Yearly Archives: 2002


A Celebration of Jewish Music.

(This choral music article appears by permission of the World Zionist Organization. It first appeared on their website Hagshama.)

By: Ilene Bloch

Jews are a people of the Book as much as we are a people of the Note. The Musical Note, that is. We can trace the first Jewish choral work to Biblical times, where the entire nation made their choral debut in a paean to God for saving them from the hands of the pursuing Egyptians.

“My victory and song is G-d, that was my salvation.”
Ch. 15, verses 1-2, Shemot.

That can certainly help to explain the waves of passion and excitement that filled Tel Aviv’s Mann Auditorium during the Zimriya¹s, the world assembly of choirs, 50-year jubilee concert celebration that took place last month.…

The Book of Klezmer: The History, The Music, The Folklore

By Yale Strom

Yale Strom has written a book with enormous effort that supplies the reader with good access to extensive quotations by klezmer musicians, translations of previous scholarly works into English, 3 superb appendices, a bibliography, a very nice discography and an index. The purpose of the book is to give an overall history of klezmer music, with its growth in Eastern Europe and a look at the current scene and it’s meaning today.

Strom spent several years researching the material, conducting interviews of klezmer musicians in America and Europe, and having materials translated into English. Over a twenty-year period, he made some fifty trips to Eastern Europe doing ethnographic research. Details supplied by photographic plates and the extensive quotations from his interviews abound in the book.

A highlight of special note in this book is Appendix 1, “Klezmer Zikhroynes in di Yizker Bikher,” (Klezmer remembrances in the Memorial Books).…

Chanting the Hebrew Bible: The Complete Guide to the Art of Cantillation

By Joshua R. Jacobson

Precision. Thoroughness. Clarity. Devotion to Torah.

These are some of the thoughts that define my reaction to this new and excellent work by Joshua Jacobson, Professor of Music at Northeastern University in Boston, and Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts. This large guide may additionally properly be called a “handbook”, a “textbook” or a “teacher’s manual ” in the pursuit of learning to chant the Jewish holy texts with understanding and correctness. Accompanying the book is a CD with demonstrations of the te’amim chanted– featuring the pleasant voice of the author. An index to the sung examples is included in an appendix at the back of the book. This work can be used as a teaching tool or resource for professional or lay cantors, and other teachers of synagogue chant.…

Mordechai Gebirtig: His Poetic and Musical Legacy

Edited by Gertrude Schneider

A biography by Sara Rosen about Gebirtig (17-38) gives a very good picture of the life of the composer. Included in the book are songs with score, and poems and songs with only the texts surviving. Also included in the introductory section are pieces that the editor speculates are written by Gerbirtig.

Mordechai Gebirtig was a folk composer of Yiddish song who lived in and around Crakow, Poland, and died during the Holocaust. He was a poor carpenter who was self-taught in music and composed songs completely by ear, remembering them all in his head. Because he was illiterate in music, friends notated his songs. Despite the handicaps, Gebirtig’s (also spelled Gebertig) songs grew wildly popular and were picked up, even in the United States, to become part of folk, popular theater and sheet music repertoire.…

The Undying Flame: Ballads and Songs of the Holocaust

By Jerry Silverman

Subtitle reads: “110 Songs in 16 Languages with Extensive Historical Notes, Illustrations, Piano Arrangements, Guitar Chords and Singable English translations. Includes a CD of 14 Songs”.

The songs are in “Yiddish, German, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, Ladino, Greek, Norwegian, Czech, Polish, Russian, Hungarian and English.” Texts appear in each language’s transliteration and English translations. An introduction to each song is given. Often there are illlustrations or other documentation that accompany a song. Histories of the songs are given if known. Authors of texts and composers are attributed when known.

An announcement about this book on HaSafran from Aviva Astrinsky states that this is “a major collection of Holocaust music. Most of the songs have never appeared in print before. Over 300 pages.
The book is divided into three main sections:

  1. The Gathering Storm: 1933-1939
  2. Shoah: 1940 – 1945
  3. Kaddish: A Post-War Retrospective


Sephardisches Liederbuch (The Sephardic Songbook): 51 Judenspanische Lieder (51 Judeo-Spanish Songs)

Collected and edited by Aron Saltiel With Transcriptions and an introduction by Joshua Horowitz

The Sephardic Songbook is an academic work, based on original fieldwork taken between 1976 and 1996 in Bat-Yam, Sarajevo, Thessaloniki, and Istanbul among other places. The transcriptions are based on vocal traditions taken from informants, usually performed without any accompaniment. The book attempts to “be true to” the performance style of the informants. Standard notation is used. Harmonies are not provided in order to preserve the “modal character of most of the songs”.

An extensive and detailed introduction discusses the difficult issues surround vocal style, modal performance practicies, tempi, meter and rhythm, vocal ornamentation, microtonality and other factors affecting the true nature of the works.

The Songbook is completely bilingual in German and English, providing translations into both German and English for each song, as well as the text of the Introduction and the ‘Annotations’ description section at the back of the book.…