Here you will find information, song files, some audio and video links for all our past sessions in 2021, sessions 90 - 110. For sessions 1 to 90, which were held in 2020, please go to this page.

In spring 2020, I was teaching Sing With Me daily. Every fifth day or so we had a concert with musicians joining me from various parts of the world: Lorin Sklamberg from New York, Efim Chorny from Moldova, Vanya Zhuk from Moscow, Joshua Horowitz from San Francisco, Merlin Shepherd from Brighton UK and a few others. You can watch these concerts too. Enjoy them on our youtube playlist.

Sing with Me 124, 3 November 2021 - Yiddish song session. 

There are quite a few Yiddish songs about good in-laws and here is one of them. This one was collected by S. Kaczerginski and published in  his book of Yiddish songs and poems Dos Gezang fun Vilner Geto (The Song of Vilna Ghetto) in 1947. It was widely sing in Riga during the 1920-1930s. In Rod Arayn - Join the Circle - is a dance song with a lovely hora melody. Listen to M. Alexandrovich's recording from 1968:

Hm... and this is a curious version by the Leipzig Synagogue Choir - I wonder what you think:

Song sheet: In rod arayn

Sing with Me 124, 3 November 2021. Russian song

Kalinushka is an old lyrical song about the yearning of a young soldier for his home, recorded by A. Listopadov from the peasants of the village of Budaevo, Krasnoslobodsky district, Penza province, Kalinushka was first published in the "Proceedings of the Music and Ethnographic Commission" in 1911. WATCH THIS for the most beautiful folk version. Here is also a choral version by the Alexandrov Ensemble, 1939:

Song sheet: Oy da ty Kalinushka

Sing with Me 123 - 11 October - Russian song

Today we speak about and sing a song of a very special and fun genre in Russian folklore. It’s called the Chastushka. Chastushkas occupy a special place in Russian folklore from the last quarter of the 19th century. It’s been one of the most popular genres among the urban workers and the rural peasantry. There are several types of Chastushkas, and today’s song is called Stradanye ("Sufferings"), like its type of song itself. Stradanya are usually two-line verses about love sung slowly, in a drawn-out manner. They are always about love - meeting, parting, intrigue. Stradanya songs are similar to folk lyrical songs but often these chants have a comic character, in which the depth and beauty of feelings is shyly hidden behind a joke and ridicule. Song sheet for today: Stradanya

Listen to Olga Kovaleva's Saratov Stradanya:


Sing with Me 123 - 11 October - Yiddish song

A Kholem is a known Yiddish lyrical song, published as early as 1901 in Ginsburg and Marek’s song lyrics collection. The melody is also known a zmire, a religious song to a text of the Torah. Folk musician Leon Schwartz remarked that this zmire, Menukho Vesimkho (‘Repose and Joy’), was performed during meals on the Sabbath to provide a break between courses. When it is played instrumentally and in a faster tempo, it is also a klezmer khosidl, of course, meant for dancing. Today we explore the lyrical side of it… well, maybe not that lyrical, if you listen to Abraham Rosenstein's recording from 1917.

... also, maybe it’s not just lyrical, if you listen to Adrienne Cooper singing it:


Song sheet for today: A Kholem, for Yiddishists, you may want to explore the beginning of the old text from Ginsburg & Marek's collection: 1901 Ginsburg Marek_Evreysk_pesnA Kholem 1st page


Sing with Me 122 -  27 September RUSSIAN SONG 

Today's session will be dedicated to one of the sunniest Russian classical composers Alexander Alyabyev and his romance "Solovej" (The Nightingale). He had a piano in his prison cell.He wrote this most famous piece, a ballet, sonatas and lots more being in confinement. He fought in the Russian Imperial Army during the Napoleonic War and he won two high awards as an officer. His Art song The Nightingale, is one of the top show pieces for operatic sopranos all over the world. Despite the operatic character, it has entered Russian consciousness a folk song. Why? Let's sing it and find out.
Song sheet for today: Alabjev Solovej


Sing with Me 122 - Monday 27 September YIDDISH SONG 

Often called one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Yiddish poet and Partisan fighter from Belorussia, Abraham (Avrom) Sutzkever (1913–2010) wrote poetry from the age of 14. He never stopped, even when living in Vilna ghetto in 1942-1943 - there wrote more than 80 poems.
Sutzkever’s works have been translated into English, Swedish, French, Hebrew, Polish, and other languages.
In this session we’ll sing a song composed in the 21st century to one of his deepest and beautiful poems, Who Will Remain. There is at least one more melody to this poem but Evgenia Lopatnik's one has already become part of the international Yiddish song repertoire.
Song sheet for today: Ver vet blaybn
Hear Sutzkever read his poem here
Here is Adrienne Cooper talking about the song and singing it.


