Archive for work

Three Yiddish Songs to the tune of the Italian pop classic “Return to Sorrento”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2019 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In this posting, we examine three Yiddish Songs set to the tune of the Italian pop classic Return to Sorrento:

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by
Leybl Kahn
2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets sung by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, and recorded by Itzik Gottesman in Mexico City, 1988.
3) Sore-Yente a song found in Meyer Noy’s collection at the National Library in Jerusalem, and performed by Sharon Bernstein, piano and vocal, and Willy Schwarz on accordion, Florence, Italy 2001.

sorrento

This week we highlight three Yiddish songs that use the melody of an Italian pop classic Torna a Surriento (Return to Sorrento) music by Ernesto De Curtis (1875 – 1937), copyright 1905. The original lyrics were by his cousin Giambattista De Curtis. Here is a Dean Martin recording of the Italian song which we chose because it has a translation of the Italian lyrics (click here to listen).

There are even more Yiddish songs that use this melody, among them: in 1933 after the murder of Haim Arlosoroff in Tel-Aviv, a song was composed to this melody and a song sheet was published (A tragisher mord in Tel-Aviv/A Tragic Death in Tel Aviv). A song about the Polish Jewish strongman Zishe Breitbard (1883 – 1925) also uses a version of the melody (see Mlotek, Songs of the Generations, page 147-148 ).

Thanks this week to Aida Stalnicovitz Vda Fridman and Sharon Bernstein.

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter (I Have Suffered Much Mother) 
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn in NYC.

Lifshe introduces the song by saying “S’iz a lidl vus me hot gezingen in der ershter milkhume (It’s a song that was sung in the First World War).” The four verses are entirely in the mother’s voice, apparently addressed to her mother, as indicated in the first line.

TRANSLITERATION
Fil gelitn hob ikh miter
bay der as[ent]irung fun mayn kind.
Gearbet hob ikh shver in biter
Far vus lad ikh nokh atsind.?

Iz mayn zin nokh mayn nekhome
Vi iz er fin mir avek?
Afarshundn iz er in der milkhume.
Un a seykhl in un a tsvek.

Ziser Got ikh beyt ba dir
loz mikh nokh a nes gesheyn.
Eyder eykh vel shtarbn
Vil eykh mayn kind nokh eyn mol zeyn.

Dentsmult vel ikh riyik shtarbn.
Got tsi dir keyn tanes hubn.
Loz mayn kind khotsh eyn mul mir
nokh, “mamenyu” zugn.

TRANSLATION
Much have I suffered mother,
from the drafting of my child.
I worked hard and bitter.
Why do I still suffer?

My son is still my comfort
Where did he go and leave me?
Disappeared into the war,
for no logic, for no reason,

Dear God I pray to you
May another miracle take place.
Before I die,
I want to see my son once more.

Then I would calmly die
God, have no complaints to you..
Let my child say to me –
just once more “my mother dear”.

Fil Gelitn

2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter)
Performance by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Mexico City, 1988.

StalnicovitzPhotoReyzl Stalnicovitz, photo by Itzik Gottesman

Reyzl Stalnicovitz was born in 1935 in Xalapa, district of Vera Cruz, Mexico. She was a teacher at the I. L. Peretz shul (“Di naye yidishe shul”) in Mexico City, and passed away in  1996.

Of the three songs presented in this post, this song was by far the most popular and has been printed in several collections and can be found in the field recordings of Ben Stonehill, Sarah Benjamin and at the National Library in Israel. As for commercial recordings: Lea Szlanger sings it on her CD Lea Szlanger In Song.

The text was originally a thirteen verse poem by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) that first appeared in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910 (see below). There it was titled Dem shoykhets tokhter: balade (The shoykhet’s daughter: ballad) followed by the inscription – Dos hobn kinder in shtetl dertseylt (This Was Told by Children in Town).

The plot – Reyzl wants to marry Motl but the father, a shoykhet (kosher slaughterer) boils with anger as she combs her hair because she refuses the match he made. He then cuts her golden locks. Then it gets “weird”: she swims into the Vistula (Yiddish = Vaysl) river and builds a little shelter for herself along the bank until her hair locks grow again.
Stalnicovch sings four verses. This ballad was almost always shortened when sung. For example in the Arbeter Ring’s extremely popular songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY), only five verses are printed (that scanned version, words and music, are attached below).

