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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

S'iz do a sod derbay (There's a Secret Here) Yiddish theater song from 1908

This is the third in a row from the show A mentsh zol men zayn otherwise known as Abraham Hashkenazi, "The success of three leading New York Theaters: Windsor, People's and New Star." It was written by Herman Wohl and Arnold Perlmutter with words by Anshel Shorr.

It was sung by Bernard Bernstein, who I wrote about recently. He was one of a trio of stars whose pictures appear on the cover of the sheet music the other two being Kalman Juvelier and Regina Prager, each of whom has been featured in this blog.

I couldn't find a period recording, so here is me singing it this morning in super-minimalist fashion:

I recently saw a long and charming article about Regina Prager in the online Museum of Family History. She was born in 1866 in Lemberg. During a Friday night fire in the house her mother was burned to death, and the young orphan was sent away to a nearby village, where it was discovered that P. possessed a very beautiful voice. She joined an opera choir. She held herself aloof from everyone, as she did throughout her career, remaining at all times a pious Jewish daughter.

Supporters wanted her to get the chance to study opera, but at that time Abraham Goldfaden came to Lemberg and convinced her that on the non-Yiddish stage she would come to play roles in which she would have to make the sign of the cross. This had such an effect on her that she gave up her aspiration to become an opera singer.

After several attempts to get her to come to America, Berl Bernshtayn, convinced her and she emigrated in 1895. Bessie Thomashefsky wrote that Prager's success was enormous. Before every performance she said: “God, don’t humiliate me!”

Yiddish lyrics and translation after the jump.

S'iz do a sod derbay

Mayn fraynd Mister Sheyn iz orem geveyn
Koym gehat a tog iber tsu lebn bin ikh 'sure.'
Gearbet in saloon eyn mol kum ikh on
Zogt er mir az fun yetst on iz er der boss dort gor
"Fun vanen hostu gelt genumen?" Dan entfert er mir 'plain':
"In 'country' iz gor dort der boss di gantse tsayt geven."

S'iz do a sod derbay oy oy a sod derbay
Dertseylt volt ikh dos nor es iz nit glaykh
Ikh mish zikh ober nit tsu zen vos yener tit
Vos veyniker ir veyst gezunter iz far aykh.

A meydele sheyn nokh gants yung geveyn
Hot zikh gor farlibt in zeyer an altn raykhn man
Boyes yinge on shir yogn zikh nokh ir
Un zi hert zey vi di kats, zi vil dem altns zayn.
"Vos nemst du beser nit a yingen? Der alter shtarbt dokh bald!"
"Dos zol dikh nor mayn fraynd nit arn, zay nor nit keyn yold!"

My friend Mr Sheyn was poor, I'm sure he hardly had enough money to get through the day.
He worked in a saloon. I went in once, he tells me from now on he's completely the boss there.
Where did you get the money? He answers me plain:
"The boss has been in the country the whole time."

There's a secret here, I'd tell it but it's a bit irregular.
But I don't mix in when it comes to what others do...
The less you know the healthier it is for you.

A pretty girl, quite young too,
Fell completely in love with a very rich old man.
Endless numbers of young boys rushed after her,
But she payed them no attention, she wanted to be the old man's.
"Why don't you choose a young fellow? That old guy will die soon!"
"Don't worry your head about it, my friend, don't be a chump!"

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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