Sing with Me 121 - Monday 13 September - Russian Song

Today we will sing a Russian historic song for the first time. We will learn and explore the musical language of a folk song is based on events of the Russo-Turkish War of 1787- 92 during the reign of Catherine II the Great. Despite it's historic content, it is in the style of the Russian Protyazhnaya - a sad “drawn-out song. The protyazhnaya was a “splendid form of melismatically decorated song set to poetry of great expressive power and lyrical intensity", - said the founder of the Russian opera M. I. Glinlka.
A version of this song was publishes in a book from 1778, it has a lyrical text along with the historic one. The historic version is also identified as a song by the sailors of the Russian Imperial Fleet.  As with many folk songs, there are plenty of versions but they all have the beautiful feature of the protyazhnaya song: endless phrases with a melody stretching the words to last each a whole line... Song sheet for today: Ne bushuite

Valery Zolotukhin's version (he was a great Soviet actor, I think this one is very expressive):

Sing with Me 121 - Monday 13 September - Yiddish Song

Amazing things keep happening because of Sing with Me. Recently, one of our regular singers,Beth Dwoskin, introduced me to a very interesting figure in Soviet Yiddish music, Rivke Boyarska (1893—1967). Playing through one of her song books, I discovered a melody that I brought to Sing with Me as a nign which I collected in Kazan, Tatarstan, back in 1992. The old man who sung it to me remembered it as a wordless song. And here was the original - a lullaby written by Rivke!

Rivke Boyarska created musical interpretations for poems by Leyb Kvitko, David Hofshteyn, Itsik Fefer, Shmuel Halkin and others. She also created 40 song-texts of her own with original melodies that were sung in Yiddish schools and on cabaret stages. Some of her melodies were also recorded (phonograph-records) for example by Nehama Lifshits (the lullaby, “Babi Yar”, text—Sh. Driz). She was also very involved in the publishing of a Yiddish journal Soviet Homeland... Today we sing two songs from her song book "Klingen Hemerlekh", 1925. Song sheets: Shlof ayn lyalke Rivka Boyarska , Es Flatern Bleter

Hear Sidor Belarsky perform one of them:

3 June - our final session before the summer break. Sing with Me 120, Russian songs

If you've been to folk dance camps and danced to a Russian tune, you probably heard today's song. It has become a bit kitsch in the past decades but in fact it has very old, if not ancient, roots. Belolotsa Kruglolitsa (White-faced, Round-faced Girl) was first published in 1778 in The Collection of Russian Simple Songs with Music by V.F. Trutovsky. The song describes an archaic magic ritual of a love spell performed by a girl to return her beloved, who is not allowed to see her by his mother. The viburnum (guelder rose) in the song is a reference to a bride, and the entire first part of the song has a direct connection with the ancient traditions of the wedding ceremony. A lot of the language of the song is very much influenced by ancient Russian epic ballads (Byliny). In most of the songbooks, Kruglolitsa Belolitsa is marked as a dance song, and only in a few cases – as a Protazhnaya (“lingering song”). Here is the sheet for today: Belolotsa Kruglolitsa

Listen to a beautiful choral performance:

Here is a balalaika version from 1905:

We will also sing the rest of the songs from this run: Utushka - Little Duck with translation Em 2 parts, Polubila ja na pechal’ svaju, Otrada, Osen' Prozrachnoe Utro


Monday 31 May – SWM 119 – Yiddish songs

Today is our final Yiddish session in Sing with Me. I am bringing you a new folk song from the M. Beregovsky song collection. It was part of my Vocal Quartet Ashkenazim's programme A Yidishe Gas (2000) but I haven't seen it performed or taught anywhere else in the world. Maybe this is because it is too dark and poignant: it talks about "lying with the feet to the door". Hm... I could only teach it on a day like today when we can cheer ourselves up afterwards - we will sing all the other Yiddish songs from this run: A Doina Berdichever , Tumba Mlotek's Mir Trogn a Gezang, Shostakovich lullaby plus folk, Lapsthes sheet. Song sheet for today: Shlogt der zeyger eyns


Thursday 27 May – SWM 118 – Russian song

Tango Autumn (1939) was composed by Vadim Kozin, whose voice you know from SWM 32, 69 and 82. He was an amazing Soviet artist. During his life, he experienced peaks of fame, but also complete oblivion and imprisonments. Born in St. Petersburg in 1903 from a merchant and a woman from the well-known gypsy choral dynasty, he came to fame as a startling singer of tango and Art songs during pre-Stalin time, in 1930-1940s. His repertoire had over 3000 songs, about 300 of them were his own creations.

Once Stalin was in power, purges of musicians began to take place. It is believed Kozin was arrested for his homosexuality and ‘anti-USSR activities’. He served his time until the end of the Second World War and finally in 1953 he was released just after Stalin’s death. However, he was still banned from the European Russia and worked as a singer in Magadan and on the borders of China and around the Arctic circle.

When the USSR began to heave and split in the 1980s, Kozin suddenly became visible again.  In 1993, the Magadan authorities prepared a magnificent 90th birthday party for Kozin, a grand six-hour concert at the theatre, complete with celebrities flown in from Moscow and St Petersburg on specially chartered aeroplanes. Choirs sang and officials prepared to present birthday gifts to a throne set up on stage. Kozin had sung on thousands of stages in every corner of the country, under every Soviet government for three generations. The proud artist decided not to come but to stay at home, having a little drink with friends. In the same year, Russia decriminalised homosexuality. Kozin died not long afterwards, at the end of 1994.

