Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Uptown, Downtown (though it really should be Fun downtown, uptown) - Jews leave the Lower East Side

I found this song in a little printed collection of Rumshinsky songs.



The more famous song from this 1917 show is "Fifty Fifty."

This mini-description of Jewish upward mobility one is so short, it seems incomplete. Probably it led right on into another song or maybe a dance or something.

Boris Thomashefsky wrote the words and produced the show. The original libretto was by Zishe Kornblith.

There evidently was a Victor recording with Anna Hoffman and Jacob Jacobs singing the duet, in 1919, but I didn't find their recording.

Here's my recording from earlier today:



You'll find "Fifty Fifty" in the Milken Archive, which dutifully and correctly transliterates the title of the show as Op-to'un un da'un-to'un. Neil W. Levin's synopses of Yiddish theater shows are, in my opinion, the high point of the Milken Archive. Go read what he has to say about Uptown and Downtown here...

... but to summarize, Thomashefsky plays Khayim Yosi Plotkin, a poor cabinetmaker who invents a 'combination bed' [?], gets rich suddenly, changes his name to Gustav Plato, becomes a banker and businessman, and moves his family uptown to a mansion with maidservant and a supposedly Japanese butler.

One of his daughter is engaged to marry "Baron Geoffrey West" of London, who claims his grandmother and Queen Victoria once looked through a makhzer (prayerbook) together. The butler (actually not Jewish but instead, a Litvak in disguise) recognizes the Baron as a poor Jewish waiter he knows.

And Khayim's brother Abie is about to lead a strike at one of Khayim's businesses! Due to a life-changing nightmare of the previous night, Khayim gives in to the strikers’ demands, on condition that the workers promise to pray at the new synagogue he intends to found. And in the end, the family decides to live downtown again in their old neighborhood.

Words and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.



Ale ale in eynem in a hoyz a sheynem
Mir veln tsuzamen gliklekh zayn
Mir veln zikh firn net un fayn.

Ale ale in eynem in a hoyz a sheynem
Mir veln zikh firn net un fayn
Ale gliklekh zayn.

Fun downtown, uptown! Vu es voynen bloyz ashirim!
Fun downtown, uptown! Zikh firn vi g'virim!
Fun downtown, uptown! Mir veln dort arayn.
Landslayt veln undz mekane zayn, yo yo!

All together, in a pretty house
We'll be happy together,
We'll comport ourselves comfortably.

All as one, in a pretty house
We'll be comfortable, we'll all be happy

From downtown, uptown! Where only the rich live.
From downtown, uptown! We'll behave like the wealthy.
From downtown, uptown! We'll move there.
Our homies will envy us, yes!




For sheet music and/or performances contact me: jane@mappamundi.com

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