Archive for Purim

“Kinder kumt der friling ruft” Performed by Harry Mervis

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2021 by yiddishsong

Kinder kumt der friling ruft / Children come, Spring calls
Sung by Harry Mervis, recorded by Gertrude Nitzberg, Baltimore, 1979. From the Jewish Museum of Maryland collection.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman and Peter Rushefsky

Jewish Museum of Maryland

Kinder kumt as sung by Harry Mervis. 

Kinder kumt, der friling ruft
Blo der himl, klor di luft.
Shmekn zis di frishe blumen
un di taykhlekh freylekh brumen.
Leyft [loyft] in frayen feld.

Children come, Spring calls.
Blue the sky, clear the air.
Smell the fresh flowers
and the rivers gaily roar.

Hert, di feygelekh zingen,
flien heykh [hoykh] un klingen,
Helft zey, kinderlekh, shpringen.
Leyft in frayen feld. 

Listen to the birds sing,
flying high and resound.
Help them, children, to jump.
Run in the open field.

Kinder yetst iz ayer tsayt,
S’iz sheyn bald nor gor nit vayt.  
Er makht gel di grine bleter
Er makht di zise bleter,  
azoy on a sof.          

Children now is your time.
It is soon not far. 
He makes the green leaves yellow. 
He makes the sweet leaves.
Thus without end.   

Kinder aylt zikh unter,
Zayt zikh freylekh, munter.
Vayl der langer vinter
varft af alemen a shlof.

Children hurry yourselves.
Be happy and brave
because the long winter
throws on everyone a slumber.

COMMENTARY BY ITZIK GOTTESMAN

The lyrics to the song are by Mordkhe Rivesman (1868 – 1924), the same author of such songs as “Haynt is Purim Brider” and “Khanike Oy Khanike”.  the melody is almost always referred to as “a folk melody”. The first printing of the song that I have found is in Z. Kisselgof’s  collectin Lider-zamlbukh far der yidisher shul un familye, 1912There it is called “Kinder kumt der friling ruft”. It was also called “Likhik iz Gots velt”. Yiddish music archivist Robert Freedman remembers singing this song in his Chaim Nakhman Bialik Folk Shul and from memoirs it is clear that the song was also popular in Zionist circles in Eastern Europe. 

Recently singer, composer and choir director Polina Shepherd has revived the song. She newly arranged and recorded the song with her London Yiddish Choir and Chutzpah choir. Here is a link to that performance.

Shepherd also printed the music and original words at this link.

The song was translated into Hebrew by the Israeli Yiddish scholar Dov Sadan and can be found at this link in the website Zemereshet. זמרשת

The original lyrics by Rivesman in Yiddish has been scanned form  Z. Kisselgof’s Lider-zamelbukh, St. Petersburg 1912 and are attached below.

We know of one recording of the song on the album Ilamay Handel Sings Portraits of Jewish Live in Song.

COMMENTARY ON THE MUSIC BY PETE RUSHEFSKY

The song uses a variant of a Hasidic-flavored melody recorded by Belf’s Romanian Ensemble for the Syrena record label as “Nakhes fun Kinder”. The melody was also recorded as part of a suite by the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia-based Lepiyansky Family of tsimbl (dulcimer) players and released on the Soviet MusTrust label.

Let’s take a closer look at the Belf version, which presents this beautiful melody in its fully-rendered form. The instrumental version of the piece is best known for its syncopated melodic gesture beginning with a rest on the first beat (a rhythmic device seen in many Hasidic nigunim):

However, the song version from Rivesman simplifies the melody, substituting four quarter notes for the first measure.

Composed in the freygish/Ahava Raba scale, the first section sets up the mode by emphasizing the first and then third degrees, repeating the phrases to create a sense of gravity. The second section switches to a call-and-response form to expand the melodic range to the fourth and fifth degrees, and hints at what will come in the final section with a quick reach up to the octave. Finally the third section lifts the melody to its climax (known in Arabic music as the “awj”) with three beats on the octave, initiating a lovely four-part walk down the freygish scale that continues into the mode’s subtonic range before resolving back up to the tonic.

There is an interesting difference between the Mervis version and the better-known version that Shepherd’s choir performs. The second section of Mervis’s version of “Kinder kumt” (starting with “Hert, di feygelekh zingen”) is reminiscent of the second section of the Belf “Nakhes fun Kinder”. In contrast, the second section of Shepherd jumps immediately up the octave like the third section of Belf. Perhaps Mervis (or whomever he learned his version from) was aware of the full melody ala Belf, and chose to sing it this way. Or possibly the variant is a result of confusion between the two melodies.

As I was contributing to this post, the wonderful Yiddish singer Eleonore Weill happened to be over giving my son Gabriel his weekly piano lesson. She graciously agreed to record herself performing the song on my iPhone (recorded April 6, 2021 in Brooklyn):

Lyrics by Rivesman published in Z. Kisselgof’s Lider-zamelbukh, St. Petersburg 1912:

“Kale lebn, kale lebn” A Badkhn Parody Performed by Dora Libson

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Kale lebn, kale lebn
A badkhn parody sung by Dora Libson
Recorded by Lionel Libson, 1977

Transcribed by Eliezer Niborski, English translation by Itzik Gottesman.