Here is a wonderful article about Kozin with lots of video and audio links: “Searching for Vadim Kozin, the Soviet tango king” By Monica Whitlock, BBC World Service. Song sheet for today:  Osen' Prozrachnoe Utro

Hear the beautiful Kozin's performance of Osen':


Monday 24 May – SWM 117 – Yiddish song

Today we sing about love and ...footwear. Yiddish folk song Laptshi was popular in Poland in the 1930s and is based on a Russian folk song. Everyone in Russia knows what lapti / laptshes (plural) are - bast shoes, national footwear.  Braided sandals, worn by peasant population not only of Russia, they were shoes for Finnish peoples, the Balts and the Slavs. Lapti have been used since prehistoric times: they were found in the excavations of Neolithic and in Yiddish song! Song sheet for today: Lapsthes sheet

Listen to the Russian original by David Medoff with an orchestra, Columbia Records, 1945:

Here is Dora Wasserman singing the Yiddish song:



Thursday 20 May – SWM  116 – Russian song

Today's song, Otrada - "Отрада" (My Darling), is based on the poem by Sergei Fedorovich Ryskin (1859-1895) Udalets (1882), is traditional songs in the so-called Russian Gypsy repertoire. 

The song is based on a real story that happened in the town of Kovrov, Vladimirsky province in the late 1830s. A merchant’s son Nikolai and a daughter of a nobleman Nadya passionately fell in love. The noble family categorically refused Nikolai because of his lower class. Having received the consent of his beloved, with the help of friends, the young man kidnapped the girl from her father's house. A fast troika brought the bride to a nearby village, where they were married in the local church. In those days, marriage between people of different social status, made without the parents' blessing, and even by kidnapping, was considered outrageous. This scandalous event stayed in the memory of local residents for a long time.

In 1879, 19 y.o. poet Sergei Ryskin came to the town of Kovrov to study at the railway school. In 1882, sitting in one of the drinking establishments located on the Kuznetsky Most, on a napkin, he wrote a poem that began with the words "My joy lives in a high tower". The poem was published in the popular newspaper The Moskow Page". Ryskin significantly embellished the legend he heard in Kovrov. He made the main character a daring robber chieftain who intends to secretly take away a young beauty - sweetheart from a rich, but hateful old husband. Song sheet for today: Otrada

Listen to a brilliant performance by a Soviet Gypsy singer Nikolai Slichenko here.

Hear a recording from 1939: Tamara Tsereteli and two guitarists, N. Alekseev and V. Sazonov: 


Monday 17 May – SWM 115 – Yiddish song

From Sholem Aleichem to Shostakovich - and back!

One of Shostakovich's most exciting works, the From Jewish Folk Poetry, op.79, was created quite by accident. In the summer of 1948 the composer was passing by a bookstore and in the window he noticed a book of Jewish songs published only a year before then, in 1947. He was curious to find folklore unknown to him. The book was "Jewish Folk Songs". Collection. Compiled by I. M. Dobrushin, A.D. Yuditsky. Moscow, 1947 and contained poems translated from Yiddish into Russian.

Shostakovich finished his vocal cycle "From Jewish Folk Poetry" – 11 songs - very fast, by October, but it didn’t go any further than his desk. The Campaign Against Cosmopolitanism launched in the country that very year and Shostakovich was right in the line of fire. The public premiere was impossible until January 15, 1955, when it was performed by Shostakovich himself on piano with Nina L'vovna Dorliak, Zara Dolukhanova and Alec Maslennikov. Listen to the lullaby here.

The Lullaby (number 3 in the cycle) is based on a folk poem, but the “folk” poem itself is based on poem by Solomon Rabinovich, better known under his pen name Sholem Aleichem, was a leading Yiddish author and playwright. His “Lullaby” was published in 1892. There are several folk songs known to this day and published in various collections with variants of this poem. Here is a folk version in Ruth Rubin Archive.

Several attempts to set the Shostakovich’s cycle back to the original Yiddish have been made. Today we'll sing the lullaby in Yiddish. Song sheet for today: Shostakovich lullaby plus folk

Here is the Yiddish version of the Shostakovich, recorded in 1998 -1999 in Moscow at the Mosfilm Studio:

Thursday 13 May, SWM 114 - Russian song 

Today we are exploring a very special Russian art song by Sergej Rachmaninoff.It has a deliberate and very obvious connection to the tradition of Russian folk lamentations and weeping songs. The simple plot (the lyrics only has 8 lines) is about separation: a young woman’s loved one is taken away to be a soldier. Apart from the melody itself, the accompaniment imitates gusli - a folk string instrument.
“Polubila ja na Pechal Svaju” - Have Grown Fond of Sorrow is part of a vocal cycle. The Six Romances, op. 8, are all composed to the lyrics of on the verses of A. Pleshcheev, a famous Russian poet. Interestingly, all the poems of this cycle are translations from poets fro other cultures, including H.Heine, J. W. Goethe and T. Shevchenko, one of the founders of a Ukrainian poet, folklorist and ethnographer... Song sheet for today: Polubila ja na pechal’ svaju

Here is a classic version by a Soviet singer Tamara Sinyavskaya in 1986:

Here is a choral version by the Mikhailovsky Theatre in 2014:


Monday 10 May – SWM 113 – Yiddish song

It is not a great surprise that in folklore we hear the same melody with several texts, but today’s song is a bit of a special case. The two versions of the lyrics have no connection to each other. The context in which they would have been sung are and by whom are worlds apart. It is hard to recognise their closeness unless you bring them together: then we see that the tune it is exactly the same.

