Archive for Yosl Mlotek

“Kegn gold fun zun” Performed by Chaim Berman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2014 by yiddishsong

Kegn gold fun zun (Toward the Golden Sunrise)
Performance by Chaim Berman
Recording by Rabbi Victor Reinstein
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The words and music for the Soviet-Yiddish song Kegn gold fun zun have been published in Ruth Rubin’s Treasury of Jewish Folksong and Chana and Joseph Mlotek’s Songs of Generations (see below). The words were also included in Sam Liptzin’s collection Zingen mir (1974). Apparently it was a well-known song in the 1930s- 1960s; however, the only recording of the song that we are aware of is on Ruth Rubin’s 1940s 78 rpm recording Ruth Rubin: Jewish and Palestinian Folksongs and among the field recordings in Ruth Rubin’s collection (tape 81) found in YIVO and other archives.

Kegn78-1The composer is unknown, but the text was written by the Soviet Yiddish poet Shloyme Lopatin (Lopate). According to Chaim Beider’s Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband, (pp.194 – 195) Shloyme Lopatin was born in Belinkove, Ukraine in 1907. He settled in a Jewish colony in the Kherson area for several years and became a colonist. In 1929 he came to Odessa to further his studies. He published his first songs in 1928 in the Kharkov Yiddish journal Prolit, and among these first published writings was the poem Ikh, der yidisher muzhik (I, the Jewish Russian Peasant). Beider writes that this poem “immediately became so popular that people began to sing it as if it were a folksong, and it was then included as such in anthologies”. Lopatin died fighting on the Russian front in 1941.

This week’s recording of folksinger Chaim Berman (d. 1973) was made by Rabbi Victor Reinstein in the 1970s. Berman’s words vary from the printed texts in the second verse, where he repeats the first two lines from the first verse.

Kegn gold fun zun

Advertisements

“Brider, Zog” by Sholem Berenshteyn

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Brider, zog (Brother, Say) is by the 19th century Yiddish poet Sholem Berenshteyn. No one seems to be sure of his life dates (and not even his first name – some say Shmuel) but he lived in Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, and died before 1880. In 1869 he published his collection Magazin fun yidishe lider far dem yidishn folk in Zhitomir, which was reprinted several times.

The best source for his biography is Zalmen Reisin‘s Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, volume 1. Reisin considers him one of the first Yiddish folkpoets and even the poet Mikhl Gordon („Maskhe‟, „Di bord‟) considered him a better poet than himself. As Reisin points out, his work sometimes touches upon typical maskilic themes (anti-Hasidic, Russian patriotism) but he mostly stays clear of them, and his most popular poems became songs with traditional themes such as Brider zog and Sholem-Aleykhem which the Bessarabian folksinger Arkady Gendler sings on his recording, released in 2001, Mayn shtetele Soroke, produced by Jeanette Lewicki.

The most extensive discusssion of the song Brider, zog is in Joseph and Chana Mlotek‘s book Perl fun der yidisher poezye which was recently translated into English by Barnett Zumoff as Pearls of Yiddish Poetry, Ktav Publishing. The song was originally titled Zmires has 15 verses; what was sung were the first four verses.

I have attached the Yiddish words and music in the version found in Z. Kisselhof‘s Lider zamlung far der yidisher shul un familye, St. Petersburg 1911 which is very close to the version sung here.

The unidentified singer is clearly more of a „pro‟ than we are used to hearing in the songs posted on this blog. But listening to her interpretation of khasidic song does raise interesting questions about the “art song” interpretation of khasidic style. The late, great Masha Benya, among others, comes to mind in this regard. This singer turns a song, which melodically could be quite boring, into an interesting performance.

I know this song from my mother, Beyle Schaechter Gottesman, who learned it from her mother, Lifshe Schaecther Widman, and the words as they are sung here are almost exactly the same (we sing „Ver vet lakhn, un khoyzek makhn…‟).

Thanks again to Lorin Sklamberg, sound archivist at YIVO, who allowed us to post another song from the YIVO Stonehill collection.

A folkslid…khsidish.
A folksong, khasidic.

