Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble / Vessel of Song: The Music of Mikhl Gelbart

Album cover: Interesting idea that somehow doesn't work. The Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble
Vessel of Song:
The Music of Mikhl Gelbart
, 2003

Album available via cdbaby.com/cd/lcahan2

And who better to bring to public attention the amazing Yiddish "folk" song repertoire of Mikhl Gelbart than Lori Cahan-Simon? After delighting us with an album of Passover songs a couple of years ago, Cahan-Simon returns to American secular Jewish roots and brings us an album featuring the music of Mikhl Gelbart, setting poems by many leading Yiddish poets to music.

Happily, this CD is not a lifeless document. Rather, Cahan-Simon's voice is accompanied by some of the best players of Jewish music around, many of them based in Cleveland (Steven Greenman, now is about to release his own CD, played in the world music band, Harmonia with Walt Mahovlich and Alex Fedoriouk - he of the serious cymbalom chops - for many years), with a couple of special imports, such as Henry Shapiro from nearby Pittsburgh, and Adrianne Greenbaum from Connecticut. The result is spectacular.

Not only do we have great kid's songs, such as the "Boys and Girls Medley," or the Gilbert and Sullivan-influenced "Musikantn", or the very appropriate as I type this, "Milkhome", but there are a wealth of secular Jewish holiday songs including one of my favorites - an entirely different, and very child-friendly, "Khad Gadyo". As the original generations of socialists who founded the Workmen's Circle (Arbeiter Ring) and many of America's unions have gradually assimilated, a new Jewish fundamentalism is often seen as the primary route to living Jewishly. Those of us who are active in Jewish community are aware of the wide continuum of Jewish observance, but even in today's Reform and Conservative synagogues there is little awareness of the this secular legacy, nor much awareness of its continuity and regeneration. Here, we go from the mournful Peretz poem, "Treyst mayn folk" (Comfort my people) to lovely celebrations of Purim, Shabes, and Chanukah.

The real treat, though, is the way we are made aware of this wonderful repertoire on such a beautiful recording. This is both a lively and delightful children's album, and a lovely, tuneful album for adult living. My only complaint lies with the liner notes in which the desire to present copious, well-written notes (excellent!) is lessened in effect by a layout that leaves too little white space (using a font with a narrower width is a better solution than having type bleed to the physical edge of the paper, if the desire for readability implied by having such copious notes is true - and there are other solutions, as well - there are excellent typographers in Cleveland!)

Typography aside, the listener/reader will be well-rewarded by working through the notes, which appear to have been meticulously researched and well-written. And the main point of all of this is the music which is a gift. One is eager that Ms. Cahan-Simon continue to record, and the next recording is waited with eagerness, even as this one remains on the CD changer for months.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5/1/04

Personnel this recording:
Lori Cahan-Simon: vocals
Adrianne Greenbaum: flutes
Alexander Fedoriouk: cimbalom, percussion, vocal
Walt Mahovlich: accordion, vocal
Steven Greenman: violin, vocal
Henry Shapiro: bass, vocal


  1. Urim burim: a purim lidl--a Purim song (lyrics: Y. Kaminsky) 2:01
  2. A gut yontev yidn--A good holiday to us (lyrics: J. Kaminsky) 2:21
  3. Treyst mayn folk--Comfort my people (lyrics: I.L. Peretz) 4:08
  4. Moyde ani--I give thanks (lyrics: Mark Schweid) 4:27
  5. Boys and Girls Medley 5:32
    • Dray yingelekh - three little boys (lyrics: Yisroel Goykhberg)
    • Arbet (mitn zegele) - work (with a little saw) (lyrics: Gelbart)
    • A yingele, a meydele (a little boy, a little girl) (lyrics adapted: Gelbart)
  6. Kumt ale in shul--Everybody come to school (Y. Kaminsky) 3:09
  7. Muzikantn--Musicians (lyrics: Gelbart) 2:26
  8. Geyen mir in shul arayn--we go to school (lyrics: Ayzik Platner) 1:57
  9. Khad gadyo--one kid (lyrics: I. Lukovsky) 3:08
  10. Chanukah Medley 3:43
    • Ikh bin a kleyner dreydl - I am a little dreydl (lyrics: Ben Arn)
    • Khanike-shpil (gut yontef aykh, kinder) - Chanukah play (Hapy Chanukah, Children) (lyrics: Shmuel Tsesler)
    • Dreydl (lyrics: Gelbart)
  11. Shabes--Sabbath (lyrics: Gelbart) 4:08
  12. Milkhome--War (lyrics: Avrom Reisin) 3:42
  13. A viglid (shteyt in feld a beymele)--A lullaby (in the field stands a tree) (lyrics: I.L. Peretz) 3:26
  14. In orem shtibele (Patshe, patshe, kikhelekh)--In a poor little house (clap, clap, little cookies) (lyrics: Moyshe Korman) 3:21
  15. A maysele (in himl shvimt a volkndl)--A little story (in the sky floats a little cloud) 4:21

All music by Mikhl Gelbart or adapted by Mikhl Gelbart

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