TRANSCRIPTION
Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets.
Zi hot a yunge harts on zorgn.
Zi tants un freyt zikh mit ir lebn.
Vi a shvalb mitn frimorgn.

Es bakheynen ir di oygn
Es bakreynen ir di lokn.
Un a shtoltse iz zi shtendik.
Zi vet far keynem zikh nit beygn.

Un ir tate iz a frumer
un dertsu a groyser kaysn.
Ven di tokhter kemt di lokn
Heybt er on di lipn baysn .

Un der tate veyst nokh gornisht
Vos in shtetl veysn ale:
Az Reyzl hot shoyn a khosn.
Un me ruft ir Motls kale.

TRANSLATION
Beautiful is the shoykhet’s daughter Reyzl
She has a young heart with no worries.
She dances and is joyful with her life
as a swallow is with the morning.

Her eyes make her pretty
Her locks are a crown on her;
And she is always proud.
She will bow for no one.

Her father is religious
and also quick to anger.
When he combs her locks,
he starts to bite his lips.

And her father doesn’t know anything
what everyone knows in town:
that Reyzl has a groom,
and they call her Motl’s bride.

Spoken (transliteration):
Dos iz vos ikh gedenk. Ober di mame flegt mir dertseyln az s’iz geven epes a gantse tragedye, vayl der tate hot nisht gevolt az zi zol khasene hobn. Vayl er iz geven a sotsyalist, a yingl, un er iz geven a frumer yid. Er hot gevolt zi zol khasene hobn mit a yeshiva bokher. Un zi’s antlofn mitn bokher.

Spoken (translation):
That’s what I remember. But the mother used to tell me that it was a whole tragedy because the father did not want her to get married. Because he (the groom) was a socialist boy and he (the father) wanted him to marry a Yeshiva student. And she ran away with the boy.

Sheyn iz Reyzele

3) Sore-Yente
Performance by Cantor Sharon Bernstein, Florence, 2001 (accompanied by Willy Schwarz on accordion)

The third song that uses the melody of Sorrienta is Sore-Yente – a word play on the original Italian title. This was collected by Meir Noy in Israel in 1962 from Shmuel Ben-Zorekh, who learned it from an immigrant from Minsk. A scan of Meir Noy’s original notation, words and music are attached below.

TRANSLITERATION
Mit a nign fun akdomes
shteyt baym fentster Yosl-Monish,
Far der sheyner Sore-Yente
Zingt er dort tsu ir a lid:

Kum tsu mir mayn sheynes benken,
Eybik vel ikh dikh gedenken.
Kh’vel mayn lebn far dir shenken.
Vayl ikh bin in dir farlibt.

Azoy lang iz er geshtanen
vi der groyser pipernoter
un zi hert im vi der koter
un geyt derbay af gikh avek.

TRANSLATION
With a melody from Akdometh
stands at the window Yosl-Monish
For the beautiful Sore-Yente
there, he sings this song:

Come to me my longed for beauty
I will long for you eternally.
I will give you my life
For I am in love with you.

He stood there for so long
like a giant dragon.
She totally ignores him
And walks quickly by him.

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910:
ReyzlWords1ReyzlWords3ReyzlWords4ReyzlWords5ReyzlWords2

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) from the Arbeter Ring’s songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY):

Arbeter Ring1
Arbeter Ring2

Sore-Yente in Meir Noy’s Notebook:
Sore Yente Vol 1, p74-page-0

“Ikh zits mir bay der arbet” Performed by Leah (Lillian) Kolko

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2019 by yiddishsong

“Ikh zits mir bay der arbet” / I Sit at My Work
Sung by Leah (Lillian) Kolko. Recorded at Camp Boiberik by Beyle Gottesman.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

Leah (Lillian) Kolko was from Slonim, Belarus. Her maiden name was Zadikow. She was the wife of Fishl (Philip) Kolko who was for many years the Jewish culture teacher at Camp Boiberik, near Rhinebeck, NY. According to biographies of their son, the historian Gabriel Kolko, Leah was a teacher.

Screen Shot 2019-05-20 at 3.13.41 PMLeah Kolko at Camp Boiberik, 1975
(photo by Ed Kaufmann)

In this recording, summer 1974, Kolko says that all the songs she sang she had learned in America. She learned “Ikh zits mir bay der arbet un ikh arbet” from a friend in Detroit named Zemel. In the Ruth Rubin Archives at YIVO, the singer Harry Ary sings an almost identical version.

