Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Fourth post: Sidor Belarsky sings Dem Milners Trern

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Dem Milners Trern, by Sidor Belarsky.

A word, if I may, about Sidor Belarsky (et al.):

I think I had promised last week to put up a fiddle tune, but circumstances have changed and I've been listening to this one in particular a lot. Sidor Belarsky was a Jew from southern Ukraine - not a Galitzianer (western Ukraine) like my grandparents, but hey, nobody's pecfect. ("Sidor" means prayer-book in Hebrew).

His opera singing so impressed a visiting president of the Mormon Brigham Young university (in Utah), that Sidor was invited to join the faculty as a professor of music.His career began in opera, but after some encounters with prominent members of various jewish organizations, he became an important collector and interpreter of jewish folk/litturgical music.

The composer, Mark Warshavsky, was an important Yiddish poet and folk musician of his day (late 19th, early 20th c.), and drew high praise from the great yiddish writer and cultural icon Sholem Aleichem.

The song:

I wasn't at all sure if this was a waltz at first, but the piano playing gives it away. What made me so uncertain about this peice is also what's so great about it: the dramatic changes in rhythm that almost entirely break the 3/4 time signature. More about that in a hot minute.

The song is a lament about the fate of the Jews in czarist Russia, whose expulsion is foreshadowed in the final vers: "di reyder dreyn zich, di yoyrne geyn zich, un oych mit zeyn git'oys der Yid" - "The years go by, the wheel turns along, and along with them go the jews".

Belarsky's use of rhythm changes is done to great effect. The rhythm slows almost to a halt at the end of each verse when he sings "di yoyrne geyn zich" ("The years go by"), and then picks for the final line of the verse, and into the piano rounds that punctuate the four verses.

I'm going to dedicate this post to my zayde, who's not well  right now and to whom I sang this song (and many others) last night in the hospital.

No comments :

Post a Comment