Kale-lebמ, kale-lebn
Kale-lebn, kale-lebn,
Meyn darfsti veynen un shrayen.
Az zolst hobn aza velt azoy zis
vi borsht fun klayen.
Un zolst darfn geyn borgn un layen.
Un zolst keyn mol nit aroys
funem rov un funem dayen.

Dear bride, dear bride,
You should cry and scream some more.
You should have a world so sweet
as borsht made with bran.
You should rely on borrowing and lending.
And may you never get out from 
the rabbi and his assistant.

Oy, a ber un a shver un a shlimazelnitse 
zenen dokh oykhet darbay.
A ber hot a langn veydl 
un a shver hot lib a sheyn meydl.
Un az a shlimezalnitse geyt in mark – 
fardripet zi dus kleydl.

Oy, a bear and a father-in-law and an unlucky woman
are also present. 
A bear has a long tail,
and a father-in-law loves a pretty girl.
And when an unlucky woman goes to market
she spatters her dress

Oy, a bukher un a meydl un a shlimezalnitse
zenen dokh oykhet darbay.
A bukher az er geyt avek heyst men zikh im nit (h)aylen.
un a meydl, az zi geyt avek heyst men zikh ir nit zamen.
Un az me shikt a shlimezalnitse nokh fleysh 
brengt zi plyamen.

Oy, a young man and girl and an unlucky woman
are present as well. 
A young men when he leaves is told not to hurry
and a girl, when she leaves is told not to wait.
And when you send an unlucky woman to buy meat
she comes back with stains. 

כּלה־לעבן, כּלה־לעבן
,מיין דאַרפֿסטו וויינען און שרײַען
אַז זאָלסט האָבן אַ וועלט אַזוי זיס
.ווי באָרשט פֿון קלײַען
,זאָלסט דאַרפֿן גיין באָרגן און לײַען
און זאָלסט קיין מאָל ניט אַרויס
.פֿונעם רבֿ און פֿונעם דיין

אוי, אַ בער און אַ שווער און אַ שלימזלניצע
.זענען דאָך אויכעט דערבײַ
אַ בער האָט אַ לאַנגן וויידל
.און אַ שווער האָט ליב אַ שיין מיידל
–און אַ שלימזלניצע גייט אין מאַרק
.פֿאַרדריפּעט זי דאָס קליידל

אוי, אַ בחור און אַ מיידל און אַ שלימזלניצע
.זענען אויכעט דערבײַ
אַ בחור, אַז ער גייט אַוועק, הייסט מען זיך אים ניט אײַלן, [אַרויסגערעדט „הײַלן”]
,און אַ מיידל, אַז זי גייט אַוועק, הייסט מען זיך איר ניט זאַמען
,און אַז מע שיקט אַ שלימזלניצע נאָך פֿלייש
… ברענגט זי פּליאַמען 
[“וואַריאַנט־מערצאָל פֿון „פּליאַמע“ = „פֿלעק]

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In the spirit of Purim this week, we present a parody of a badkhn’s bazetsns.  Before the ceremony of veiling the bride, the wedding entertainer, the badkhn, used to address the bride, reminding her of the youth that she leaves behind and how to lead an observant Jewish life with her husband. Sometimes the rhymes would be a stretch, almost non-sensical  and that is at the heart of the parodies.

I believe the repeated lines in our parody “…are also present” are mocking the lines of the badkhn when he reminds the bride that although her parents or grandparents may have died, they are with her today at this happy occassion. 

The badkhn parodies are usually of the bazetsns, the seating, and the badekns, the veiling; two emotional moments before the marriage under the khupe/canopy. The bazetsns is strickly a women’s ceremony, except for the badkhn, and a time of much weeping. I have added below two pages from Hayyim Schauss’s work The Lifetime of a Jew (1976) in which he discusses these moments at the wedding. Schauss was a Litvak from Lithuania so much of what he describes is particularly true of his region. It is worth reading.

This is a link to a “real” badekns, not a parody, as sung by Majer Bogdanski, born 1912 in Piotrkow-Tribunalsky, Poland, from the CD Yiddish songs / Yiddishe liders:

One can also see the badkhn perform in such Yiddish films “Yidl mitn fidl” “Uncle Moses” and “The Dybbuk”. The badkhn tradition has made a comeback in today’s Hasidic world and many examples can be found on YouTube. As far as I can tell, they have become mainly comics, and do not paricipate in other wedding ceremonies.

To get a feel for the type of music that might be played at the bazetsn, here is violinist Jutta Bogen playing an example (from Pete- this one has the structue of a Romanian doina):

Many such bazetsnbadekn parodies were recorded on 78 RPMs in the 1910s- 1930s, and even later. Here is Henri Gerro’s Kolomeyer badchn. The badkhones parody begins at 1:00.  

Further reading on the badkhn:

1) Article by Joel Rosenberg “Badkhones in Life and Cinema” on the website In geveb
2) “Badkhonim” in the YIVO Encyclopedia by Jean Baumgarten.
3) Book: הבדחן (in Hebrew) by Ariela Krasney

Special thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski who transcribed the recording. 