Thanks to Ed Kaufman for the photo.

TRANSLITERATION

Ikh zits mir bay der arbet un ikh arbet
un fun mayne tsores veyst dokh keyner nit.
Nor eyn padruge flegt mir shtendik zogn
Vos zhe geystu oys azoy vi a likht?

Kh’ob zikh ayngelibt in a yingele tsum shtarbn.
Di tshakhotke mame hot er mir gemakht.
Kh’ob zikh ayngelibt in a yingele tsum shtarbn.
Un tsum sof hot er zikh, mame, oysgelakht. 

TRANSLATION

I sit at my work and I work.
No one knows of my troubles.
But one girlfriend used to say to me:
“Why are you expiring like a candle?”

I have fallen in love with a boy, I would die for.
He has driven me wild. [Literally – he has given me consumption]
I have fallen in love with a boy, I would die for.
And it turns out he was making fun of me.

ikh zits mir

“Khanele mayn lebn” Performed by Norman Salsitz

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2016 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This  week’s song was contributed by Bret Werb, Music Collection Curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Wurb interviewed and recorded Norman Salsitz singing in New Jersey in 2002 Khanele mayn lebn. The recording is provided courtesy of the USHMM Archives and used with permission.

As Mr. Salsitz explains in the introduction in English, the well-know songwriter Nokhem Shternheim, who was from the Polish Galician town of  Rzeszow ( Rayshe in Yiddish) often visited and stayed with them in Kolbuszowa (Kolbushov in Yiddish). Mr. Salsitz believed that Sternheim composed this song for Salsitz’s sister, but it turns out to be a Mordkhe Gebirtig song “Khanele un Nokheml” that has been recorded by Chava Alberstein and Mike Burstein. Thanks to singer/collector Leo Summergrad who follows this blog for pointing out the correct composer.

220px-Gebirtig
Mordkhe Gebertig

For more information on Shternheim – 1879    – 1942 – and a collection of his songs see “Hobn Mir a Nigundl: We have a little tune: The Songs of the Yiddish Troubadour Nokhem Shternheim” edited by Gila Flam and Dov Noy, Jerusalem 2000. In any case it is interesting that Sternheim, apparently, sang songs by Gebirtig.  There are added lines in Salsitz’s version that refer to her mother and father that do not appear in the printed Gebirtig version. Did Sternheim compose those?

SternheimNokhem Shternheim

The part B of the melody is the same as the part B of the song “Moyd fun Gas” (Girl of the Streets)    written by Shloyme Prizament and can be found in his collection Broder zinger, Buenos-Aires, 1960.    Arkady Gendler and “The gonifs” (singer Jeanette Lewicky) both recorded a version of “Moyd fun gas”.

The English transcription and translation of the song follows the singer’s version and dialect. We are attaching Gebirtig’s words in Yiddish and music as they appear in the book “Mordkhe Gebirtig zingt”, IKUF, 1963

Khanele mayn lebn

Sung by Norman Salsitz, recorded in New Jersey, 2002, by Bret Werb.

Khanele mayn leybn, Khanele di man,
Ikh vil di zolst mir geybn
Dus reytsl tsu farshteyn (faryshtayn)

Ven di kimst af mayne zinen,
Meygn royshn di mashinen,
Un dus biglayzn vern kalt.

Hob ikh azoy lib in gern,
Shuen lang fin dir tsu klern.
Un tsu zen far mir dayn tayer lib geshtalt.

Numkheml mayn leybn,
Nukheml di mayn.
Ikh vil dir bald geybn dus reytsl tsu farshteyn.

Dos bavayst di host mikh gern.
Dokh _____[?} tsu klern.
Es vet kayn toyve zayn far mir.

Vayter nemen kh’vel dayne zinin.
Vest koym af broyt fardinen.
Un ikh vel hingern bay dir.

Khanele mayn leybn, khanele du mayn.
Vos iz dos far an entfer?
Ikh ken dikh nisht farshteyn.

Ikh red fun libe. In mitn drinen
kimste veygn broyt fardinen
Hot a libe shaykhes den mit broyt?

Ikh vays ven me libt a khusn
miz men af a mol zan entshlosn
tsi di greste oremkayt un noyt.

Nukheml, mayn leybn, Nukheml di mayn.
Aza hayse libe
ken ikh nisht farshteyn.

