This holiday season, as Hanukkah approaches Sunday, I offer this song, with a solemn wish for unity, peace and sweet memories of family, and those who’ve gone before us.
Rozhinkes mit Mandlen
Based on a traditional Yiddish lullaby
Arranged by Abraham Goldfaden
for the 1880 musical Shulamis
“Though Rozhinkes mit mandlen is usually attributed to Avrom Goldfaden (it appeared in his 1880 operetta called Shulamis), Goldfaden was reworking a well-known Yiddish folksong with numerous variations. One example is “Unter yankele’s vigele” (Under Yankele’s Cradle).”
“Rozhinkes mit mandln opens with the widow, Bas Tsioyn, sitting in a corner of the Temple in Jerusalem. She is rocking her son Yidele (a name that also means “little Jew”) and singing of his future: He will find himself flung across the world and his calling will be to trade in raisins and almonds.”Read more about the song here: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/community/articles/raisins-almonds-shavuot
DISCOVERING A CLASSIC
LISTEN to Rozhinkes here
I first heard Rozhinkes mit Mandlen in 1996 while researching music for a folk-cabaret Michael Smith and I were creating, based on the stories and songs of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the brave battalion that fought as part of the International Brigades. Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War would see many live performances, radio appearances, and is one of our most beloved recordings. We recorded Pasiones, with my niece Katrina on piano, in front of a live audience at WFMT Studio in Chicago in 1997. Michael and I did a radio interview about Pasiones with Studs Terkel, and it was Studs who wrote our CD liner notes. We performed Pasiones for the last time in 2011 on WFMT’s Folkstage series.
(Read about Pasiones here https://www.jamieoreilly.com/projects/pasiones-songs-of-the-spanish-civil-war/.)
Listening to Lincoln Brigade veteran Max Parker’s Al Tocar Diana: At the Break of Dawn, on cassette, (issued in 1982 by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings), I was struck by the beauty of Rozhinkes, which was included among many songs I came to learn. and love This song was well suited to the timbre of my lyric soprano range. Singing it became a dramatic point for me in our show. A nurse is caring for a dying soldier, who asks her to sing him a lullaby. Our track starts with Michael’s lovely Martin guitar accompanying me for a verse, Katrina enters on a piano for the lilting “Ay” section.
Chicago’s cultural scene in the mid-nineties was a joy to be part of. A group of performers (myself included) whose interests went beyond formal classical music or musical theater, were getting a hearing in the public programming at the Chicago Cultural Center. And being paid! Among us were Sima and Arnold Miller, whose performance of Yiddish songs was revered. https://www.amazon.com/Sima-Miller-Arnold-Concert-Recital/dp/B06X9YJR37
I was also taken with the singing of Martha Schlamme https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/schlamme-martha (née Haftel; September 25, 1923 – October 6, 1985) who was an Austrian-born American singer and actress, whom I’d heard on Studs Terkels’ radio program. Her repertoire and style inspired me to expand my musical palette, to integrate art song and folk music. She performed in over a dozen langauges, giving the songs genuine mood and depth. (I just learned she too recorded Rozhinkes.)
Inspired by these pros, I was coached for the recording by my friend, musician Stuart Rosenberg (who had produced Yiddish Theater, and produced our Pasiones recording). I learned the Yiddish, approaching it as I did the artsongs I’d tackled in music school.
In my nearly 40 year professional career, in addition to my native English, I have sung in Olde English, Gaelic, Greek, Latin, Russian, Hebrew, Swedish, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Ladino, Portuguese, Yiddish and Catalan.
Pasiones had songs in six languages!
You can hear my recording of Rozhinkes on radio from time to time. Folk D.J. Sue Kessell plays it on WNUR’s The Folk Show. I included it in WinterSong, a homespun compilation I released in 2014.
Here are the lyrics and Max Parker’s translation.
Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen (Yiddish)
In dem beis hamikdosh in a vinkl cheider
Zitst di almone bas tzion aliein
Ihr ben yochidl yidelen vigst 5i keseider
Un singt ibm tzum shlofn a lidele shein.
Unter yidles vigele, shteit a klor vais tzigele
Dos tzigele is geforn handlen, dos vet zain dain beruf
Rozhinkes mit mandlen. Shlofzhe, yidele, shlof.
Raisins and Almonds (Translation)
In the temple in a corner sits a widow holding her baby and
singing a lullaby. Under the cradle a baby goat is resting.
Soon the goat will be taken to market to be sold. The money
raised is to be used to feed the baby, but the mother dreams
that someday her baby may have more than the bare necessities,
that he may have raisins and almonds.
Raisins and Almonds (Yiddish: ראָזשינקעס מיט מאַנדלען, Rozhinkes mit Mandlen, is a traditional Jewish lullaby popularized in the arrangement by Abraham Goldfaden (1840-1908) for his 1880 Yiddish musical, “Shulamis”. It has become so well known that it has assumed the status of a classic folk song. It has been recorded as both a vocal and instrumental by many artists over the years, including Itzhak Perlman, Chava Alberstein, Benita Valente, and Ella Jenkins. It is a common lullaby among Ashkenazi European Jews (Ashkenazim). This song has multiple translations and multiple versions, which have slight changes in both Yiddish and English lyrics. (Wikipedia)
Al Tocar Diana: At the Break of Dawn: Songs From a Franco Prison, Max and Mary Parker . 1982
Released by Smithsonian Folkways. 1982. https://folkways.si.edu/max-parker/al-tocar-diana-at-the-break-of-dawn-songs-from-a-franco-prison/historical-song-world/music/album/smithsonian
ALB Vet Max Parker
In 1937, Max Parker joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in support of forces loyal to the Republican government of Spain during the Spanish Civil War. He was captured by fascist forces supporting Generalissimo Franco and detained with other American, English, and Latin American prisoners of war at San Pedro de Cardena. This album records his remembrances of his time in the prison and the songs the prisoners sang to keep their spirits up. Parker and wife Mary provide the narrative that accompanies many of the songs. Songs are sung by Parker in Spanish, English, Russian, Hebrew, and Yiddish. The recording includes a facsimile of the original 73-page liner notes.
Over the holidays, Jamie will be with family, singing and celebrating. Stay tuned for information about her Mid-Winter program: Serenades, Lullabyes and Lovesongs, in February.
Photography by Iwona Biedermann
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