Excerpt from Hayyim Schauss’s work The Lifetime of a Jew (1976):

“Ikh bin geboyrn simkhes pirem” Performed by Martele Friedman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2020 by yiddishsong

Ikh bin geboyrn simkhes pirem/ I Was Born During the Celebration of Purim
Sung by Martele Friedman, recording by Mark David.
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s song was contributed by Mark David, director of the long running Boston Yiddish radio show Dos yidishe kol. He writes about the singer:

Margaret (Martele) Friedman was born in 1927, in the village Groys-Kinyat (גרויס-קיניאַט), now Великі Ком’яти (Velyki Kom’yaty), Carpathian mountains, Ukraine. She was deported to Auschwitz with her family from the Munkacs (Hungary) ghetto in spring 1944. She learned her repertoire as a child before the Holocaust. Friedman currently lives in Los Angeles.

Martele Friedman - closup - Frame-21-01-2020-11-31-15Martele Friedman (photo: Mark David)

The song Ikh bin geboyrn simkhes pirem was written and composed by her musical family.

An interview with her in Yiddish in which she tells of her life and sings this song and others was broadcast on January 20, 2020 on my Boston Yiddish podcast Yiddish Voice/Dos yidishe kol (click here to listen). The interview with Friedman begins at 10:45 minutes. She sings Ikh bin geboyrn at 28:54. Please note that the first time she sings the refrain she accidentally repeats a line. This is corrected in the next two refrains.

Musician and scholar Hankus Netsky has produced several concerts based on the song repertoire of Moyshe Hollander, Friedman’s cousin.

Thanks for help with this week’s post to Martele Friedman, Mark David, David Braun, Janina Wurbs and Steffen Krogh. – Itzik Gottesman

Some transcription notes:
“ey” = “a” as in made.
“ay” = “i” as in “nine”
“ow” = “o” as in “no”

As usual in this blog, the transcription reflects the singer’s dialect. The lyrics written in Yiddish are in standard “YIVO” Yiddish.

Kh’bin geboryn simkhes-pirem [Tomer her ikh muzik shpiln]

VERSE ONE

Kh’bin geboyrn simkhes-pirem,
freylekh bin ikh derfar.
Ikh es in trink in tants in shpring
in trowerik zayn zogar.

Es ken zayn a shnay.
Ikh tants in shray “hura!”
Tomer her ikh muzik shpiln
miz ikh tantsn glaykh.

REFRAIN

Tomer her ikh muzik shpiln
Kik ikh of kayn zakh.
Kowm hob ikh nor muzik derhert
kik ikh of kayn zakh.

Es geyt mir ariber a growl in mayn kerper.
Mayne nervn vern tseglit.
Akh krig di hits in tants in shvits
in her di muzik shpiln…
Ram-ta-ra-ra…la-la

VERSE TWO

Akh kim arayn tsu ayn razirer
oprazirn mikh.
Er zetst mikh anider of deym benkl
un zayft mikh ayn gants gikh.

Der razirer haybt mikh un tsi razirn
her ikh vi di muzik shpilt.
Ikh hayb un tsi tantsn of deym benkl
A shnit hob ikh derfilt.

Der razirer kikt mikh un.
Er vayst nisht vus tsi tun.
Er freygt mikh glaykh “Vus iz mit aykh?”
Zug ikh, dus iz mayn shiguen.

REFRAIN

Tomer her ikh muzik shpiln
Muz ikh tantsn glaykh.
Kowm hob ikh nor muzik derhert
kik ikh of kayn zakh.

Es geyt mir ariber a growl in mayn kerper.
Mayne nervn vern tseglit.
Akh krig di hits in tants in shvits
in her di muzik shpiln…
Ram-ta-ra-ra…la-la

VERSE THREE

Mayn shviger, zol lebn, i’ mir geshtorbn.
Nekhtn vert a vokh.
Gegangen bin ikh of der levaye,
a klug of deym brokh.

Balayt hob ikh mayn toyte shviger
biz tsi der royter brik.
Plitsling her ikh dort shpiln
a freylekh, listik shtik.

Herts vus s’iz gesheyn.
Ikh tants in shray hura!
Di levaye in gantsn haybt un tsi tantsn
gib ikh ayn geshray!

REFRAIN

Tomer her ikh muzik shpiln
Muz ikh tantsn glaykh.
Kowm hob ikh nor muzik derhert
kik ikh of kayn zakh.

Es geyt mir ariber a growl in mayn kerper.
Mayne nervn vern tseglit.
Akh krig di hits in tants in shvits
in her di muzik shpiln…
Ram-ta-ra-ra…la-la

TRANSLATION

I Was Born During The Celebration of Purim

VERSE ONE

I was born during the celebration of Purim;
therefore I am so happy.
I eat and drink and dance and jump,
and am even sad.

Even if it snowed
I would dance and yell “hurrah!”
If I should hear music playing
I must dance right away.

REFRAIN

If I should hear music playing
I don’t look at anything else.
As soon as I hear the music,
I don’t look at anything else.