Brider zog, vi heyst der tog,
ven mir ale zenen freylekh?
Der yidele, der kleyner, der kusherer, der sheyner
Iz dokh dan a meylekh.

Tell me brother what is the day called
when we are all joyous?
The Jew, the little one, the kosher one, the beautiful,
Then feels himself like a king.

Shabes aleyn, kimt tsu geyn,
Freyt aykh kinder ale!
Oy tantst kinder, yederere bazinder,
Lekoved der heyliker kale.

The Sabbath itself arrives,
Be happy all you children!
O, dance children, each on his own,
in honor of the holy bride.

Dos iz klor, vi a hor
az shabes is di kale.
Der khusndl der sheyner, iz nit keyner.
Nor mir yidelekh ale.

This is obvious as a hair,
that Sabbath is the bride.
The beautiful groom is no one else
but all of us Jews.

Un ver es lakht, un khoyzek makht.
Fun der kale-khusn.
Der vet take esn a make
fun der side-levyusn.

And he who laughs, and mocks
the groom and bride.
He will indeed eat nothing
at the Leviathan-feast.

o, brider zog….

“Ikh vel nit ganvenen” Performed by Sterna Gorodetskaya

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Dmitri ‘Zisl’ Slepovitch

I recorded Ikh vel nit ganvenen (I Will Not Steal) in Mogilev, Belarus, from Sterna Gorodetskaya, born in 1946 into the only Jewish family that got reunited after the war in the village of Komintern, a Mogilev suburb. 

Photograph of Sterna Gorodetskaya by Dmitri Slepovitch

Sterna is also the aunt of Yuri Gorodetsky, a noticeable young opera singer who was for while involved performing Yiddish songs and cantorial pieces in Minsk, taking part in Jewish cultural revivalist movement there.

It was amazing to hear this song from a person of Sterna’s generation. She sang the song to me in memory of her mother, and that was the first time she performed it since she was a child.

To realize why it is so unique in that context, it is important to mention that unlike Moldova or Ukraine where the Jewish tradition was preserved to a considerable extent throughout the Soviet times, Belarus saw a much more powerful wave of assimilation, including the loss of the Yiddish language, in the post-war time. Most of the songs sung to us in the course of our fieldwork had been hidden in people’s memory for decades.

The song per se adds to a number of other “thief’s songs.” Chaim Kotylanski included two similar songs in his book, “Folks-Gezangen as Interpreted by Chaim Kotylanski,” Los Angeles, 1944. The lyrics of one, Nisht ganvenen nor nemen, resemble Sterna Gorodetskaya’s version in the chorus (compare: “Kholile nisht ganvenen, nor nemen, nor nemen”), though it employs a dance-like or march-like melody set in a major key. The other song, Kh’vel shoyn mer nisht ganvenen, is closer melodically to Sterna’s, as both are set in the natural minor.  In “Pearls of Yiddish Song” published by Chana and Yosl Mlotek there is yet another variant of ‘Kh’vel shoyn mer nit ganvenen.

My trip to Mogilev in January 2008 was the first one to follow the untimely death of Nina Stepanskaya (1954—2007), my professor and colleague with whom I collaborated over a decade on the Litvak music culture research in Belarus. Like Sterna Gorodetskaya who sang this song in memory of her mother, I would like this posting to be a tribute to and a small sign of appreciation of Nina’s invaluable input into Jewish music studies.

Ikh vel gegayen in krom keyfn irisn
Un az ikh hob dikh lib, iz ver darf dos visn?
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

I will go to the store to buy some candies,
And whilst I love you, who should know about that?
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

Ikh vel gegayen in mark keyfn bar(u)n,
Un az ikh hob dikh lib, iz vemen darf dos arn?
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

I will go to the market to buy some pears,
And while I love you, whom should it bother?
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

Ikh af a shif un du af a lodke,
Un ikh mit a tsveytn un du in chakhotke.
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

I’m on a ship and you’re on a boat,
I’m with a buddy and you have consumption.
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

Ganvenen, ganvenen, zol dos nit zayn iker,
Un nemen a bisele mashke un take nit zayn shiker.
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

Stealing oh stealing should not be the principle,
As it should be to have brandy and not to get drunk.
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

“Tunkl brent a fayer” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

For more on Jacob (Yankev) Gorelik see the previous post on “A baysphil.” He sang Tunkl brent a fayer (“A Fire Burns Dimly”) in his apartment in the “Chelsea hayzer” (Penn south), on 7th avenue and 25th street in Manhattan, circa 1985.  This song about an “agune,” a women who was abandoned by their husband, is part of a genre of agune-songs in Yiddish. Chaim Grade’s Yiddish novel The Agunah (translated in English with that title) depicts the complexity of dealing with the agune, and the rabbinic disagreements over when to declare the woman free to remarry.

