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“Rokhl mevako al boneho” Performed by Esther Korshin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In this week’s blogpost, Esther Korshin sings a version of Rokhl mevako al boneho [Rachel Weeps for Her Children] by Elyokem Zunser, first published in 1871.  It was contributed by her granddaughter Jennifer E. Herring. Herring’s neighbor – cantor, singer and musicologist Janet Leuchter – heard about the recording and contacted us. The recording was made in 1946. Herring writes the following about the singer:

“Esther Yampolsky Korshin was born on 12/28/1886 in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk), Ukraine.  Her father was a cantor, as was her brother Israel. She idolized her father. Her husband was Louis (Lev) Korsinsky, a cobbler. Esther left Russia in 1903 with her one-year-old daughter Etta. She left illegally because Louis was escaping the draft for the Sino-Russian War. Her name was changed to Korshin at Ellis Island. Children Jack, Nathan and Sylvia were born in the US. She knew Russian, Yiddish, English; read in Russian & English. Always bettering herself. No formal education. She spent six months auditing the tutoring of a Russian child in whose home she was a domestic. To earn money she did piecework sewing at home. Neighbors would gather to hear her sing. “

Esther Korshin c. 1930Esther Yampolsky Korshin, 1930, courtesy of Jennifer Herring

Zunser’s song is inspired by the Prophet Jeremiah’s words (Jeremiah 31:14) “Rachel weeps for her chidren” רחל מבכה על בניה  which has been understood as the biblical matriarch Rachel lamenting over the tragic fate of the the Jews throughout history. Zunser applies this view to his own times, and the troubles that Jews were facing at the end of the 19th century.

Korshin sings all five verses of the original text, 16 lines each. We have transcribed and translated the text of the singer’s version. We included the original line of text from Zunser’s printed version in brackets when it differed significantly. Korshin stays remarkably true to Zunser’s words. It is a remarkable performance.

Since Esther Korshin’s father and brother were cantors, it seems reasonable to assume that they had learned this moving song for performances and she learned it from them.

There are not many Zunser songs on popular recordings. The only record dedicated to his songs, a 1963 Folkways recording “Selected Songs of Eliakum Zunser” by Nathaniel Entin, which includes this song, does not capture the spirit of a folk performance. This is the third Zunzer field recording on the blog Yiddish Song of the Week.

In addition to the transcription, translation and yiddish transcription of Korshin’s version we are attaching scans of the original music, and words as found in  Eliakum Tsunzers verk: Kritishe oysgabe  2 volumes  (YIVO, NY 1964) Mordkhe Schaechter, editor.

1)
Di zin hot ungevizn in mayrev-zayt
mit ir royte shtraln, zi nemt opsheyd.
In di nakht mit ir fintserkayt
hot ungetun di erd in ayn shvarts kleyd.
Di velt mit ire layt shvaygn shtim
Es shvaygn shtim, say berg, say tol.
In di levune geyt zikh gants shtil arim
Fin di shtern hert men oykh kayn kol.
Nor a shtime di shtilkayt tseshlugt.
A kol fun a fru veynt un klugt.
In ir yumer un fil geveyn
kenen di kreftn oysgeyn.
Mit ir fidele shpil ikh zikh tsi.
A troyerike melodi
Zi shrayt nebekh fun ir getselt.
“Farvuglt bin ikh fin der velt.”

2)
Ayn kirtse tsayt hob ikh nakhes gehat.
Ven Got hot aykh in ayer land geshtitst.
Der mizbeyekh iz geveyn mit karbunes zat.
Di kruvim mit di fliglen hobn aykh bashitst.
Duvids kinder in der kroyn gekleydt.
Der koyen-godl in zayn kostyum.
In di sanhedrin vi ayn geflantser beyt,
in der beys-hamikdosh vi a frilingsblum.
Dray mol a yur in der tsayt.
Gekimen fin nuvnt, fin vayt.
Der brengt karbunes fun shlakht.
Un der hot bikurim gebrakht.
Di Leviyim hobn geshpilt.
Der yid hot zikh heylik gefilt.
Di gasn mit freylekhkayt zat
Oy dan hob ikh nakhes gehat.

3)
Ober tsiyon hot ongevoyrn ir fargenign.
Ir mayontik farshpilt in kon.
Dos ort beys-lekhim vi mayne beyner lign,
geyt in aveyles ungetun.
Di barg levunen, di giter-fraynd,
Oy, vos far a fis treytn oyf dir haynt?
Di barg Moriyo, di heylik ort
A Makhmedaner metshet shteyt yetst dort!
Di gasn zaynen shoyn pist.
Di veygn zaynen farvist.
In Karmel kayn blumen blit.
Di turems zey glantsn shoyn nit.
Di kohanim vos hobn geshtitst.
Di leviyim vi zaynen zey itst?
Vi’z ayer kroyn ayer rakh?
In vus iz gevorn fin aykh?