One of them a well-known folk song Tumba, first published in the collection of poems by Moshe Beregovsky and Itzik Pepper from 1938, and all sing the same text, which is a sign of its relative novelty for that time. Here it is in the Ruth Rubin archive.

Here is the wonderful voice of Martha Schlamme, an Austrian-born American singer and actress:

The other one is a Hasidic song Gevalt zhe brider, published in various editions in the collection of poems of Shaul Ginzburg and Pesach Marek's St. Petersburg in 1901. Here is a folk recording in the Ruth Rubin archive. Watch the modern Hasidim perform in in a very rich way in 2019 here. Sheet music for today: Tumba Mlotek's Mir Trogn a Gezang and here is the lyrics for the Hassidic version: Gevalt zhe brider 

Here is a classic version by Shlomo Carlebach:

Here is a recording by Evgenia Lopatnik', a lovely singer originally from Kharkov, Ukraine:


Sing with Me 112 is on Thursday 6 May – Russian song

We start our Russian strand with one of my favourite Russian songs of all times "Утушка" - Utushka - Little Duck. In Encyclopaedia of Epic Poems and Songs, Book of songs collected by P.V. Kirievsky, 1911 – 1929 it is marked as a wedding ritual song collected in the Moscow region, Zvenigorodsky area in village Voronki. The song has elements of lamentation and is very expressive, which is probably why many classical composers  turned to this song in their compositions: Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Arensky and others. My choirs recorded it with me on CD 15o Voices, where I am trying my best to use the musical language of ritual lamentation (here is a fragment). This song has so much depth musically, historically, emotionally - let's explore. Song sheet for today: Utushka - Little Duck with translation Em 2 parts
Listen to a different melody of Utushka sung by village folks for style:

Listen to the Tchaikovsky's quote of our song in his opera "Oprichnik":


Sing with Me 111 - 3 May - Yiddish song

We start our Yiddish strand with a beautiful slow song A Doina by Z. Berdichever where a shepherd is encouraging musicians to play and offers them cash (or not?)... This is as Yiddish-like as it gets, it talks about klezmorim, mentions all sorts of Jewish music genres (a volekh, a doina, a zhelye) and even a special kind of cheese - brynza. Song sheet for today: A Doina Berdichever

Listen to a fragment by Efim Chorny and the Klezmer Alliance here:

Here is a wonderful version by Zinovy Shulman, with this song called "A shepherd plays a volekh".


Monday 12 April Sing with Me 110 Yiddish songs

Our final Yiddish song in this run is about drinking. Red wine, white wine, beer... This is not necessarily a happy song but let's have a drink anyway and make it a happy one. My quartet recorded an a cappella four part version in 2021, little did we understand of the depth of this poem back then. Song sheet for today: Royter Vayn solo

Also, we will sing all our other Yiddish songs from this run. Here they are: A sheyner tog - a beautiful day, Kegn gold fun zun, Volt Ikh hobn Gilderne FliglenIkh vel aykh gebn tsu derklern Yula 2 versions

Thursday 8 April SWM 109 Russian song

One of the founders of Russian classical music, Miliy Balakirev, collected and published folk songs and brought them to his classical music and encouraged others to do so. In conjunction with critic and fellow nationalist Vladimir Stasov, in the late 1850s and early 1860s, Balakirev brought together the composers now known as The Five (a.k.a., The Mighty Handful) – the others were Alexander Borodin, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Today's beautiful wedding folk song Ne bylo Vetru - "Не было ветру" appears in his overture Rus' (another name - "1000 Years"), Larghetto. Have a listen here.  How different is it from the folk versions below (not exactly the same melody but variations)? Let's explore! Song sheet for today: Ne bylo vetru short

This is our last Russian session in this run so apart from a short new song we'll revise all the previous songs from this run: U nashego svata, Neudachnoe Svidanie, Kogda b imel zlatye gory, Oy Bliny


Monday 5 April SWM 108 Yiddish song

A Beautiful Day, A Spring Day is the name of our today's Yiddish song - and it is Spring for lots of us in SWM! This song is also known with a title Memories (Zikorn). The composer is unknown but the lovely poem was written by Jacob Adler (1873–1973!), a poet and humorist. Adler was born in Dinov, Austria-Hungary (now Dynow, Poland) and immigrated to the US in where he worked in sweatshops, agitated for socialism and wrote nostalgic poems about the "old country".  The song was popular in the 1930s in Poland. Interestingly, it was published in a songbook Mir Zingen in 1948 by the MEDEM Center, Paris, through the Union of Jewish Socialist Children.

