Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Friday, May 8, 2015

Dos lid fun nokh dem fayer fun di korbones fun 33 Washington Place

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, March 2011The fire memorialized in this song, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, took place on March 25, 1911. 146 workers, mostly immigrant women in their teens and early twenties, died from the fire or from jumping out the windows.

The song sheet says: "sing to the well known melody She is More to be Pitied than Censured." I found the dissonance between this tragic text (by Charles Simon) and the sweet old-fashioned America tune so jarring I almost couldn't sing the song, but here it is (click to listen).

There are two other songs in the American Yiddish Penny Song collection set to this tune. One I recorded last week, "A froy in mayn shikzal iz shuldik." The last is about the death of Franz Joseph. Aviva Enoch plays the piano part.

Tsi gedenkt ir dem umglik vos hot getrofn
In monat Merts vos iz geven
Fun kleyn biz groys zenen gefloygn gelofn
Tsu dem fayer vos es iz geshen
Di fayer layt zenen ongekumen
Mit vaser payps mit pikes in di hent
Tsu der arbet hobn zey zikh shnel genumen
Un retn hobn zey nit gekent

Oy a trer darf yeder mentsh fargisn
Af dem groysn khurbn vos es iz geven
Vi der fayer hot kinder fun eltern avekgerisn
Aza umglik zol mer nisht geshen
Fun der tsentn flor zenen zey geshprungen
Zikh tsu retn fun der biterer noyt
Dokh iz zey nebekh nit gelungen
Un af dem sayd-vok gefinen zey dem toyt

A yeder mentsh hot dem umglik shoyn fargesn
Ober di eltern zey kenen nit
Dem groysn flam fun zeyer herts oysleshn
Zey felt zeyer kind zeyer fleysh un blit
Kinderlekh vos hobn ersht ongefangen tsu blien
Un kales vos hobn badarft tsu der khipe shteyn
Hobn zikh af dem fayer gebrotn geglit
Mit zeyere oygn hobn zey dos tsugezen

Fil brif iz fun a muter ongekumen
Tsu ire bakante un tsu ire fraynd
Tsu ire bruder vos hot ir kind aribergenumen
Do in dem goldenem land
Zi shraybt brif mit blutike trern
Vos tsu brekht a yedens herts
Vos lozt ir mikh fun mayn kind nit hern
Vos farshaft ir mir azoy fil payn un shmerts?

My translation after the jump:

Do you remember the calamity that took place last March?
From small to big, they flew and ran to the fire that was taking place
The firemen came with water pipes and pikes in their hands
They swiftly got to work but they couldn't save anyone

Oy, one should shed a tear for the great destruction that took place
How the fire tore children from their parents
Let such a disaster not take place again
They jumped from the tenth floor to save themselves from the bitter emergency
But of course they weren't successful
And on the sidewalk they found death

Everybody's forgotten this disaster already
But the parents, they can't extinguish the great flame from their hearts
They miss their child, their flesh and blood,
Children who were just beginning to bloom
And brides who should have been standing under the marriage canopy
They were in the fire tortured, burned up
With their eyes they saw this
Many letters arrived from a mother to her acquaintances, to her friends,
To her brothers who'd brought her child over here to the Golden Land
She writes letters with bloody tears to break anyone's heart
"Why don't you let me hear from my child?
Why are you making so much pain and heartache for me?"

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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