van Oort & Verheijen / Mayn Fayfele (my little flute)

Kind of a neat textual mishmash for a Tzadik cover van Oort & Verheijen / Mayn Fayfele (my little flute)
I-C-U B4-T CUP 8027, 2003

a division of Music & Words,
the Netherlands
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If there is anyone out there who loves Yiddish art song and has yet to listen to the wonderful voice of Mariejan van Oort or the sophisticated accompaniments of Jacques Verheijen, this is a perfect introduction. It is also a celebration of the music of Mordechai Gebirtig, containing not only well-known songs such as the opening "Shlof shoyn mayn kind", or "Kinder-yorn", but also new songs from a collection of recent finds, "Mayn Fayfele", released in 1997. The title of this "final, so far" collection of Gebirtig's poems also serves as the title of the album, the first the duo has devoted exclusively to Gebirtig.

Van Oort's voice is exquisite. On this collection, she moves from Gebirtig's portraits of childhood to the travails and joys of life, to his more political songs, "s'Brent" (fire!) or "der general-shtreyk" (the general strike). I have recently heard "Blumke" performed, but this duet with Verheijen on guitar (and voice) has driven the other out of mind. Following such a delightful "Come on Leo, Dance with me" in which a shy lad is encouraged to learn to dance the Charleston and other modern dances, one gets a picture of life in the first part of the last century that is indelible and precious. At the same time, "Mayn harts iz a novi" (My heart is a prophet) could be of any time that two people have been in love, and in the use of the familiar "du", could apply to any combination of genders. In that sense, perhaps, Gebirtig was even ahead of his time.

The 60-page booklet accompanying the CD is a treasure, as well, containing transliterations and english translations of each of the songs, as well as short introductions establishing context. There is also a short biography of Gebirtig, and a list of sources. Best, there is information on purchasing Verheijen's piano arrangements. Showed to their best advantage here with his accompaniment to van Oort's singing, they are likely to become the standard arrangements for this material.

What makes this all worthwhile, of course, is Mordechai Gebirtig's poetry. Better, perhaps, than any other writer, he captured Jewish life in Kazmierz and its surroundings, giving us a portrait deeper and more detailed than any history. His last songs, written from 1939 until his death in June 1942, capture the ending of that community. But, for every "in geto" about trying to sleep, filled with fear, "Thus you lie and the fear is tremendous / you hear a door creak / your heart shudders, when a hungry mouse / knaws at a piece of paper" there is also "A ziniker shtral" (a ray of sunshine):

'Get up, man, day is breaking!',
the ray tells me,
and warmly, with love, it hugs
and strokes me
'The springtime, the herald of peace,
soon under its glance fields will blossom
and the world will become light and free
for all, and also for you, Jews.'

Mariejan van Oort and Jacques Verheijen have fused Yiddish art song with Jewish life, itself. In choosing to do a program entirely comprised of Mordechai Gebirtig's folk songs they have found the perfect vessel with which to make that bridge. In listening, we are not only entertained by the music, but moved, and made aware of the life that is gone, the life that we, ourselves live, and of the amazing grace with which Gebirtig captured it all.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 7/3/04

Personnel this recording:

Mariejan van Oort: voice
Jacques Verheijen: piano, accordion, guitar


  1. Shlof shoyn mayn kind—Sleep well my child (words/music: Gebirtig, arr. Verhiejen) 3:18
  2. Reyzele (words/music: Gebirtig, arr. Verheijen) 3:53
  3. Mayn tate a kohen—My father is a cohen (words/music: Gebirtig, arr. Verheijen) 1:41
  4. Dray tekhterlekh—Three daughters (words/music: Gebirtig, arr. Verheijen) 3:43
  5. Fartogs in feld—At dawn in the fields (words: Gebirtig; music: Verheijen) 3:33
  6. Der general-shtreyk—The general strike (words: Gebirtig; music: Verheijen) 5:22
  7. Nokh a hoyz un nokh a hoyz—Another house and another house (words: Gebirtig; music: Verheijen) 3:54
  8. A royter tseykhn—A red sign (words: Gebirtig; music: Verheijen) 2:41
  9. Avreml der marvikher—Avreml the thief (words/music: Gebirtig; arr. Verheijen) 5:09
  10. Mayn fayfele—My little flute (words: Gebirtig; music: Verheijen) 4:05
  11. Kinder-yorn—Childhood (words/music: Gebirtig; arr. Verheijen) 3:51
  12. Kum leybke tantsn—Come on Leo, dance with me (words/music: Gebirtig; arr. Verheijen) 4:01
  13. Blumke, mayn zhiduvke—Blumke, my Jewish girl (words/music: Gebirtig; arr. Verheijen) 3:17
  14. Mayn harts iz a novi—My heart is a prophet (words: Gebirtig; music: Verheijen) 2:49
  15. s'Brent!—Our village is burning (words/music: Gebirtig; arr. Verheijen) 2:43
  16. Shifreles portret—Shifrele's portrait (words: Gebirtig; music: Ch. Milner) 1:47
  17. In geto—In the ghetto (words: Gebirtig; music: Verheijen) 3:52
  18. A zuniker shtral—A ray of sunshine (words: Gebirtig; music: Verheijen) 2:37

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