A shudder goes through my body.
My nerves become red hot.
I get fever and dance and sweat
and hear the music playing…
Ram-ta-ra-ra…la-la

VERSE TWO

I go into a barber
for a shave.
He sits me down on the chair
and lathers me up quite fast.

The barber starts to shave me,
when I hear the music playing.
I start to dance on the chair
and felt a sudden cut.

The barber looks at me.
He knows not what to do,
He asks me “What”s with you?”
I say, this is my craziness.

REFRAIN

If I should hear music playing
I must dance straight away.
As soon as I hear the music
I don’t look at anything else.

A shudder goes through my body.
My nerves become red hot.
I get fever and dance and sweat
and hear the music playing…
Ram-ta-ra-ra…la-la

VERSE THREE

My mother-in-law, may she live, has died.
It happened eight days ago.
I went to the funeral.
I lament such a tragedy.

I accompanied my dead mother-in-law
up to the red bridge.
Suddenly I hear there playing
a joyous, merry tune.

Listen to what happened:
I dance and yell “hurrah!”
The entire funeral starts to dance,
so I cry out:

REFRAIN

If I should hear music playing
I must dance straight away.
As soon as I hear the music
I don’t look at anything else.

A shudder goes through my body.
My nerves become red hot.
I get fever and dance and sweat
and hear the music playing…
Ram-ta-ra-ra…la-la

tomer1tomer2tomer3

“Pitifers vab” – A Purim Play Song Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2019 by yiddishsong

Pitifers vab / Potiphar’s Wife: A Purim Play Song
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954 NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

800px-Rembrandt_-_Joseph_and_Potiphar's_wife

Potiphar’s wife and Joseph, by Rembrandt, 1634

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) remembered this song from a purim-shpil in her home town, Zvinyetshke, Bukovina. The “Mekhires yoysef” Purim pay about the selling of Joseph was so popular that  LSW term for the Purim players was “Yosef-shpiler”. This song sung by the Joseph character describes the attempted seduction by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39-40). It also is a good example of the open, carnivalesque atmosphere of the Purim holiday when even sexual topics could be referred to in public.

TRANSLITERATION

Pitifers vab hot mikh ongeredt,
ikh zol mit ir shlufn.
ikh zol mit ir shlufn.
Kh’o mikh getin a bore
mitn yeytse-hore,
az Got vet mikh shtrufn.

Pitifers vab hot mikh ongeredt,
mir zoln shlufn beyde.
mir zoln shlufn beyde.
Kh’o mikh getin a bore
mitn yeytse-hore,
az Yitskhok iz mayn zeyde.

Pitifers vab hot mikh ongeredt,
Mir zoln zayn tsizamen
Mir zoln zayn tsizamen,
Kh’o mikh getin a bore
mitn yeytse-hore,
az Rukhl iz mayn mame.

TRANSLATION

Potiphar’s wife tried to convince me,
that I should sleep with her.
I struggled with the evil inclination –
and remembered – God would punish me.

Potiphar’s wife tried to convince me,
we should sleep together.
I struggled with the evil inclination
and remembered – Isaac was my grandfather.

Potiphar’s wife tried to convince me,
we should be together.
I struggled with the evil inclination
and remembered – Rachel was my mother. potifer1potifer2

“Burikes af Peysekh” Performed by Abba Rubin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2018 by yiddishsong

Burikes af Peysekh / Beets for Passover
Words and music by Solomon Golub
Sung by Abba Rubin, recorded by Rachel Rubin, 1991
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This field recording of Abba Rubin singing Burikes af Peysekh, a comic song by composer Solomon Golub, was collected by his daughter Rachel Rubin in a course on Yiddish folklore that I taught at the University of Pennsylvania, summer 1991.

Burikes coverCover of 1921 Song Sheet for Golub’s Burikes fun Peysakh published in New York.

There are two 78 rpm recordings of this song, but I have not found any more recent ones on LP record or CD. Abba Rubin sings it in a folkier style that he learned from his parents.

AbbaRubinFotoAbba Rubin

Abba Rubin, the son of Polish and Russian  parents, grew up in Liberty, NY. He has a Ph.D in English literature and has taught at Haifa University, University of Alabama in Birmingham and Vanderbilt. He and his wife are now retired and now live in Pikesville Md.

The composer Solomon Golub was born in 1887 in Dubelen, near Riga, Latvia and came to the US in 1906. He died in 1952. There is a copyright for Burekes af peysakh as early as 1918, but we are attaching a 1921 songsheet with music and text in Yiddish. An extensive biography and appreciation of Golub and his work can be found on the Milken Archive website.

By the way, this is not the only Yiddish song about having no red beets for Passover. Listen to Cantor Pinchas Jassinowsky sing Burekes:

Next is a 78 rpm recording of the song Burekes af peysekh, sung by I. Leonard Blum from 1919 (courtesy of Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives):

Also we have a link to Cantor Netanel Shprinzen’s version of Burikes af Peysekh from the National Library of Israel website.

Finally, Burikes af Peysakh was also written about in The Chocolate Lady’s (Eve Jochnowitz) Jewish food blog In moyl arayn in 2005.