Source: Songs of generations: New pearls of Yiddish song., New York E.G. & Mlotek, J., 1995. and National Library of Israel.

Song sheet: A sheyner tog - a beautiful day

Here is a lovely performance by Burgin Yechiel, one of the soloists from Khor Vilna:

Thursday 1 April SWM 107 Russian song

Today is the April Fool's Day so we'll sing a fun wedding song about a matchmaker whose wine is watered down and whose house is made out of straw. There are numerous variations of this wedding theme from all over Russia, Belarus and Ukraine but all of them have a common element – they always tease the matchmaker and bring fun to the celebration.

Here is an example. Arriving at the bride's house, the groom’s party would find the gate locked. Comic negotiations of the matchmaker and male friends with the bridesmaids would begin over the fence. After this, the gates would be opened, and the bride's wedding party followed. The bride was received by the groom. They gave the bridesmaids sweets, beautiful fabrics, bright ribbons and money. As a token of gratitude, the women sang “koritelnye” (comic, teasing) praising to the matchmaker. “Our matchmaker has a hut made of straw! The stove is made out of pies and covered with pancakes. There is a puddle in the yard and we'll drink heavily!”
Today’s song is also from Russia and it is a dance song with similar jokes made towards the matchmaker.
Here is a very interesting version of this wedding song (1989) from the Nekrasov Cossacks, called Old Believers because of their religious beliefs. Whoever can guess the second language here gets extra points. Song sheet for today: U nashego svata

Here is our version played by a virtuoso bayan (button accordion) player Vasily Volchenko:


Monday 29 March SWM 106 Yiddish song

This week Jews are celebrating Peysakh (Passover), and singing cumulative songs is one of the main musical attributes of this celebration. A cumulative song is a formula song that tells a story in each stanza of which another detail is added to what has come before. In my school years we all studied This Is the House That Jack Built  - then I didn't know these songs existed in various folk traditions. Interestingly, one of the two most sung Peysakh songs, Ehad mi Yodea, possibly has roots in a German song Die zwoelf heiligen Zahlen. These songs are also called “formula songs", “counting songs”, “chain songs” and “pattern songs.” 
Today we are singing a wedding cumulative song, a version of which was first published by S. Ginsburg and P. Marek on 1901 with a nice string of riddles. Our version comes from the Ruth Rubin collection. There is also a slightly different version in the Mlotek's Songs of Generations. We'll compare the tunes and check our times tables. Here is the song sheet: Ikh vel aykh gebn tsu derklern Yula 2 versions

Listen to a YIVO recording Sam Tropower, NYC 1955:

Listen to a beautiful version by by Susan McKeown & Lorin Sklamberg ( CD Saints & Tzadiks )

Thursday 25 March SWM 105 Russian song

In the 1930s Soviet critics of tango warned the public of a new danger: "Variety tangos have switched to the foxtrot." Despite the General Repertoire Committee claiming that there were “no prerequisites for foxtrot in our social environment, in our everyday life,” the fashion for this “dance degeneration” nevertheless penetrated the USSR. The composer of today's song A. Tsfasman was repeatedly criticised for foreign sounding repertoire, but his popularity allowed him to get an official position - head of The Jazz Orchestra of the USSR Radio. In 1937 Tsfasman wrote his best known foxtrot “An Unsuccessful Rendezvous”. The dance had already been accused of being “a salon imitation of sexual intercourse”, so perhaps for the sake of demonstrating sheer innocence Tsfasman used this very simple and lovely lyrics by Boris Timofeev. Song sheet for today: Neudachnoe Svidanie

Listen to the Tsfasman Orchestra with a trio of singers (1937)


Monday 22 March SWM 104 Yiddish song 

Today we sing a very positive song, looking forwards and moving on to a better future: Kegn Gold fun Zun - Toward the Golden Sunrise. Lyrics by Shloyme Lopatin (Lopate). Shloyme Lopatin was born in Belinkove, Ukraine. A real labourer, a Red Army soldier and an amateur poet, together with a group of wanderers, in 1924 he settled on the land in a Jewish colony in Kherson district, then from 1929 studied in Odessa where he published his first songs in 1928 in the Kharkov Yiddish journal Prolit. He is known for his poem Ikh, der yidisher muzhik (I, the Jewish Russian Peasant), which became a folk song. His reputation as a poet is mainly “a peasant poet” and his work reflects the time of great hope for the Soviet Jews and all the Soviet people for a better future.