I believe one hears the influence of the great singer Sidor Belarsky in Gorelik’s singing, even when he sings his mother’s songs from his hometown. I have included the spoken introduction below because it was typical of how Gorelik would frame a song he was about to perform for a larger audience. It’s interesting how he implies that by attending the Yiddish theater, the immigrant was thereby just a short hop from meeting new women and abandoning the wife in the old country.

The scanned music and words are from the songbook Songs of Generations compiled by Chana and Yosl Mlotek. Gorelik had, apparently, sent Tunkl brent a fayer to the Mloteks  who ran a column “Readers remember” in the Yiddish Forward newspaper. Chana Mlotek continued to write the column  after Yosl Mlotek’s death in 2000.

A song of an “agune,” an abandoned woman, that I heard from my mother, may she rest in peace.

There was a time, the emigration, the great emigration at the beginning of the 20th century and earlier, and many wandered out to America. Towns were emptied out. Many women remained with children. They didn’t hear anything from their husbands. Some were faithful and sent over their most recent earnings to their wives; shared it with their wives and children.

Others forgot. In the “Golden Land” they forgot about their old home. They wanted a little joy and happiness and started to go to the theater; met other women and forgot that they had “an old home,” a wife and child. And such women were called “agune” – “she was connected” as long as the husband did not free her. And songs were composed on this on the spot.

I had heard such a song among the folk, and another one I heard from my mother, may she rest in peace. She had a golden voice when she sang. In general my mother sang minor-keyed (sad) songs.

“Yaninke” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Pete Rushefsky

One of the leading contemporary composers of Yiddish song, Josh Waletzky (b. 1948) grew up in a family that was deeply embedded in the secular Yiddish world of Camp Boiberik and the Sholem Aleichem folkshuln.

Photograph of Josh Waletzky by Jenny Levison

As Itzik Gottesman writes “Camp Boiberik was a secular Yiddish culture camp which existed from 1923 to 1979 near Rhinebeck, New York (the camp site is now owned by the Omega Institute). Camp Boiberik was part of the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute, a non-political Yiddish cultural organization with its center in New York and Sholem Aleichem Folk shuln (schools) in a number of states in the U.S. The Director and guiding spirit for most of Camp Boiberik’s existence was Leibush Lehrer (1887-1964), a leading Yiddish pedagogue, writer, philosopher and lyricist.” The camp took its name from a mythical vacation resort described by Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem.

Waletzky’s mother, Tsirl, was born in 1921 to parents who had immigrated to New York from Galicia. While her parents maintained a traditionally observant household, Tsirl became involved in the secular Yiddish movement, finding her niche as a visual artist.

Tsirl Waletzky at Camp Boiberik

Tsirl illustrated a large number of publications by secular Yiddish organizations such as the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute and the Arbeter Ring (Workmen’s Circle). Readers may be most familiar with Tsirl’s illustrations for the popular songbooks compiled by Khane and Yosl Mlotek for the Arbeter Ring, Mir Trogn a Gezang, Pearls of Yiddish Song and Songs of Generations. For many years, Tsirl taught art workshops at Boiberik’s adult resort.  Her artwork can be seen today in a number of museums.

Waletzky’s father, Sholom (1919-1975), was from a family active in the early years of the American Yiddish culture movement.  Sholom’s parents Moyshe (Morris) and Fradl (Frieda) were both from Mezritsh, near Lublin (in what is today Poland), but they met and married after immigrating to New York. Moyshe and Fradl were founding contributors to the relocated YIVO Institute in New York, the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute and Camp Boiberik.

