Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Friday, October 21, 2016

Ven der tants geyt on (While the Dance goes On), in which dancing leads to death.

Charles Harris wrote the original song "While the Dance Goes On" in 1894 or 1898. He was hoping to follow up on the success of his 1891 hit, "After the Ball."

For once Isaac Reingold (author of many of the gems on this site) stays close to the original in his Yiddish interpretation.

In Harris's song, there's a beautiful dancer with "no firm hand to guide her, no one to shield her from harm. She is alone, husband at home, while the dance goes on."

Her husband orders her: "You will not go to the ball, love, stay with our baby tonight." But, "What cares she for home and baby while she is queen of the ball?"

Well, as you might expect, "Home she approaches at last, there at the door meets her husband, whose sad tears fall thick and fast... There on its bed, baby lies dead, while the dance goes on."

You can just see these post-Victorian husbands wishing their wives were as docile as their mothers and grandmothers had been, in fact threatening the women with death if they try to have a good time.

Here's the version pianist Aviva Enoch and I did this week. Text and translation after the jump.

I find it very odd that the third verse has nothing about the dead baby at all. Maybe the printer got the verses in the wrong order.

Lang iz der tog shoyn fargangen
es heyln di tentser tsum ball
Es hern zikh muntere klangen
Dos ruft men di porelekh in zal
es vebn zikh goldene troymen
Bay yede "farlibte" perzon
Es klapt yedns herts
Fun freyd vi fun shmerts
Ven der tants geyt on

On shteyt dort an alter fun vaytn
zayn ponim tsaygt raykhtum un glants
Dokh, vos zol zayn ziftsn badaytn
vos nemt er keyn eynthol in tants?
Den er zet vi zayn hertsens-gelibte
Tantst mit a tsveytn perzon...
es brent in zayn herts
a fayer fun shmerts
ven der tants geyt on

Freylekh shpiln di klezmer, in dem groysn zal
Freylekh klingen di tener, es hilkht oyf iberal
Freylekh zaynen di tentser, libe sphilt in kon
Fil hertser blutn, ven der tans geyt on

"Libste! vi kenstu shpatsirn,
vi kenstu farlozn dos kind?
Vi ken dikh der bal amuzirn
ven krank iz di beybi atsind?"
Nor ir kimert veynik di beybi
ir kimert veynik der man
es helft nit zayn "neyn!"
Dos kind blaybt aleyn
Ven der tants geyt on

Dort hert zi fil komplementn
khnifes vifil dos herts geglust
a fremdn a nit-lang bakantn
drikt zi mit freyd tsu ir brust
Dort halt baym shtarbn di beybi
Do tanst zi mit yenem perzon
Do shpirt zi keyn noyt
Dort ligt dos kind toyt
Ven der tans geyt on!


"Nem mikh gelibter in arem
Fir mikh aroys funem zal"
"Zis iz dayn libe un varem
mit dir vel ikh geyn iberal
kil blozt a vintl in gortn
mir kenen genisn derfon...
"zis iz dayn kus, himels genus
ven der tants geyt on."

Di libe tsebrent zikh in flamen
un shpeter bavayzt es der fal
ven zey kumen vider tsuzamen
farbrengen amol tsu a bal
zi falt gants oft in khaloshes
im varft a tson in a tson
"ir" brent der shmerts
"im" klapt dos herts,
ven der tants geyt on

The day has long been over, the dancers are hailed to the ball.
Cheerful sounds can be heard calling the couples into the hall.
Golden dreams are woven by every beloved person
Every heart beats from happiness or misery
When the dance goes on

An old person stands there, his face reflects riches and splendor.
What might his sighs mean, why is he not interested in the dance?
Then he sees how his heart's beloved is dancing with another man...
A fire of misery burns in his heart while the dance goes on.

The musicians are playing gaily in the big hall.
The sounds are pealing merrily, everywhere the music resounds.
The dancers are happy, playing at love.
Many hearts are bloodied when the dance goes on.

"My dear! How can you stroll, how can you leave your child?
How can the ball amuse you when your baby is now sick?"
But the baby doesn't worry her much, neither does her husband.
His "No!" doesn't help, the child remains alone while the dance goes on.

There, she hears a lot of compliments, as much flattery as her heart desires.
She cheerfully presses a stranger, recently met, to her breast.
There, her baby is about to die, here, she dances with each person.
Here, she feels no distress; there, her child lies dead.
While the dance goes on.

"My dear, take my arm, take me away from the hall.
Sweet is your love, and warm, I'll go everywhere with you.
A cool breeze is blowing in the garden, we can enjoy it...
Your kiss is sweet, heaven's enjoyment, while the dance goes on."

The love is burning, in flames, and later the situation is revealed
When they come together again enjoying themselves at the ball
She often falls in a faint, throws him a tooth in a tooth?
Heartache burns her, his heart beats while the dance goes on.

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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