Yiddishist Itzik Gottesman writes: “Apparently it was a well-known song in the 1930s- 1960s; however, the only recording of the song that we are aware of is on Ruth Rubin’s 1940s 78 rpm recording Ruth Rubin: Jewish and Palestinian Folksongs and among the field recordings in Ruth Rubin’s collection (tape 81) found in YIVO and other archives. Gottesman also published a recording by folksinger Chaim Berman with lyrics slightly different from the printed versions. “ Song sheet for today: Kegn gold fun zun

Hear Ruth Rubin's version with a choir:

Thursday 18 March SWM 103 Russian song

When D.Shostakovich was writing his symphonic for a Soviet propaganda film "Mountains of Gold" in 1931, he decided it would be appropriate to quote a known folk "romance" with that name in one of the first scenes. This was one of the first quotes of this sort in Soviet cinema. "Mountains of Gold" has been sung for over 150 years in many variations but rarely do we hear the actual ending of this tragic ballad. A young woman gets taken away from home and abused by a man who sends her back home after a year, paying for her love with a horse and a beautifully decorated saddle. What happens in the end? Nikolay Butylin, an amateur Russian writer and blogger, recorded a full version of the song from his grandmother Elena Filippovna, who, as he says, used to sing it at family gatherings. We'll learn this less known (and much more pleasing !) ending of the song today. Song sheet for today: Kogda b imel zlatye gory

Listen to these very different and very interesting versions.
  • A choir of Vladimirskiy rozhok - Russian wooden horns and a folk recording from a village in Omsk region:


Monday 15 March SWM 102 Yiddish song

In today's Yiddish song Volt ikh hobn Gildene Fliglen we sing: “If I had golden wings, I would fly over to you. If I had a quill and ink, I’d write to you. If I had a golden ring…”

This sounds perfectly like a folk love song. The sad lyrics express the longing and the suffering of someone who cannot marry the person they love because - we assume knowing folklore – of their poverty. There is a sad nign following the verses, all sounds familiar and clear. Here is the thing. The author of this song is Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk (1730?–1788), an early leader of Hasidic Judaism. Hm... Surely, he wouldn’t write a love song like that.

The Hassidic name of this song is Nigun “Outpouring of the Soul”. Here is what a modern Chabad misic activist Chana Gitl-Erish writes: “As we know from the early work of Hasidic philosophy Tanya, the sages call love and fear wings, without which the service of Gd does not reach heaven. The image of a chariot means the image of a body and an animal soul, completely controlled by a person, like a charioteer driving his own transport. The image of a horse with a saddle has approximately the same symbolism of matter controlled by the spirit. Feather and ink ...were perceived by the righteous as a tool for preserving valuable information and reflection based on its "motives". The ring is a symbol of marriage (?? - P.S.) It is no coincidence that almost all of the items listed in the poem are gold. The 50th chapter Tanya tells about the highest kind of love for Gd, which surpasses the rest of its varieties just as gold is more valuable than silver.”
Let’s sing it and explore where it takes us. As I say, everything is about love, it only depends how high you want to get on it ;-).


Thursday 11 March. Sing with Me 101 - Russian Song 

We are starting with a celebration! This week is the Russian Maslenitsa, the tradition that dates back to pagan times, when people would bid farewell to winter and welcome spring. As with many ancient holidays, Maslenitsa (the stress being on the first syllable) has a dual ancestry: pagan and Christian. On the pagan side, it was celebrated on the vernal equinox day. It marked the welcoming of spring, and was all about the enlivening of nature and bounty of sunny warmth.
On the Christian side, Maslenitsa was the last week before the onset of Lent (fasting which precedes Easter), giving the last chance to bask in worldly delights. We'll sing a couple of traditional songs to celebrate.

Our first song sheet is here: My dumali Maslenke. Listen to a few village groups recordings:

Here is our second song: Oy Bliny. Listen to a group of singers from a village in Perm region:


♦ Thursday 18 February - SWM 100 - Russian songs ♦

How did we get here?!! After the session we'll have a party open to past and present SWM singers. Come to the session and stay or just join us for some socialising after the usual session time. Bring a drink (or a bottle!) to celebrate! 

For our 100th session, I've decided to take us back to my grandfather's book of the Old Russian Romance which I remember sitting on his piano for as long as I knew him. The book is as old as I am and my whole family used to enjoy playing and singing from it.

"I met you" is one of the most loved Russian Art songs and, of course, it is about love: "Not just the memories, for sure, / It is my life that talked to me, / And you still have the same allure, And in my soul I still love thee..." Well, after 99 sessions you - Sing with Me group - still have the same allure, and in my soul I still love you all!

The original title of the lyrics is "K. B.” And is addressed to Baroness A. M. Krudener.  Tyutchev, the poet, met the Baroness in 1822 in Bavaria, Munich, and became fascinated with her. Who the author of the melody was had been considered lost for a long time, however, now it is considered to be V. S. Sheremetev. The romance is preserved in the memory of the singer Ivan Kozlovsky (b. 1900), who recorded it by ear and performed it in Soviet times. In 1898 his melody was arranged by A. A. Spiro and it was this version that Kozlovsky heard and remembered.

Listen to this classic - ! -and stunning recording by Ivan Kozlovsky:

Sheet music for today: Ya vstretil vas


Monday 15 February - SWM 99 - Yiddish songs

In the middle of the 19th century the Russian tsars unleashed a war against Chechnya and Dagestan, trying to subordinate them to their colonial policy. The resistance of the maintain people of Caucasus was led by Shamil who ended up chained and sent into exile in 1858. A hundred years later, Lubavitcher Rebbe Korol Moshiach told the story of Shamil and explained that thoughts of past greatness, the desire for freedom and the hope of an early release from prison. This reflects the Chassidic concept of the soul's descent into our physical world in order to purify the soul and bring the divine light into the day to day life.There is no information on how this nigun got to Chabad but it is now known as Nigun Shamil.

