Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In Review: Milken Archive - "Legend of Toil and Celebration: Songs of Solidarity, Social Awareness and Yiddish Americana"

The past few days in the car, I’ve been listening to "Legend of Toil and Celebration: Songs of Solidarity, Social Awareness, and Yiddish Americana" which is Volume 12 in  Lowell Milken's Milken Archive collection.

This two CD set is a valuable collection of American Yiddish music, and it includes both folk music and concert works.

The entire collection is quite fascinating. Of particular interest is the Arbiter Ring seder, which makes up 12 of the 18 tracks on disc one of the collection. It includes numerous intriguing choices including settings of Hasidic Nigunim and American Jewish melodies with Yiddish lyrics; for example, a popular Israeli “Hinei Ma Tov”, the Breslov waltz melody, “A Gute Vokh” , sung  as “A Gut Yontef”,  and Seymour Rockoff’s well-known melody for Am Yisrael Chai is sung with the lyric “Gut yontef aykh”. The Peysakh Seder ties in perfectly with the collection’s themes of toil and celebration of freedom, and the Arbeter Ring in particular, is a perfect choice to illustrate these themes through the prism of the Hagada.

Another Egyptian slavery reference can be found in "In Dem Land Fun Pyramidn".

I found the section of patriotic American songs, most of which I’d not heard before, to be quite inspiring.  It includes Berlin’s “Give Me You Tired, Your Poor”, Gebirtig’s “Amerike, Mayn Vunderland”  and Weissner’s “Ikh Hob Dikh Lib, Amerike”. Weissner’s piece in particular, captures the feel and aesthetic of patriotic songs like “America the Beautiful”, while retaining a Yiddishe ta’am. Love for the New Country in the language of the old.

Fave tracks in this collection include Gozinsky’s “Yismakh Moshe” with piano accompaniment, Rosenfeld’s “Mayn Yingele” presented in a vocal chorus setting, Weissner's “Ikh Hob Dikh Lib, Amerike” with its very American piano part, and the entire Arbeter Ring Seder; especially – in addition to the above mentioned selections/adaptations --  the rousing “Tayere Malke” and the lively “Dayenu” in Yiddish.

There are also nice versions of Rosenfield's "Mayn Rue Platz"and  Low's "Viglid" here

This is a nicely curated collection that will expose you to an excellent cross-section of Jewish/Yiddish music related to the value of hard, honest labor and a celebration of the opportunity America offered to European Jewish immigrants.

Amazon has the collection here:

Album 1:

Album 2: