Archive for Russian

“Blumke mayn zhiduvke” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In the late 1970s, Beyle Schaechter-Gotetsman (BSG) made this recording of Mordkhe Gebirtig’s (1877 – 1942) song Blumke mayn zhiduvke, which is based on a Russian folk motif/theme. She sang it into her cassette recorder in preparation for an afternoon program of Gebirtig songs at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center in the Bronx. The song, written as a duet, is one of the lesser known of Gebirtig’s songs and, it seems, has only been recorded twice, both relatively recently – by Manfred Lamm in 2006 on the album Mayn traum/Mayn cholem, and by the singers Mariejan van Oort and Jacques Verheijen in 2003 on the album Mayn Fayfele (click here to hear van Oort and Verheijen’s version).

220px-GebirtigMordkhe Gebirtig

“Blumke” was the first name of Gebirtig’s wife (Blume Lindenbaum). The words and music were reprinted in most of the editions of Gebirtig’s songs, but only in the table of contents of the original edition of his volume Mayne lider  (Krakow 1936) does it add the information: “Rusishe folksmotiv; baarbet fun M. Gebirtig” – “Russian folk motif /theme adapted by M. Gebirtig.” (Thanks to Jeff Warschauer and Deborah Strauss for access to that volume).

BSG learned this song in Chernovitz, Romania, in the 1930s and only a few words in her performance are different from Gebirtig’s original text, so we are attaching the original Yiddish text and melody from the NY 1942 edition of Mayne lider. The Yiddish, the transliteration and the translation will be based on BSG’s slightly different lyrics.

The song has some Polish words: zhiduvka – Jewess/Jewish girl, kruvka – little cow, bozhe – O, God.  The song is briefly discussed in the article “The Relations between Jews and Christians as Reflected in the Yiddish Songs by Mordehaj Gebirtig” by Elvira Grozinger, Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia, vol. 8, 2010.

Blumke, mayn zhiduvke
Okh, zay fun Got gezegnt.
Hostu efsher mayne tsigelekh
ergets vu bagegnt?

Kh’hob zey liber Stakhu,
in ergets nit getrofn.
Akh, vet dikh dayn beyzer tatke
haynt derfar bashtrofn.

Oy, vet dikh dayn beyzer tatke
dikh derfar bashtrofn.

Gekholemt fun dir, sertse,
gezen in feld dikh lign.
Plutslung kuk ikh, akh, vu zenen
mayne vayse tsign?

Efsher, liber Stakhu
S’iz andersh nit tsu klern.
Zenen zey in vald farkrokhn –
oy, dort voynen bern!

Bozhe! Okh, mayn Blumke,
vos zol ikh itst baginen.
Nisht gehitn mayne tsigelekh;
dikh gehat in zinen.

Zay keyn nar, mayn Stakhu,
nit far dir iz Blumke.
Liber nem aroys dayn fayfl,
shpil mir oyf a dumke.

Kh’vel mayn tatns kruvke
un alts vos kh’hob farkoyfn.
Lomir beyde, sheyne Blumke,
Ergets vayt antloyfn.

Zay keyn nar, mayn Stakhu,
Nit farkoyf dayn kruvke!
Zukh dir oys in dorf a goyke –
ikh bin a zhiduvke!

Roytlekh shoyn der himl.
Di zun fargeyt, pavolye.
Akh, vu zent ir, mayne tsigelekh,
kumt baveynt mayn dolye.

Blumke, my Jewish girl/Jewess
O, may God  bless you.
Have you, perhaps,
seen somewhere, my little goat?

I have not, dear Stakhu,
seen them anywhere.
Oh, your mean father
will punish you today for this.

I dreamed of you, my dear,
lying in a field.
Suddenly I look – oh,
where are my white goats?

Maybe, my dear Stakhu –
There can be no other way –
they wandered off into the woods
oh no! Bears live there.

My God! dear Blumke,
Where do I begin.
I did not guard my goats,
I was thinking of you.

Don’t be a fool, dear Stakhu.
You are not destined for Blumke.
Take out your flute
and play for me a dumka.*

I will sell my father’s little cow
and sell all that I have.
Let us, pretty Blumke,
Run away somewhere.

Don’t be a fool, my Stakhu.
Don’t sell your little cow.
Find yourself a non-Jewish girl in the village
I am a Jewish girl.

The sky is reddish,
the sun sets slowly.
O, where are you my little goat,
Come lament my fate.

*diminutive of “dumy” – epic ballads sung by Ukrainian kobzars. In the late 19th and early 20th century Slavic classical composers such as Dvorak were inspired to create classical dumka, “a type of instrumental music involving sudden changes from melancholy to exuberance” (Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music, 1978).

BlumkeScan2

BlumkeScan1

“Sonyetshka” A Humorous Russian-Yiddish Song Performed by Feigl Yudin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2015 by yiddishsong

This is the third and, for the time being, the final song performed by Feigl Yudin at the 1978 Balkan Arts Center (now Center for Traditional Music and Dance) concert at Webster Hall that we will place on the Yiddish Song of the Week blog.

A Russian-Yiddish song that derives its humor from the exaggerated mixture of the two languages. It thereby pokes fun at the Russification of the Jews at the time. The line about only knowing “loshn-koydesh” (the “sacred tongue”, referring to rabbinical Hebrew-Aramaic) is an additional absurdity.

A similar song that mixes Russian and Yiddish to humorous effect is “A gut-morgn Feyge-Sose [or Soshe]” found in the Ruth Rubin collection, in the Mark Slobin/Moshe Bereovski collection Old Jewish Folk Music and elsewhere.

Thanks to Paula Teitelbaum, Yelena Shmulenson and Jason Roberts for the transcription of the Russian and the translation.

Sonyetshka na balkonie stayala, stayala
Dos kleyne shtibl shmirn.
Vdrug prikhodit milenki
Zavyot myenya shpatsirn.

Ya shpatsirn nye paydu; Bo mama budyet shrayen
A papa budyet shlogn..
A yesli ya shpatsirn poydu,
Vos-zhe latytn zogn?

 Kak ty bez sovyestnaya Sonya!
Nyeuzheli ty baishsya za laytn?
Vykhadi ty Sonyetshka,
 My budyem fin der vaytn.

Na ulitse idyot a regn, a regn.
A regn’t nas bagisn.
Vykhadi ty Sonyetshka,
Mir’n a por verter shmisn.

Ya po yevreyski nye gavaryu,
Tol’ko loshn koydesh
Idi, idi, moy milyenki
Tol’ko na adin khoydesh.

Sonye on the balcony, stood, stood
And wipes [or paints] the small house/room.
All of a sudden, my beloved enters.
He invites me to take a walk.

I’ll not go walking, because mother will yell.
And father will beat me.
And if I go walking
What will people say?

How shameless you are Sonye.
Are you afraid of people?
Come out Sonyetchke
We will see each other from a distance.

On the street it rains and rains
A rain makes everything wet.
Come out Sonyetchke;
We’ll exchange a few words.

I don’t speak Jewish
Only loshn-koydesh.*
Go, go my beloved
But only for one month.

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

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

Commentary by Dmitri Slepovitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 Chorus

“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):