Sholom Waletzky spent two years at the University of Wisconsin, but did not graduate. He enlisted in the Army during World War II, and after serving returned to New York to work in the plumbing trade for his father. Sholom joined the plumber’s union and once even picketed his father’s shop during a strike!  Later Sholom became a general contractor involved with renovation projects, and managed public works projects for the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey.

Sholom Waletzky

Josh describes his father as a “sponge” for songs. During the 1930s, Sholom even sang in a German chorus in New York.  He was known in the Sholem Aleichem community as an excellent singer with a wide repertoire, and was often called on to perform at programs as well as informally at parties, or at long singing sessions held at the Boiberik adult resort’s tea house.  He recorded an album of holiday songs for the Sholem Aleichem shuln.

Tsirl and Sholom met in the yugnt-fareyn (youth organization) of the Sholem Aleichem movement, and settled down to have three children (Josh is the middle child), first in New Jersey and then the Bronx.  Josh remembers Sholom frequently singing for the family in the home and on long car trips. Josh writes “my father’s transfixing Yiddish songs spoke to me directly of his inner life, even as they connected me to a communal past in Eastern Europe and the New York City of his youth.”

Passover seders were a showcase for the family’s song repertoire. Josh remembers many member of his grandparent’s generation having a particular song that they were known for, and could be expected to sing at the seder table .

Josh grew up with his family spending summers at Camp Boiberik, and there he continued to expand his own song repertoire and knowledge of the culture. At age nineteen, Josh was appointed Boiberik’s Music Director, a post formerly held by a succession of Yiddish music luminaries such as composers Lazar Weiner and Vladimir Heifetz, and musicologist Khane Mlotek.

Camp Boiberik, 1940s. Tsirl Waletky is on the left side of the front row; composer Vladimir Heifetz is third from right in the back row; Alfie Fogel, a sculptor and occasional lyricist, is second from right in the back row.

During eight years as Music Director, Waletzky was responsible for compiling and composing songs for camp programs, including the annual felker yontev (peace festival) and mit-sezon (mid-season) pageants, and Friday night and Saturday morning services.

He frequently collaborated with Fishl Kolko, Boiberik’s Culture Director, on developing new musical/theatrical material for the camp, and revitalized an older Boiberik tradition of writing original musicals for the camp. Though a secular Yiddishist, Kolko had a wide knowlege of East European Yiddish culture, including Hasidism. Kolko was highly influential in Josh’s musical development, encouraging him to create new musical settings of Yiddish poetry.

Josh continued to work at Boiberik during the summer while an undergraduate at Harvard and a graduate student in film at NYU. In 1970, he collaborated with Zalmen Mlotek to compose the musical Chelm, undzer shtetl (Chelm, Our Town), and later contributed a number of compositions to the 1977 album Vaserl (Water), both commissioned by Yugntruf-Youth for Yiddish.

In 1979 Josh helped to found Kapelye, one of the seminal bands of the early klezmer revival. Kapelye included a number of other pioneering musicians working to revitalize Yiddish music – Michael Alpert (vocals/violin), Eric Berman (tuba), Lauren Brody (vocals/accordion/piano), Ken Maltz (clarinet) and Henry Sapoznik (vocals/violin).  Josh is featured on vocals and piano on Kapelye’s debut album, Future and Past (1981).

During the 1980s Josh directed, edited and composed the scores for two acclaimed documentaries about Jewish life in eastern Europe, Image Before My Eyes (1981) and Partisans of Vilna (1986). The Partisans soundtrack co-produced by Waletzky was nominated for a Grammy.

Waletzky also directed the Oscar-nominated 1992 film Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann about the legendary Hollywood film composer, and edited the 1995 Emmy-award winning PBS documentary, In the Fiddler’s House, about violinist Itzhak Perlman’s explorations in klezmer music.

Waletzky’s 2001 album of new compositions, Crossing the Shadows (Ariber di shotns), reflected material he had developed over two decades, and stands alongside Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman’s albums as one of the most important contemporary contributions to the canon of Yiddish song.