TRANSLITERATION (as found in the songsheet of 1921)

Burekes oyf peysekh darf men hobn.
Burekes oyf peysekh s’iz a groyse zakh.
Far khreyn, far a rosl, far an oyrekh, far a shokhn,
darf men burekes a sakh. Darf men burekes a sakh.

Shtey uf mayn man un krikh fun bet aroys,
shushan-purim iz shoyn oykh avek.
Gey koyf kalkhoys [kalekh] tsu kalekhen dos hoyz
un oyfn tsuber klap aroyf a dek.

Sloyes mit shmaltz shoyn ongegreyt,
di hon [hun] hot shoyn geleygt an ey.
Di kitl iz oysgevashn reyn
un keyn burekes nokh alts nishto.

Burekes oyf peysekh darf men hobn.
Burekes oyf peysekh s’iz a groyse zakh.
Far khreyn, far a rosl, far an oyrekh, far a shokhn,
darf men burekes a sakh. Darf men burekes a sakh.

Shteyt uf kinder, davenen iz shoyn tsayt.
Tsayt tsu geyn in kheyder arayn.
Lernt di kashes, tsu peysekh iz nisht vayt.
vet ir krign khremzlekh mit vayn.

Di alte milbushim shoyn ibergeneyt
mit lates shpogl nay.
Di koyses oysgevashn reyn
un keyn burekes nokh alts nishto

Burekes oyf peysekh darf men hobn.
Burekes oyf peysekh s’iz a groyse zakh.
Far khreyn, far a rosl, far an oyrekh, far a shokhn,
darf men burekes a sakh. Darf men burekes a sakh.

TRANSLATION

We must have beets for Passover.
Beets for Passover – it’s a big deal.
For horse radish, for broth, for a guest, for a neighbor,
you need a lot of beets; you need a lot of beets.

Get up my husband and crawl out of bed,
The holiday of Shushan-Purim has already passed.
Go buy lime to whitewash the house
and over the tub hammer a blanket.

Jars with fat are all ready
the hen already laid an egg.
The kitl [white robe] has been washed clean
and still there are no beets.

We must have beets for Passover.
Beets for Passover – it’s a big deal.
For horse radish, for broth, for a guest, for a neighbor,
you need a lot of beets; you need a lot of beets.

Get up children, time to pray.
Time to go off to school.
Learn the four questions; Passover is not far off.
And you will be rewarded with khremzlekh [Passover pancakes] and wine.

The old clothes have been sewed up;
the patches are brand new.
The goblets have been washed and cleaned
and the beets are still not here.

We must have beets for Passover.
Beets for Passover – it’s a big deal.
For horse radish, for brine, for a guest, for a neighbor,
you need a lot of beets; you need a lot of beets.

burikes1burikes3

burikes2

1921 Song Sheet:

golub1golub2golub3golub4golub5golub6

“Avreymele melamed” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

The amusing children’s song Avreymele melamed (Little Abraham, the Jewish Elementary School Teacher) tells the story of the shlimazl (bearer of poor luck) of the shtetl. This week’s posting features a performance of Avreymele by Lifshe Schaechter Widman in the Bronx in 1954 (recording by Leybl Kahn):

The song became popular thanks to numerous cantors who included it into their repertory. The transformation from LSW’s folksong to the cantorial version is notable. LSW’s verses rhyme and have a distinct melody throughout. She playfully sings “shirem hashirem” instead of “shir hashirem”, turning the “Song of Songs” into the “Umbrella of Umbrellas.”

f23ab2af7d5e72bfa94ad6553c627887--elementary-schools-schools-in

The much longer cantorial versions feature a recitative style with no rhyming verses. For an example of the cantorial version, see this video featuring the Cantor Simon Spiro, complete with chorus and orchestra, arranged by Maurice Goldman and produced by the Milken Archive:

Many Yiddish folksongs entered the cantorial repertoire thanks to Menachem Kipnis’ successful Yiddish songbooks and performances throughout Poland between the world wars. Kipnis (1878 – 1942)  was a singer, cantor, folklorist, journalist and photographer. It is clear that his version, which has many more verses than LSW’s, was the basis for the cantorial versions. Attached at the end of this post are scans of Kipnis’ “Avremele Melamed”. The version of the song in A. Z. Idelsohn’s Thesaurus of Oriental Hebrew Melodies (Vol. 9)  is also taken from Kipnis’ collection.

Cantor David Kossovitsky, Oberkantor Boas Bischofwerder, Mike Burstyn (in Hebrew) and Gojim (Austria) among other cantors and singers have had a lot of fun with this song. Though cantors have taken the song far from its folksong roots, the playful call-and-response – implied in LSW’s and heard in Spiro’s version –  was not lost along the way.

When the song was translated into Hebrew and performed in the Israeli musical איש חסיד היה [Ish khasid haya] by Dan Almagor (1968) it attained a new and wide audience.

Here is a recent performance of the song in the Israeli musical:

The nature of the song almost invites singers to create new verses about a shlimazl. One of my favorites is performed by the Columbia University Jewish vocal group Pizmon, who sing in Yiddish but add a verse in English at the end:

And who do you think it was
who came late to shul
and his cell phone went ringing
right in the middle of the rebbe’s dvar toyre?

