayn a khosidl a guter,
a khosidl a getrayer.

O rebbe I stand and shiver
In my heart burns  fire.
I want to be a good khosid,
a faithful khosid.

Bay dem davenen vel ikh zikh shoklen,
makhn alerley hevayes.
Far dem rebn mit zayne khasidim
geyt mir oys dos Hayes.

When I pray I will rock,and make all kinds of gestures.
For the rebbe and his khasidim,
my strength gives out.

Vinter in di greste keltn.
Far dem rebn mit zayne Chasidim
gey ikh aynleygn veltn.

Winter in the greatest cold.
For the rebbe and his khasidim
I will tear down entire worlds.

Refrain

In Folklor-lider, vol. 2 the verses are:

A kalte mikve vel ikh zikh makhn
vinter in di greste keltn.
Far dem rebenyu, far zayne khsidimlekh
vel ikh kereven veltn.

A cold mikve I will prepare
winter in the greatest cold.
For the rebbe, for his hasidim
I will turn over worlds.

A vareme shal vel ikh zikh koyfn
zumer in di greste hitsn.
A zaydenem gartl vel ikh mir koyfn,
a hitl mit zibetsn shpitsn.

A warm shawl will I buy
summer in the greatest heat.
A silk belt will I buy, 
a hat with 17 corners.

Dem rebn vel ikh leygn in fodershtn alker
tsuzamen mit der kekhne Trayne.
Un ale kshidemlekh veln hobn tsum rebn
gor a groyse tayne.

I will put the rebbe in the front den
with the cook Trayne.
And all the Hasidim will complain
to the rebbe. 

oyveyrebenyu1

oyveyrebenyu2

“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


“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):