4)
Ikh kik of yerushelayim fin mayrev-zayt
Dortn ze ikh mayne kinder vi koyln shvarts.
Zey shparn on dem kop af der darer hant
In veynen az ez farklemt dos harts.
Es iz nishtu in yerushelayim kayn beyn, kayn shteyn
Vos iz nit geveyn nas fin mayn kinds geveyn,
Mayn kind tsi drikn iz a kindershpil
vi me treft im un – dort iz der tsil.
Fin Moldaviye her ikh ayn geshrey
Mayn kind shrayt dort “oy vey”
Fin Rumenyen shrayt er “nit git”
nor fargist men vi vaser zayn blit.
Fin daytshland shrayt er “S’iz shlekht”
Vayl dortn bakimt er kayn rekht.
Fin oystralyen baveynt er di erd.
Dort kikt men af im vi oyf ayn ferd.

5)
In himl di toyznter shtern
baveynen oykh mayn kinds geveyn.
un di boymer, zey gisn trern
di feygelekh zey entfern mit ayn geveyn.
Ober dos harts fun dem faynd iz farshteynt.
Dos umglik hot im zayn harts farshpart.
Der shlekhter akhzer zeyt vi men veynt
[original – der krokodel, der akhzer, treft oykh er veynt]
in zayn harts iz im vi ayzn hart…
A! Got entfer shoyn mir!
zug di vi lang nokh iz der shir
tsu laydn, a dor nokh a dor?
Tsures bay tsvey toyznt yor.
Ir shtern, zogt mir, oyb ir veyst.
tsi di host shoyn farlorn mayn treyst?
oy, neyn, ikh shpir shoyn, ikh shpir!
Az mayn Got vet nokh helfn mir.
[original – “Akh Got entfer shoyn mir.]

Spoken in English at the end of the recording: “Recorded by Esther Korshin, on April 10, 1946 at the age of 59”

1)
The sun appeared in the west
with her red rays, she bids farewell.
And the night and her darkness
dressed the earth in a black dress.
The world and her people are silent.
Still are the mountains and the valleys,
and the moon quietly moves around
and no call from the stars is also heard.
But a voice breaks the silence
a voice of a woman who cries and laments.
In her sorrow and cries
you could lose all your strength.
With her fiddle she accompanies herself
with a sad melody.
She cried from her grave –
“The world has discarded me”.

2)
“For a brief time I had pleasure
when God aided you in your land.
The alter was full of sacrifices.
The cherubs with their wings protected you.
David’s children wore the crown.
The High Priest in his garments.
And the Sanhedrin was like a planted bed of flowers
and the Holy Temple was like a spring flower.
Three times a year at a certain time
They came from near and far.
This one brings sacrifices to battle
And that one brings the first fruits.
The Levites were playing,
the Jew felt the holiness
The streets overflowed with joy.
O, then did I have such pleasure!

3)
But Zion lost her joy.
Her treasure gambled away.
The place Bethlehem where my bones lie,
wear the clothes of mourning.
You moutain Lebanon, my dear friend,
whose feet tread on you today?
You mountain Moriah, you holy place,
A Moslem mosque now stands there!
The streets are abandoned
The paths are all destroyed
On Carmel no flowers bloom.
The towers no longer shine.
The Kohamim who were a support,
The Levites – where are they now?
Where is your crown, your kingdom?
What has become of you?

4)
I look at Jerusalem from the western wall
There I see my children, black as coal.
They rest their heads on their emaciated hands
and cry till it pains your heart.
In Jersusalem there’s no bone, no stone
that did not get wet from my child’s tears.
It’s become like a children’s game to oppress my child –
Wherever you find him – that is the goal.
From Moldova I hear a scream
My child there yells out  “oy vey!”
From Romania he yells “no good”
and his blood is spilled like water.
From Germany he yells “It’s bad!”
For there he has no righs.
In Australia he laments the earth
He is looked down upon as if he were a horse.