Thanks this week to David Braun for help with the transcription. 

Transliteration / Translation:

Spoken by LSW: Dus is a kinderlidl: Avreymele melamed.

Avreymele melamed
Avreymele melamed.
Oy! Ze’ mir gegangen zikh budn –
Avreymele melamed.
Gehat hob ikh a shudn.
Avreymele melamed.
Oy! Tsulib dem shirem-hashirem,
Avreymele melamed,
makhn di yidn pirem.
Avreymele melamed.
Oy! Avreymele melamed.
Bist Avreymele!

Spoken by LSW: This is a children’s song: Avreymele melamed [Avreymele the Elementary Schoolteacher]

Avreymele melamed.
Oy! We went bathing
Avreymele melamed,
and suffered a loss –
Avreymele melamed.
Oy! Because of the “umbrella of umbrellas”,
Avreymele melamed,
Jews celebrate Purim,
Avremele melamed.
Oy! Avreymele melamed.
You’re indeed Avreymele.
avreymelemelamed1kipnis2

From Kipnis, Akhtsik folks-lider (Warsaw, 1925):

kipnis1kipnis2

“Der freylekher kaptsn” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Der freylekher kaptsn (The Happy Poor Man) is an upbeat song I recorded from Jacob Gorelik in 1985 in New York City. The song follows the alef-beys for 23 verses. Der freylekher kaptsn is also known as Der freylekher khosid and Hop-tshik-tshak, which is a dance or dance step.

GorelikSingsBX

Jacob Gorelik sings at the Sholem-Aleichem Center with
Dr. Joshua Fishman sitting next to him (Bronx, 1980s)

As he says in his spoken introduction, Jacob Gorelik sent this song to the Israeli folklore journal Yeda-Am and it was printed in 1967 (Vol. 12 no 31-32) with the music. Attached are scans of those pages which include the Yiddish verses, a Hebrew translation and a brief commentary (in Hebrew) by the editor on the song at the end which includes references to other versions of the song found in other song collections. When he sang this for me Gorelik was reading the lyrics from the journal.

Gorelik also pointed out the similarity in melody to Khanele lernt loshn-koydesh (words by A. Almi), a song that was later recorded by Chava Alberstein and the Klezmatics among others.

The verse that corresponds to the letter ע begins with the word “helft” – because, as Gorelik explained, in the Ukrainian Yiddish dialect the “h” sound at the beginning of the word is often silent.

A humorous parody of the song about kibbutz life was collected and published by Menashe Gefen in issue 3-4, 1972, of the Israeli periodical מאסף, Measaf. Two scans of that are attached as are two scans of the version collected by I. L. Cahan and included in his 1912 publication Yidishe folkslider mit melodyen.

Thanks this week for help with the blog go to Paula Teitelbaum, Psoy Korolenko and Facebook friends

 

Gorelik speaks:

Lekoved mayn tayern gast, Itzikn, vel ikh zingen a folklid, an alte, alte folklid – “Der freylekher kaptsn”.  Un es geyt in gantsn loytn alef-beys. Du veyst kaptsonim zenen ale mol freylekhe. Gehert hob ikh dos mit etlekhe tsendlik yor tsurik fun mayn froys a shvoger: Hershl Landsman. In Amerike hot gebitn – in Amerike tut men ale mol baytn – gebitn dem nomen af London. Far zikh, far di kinder, zey zoln kenen vern doktoyrim.

Un er hot es gehert baym onfang fun tsvantsikstn yorhundert. Hershl iz shoyn nito; lomir im take dermonen. Landsman is shoyn nito. Zayn froy iz nito shoyn. Mayn eygene tayere froy iz shoyn nito.

Der freylekher kaptsn.  Es geyt loytn alef-beys. Gedrukt iz dos in Yeda-Am. Flegt aroysgeyn in Yisrol a vikhtiker zhurnal, a folklor-zhurnal. Unter der redaktsye fun Yom-Tov Levinsky, 1967 iz der zhurnal aroys, der numer.

 

א
Ikh bin mir a khosidl, a freylekhe briye.
Bin ikh mir a khosidl, on a shum pniye.
Bin ikh mir a khosidl, a khosidak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ב
Borves gey ikh mit hoyle pyates.
Fun oyvn biz arop mit gole lates;
Bin ikh mir a lustiker a freylekher bosyak
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ג
Gole lekher iz mayn kapote
fun oybn viz arop mit shvartser blote;
Tu ikh mir on fun eybn dem yarmak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak!

