What treasures still remain alive but buried in frail memory!
During my regular Skype date with my mother this week, she mentioned having remembered out of the blue a snip of a song from her youth. She sang the first few lines to me. The melody was a little wobbly in that way that melodies get when we struggle to remember them, but the bits that she had were lovely, as were the words.
The first two lines were: Zun in mayrev, zetst zikh gikh. Vos darf nokh a mentsch vi ikh? And the answer, Lider, lider. A web search yielded the following poem, by Joseph Rolnick:
I’m not sure that picture of a screen shot of a webpage will be clear, even if you click to enlarge it. The following website not only has the poem, but also a transliteration and a translation: Link to YidLid Zun in Mayrev page
It turns out the tune is by Vladimir Heifetz. Heifetz was music director at Camp Boiberik, where my mother went as a girl, and where she undoubtedly learned the song. But Heifetz was a well-known conductor, composer, arranger and songwriter far beyond his role at the camp. His work ranged from collecting folk tunes, to writing choral music, to scoring movies and plays, and probably more that my quick research missed.
I couldn’t find a recording of Zun in Mayrev, but (again, according to the Yidlid webpage) the tune is taken from the title song of the play Grine Felder. Heifetz reused his own melody in setting the poem, or else put new words to his composition for the film. I have no idea which.
By coincidence, my friends will be reading Peretz Hirshbein’s Grine Felder and watching the film up in Rochester for their reading group this fall. I will be thinking of them, and I offer these alternative, and beautiful, words to Heifetz’s melody, for their enjoyment.
Note: The picture below is from a blog post about Josh Waletzky, on the blog The Yiddish Song of the Week. [https://yiddishsong.wordpress.com/tag/secular-yiddish/]. With apologies, I didn’t see a name to whom to credit the photo. It shows Vladimir Heifetz, second row center, at Boiberik in the 40s, when my mother would have been there.