Archive for shtetl

Merke Levine Performs “Mayn harts, mayn harts”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2018 by yiddishsong

Mayn harts, mayn harts / My heart, my heart
Sung by Merke (Mary) Levine, recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman
Bronx, July 6, 1991

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The singer Merke (Mary) Levine was from Belarus and came to NY after the first world war. She lived in the Bronx and was active in the Yiddish left, and later in life was a board member of the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center in the Bronx. Her husband Tevye Levine was a teacher in the Arbeter ordn folkshuln.

merkeMerke (Mary) Levine

This love song Mayn harts, mayn harts is found twice in the YIVO Ruth Rubin on-line collection. There it is sung both by Golde Fried and her husband Israel (Sruli) Freed with the same melody and only minor textual differences.

In terms of  Yiddish folksong poetry, what stands out is the line “Mayne gedanken – ahin, aher”, which I translated as “My thoughts – any way you look at it”.  The expression “ahin-aher” or “hin-her” can also mean “after long discussion”, or “to get to the point”

TRANSCRIPTION

Mayn harts, mayn harts veynt in mir.
Ikh darf zikh sheydn itst mit dir.
Mayne gedanken – ahin-aher.
Mit dir tsu sheydn iz mir shver.

Vu forstu mayn zis lebn?
Vu forstu fun mir avek?
Vu vel ikh dir darfn zukhn?
Zog zhe mir in velkhn veg?

Fun yedn shtetele, fun yedn derfele,
a brivele shraybn zolstu mir.
Betn, bet ikh dir mayn zis lebn,
nit fargesn zolstu mir.

TRANSLATION

My heart, my heart cries in me.
I must now part with you.
My thoughts – anyway you look at it: [lit: this way, that way]
to leave you is hard for me.

Where are you traveling my dear love?
Where are you traveling and leaving me?
Where will I have to search for you?
Tell me in which way?

From each town, from each village
you should write me a letter.
I ask of you, my dear love,
please not to forget me.

mayn harts yiddish

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“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

Arye-Leibush Laish’s Backwards March Nigun

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week for the first time we present a nigun with no words instead of a Yiddish song. The nigun and the custom connected to it was learned from the singer and writer Arye-Leibush Laish (אריה ליש, also spelled “Arie Leibisch Laisch”) and became the basis for the annual backwards march tradition at Klezkanada on the eve of the sabbath.

LaishArye-Leibush Laish

Laish’s original field recording 1998, Bnei Brak, Israel:

Klezkanada Backwards March 2011 (one of many clips on YouTube):

Laish was born in 1929 in Stanisesti, in the Bacau district of Romania, and attended kheyder and talmud toyre. During the Second World War he worked in hard labor camp for the Germans. After the war he acted in the Romanian Yiddish theater before immigrating to Israel in 1963. He has written several autobiographical works in Hebrew as well as plays and scenes in Yiddish. He recorded an album of the songs of Zelig Barditchver (“Freyen zikh iz gut”), and has been featured in documentaries on Yiddish culture, including one on Itzik Manger directed by Radu Gabrea “Itzik Manger” 2005). He lives in Bnei-Brak, Israel.

I recorded Arye Laish singing Yiddish songs in his apartment in Bnai-Brak in 1998 and he told me about a rare custom from Stanisesti,

The Jews of the shtetl would gather at the river where the Friday night sun was setting and the Sabbath would arrive. Walking backwards so as not to dishonor the Sabbath, the entire community accompanied by two or three local Jewish musicians sang and played this nigun until they reached the shul where they left the instruments, and began the Sabbath prayers.

In 2001 the theater director, writer and performer Jenny Romaine led a theater workshop that summer at Klezkanada on the theme – “How do Jews Walk?”, and upon hearing about this custom and nigun she introduced them into the Klezkanada program preceding dinner Friday night. Frank London transcribed the music and taught the nigun (parts A and B) to the music classes, asking them to prepare the melody. Here is Jenny Romaine discussing the Backwards March recorded by the Yiddish Book Center:

Since then, Arye Laish’s Staniseti nigun and backwards march have been integrated into the Klezkanada program by the entire community.

The spoken parts of Laish in the original recording are:

Un dos khazert zikh iber di gants tsayt. Farshteyt zikh mit variatsyes.” [And this repeats the whole time. Of course with variations.}

Me kert zikh um tsu bidibidmmm…” [Then you return to the bidibum, bidibum, bidimbum…]

A mol hert men stam ge__(?)hay! hay! hay! hay!” [Every now and then you could hear – hay! hay! hay!]

laish yiddish

Four Songs, One Melody

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In this week‘s entry the reader will get four Yiddish songs for the price of one. What connects them is the same melody. I am not the first to write on the popularity of this tune. The Israeli Yiddish song-researcher Meir Noy wrote an article זמר סובב עולם [The tune that circles the world]  in the Israeli publication אומר, April 13, 1962. I could not find the article yet, so am not sure what he includes.

The first song and perhaps the oldest is a beggar song –  Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?); the second song  Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele) is a typical lyrical love song. These are sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW, 1893 – 1974), recorded in 1954 in NYC and originate from her Bukovina repertoire that she learned in the small town of Zvinyetchke in the 1890s-early 1900s. I have found no variants of the beggar song, and one of Yosele mit blimele (Oy vey mame,  in the Pipe-Noy collection, see below, page 270-71 with music). The first line as my mother remembers it sung was “Vu iz mayn vugn, vu zenen mayne ferd?” which fits better into the melody; it does indeed sound as if  LSW forgot a syllable or two when she sings it here, and forces it into the melody.