Sourse for the nign: Hana Gitl.

Sheet music for today: nigun Shamil Chabad 302-600

Please bring our other Yiddish songs from SWM Winter term: Tsvey gitares shpiln oys, Zumer Nakht Zumerdike Nakht, Zn in Mayrev 3-4 parts - Score, Yoshke Fork Avek, Shik mir a shtral Send Me a Ray of Light


Thursday 11 February - SWM 98 - Russian song

Today our singing is dedicated to literally lifting our spirit: for the first time in Sing with Me, we are going to dip our toes into the genre of the Russian Spiritual Verse. Spiritual Verses (in Russian, “dukhovnye stikhi”) are old folk songs with a religious content; one of the forms of the folklore in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Their lyrics are mostly from literary sources: the Bible, The Saints’ Lives, church hymns, and legends but they are simultaneously works of folklore, with its characteristic motifs, rhymes.We will sing three different melodies of Ne Unyvaj Dusha Moya – "Не унывай, душа моя" – Don’t Despair My Soul - a folk psalm, a spiritual verse Jagnitsa village, Cherepovetsky region, all based on the original Psalm: 41:6: "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Trust in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance."  (Церковнославянский (рус): Вску́ю приско́рбна еси́, душе́ моя́? и вску́ю смуща́еши мя́? упова́й на Бо́га, я́ко исповѣ́мся ему́, спасе́нiе лица́ мо¬его́ и Бо́гъ мо́й.)   Song sheet for today: Ne unyvaj dusha
Listen to these three very different recordings of  Ne Unyvay:



Monday 8 February - SWM 97 - Yiddish song

A Yiddish song with a Gypsy melody and a Russian origin… - the history of this song takes us on a 164- year long  journey.

Appolon Grigoryev’s longer poem “A Gypsy Hungarian” (A Hungarian is a type of dance from the 19th century) describes a particular Gypsy choir performance which made a great impression on the authour. The choir was led by Ivan Vasilyev and soon after that their included a Romance with a fragment of this poem. So they co-wrote it in a non-direct way. The song made its way into Russian culture and spread all over Russia in a multitude of versions.

A century later, Moshe Sahar, a Polish poet, who lived in the USSR after the war and then ended up in Israel, wrote a free Yiddish translation of this song. This version was popularised by a David Eshet (Eisencraft), a Ukrainian born singer of Russian, Israeli, Yiddish and popular songs. It was included in his cycle of Soviet songs in Yiddish - Forbidden Songs - recorded during the Six Day War (1967). More recently, a Berliner Karsten Troyke, a Swedish actress Basia Frydman and many others have sung it.

Having gone through countries, languages, oppression and lots of change, this song still carries great emotional power, passion for love and music.  Song sheet for today: Tsvey gitares shpiln oys

Here is the original recording by David Eshet:

Listen to Karsten Troyke here.

...and here is a recording in Russian made in New York by Iza Kremer with Misha Berkovich on violin and Vladimir Heifetz on piano in 1924.


Thursday 4 February 2021 - Sing With Me 96 - Russian song

The first wave of tango reached Russia via Europe in the beginning of the 20th century. In 1914, St. Petersburg News reported that "Paris is now called the capital of tango", and "Russian Word" wrote about "an epidemic that is raging in Europe and is called Tango" ... At the same time, "Petersburg leaflet" enthusiastically reported that in the capital "shop windows are completely filled with tango (orange) fabrics… and everywhere you hear - "tango"! The operetta "Tango Princess" was already underway, books on tango on display in bookstores.

After the revolutions in 1917, tango went underground of seventy years. It was considered an example of the decaying bourgeois culture by the officials. Still, tango made its way to songs and recordings, films, especially among independent musicians, who often risked their careers or even their lives. It has become a symbol of freedom for Russians and was extremely popular amongst Russian emigrants.

Today we sing one of the most famous Russian tangos from the 1930s. It has a clear connection both in music and in lyrics to the Russian Romance and – most importantly – it’s about LOVE! Song sheet for today: Tango I love Lublu

Listen the original recording of Tango I Love / Lublu sung by Georgy Vinogradov and the Jazz-Akkordeon Ensemble in 193

Sing with Me 95 - Yiddish song 

Last time we sung a song which was a dialog between a young couple before separation. Today's song is from the same genre, also a dialog and also about the young man having to go to the army. M. Beregovsky collected this song from a female worker in Odessa in 1930. Ruth Rubin collected another version of this song from a lady called Dora Tomchin in Toronto in 1954. I liked the first two verses of the folk poem and wrote my own melody 11 years ago. I am bringing all three of them to you. Song sheet for today: Zumer Nakht Zumerdike Nakht

Listen to the Ruth Rubin collection recording, sung by Dora Tomchin:

Listen to my recording with a big clarinet solo (CD Civilisation, 2010):


Sing with Me 94 - Russian song

Today we explore a folk song which has known authours and has gone into opera.