Ikh hob gehert fin mayn mamen ,
Mit di greste libeflamen
Hot der tate zi amol gelibt.

Dokh ven zay hobn noyt gelitn.
hobn zey zikh arimgeshlitn,
Tsi iz den aza libe nisht batribt?

Khanele mayn leybn, Khanele di mayn.
Vuz iz dus far an entfer?
Ikh ken dikh nisht farshteyn.

Tsi hosti libe shlekht farshtanen.
Dus hot kayn shaykhes mit dayn mamen.
Nor di host moyre far dem noyt.

Vil ikh koyfn tsvey mashinen,
Di vest helfn af broyt fardinen
Un farzikhert vet zan indzer broyt.

Nukheml mayn leybn, nukheml di mayn
Di host dikh yetst bakimen,
Ikh ken dikh shoyn farshteyn.

Di vest dort nisht bay mir oysfirn,
Ikh vel zikh nisht bay dir unrirn.
Shoyn genig geplugt zikh in genay.

Ikh vil fastriges mer nisht tsien,
Yungerhayt zikh nisht farblien,
Ikh vil lebn uin genisn fray.

Khanele mayn lebn, khanele di mayn.
Di host nokh azelkhe taynes,
Vus vet nokh shpeyter zayn?

Gelt, nukh gelt ,vesti bagern.
Mir dus leybn tsi fartsern
ven fardin ikh vel nisht azoy fil.

Du a het [?], un du af klayder,
In bin ikh dokh nor a shnayder.
Ikh zey s’vet zan a troyerike shpil.

Nukheml mayn leybn, Nukheml di mayn.
Di bist geveyn mayn khusn,
mayn man vesti nisht zan.

Khanele my dear, my Khanele
I want you to
explain this riddle for me.

When you come into my head
the machines may whirl,
and the pressing iron can get cold.

I so love and am so glad
to think about you for hours
and to see before me your dear, lovely self.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml,
I will soon
explain this riddle to you.

This shows how you are fond of me,
yet ___ to think of me.
It will not be doing me any favors.

If I further take your purpose –
you will barely earn enough for bread
and I will go hungry with you.

Khanele my dear, my Khanele,
what kind of answer is that?
I cannot understand you.

I speak of love and out of nowhere
you speak of earning enough for bread.
What does love have to do with bread?

I know that when you love a fiance
You must once and for all commit yourself in spite of
the greatest poverty and hardship.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml
such passionate love
I cannot understand.

I heard tell from my mom:
with the greatest flames of love
did my father once love her.

Yet when they suffered hardship
they went from place to place [literally: sledded around]
Is not such a love a troubled one?

Khanele my dear, my Khanele
What kind of answer is this?
I don’t understand you.

Perhaps you have misunderstood love?
This has no connection to your mother.
But you are fearful of such poverty.

So I want to buy two [sewing] machines
so you will help earn our bread,
and thus ensured will be our income.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml.
You have made yourself clear.
I now understand you.

You won’t get me to do what you want,
and I won’t be touched by you
I’ve suffered enough by sewing.

I won’t sew any more basting stitches
and wilt away in my youth.
I want to live and enjoy freely.

Khanele my love, my Khanele.
You have such complaints,
what will be later?

Money, and more money is what you crave,
and you’ll devour me
when I don’t earn so much.

Here for a hat [?] and here for clothes,
but I am only just a tailor.
I see this will be a sad game.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml
I was indeed engaged to you
but you will not be my husband.

KhaneleYID2

KhaneleYID1

“Khavele iz fun der arbet gegangen” performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Khavele iz fun der arbet gegangen is a folklorized version of the labor/worker‘s song Brider, mir hobn geshlosn by Khaim Alexandrov (1869 – 1909). Molly and Bob Freedman‘s on-line catalogue lists two recorded versions of this song; one can be found on the LP Yiddish Songs of Work and Struggle produced by the Jewish Students Bund (1970s) and on the two cassette field recording of the singer Sarah Benjamin that Dr. Sheldon Benjamin produced in 1984 (cassette two). This week I offer a third version, a field recording by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn in New York in 1954.

Information on this song can be found in Joseph and Chana Mlotek‘s book Perl fun der yidisher poezye pp. 515-517. The original title, as it was published in the newspaper Arbeter [published in Vilna?] Oct. 8th, 1904, was Khaverim in kamf and consists of versions of the three verses that LSW sings. Sarah Benjamin prefaces her performance by saying that it was a Zionist song.