5)
In heaven the thousand stars
also lament my child’s cries.
And the trees they pour with tears
and the birds answer with weeping.
But the heart of the enemy has turned to stone
This tragedy has caged in his heart.
The evil monster sees how we cry
[Original – the crocodile, the monster, also cries]
In his heart it is as hard as iron.
Oh God answer me now!
Say how long can this go on?
To suffer generation after generation,
Sorrows for two thousand years!
You stars, tell me if you know.
Has my comfort been lost among you?
Oh, no, I feel it now, I feel it –
That my God will yet help me
[original – O God answer me now]

Spoken in English after the song:
“Recorded by Esther Korshin, on April 10, 1946 at the age of 59”wordsA1wordsa2

WordsB

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“Arele kumt in vald” Performed by Larisa Pechersky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2015 by yiddishsong

This week’s blog post – song and commentary – was submitted by Larisa Pechersky, who also performs on the recording.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my grandmother’s name known and maybe remembered by people who often ask me how I know so many Yiddish songs. I always tell them that it’s because of my grandmother. Now, I hope her story, name, and image will be shared with them for the first time. As always, I dedicate all my work in the field of Jewish folklore and education to her blessed memory. Milya on 20th birthday Horki

Milya Shagalova (nee Mikhlya Fle’er / Fleyer), grandmother of Larisa Pechersky in Horki on her 20th birthday

I learned this song from my maternal grandmother when I was a toddler in the late 70s . She lived with my mother and me, and took care of me while my mom worked. All day long, as she worked around the house, she sang hundreds of Yiddish songs and encouraged me to sing along.

She would stop many times during a song to comment and make connections to her life in a Belorussian shtetl, to the experiences of her family and friends, and whatever lessons she wanted me to take away from each song. She often acted out the songs with me and showed me how to express a variety of feelings through a nign without words (just like in this song, Arele, she emphasized how the same nign after each verse can express fear, despair, or relief).

She made each song a window into Jewish life for me, a child growing up in a big city of Leningrad, the cultural capital of the Soviet Union, where forced assimilation was the norm for its more than 150,000 Jews. Assimilation was out of the question for my family, where my grandmother wanted me to know Yiddish and grow up proudly Jewish. Milya and Larisa

Larisa Pechersky (age 3) and her grandmother, Milya Shagalova, at home in Leningrad

My grandmother, Milya Shagalova (nee Mikhlya Fle’er / Fleyer), was born in 1914 in Propoysk, a shtetl in Mogilievske Guberniye, Belorussia. In the post-revolution years, her father, Zalmen, received a warning that he was to be arrested, stripped of his possessions, and exiled for owning four cows and employing one housekeeper. To avoid this fate, the family fled to Horki, a larger shtetl in the region, his birthplace.

As the third daughter in a family with no sons at the time, little Mikhlya was sent to a traditional all-boys kheyder to study. She told me compassionate stories of the cruel pranks the boys did to the poor old rebbe that she, as the only girl, felt so bad about. Later, she graduated from a seven-year school, where all of the subjects were taught in Yiddish. She wanted to continue on to the Jewish (Yiddish) teachers’ college, but it was no longer possible.

In 1934, as a newlywed, she moved to Leningrad with her husband Naum (Nokhom-Abram), where they lived  their whole life afterwards. Despite knowing Russian as well as if it were their native tongue, they always spoke Yiddish at home and with many friends, never missed a Jewish concert or event, and subscribed to Jewish periodicals when it was still possible.

During World War II, my grandma miraculously survived the horrific siege of Leningrad with my three-month old mom, but lost her five-year old son, who was with his grandparents in Horki for the summer, during which the Nazis invaded it and killed 7,500 Jews, including the boy, his four grandparents, and 38 more of our relatives.

My grandpa Naum, who came back from the front without a leg, learned of his son’s initial rescue, swift betrayal, and killing from his former neighbors. My grandma’s lament and guilt that she “sent her own child to death with her own hands” by letting him travel to Belorussia before the war “nobody expected to happen” was one of the stories that she would tell me often. Milya with Larisa

Larisa and Milya on summer vacation in Ukraine

When the Perestroika had just begun, the very first signs of the Jewish renewal were two concerts of Jewish music at the end of 1988 in Leningrad. My grandma did not miss them despite her poor health and the two of us went together. She felt that they “added seven more years of life” to her. This is how highly she regarded Jewish songs.

To my greatest regret, she passed away in January 1989 before I went to synagogue for the first time and matriculated at the newly created Jewish University that same year. I never recorded any of her songs, but kept hundreds of them in my memory. I still remember some ballads, just partially, and feel terrible that I can’t recall all the words or find them published anywhere.

When my friends and I started a Jewish school in Leningrad, I dedicated my work to giving my students the same as what my grandmother gave me – teaching them every and any thing Jewish through our amazing multi-layered Yiddish songs. Researching Yiddish musical folklore became my profession, passion, and a tribute to my grandma’s bravery and real heroism in passing our musical tradition to new generations amid the tribulations she lived through.