Through a successful career as a filmmaker (including directing and producing documentaries about Schaechter-Gottesman and Yiddish writer Itche Goldberg for The League of Yiddish), Waletzky continues to compose, and is currently collaborating with younger musicians such as clarinetist/composer Michael Winograd.

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week (and the blog’s first video posting) is a performance by Josh of Yaninke, a song he learned from his father, Sholom. As Josh tells it, Yaninke is the first song he remembers learning from his father, perhaps because of the repetitive form.

Josh does not recall his grandparents ever singing the song, and speculates that Sholom learned it through the Sholem Aleichem movement. “Yaninke” is a Slavic name, and the narrative’s bucolic setting might lead one to suspect that it is a Yiddish version of a Slavic peasant folksong.

A variant of Yaninke, Oyf di vegelekh (On the Paths), was recorded by folklore scholar Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett in Toronto in 1969 from her cousin Mariam Nirenberg, and released on the 1986 album Folksongs in the East European Jewish Tradition (Global Village Music). YIVO published a folio to accompany the Nirenberg recording providing extensive biographical and musicological annotations prepared by Kirshenblatt-Gimblett with Mark Slobin and Khane Mlotek.

The folio authors identify three published collections containing variants of the song: “This song about Yaninka appeared previously in Lomir ale zingen 51, with a melodic variant, and in a mimeographed collection Lider vos vern gezungen in der arbeter-ring shul, Nov. 1937, no. 79 with a note that the song is from Russian. The same melody with other words ‘Oyf di felder vu s’veyen vintn’ (appears) in Beregovski-Fefer 456, Saculet no. 125.”  Nirenberg learned the song in the 1920s in Tsharnovtshits (Czarnawczyce, Poland), just across the Bug River from Brisk Litovsk (Brest, Belarus). An excerpt of Nirenberg’s recording follows:

I recorded Nirenberg’s version of the song with Boston-based Yiddish singer Rebecca Kaplan Muranaka on our CD Oyf di vegelekh/On the Paths: Yiddish Songs with Tsimbl (Yiddishland Records, 2004). We included a newly-composed instrumental entitled the “Yanyinke Sirba” as a “chaser.” You can hear our performance here:

And finally we have Josh Waletzky’s performance of Yaninke.  Recorded November 8, 2010 at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance and the Center for Jewish History’s program Josh Waletzky – Boiberik and Beyond: Yiddish Songs for the 21st Century. The program was presented as part of CTMD and CJH’s An-sky Institute for Jewish Culture Series.

Di zun in feld iz lang fargangen, (3x)
kumt Yaninke klaybn zangen. (2x)

The sun in the field has long set,
Yaninke comes gathering sheaves.

Es loyfn vegn iber vegn, (3x)
kum, Yaninke, zets zikh lebn. (2x)

Roads are running over roads,
Come, Yaninke, sit down next to me.

Ikh vel zikh lebn dir nit zetsn, (3x)
vayl mentshn veln mikh nit shetsn. (2x)

I won’t sit next to you,
People won’t think well of me.

Vos art es dir vos mentshn zogn?
Vos art es dir vos mentshn redn?
Vos art es dir vos mentshn zogn?
Loyf, Yaninke, khvel dikh yogn.

What do you care what people say?
What do you care what people talk?
What do you care what people say?
Run, Yaninke, and I’ll chase you.

Koym khap ikh dikh, dan blaybstu mayne. (3x)
Loyf, Yanyinke, bist a fayne. (2x)

If I catch you, you’ll be mine.
Run, Yaninke, you’re a fine one.

Az du bist a fayne, dos veysn ale, (3x)
kum, yaninke, zay mayn kale. (2x)

Everyone knows you’re a fine one,
Come, Yaninke, be my bride.

Waletzky additionally recalls a verse that he often performs as the opening verse of the song, though his father did not sing it:

Af di felder, vu di vintn vyeyen (3x)
geyt Yaninke korn zeyen. (2x)

On the fields, where the winds are blowing,
Yaninke goes sowing rye.

Below is a scan of the lyrics of Nirenberg’s version from the Kaplan/Rushefsky CD (typography by Ari Davidow, Yiddish keyboarding by Itzik Gottesman):