 ד
Der dales iz bay mir afn pritsishn oyfn.
Der kop tut vey fun dem arumloyfn;
kh’loyf un loyf azoy vi a durak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ה
Hering mit broyt iz bay mir a maykhl,
abi ikh shtop zikh on dem baykh.
un kartofles far a pitak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ו
Ver s’geyt in mayn veg,
der vet hobn gute teg;
in a bisl bronfn gefin ikh nit keyn brak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ז
Zingen, zing ikh af mayn gorgl
un shpiln, shpil ikh af mayn orgl.
Bin ikh mir a khosidl, a spivak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ח
Khotsh ikh bin mir horbevate
un dertsu nokh stulovate;
A bisl bronfn nem ikh mir geshmak
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ט
Toybenyu, mayn vayb zogt tsu mir:
nito af shabes, vey tsu dir;
leydik iz mayn keshene, nito keyn pitak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

י
Yontif iz bay mir di beste tsayt,
tsu antloyfn fun der klipe – vayt;
un makh ikh dort a koyse mit dem knak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

כּ
Koshere kinderlekh, a ful getselt,
hungerike tsingelekh aroysgeshtelt.
Esn viln zey gants geshmak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ל
Loyfn, loyf ikh af di piates,
vayl shikh zaynen gole lates.
Ikh loyf un loyf vi a bosyak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

מ
Mirenyu, mayn tokhter, zi zogt tsu mir:
ven met kumen di nekhome af mir?
Gib mir a khosn mit a kurtsn pidzak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

נ
Nekhome, mayne, zog ikh tsu ir:
Du vest nokh heysn mitn nomen – shnir.
Dayn shviger vet zayn a groyser shlak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ס
S’hoybt nor on tog tsu vern,
heybn zikh on di kinderlekh iberklern;
un kalt iz zey gants geshmak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ע
Elft mir kinder zmires zingen,
vet ir zayn bay mir voyle yingen;
shenken vel ikh aykh a pitak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

פּ
Peysekh kumt, bin ikh mir freylekh,
mayn vayb a malke un ikh a meylekh.
Matsos hobn mir a fuln zak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

צ
Tsadikim, rebeyim, veysn aleyn,
az s’iz nit gut tsu zayn gemeyn;
tsores faran in a fuler zak,
tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ק
Kinder mayne, hob ikh gezogt:
haynt iz simkhes-toyre, nit gezorgt;
A koyse veln mir makhn gants geshmak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ר
Royzenyu, mayn tokhter, zogt tsu mir:
kh’hob a man, iz er gerotn in dir:
er git mir nit af shabes afile keyn pitak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ש
Shoyn Purim iz do, a yontif bay mir,
Ikh trog shalekh-mones fun tir tsu tir.
Khap ikh a trunk bronfn gants geshmak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

תּ
Tomid freylekh, nit gezorgt,
Nor layen, nor geborgt.
un in keshene iz nito keyn pitak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

In honor of my dear guest, Itzik, I will sing the folksong, an old, old folksong “The Happy Poor man”. It goes according to the alphabet. You know poor people are always happy. I heard this a few decades ago from my brother-in-law Hershl Landsman. In American he changed – In America one is always changing – In America he changed his name to London; for his sake, for his children, so that they can become doctors.

And he heard it at the beginning of the 20th century. Hershl is no longer here; his wife is no longer here. My dear wife is no longer here.

“The Happy Poor Man”. It goes according to the alphabet. It was published in Yeda-Am, that used to be published in Israel: a folklore journal, an important journal, edited by Yom-Tov Lewinsky. In 1967 this issue was published.

א
I am a khosid, a happy creature.
I am a khosid, with no bias.
I am a khosid, a khosidak [humorous form of khosid]
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ב
I go around barefoot with bare soles.
Up and down I’m full of patches.
I’m happy-go-lucky, cheerful and barefoot
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ג
My kaftan is full of holes
from top to bottom full of mud.
So I put on my overcoat
and I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak.

ד
I treat poverty as if it were nobility,
my head hurts from all my running around.
I run and run as an fool,
so I dance a joyous hip-tshik-tshak.

ה
Herring with bread is a real treat
as long as I can stuff up my tummy,
with potatoes for a penny.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ו
Whoever goes in my path
will enjoy good days.
In a little whiskey I find nothing to waste;
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ז
I sing with my throat
and play on my organ.
So I am a khosid, a singer.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ח
Though I am a hunchback
and I slouch a little too,
I take a nice swig of whiskey.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ט
Toybeynyu, my wife says to me:
We have nothing for sabbath, woe is me.
Empty is my pocket with no penny.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak.

י
Holidays are the best time for me,
to escape far from my shrewish wife.
And I drink a shot with real snap.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

כּ
Observant children – I have a tent full;
their hungry tongues sticking out.
They really want to eat a lot.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ל
I run on my soles
because my shoes are all patched up.
I run and run like a barefoot man,
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

מ
Mirenyu, my daughter, says to me:
when will I get some relief?
Give me a groom with a short jacket.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

נ
“My solace”,  I say to her:
“You will yet one day be called ‘daughter-in-law’.
Your mother-in-law will be big nuisance.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ס
As soon as the day breaks,
my children start to consider their state:
and they are so very cold.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ע
If you help me children to sing zmires
you will be good kids.
I will give as a tip, a coin.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

פּ
When Passover comes I am happy:
my wife is a queen and I a king.
We have a full sack of matzoh
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