Arele kumt in vald (Arele Comes to the Woods)

This is how I remember learning the words as a child. I understand they sound not totally grammatically correct, but this is how I sang it as a kid.

Most of the time, we sang the second and third verses in the reverse order. The line in question meant Arele wasn’t taken aback; didn’t fear (I don’t remember the Yiddish word). When it was sung as the second verse, it made his attempt to escape appear to be futile given the next stanza (he thought he could run away, but now he can clearly see the dire situation – the mouth, the paws, etc). This way the time between his climbing up the tree, crying in despair, and eventual rescue was much longer and more terrifying in his eyes.

This was the order of the verses my grandma usually used. Switching the verses makes his actions appear more brave (he didn’t lose his head despite realizing all the details of the dangerous situation beforehand). Also, we sang it a bit slower, in a more storytelling manner, than I did in this recording.The English transliteration reflects the Yiddish dialect more than the Yiddish transcription.

Arele kumt in vald,
Dreyt zikh ‘hin un ‘her.
Ven er dremlt bald
kumt a greyser ber!

Der ber mit lapes greyse!
G’valt, dos iz nit gut!
Fun eygn trern heyse,
Ot iz sheyn kaput!

Arele is nit flit [foyl?]
Eyfn beym er kletert.
Un der ber mit ofn mul,
G’valt, nito keyn reter!

A reter iz ba sholem,
A greyser nes getrofn!
Geven iz dos a kholem,
Ven Arel iz geshlofn!

Arele comes to the woods,
wanders here and there.
When he slumbers, right away comes
a great big bear.

The bear with giant paws!
Help, this is not good.
From his eyes hot tears stream.
Now all is kaput.

Arele is not lazy
and on the tree he climbs.
And the bear with an open mouth
Help, there is no rescue!

A rescue did come in peace;
a great miracle happened.
This was all a dream
while Arele was sleeping.

arele1 arele2

“Lid fun der frantzeyzisher revolutsye” Performed by Nitsa Rantz

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song by Nitsa Rantz was recorded at the same concert as Rantz’s song Mayn shifl that we had earlier posted in in our blog, at the club Tonic on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 2009. Rantz is accompanied by Jeff Warschauer on guitar.

Nitsa Rantz in Paris, Late 1940s

In their column “Lider demonen zikh lider” [Readers remember songs] in the Yiddish Forward newspaper, Feb. 7th 1992, page 15. Chana and Joseph Mlotek printed the words of Nitsa Rantz’s version of this song.

The columnists note that Rantz called the song “Viglid fun der frantzeyzisher revolutsye” [Lullaby of the French Revolution], and that they had found a printed version in a Workmen’s Circle songbook, 1934.

A version was sung during the Holocaust in the Vilna ghetto and was printed in Shmerke Katcherginski’s collection “Lider fun getos un lagern”, 1948. The singer Rokhl Relis called it “Dos lid fun umbakantn partisan”. Instead of the guillotine, the father is killed in a gas chamber.

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman sings a similar version to Rantz’s, and there is enough difference in the text to make it worthwhile to post it on the Yiddish Song of the blog at some point. A beautiful version is found in the Stonehill collection at YIVO, sung by an as yet unidentified man, (Reel 9).

Shlof shoyn kind mayns vider ruik ayn.
Shtil es flit shoyn di levone-shayn.
Fun der vaytns finklen shtern,
Kuk nisht kind af mayne trern.
Shlof shoyn kind mayns vider ruik ayn.

Sleep my child once more quietly.
Quietly the moonlight flies .
From the distance stars are twinkling.
Child do not look at my tears.
Sleep my child once more quietly.

Es vet der tate mer nisht kumen.
Im hot men fun undz genumen.
Iber di gasn im geshlept,
af dem eshafod gekept.
Blaybn mir dokh eynzam kind aleyn.

Your father will no longer come.
They took him away from us.
They dragged him through the streets,
on the guillotine they cut his head.
So we remain lonely, my child.

Reder geyen in fabrikn,
menstshn geyen underdrikn.
Dort ahin iz er gegangen,
vu es raysn zikh di klangen.
Vu di shteyner zenen royt baflekt.

Wheels turn in the factory,
the people go oppressed.
There is where he went,
where the noises wildly sound,
where the stones are stained red.

Unter der fon hoykh gehoybn,
hot er mit a tifn gloybn,
az er muz bafrayen shklafen,
firn zey tsu a naym hafn,
Tsu a groyser, sheyner, nayer velt.

Under the flag raised high,
with a firm belief
that he must free the slaves,
take them to a new harbor,
to a great, beautiful new world.