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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

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“Ot her ikh vider a heymishe lidele” Performed by Yudeska (Yehudis) Eisenman

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

 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s post features a song, Ot her ikh vider a heymishe lidele (אָט הער איך ווידער אַ היימישע לידעלע / Now I Hear Again a Hometown Song), that was apparently very popular in the 1910s and 1920s but has been mostly forgotten today. This field recording of  the singer Yehudis Eisenman was made by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman at the same time as Bald vet zayn a regn in the Bronx, 1993.

The poem is by the poet Yoysef Yofe (יוסף יפֿה /Joseph Jaffe) and has been titled Hemat, Heim, and Mayn Litvishe shtetele among others. Yofe was born in 1865 in Salant, near Kaunas/Kovne. He came to the US in 1892 and died in 1938 in the Bronx, NY. (Scans of  Yiddish text taken from Yidishe khrestomatye, ed. Avrom Reisin, 1908 are attached). Yofe was also the writer of at least one other Yiddish song, Dem zeydns brokhe (Grandfather’s Blessing).

YofeImage

Yoysef Yofe

 In Zalmen Reisin’s Leksikon fun der yidisher literaturprese un filologye, volume 1, Vilna, 1926, this poem-turned-song by Yofe is specifically mentioned:

זייער פּאָפּולער איז בשעתו געווען זײַן ליד „היימאַט” (אָט זע איך ווידער מײַן היימישעס שטעטעלע) צו ערשט געדרוקט אין “יוד”, וואָס איז פֿיל געזונגען געוואָרן.

“Very popular in its time was his poem ‘Heimat’ (Here I see again my hometown), first published in Der Yud which was often sung.” I believe that Eisenman’s melody is the one sung in the 1920s.

In the Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive at the University of Pennsylvania, a version with the same melody can be heard on the CD Herman Snyder and Friends at Home which is from a field recording cassette made by Robert Freedman in Florida in the 1970s or 80s. We are attaching that wonderful recording at the end of the post.

If this is the Herman Snyder whom I think it is, then his Yiddish name was Khayim Shnayder and he and fellow folksinger Isaac Rymer were best friends in NY. Though I never met him and never heard him before, Shnayder was known for his wonderful Yiddish folksinging and I was so glad to hear this field tape recording. You can also hear Rymer talking or singing along in the background of many songs of this CD.

Sidor Belarsky recorded this song with a different melody under the title Mayn Shtetele on the LP Sidor Belarsky in a Yiddish Song Recital (1964). The composer of the Belarsky version was Paul Discount. Another melody by the composer David Botwinik was recorded by Cantor Henry Rosenblat, Cantor Moshe Ganchoff,  and Lisa Wilson with the title Di litvishe shtetele. Wilson’s performance can be heard on the CD of David Botwinik’s compositions From Holocaust to Life.

Chana and Joseph Mlotek discuss this song in their Forverts column Perl fun der yidisher literatur (Sept. 26, 1971, April 19, 1996), but I could not obtain a copy of these articles.

Thanks to Robert Freedman for his assistance with this week’s blog entry.

Recording of Yehudis Eisenman:

Recording of Herman Snyder:

Ot her ikh vider a heymishe lidele
Ot ze ikh vider dem eyruv, dem tsoym.
Bistu dos take mayn heymishe shtetele
Oder ikh ze dir in troym?

Ot shteyt di kretshmele noent lebn grobn do,
hekdeshl bedele, alts vi geven.
Kleyninke oreme, heymishe shtetele,
Lang hob ikh dir nit gezen.

Ot shteyt der beys-medreshl, a khurve, a moyerl.
Fentster tsebrokhene, krumlekhe vent.
Shtibelekh kvorimlekh, dekhelekh gezunkene,
vider hob ikh aykh derkent.

Zogt mir vu zaynen yetst mayne khaverimlekh
lebn zey, vandlen zey, zaynen zey toyt?
Zing fun dem vigele, zing fun dem tsigele,
zing fun der yidisher noyt.

Tsit zikh mayn lidele, eynzam un troyerik,
trerelekh heysinke gor on a shir.
Zise derinerungen, kindershe, herlekhe
lebn in harts uf bay mir.

Now I hear once again a hometown song,
now I see again the eruv, the fence.
Are you indeed my hometown
or am I seeing you in a dream?

Here stands the tavern near the ditch.
Poorhouse and bathhouse as they were before.
Delicate poor ones, my hometown,
Long have I not seen you.

Here stands the house of prayer, a ruin, a stone wall,
broken windows, crooked walls.
Little houses like graves, sunken roofs –
I have recognized you again.

Tell me where are my friends now?
Are they alive, have they wandered, are they dead?
Sing of the cradle; sing of the little goat,
sing of Jewish poverty.

My poem stretches lonely and sad.
Hot tears without end.
Sweet, beautiful memories of childhood,
live in my heart.

OtHerIkhYofeOtHerIkhYoffe2