Clearly LSW‘s recollection that she heard this when she was 5 or 6 years old (she was born in 1893) does not jibe with the information we have on the song. However her memory that it had to do with a strike in Galicia does match up with the folklorist Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe‘s comment which we find in Pipe‘s letter (from Vilna) to his folklorist/mentor I. L. Cahan in NY, Dec. 1936. The version Pipe collected begins with „Khanele iz fun der arbet gegangen‟ and has 5 verses.

Pipe writes – „This song was created in Drohobych (Yiddish- Drubitsh, then Galicia, today Western Ukraine) during the bloody elections for the Austrian parliament, March 30th, 1911. Fayershtein, a leading figure in Drohobitsh, was campaigning for Levenshteyn to be elected. The authorities intentionally provided only a narrow voting space, and only 60 people received permission to vote. The place became packed and tense and an order was given to fire a salvo – 26 died and 55 were wounded. „ Pipe further writes that he is doubtful that the song is a folksong, and thinks it probably „has a father‟. Cahan, Shtudyes vegn yidisher folksshafung, YIVO, 1953 pp. 345-346.

So I surmise from this that a Galician/Bukovina variant developed from Alexandrov‘s earlier version, beginning with the line „Khanele/Khavele iz fun der arbet…‟  Sarah Benjamin‘s Litvish version is predictably closer related to the older version.

In lectures, I sometimes play LSW‘s performance of this song and contrast it with the LP version sung by the Youth Bund chorus. The chorus sings it with a marching rhythm, and I am sure that‘s it how it is sung, perhaps even today, at Jewish socialist gatherings. When LSW sings the same song, only a hint of the march remains, and she interprets the song more in the style of an old ballad, with an emotional build-up leading up to the last two lines.


Introduction spoken by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW);
interviewer Leyb Kahn (LK).

LSW: S’iz geven in Galitsye vi s’iz du naft
This happened in Galitsye, where there was oil.

LK: In voser shtot iz dos geven?
In what town did this happen?

LSW: Mistame Yaruslav, lebn Pshemesh.
Iz gegangen a meydl, imshildik, un zi iz geteyt gevorn. S’iz du a lid fin ir.
Probably Yaruslav, near Pshemesh, and she was killed. There’s a song about her.

LK: Ven hot ir dus gehert?
When did you hear this?

LSW: Ikh bin geveyn a kind, efsher 5 yor, si’z geven mit 50, 55 yur fleg me dus zingen.
I was a child, maybe 5 years old; this was 50, 55 years ago when it was sung.

Khavele iz fin der arbayt gegangen.
Zi hot dokh fun gurnisht gevisht.
Iz aroys a falsh komande
Un m’hot af Khavelen geshist.

Khavele went to work.
She was totally unaware.
A false command was given,
And they shot at Khavele.

Khavele iz geleygn a toyte,
di eygelekh tsigemakht.
M’hot zi tsigedekt mit der fun, der royter,
A korbn funem strayk hot zi gebrakht.

Khavele is lying dead,
her eyes closed.
She was covered with the red flag:
She became a victim of the strike.

Az se treft dikh a koyl mayn getraye,
Fin dem soyne, dem hint,
Dan trug ikh dikh af mayne hent fun dem fayer.
Un ikh heyl dir mit kish dayne vind.

If you are hit by a bullet, my dear one,
by the enemy, that dog.
Then I will carry you on my arms away from the fire,
and heal with my kisses your wounds.

חווהלע איז פֿון דער אַרבעט געגאַנגען,
זי האָט פֿון גאָרנישט געוווּסט.
איז אַרויס אַ פֿאַלש קאָמאַנדע,
און מ’האָט אויף חווהלען געשיסט

חווהלע איז געלעגן אַ טויטע,
די אייגעלעך צוגעמאַכט.
מ’האָט זי צוגעדעקט מיט דער פֿאָן דער רויטער;
אַ קרבן פֿונעם סטרײַק האָט זי געבראַכט

אַז סע טרעפֿט דיר אַ קויל, מײַן געטרײַע,
פֿון דעם שׂונה, דעם הונט,
דאַן טראָג איך דיך אויף מײַנע הענט פֿונעם פֿײַער,
און הייל דיר מיט קיש דײַנע וווּנד