צ
Holy rabbis, Rebbes, know already
that it’s not good to be vulgar.
We have a sack full of troubles.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ק
My children, I said,
today is Simkhes-Torah, don’t worry.
We will all down a good drink,
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ר
Rose, my daughter, says to me.
I have a husband just like you.
He doesn’t give me a penny for the Sabbath
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ש
Purim is already here, a real holiday for me,
I carry shalekh-mones from door to door.
I take a quick swig of whiskey, really fine.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ת
Always joyous, never worried,
Always borrowing, always mooching,
And in my pocket not a penny.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Yeda-Am, 1967 (Vol. 12 no 31-32):

hoptshikyedaam1hoptshikyedaam2hoptshikyedaam3

hoptshikyeedaam4

Measaf, 3-4, 1972:

kibbutz1

Kibbutz2

I. L. Cahan, 1912:

Cahan1Cahan2 copy

“Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye” Performed by Chaim Berman

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

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This weeks’ Yiddish Song of the Week, “Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye” (“To Sing a Song is a Joy”) by Chaim Berman (d. 1973) was recorded by Rabbi Victor Reinstein, now of Boston, in late 1960s, early 1970s. Rabbi Reinstein writes:

Chaim Berman, ‘Hymie,’ was short and of slight and wiry build. Born and raised to early adulthood in Proskurov in the Ukraine, he lived most of his life in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York. His eyes twinkled with life, and there was almost always an impish smile on his lips. Hymie was a Jewish type that is no more. He was a self-described atheist and a card-carrying communist, a worker and an organizer in the ladies’ handbag industry, who in one moment would quote from Lenin or Marx and in the next, from Sholom Aleichem or Yud Lamed Peretz.

chaim berman

Steeped in Jewish tradition, he exuded Yiddishkeit from every pore of his being. Bridging the worlds and times of his life, he would put on a yarmulke and lead the Pesach seder with a profound and poignant depth of feeling. Hymie loved to sing and would perform for family and friends ‘in der heym,’ and to larger audiences at Yiddish summer camps. He was a man in whose veins coursed both joy and sadness, a reflection of the realities of his life, of Jewish history, of human reality. He worked and sang from the depths of his being to help bring a better world for all.

Certainly the first song we have chosen from the recordings of Hymie Berman for the Yiddish Song of the Week reflects that last sentiment – singing for a better world.

The melody is well-known:  it is used for the Yiddish song to honor guests “Lomir ___bagrisn” and for the Purim nign “Utsu eytsa” (עצו עצה, “Take counsel together”, Isaiah 8:10), which is attributed to the Chabad/Slonim tradition (thanks to Hankus Netsky and Steven Greenman for this information).

From my mother, who belonged briefly to the leftist Zionist youth group Hashomer Hatsair, I know a one-verse song with the same melody from Chernovitz, circa 1930s:

Lebn zol Bistritski mit zayn hora.       
Lebn zol Bistritski mit zayn hora.       
Nisht keyn rekhter, nisht keyn linker, nor a Mizrakhist a flinker.
Zol lebn Bistritski mit zayn hora. 

Long live Bistritski and his hora.
Long live Bistritski and his hora
Not a right-winger, not a left-winger, but a clever Mizrakhist
Long live Bistritski and his hora

Other field recordings in the Israeli National Sound Archives (NSA) in Jerusalem confirm that this was a ditty from the East European Hashomer Hatzair movement (NSA call #Y/05890,  #Y/05898 – I was not able to listen to the NSA recordings to hear the lyrics in these versions).

In the Kremenits Yizkor book (1965) [Kremenits is in the Volin/Volhynia region] page 152, there is a description of the end of a Zionist youth meeting which actually connects the ditty to the dance hora, here written hoyre: (my translation from the Yiddish)

Finally someone yells out – ‘Enough of this chattering’ or ‘Leave the academy alone’. At that point someone would start singing “Lebn zol Bistritski and his hoyra” [!]. It seemed that this is what the gang was waiting for and everyone stood up, hands and shoulders interlocking and the circle got bigger and bigger. And so we danced a hoyra till the break of day. We danced so long that some people started to faint away.

Someone more familiar with Zionist history please clarify. Are they singing about the Hebrew writer, editor Nathan Bistritsky?

Please see the comments below for a number of additional points on the melody.

Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye
sung by Chaim Berman
Words by H. Goldberg

Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye
Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye
Oy zingt zhe brider, zingt zhe munter
A folk vos zingt geyt keyn mol unter.
Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye.

To sing a song is a joy.
To sing a song is a joy.
So sing brother, sing with cheer
A people that sings never dies.
To sing a song is a joy.

A nign – an olter [alter] tsu a nayer.
Zingen – vet ir filn frayer.
Oy zingt zhe brider, zingt zhe munter
A folk vos zingt geyt keyn mol unter.
Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye.

A melody – an old one or a new one.
Sing and you’ll feel more free.
So sing brother, sing with cheer,
A people that sings never dies.
To sing a song is a joy.

Hostu fardrus tsi hostu dayges?
Oder bistu kholile broyges?
Oy zingt zhe brider, zingt zhe munter
A folk vos zingt geyt keyn mol unter.
Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye.

Do you have regrets? Or have worries?
Or God forbid angry at someone?
So sing brother, sing with cheer
A people that sings never dies.
To sing a song is a joy.

zinen a lid