Archive for teacher

“Ikh hob gevolt a meylekh zan” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2019 by yiddishsong

Ikh hob gevolt a meylekh zan / I wanted to be king
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recorded in Bronx, NY by Leybl Kahn 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This is our 153 posting on the Yiddish Song of the Week blog. Upon reflection, it has given us great satisfaction to see the effects of the blog. Songs from YSW have been recorded; choral leaders have introduced these songs to their groups; and in concerts and around dining room tables many singers around the world perform songs learned from YSW. It has also inspired some to look for Yiddish song recordings in their own families and contribute.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Pete Rushefsky, Executive Director of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York who is the webmaster of the blog and has done an outstanding job.

After each post we receive some comments about the translations, misspellings and corrections, additional information on the songs and we appreciate all of them. We do not have the time or staff to sit down and change the original posts, but will some day we hope. Therefore it is important for the readers of the blog to also read the comments. Now onto this week’s post…

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) rarely sings dance tunes such as this in 2/4 time. Perhaps this is based on a sher (square dance) from her hometown of Zvinyetshke, Bukovina? Versions of the lyrics, verses and refrain, are better known with a different, slower melody. For example, Feygl Sultan sings it and calls it Hob ikh mir a shpan on Ruth Rubin’s recording Jewish Life: The Old Country. Menachem Kipnis includes this song with the slower melody in his collection of 60 folksongs and calls it Zol ikh vern a rov. Others call it A bal-agole lid or Der bal-agole (The Coachman). That version has been recorded many times by cantors in particular.

LifsheAndFeterWidman

Lifshe with her second husband Isaac Widman, 1950s NY

Though LSW only sings two verses, a creative singer could take lyrics from these other recordings and printings to extend the song. The song begs for contemporary lyrics – “ikh hob gevolt a president zayn….” etc. In almost all the other versions the rhyme with “vilt zikh” is “shilt zikh” (my wife is always cursing) which seems right.

TRANSLITERATION
Ikh hob gevolt a meylekh zan,
hob ikh nisht keyn malke.
Kh’o gevolt a hitsl zan,
hob ekh nisht keyn palke.

Kh’o gevolt a melamed zan,
ken ekh nisht keyn Toyre.
Kh’o gevolt a soykher zan,
hob ekh nisht keyn skhoyre.

Refrain:
In in leybn vilt zekh
un mayn vayb krigt zekh.
Zey ikh mir a shteyn,
zets ekh zekh in veyn.

TRANSLATION
I wanted to be king
but I have no queen.
I wanted to be a dogcatcher,
but I have no club.

I wanted to be a melamed [teacher of children]
but I don’t know any Torah.
I wanted to be a merchant
but I have no merchandise.

Refrain:
l want to enjoy life
but my wife argues.
So I see a rock
and I sit myself down.
Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 10.48.18 AM

“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