In the interviews that Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett of New York University recorded with LSW in the early 1970s shortly before her death, LSW said that much of her repertoire, particularly the songs about life‘s difficulties, was learned from the older, married women in town, while the younger unmarried women taught her the hopeful love songs. Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd would fall into the category taught by the married women (vayber) while Yosele mit blimele would be a typical song performed during the Sabbath afternoon walks that the unmarried girls took into the woods. In terms of style, the beggar song is sung slower and more mournful, while the love song is more playful.

LSW sings other versions of Yosele mit blimele including a second verse: 

Az du vest kumen, tsum dokter bay der tir, 
zolst im gebn a vink, azoy vi ikh tsu dir. 
Zolst im gebn a  tuler in der hant. 
Vet er shoyn visn vus mit dir iz genant 

When you come to the doctor’s door,
you should give him a wink, like I give to you.
you should give him a dollar in his hand;
so he will know what embarrased you.

A verse which implies an abortion! But in such a light-hearted song it seems quite incongruous.

The third song – In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room) – is sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (born 1920) and was recorded May 13th 2011 (last week) in the Bronx. She learned this song in one of her afternoon Yiddish classes in Chernovitz, (then Romania) either at the Morgnroit school (Socialist Bundist) or the Yidisher shulfareyn, a Yiddish cultural group, in the 1920s, early 1930s. Basically the same version was collected by the folklorists Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe and his brother Oyzer Pipe in their hometown of Sanok (in yiddish- Sunik), Galicia, then Poland. Dov and Meir Noy published the Pipe brothers collection in Israel (Folklore Research Studies , Vol. 2, Jerusalem 1971),  and a copy of that version is attached with the music. See the footnote to the song by Dov and Meir Noy (p. 326) for other songs with this melody, and the reference to Meir Noy‘s article mentioned above.

In a kleynem shtibele is a worker‘s song, text written by the writer and ethnographer A. Litvin  (pseudonym of Shmuel Hurvits 1863 – 1943) and the complete original text (Di neyterkes) can be found in M. Bassin‘s Antologye: Finf hundert yor yidishe poezye, volume one 258-259, NY 1917.

The fourth song with the same melody is In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). The Freedman Jewish Sound Archive has information on three recordings: a version by David Medoff (1923); Kapelye (the album „Future and Past‟, sung by Michael Alpert); and the German group Aufwind (from the album „Awek di junge jorn‟). We have included a link to the Medoff performance. See Mark Slobin and Richard Spotwood‘s article on Medoff (David Medoff: A Case Study in Interethnic Popular Culture in American Music, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Autumn, 1985), pp. 261-276.

AUDIO RECORDINGS:

Song 1: Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Song 2: Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Song 3: In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room). Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, recorded May 12, 2011 by Itzik Gottesman.

Song 4: In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). Performance by David Medoff, recorded 1923.

TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS

Song 1: Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd?
Az ikh bin aroysgefurn, hot getsitert himl un erd.
Hant bin ikh urem; shtey ikh ba der tir.
Kimen tsu geyn di sholtikes un lakhn (up?) fin mir.

Where are my wagon and horse?
When I first drove out, heaven and earth shook.
Now that I am poor, I stand at the door.
So the scoundrels come by to mock me.

Vi iz mayn tsiring vus ikh hob gebrakht fin vin?
Vus mayn vab un kinder zenen gegongen ongetin?
Hant az ikh bin urem, shtey ikh far der tir.
Kimen tsu geyn di sholtikes un lakhn up (?) fin mir.

Where is the jewelry that I had brought from Vienna?
That was worn by my wife and children.
Now that I am poor, I stand by the door.
So the scoundrels come by to mock me.


Song 2: Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Yosele mit Blimele zey zitsn af a bank.
Oy vey Blimele, ikh bin azoy krank.
Kh‘hob aza krenk, ikh shem zikh oystsuzugn,
Der dokter hot mir geheysn khasene-hobn.

Yosele and Blimele are sitting on a bench.
Oh dear Blimele, I am so very ill.
I have an illness, I am embarrased to reveal –
The doctor ordered me to get married.

Khasene hobn – es geyt dir nor in deym.
Khasene hobn – ken men glaykh ven (?) me vil aleyn.
Khasene hobn – darf men hubn gelt.
Ken men opfirn a sheyne velt.

Getting married – is all you can think of.
Getting married is easy if you want to do by ourselves.
Getting married – you need money for that,
and then you can have a beautiful world.

Yingelekh un meydelekh hot shoyn nisht keyn moyre.
Khasene hubn – es shteyt dokh in der toyre.
As der shnader shnadt – shnadt er mit der mode
un az der rebe vil a vab, meygn mir avode.

Boys and girls, you no longer have to fear.
Getting married – It says so in the Torah.
When the tailor tailors, he cuts according to the fashion
and if the Rebbe wants a wife, then we may too of course.

Song 3: In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room). Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, recorded May 12, 2011 by Itzik Gottesman.

In a kleynem shtibele, bay a langn tish.
Zitsn dortn meydelekh un dreyen mit di fis.
Zey dreyen di mashindelekh fun fri biz nakht
Un azoy vern tutsnvayz hemdelekh gemakht.

In a small room, at a long table,
There sit girls and turn with their feet.
They turn the machines from early to night.
And thus by the dozens, shirts are produced.
Girls, so small, tell me why are you pale?

Meydelekh ir kleninke, zogt vos zent ir blas?
Hemdelekh ir vaysinke, zogt vos zent ir nas?
Meydelekh un hemdelekh, zey reydn nisht keyn vort.
Nor di mashindelekh zey geyen imer fort. 

Shirts so white, tell me why are you wet?
Girls and shirts, they do not speak a word.
But the machines, they keep going forever.

Song 4: In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). Performance by David Medoff, recorded 1923.

Transliterated lyrics courtesy of the German klezmer band Aufwind may be found on the Zemerl website by clicking here.