The lyrics is a modified poem by Anton Delvig, a Moscow-born poet from a Russified Baltic baron family. He studied at a private boarding school, then at the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum. He is known to us by his connection to the Decembrist movement (1815 – 1825).

Mikhail Glinka's writes in his Notes in 1829: “Delvig wrote me a romance Not a Drizzling Autumn Rain. I later took music to these words for Antonida’s Romance“ I’m not grieving about that, friends … in the opera A Life for the Tsar”. In Glinka's notes, it should be performed by two tenors and a bass, accompanied by a musical instrument. Others wrote music for this text too. Our version of the song became popular in the first half of the 19th century. It is mostly sung with a melody similar to Glinka’s tune.

  • Listen to the song performed by the great Fyodor Chaliapin (1911)
  • Listen to the Alexandrov Choir:
  • Watch and listen to the Glinka's Antonina's Romance from A Life for the Tzar here

Music file for today: Ne osennij melkij dozhdichek


Monday 25 January - SWM 93 - Yiddish song

Yoskhe Fort Avek – Yoshka is Leaving. Greek, Jewish, Romanian, Assyrian, Armenian? Where does it come from?

The multiple versions of the Yiddish lyrics mainly depict a scene at a railroad station where Yoshke, who has been drafted into the czarist army, is about to board a train for boot camp.

The most common opinion on this song is that it originated from a Greek song Mangiko. Mangiko ('Little Mangas Girl') is a song of the “cafe-aman” tradition, and it is about burning desire, nothing to do with traihns and army... Most sources also tell us that Actor and vaudeville performer Aaron Lebedeff wrote lyrics to is during the 1904–05 Russo-Japanese War.

Musicologist Martin Schwartz tells us that the version sung in Vilna in 1904 – 1905 is with lyrics about the induction of a criminal and the tearful goodbyes of his girlfriend. He further considers the melody as one 'of the family of Moldavian Jewish tunes' and also traced Armenian and Syrian versions of the melody. Folk musicians in Transylvania swear it is their tune. 

Curiously, there was apparently a real-life “Yoshke”, a Russo-Japanese War hero Yosef Trumpeldor. Both right-wing and left-wing Zionists regard him as a hero. As a 24-year-old draftee, Trumpeldor lost an arm in Manchuria, in the battle of Port Authur, for his role in which he was decorated four times and promoted to captain, making him the highest-ranking Jew in the Russian army. After his demobilisation, he went to Palestine and worked as a pioneer in farming settlements in the Galilee, and when World War I broke out, he helped form the Zion Mule Corps and served with distinction as its deputy commander at Gallipoli. He was truly, in the words of our song, "der shenster in der rote" -  the finest soldier in whatever unit he was in.

With multiple versions of the lyrics and music (including a Yiddish hora version of the tune played in ¾), this song is a real example of cross-border folklore. Here are a few examples:

  • Greek, Georg Savaris, 1927, from the Kounadis Archive
  • Classic Yiddish version by Abe Moskowitz, 1922 - here
  • Ruth Rubin sings it too, with a name  Bak mir nit kayn bulkelekh, listen here.
  • Transylvanian:
  • Metropolitan Klezmer Band, a medley of the Greek and Yiddish versions on their first CD, Yiddish For Travelers, listen here.



Thursday, 21 January SWM 92 Russian Song  

Oy To ne Vecher is one of the first choices for Russians to sing at a table has its roots in 17th century. This song is about Sten’ka Razin, (Stepan Timofeevich Razin) a Cossack – of – Don leader who led a major uprising against the tsar in southern Russia in 1670.

Sten’ka Razin has a weird dream in which his horse, his hat and even strong winds around him cause him trouble. A high ranking Cossak - a yesaul – a wise old man tells him that the dream means that he’ll be dead soon. Of course, we know what happened to Stenka Razin’s uprising and that he himself was captured and brutally executed on the Red Square in 1671. Still, he became a legend and a symbol of freedom with numerous songs about him still sung all over Russia.

1880-s. One of these songs, called Stepan Razin’s Dream, was collected by Countess Alexandra Armfelt-Zheleznova, a well-known famous Russian Art Song composer. Her husband served in the Urals and collected this song from an old Cossack. It got published in St. Petersburg in 1899.

In 1949, another composer, a student of Dm. Shostakovich Galina Ustvolskaya wrote the epic for voice and symphony orchestra "Stepan Razin's Dream", listen here. 

At around 1975 a famous Russian singer-songwriter Zhanna Bichevskaya wrote her own melody to the song text and claimed it to be folklore. The song has become extremely famous in USSR. Around 2012 Bichevskaya publically admitted that the melody was in fact hers.
Unfortunately, the folk tune became less and less known but we are bringing it back in Sing with Me.

Listen to this fantastic interpretation of the song by the Russian State Sveshnikov Choir.

Song sheet for today: Oy ne Vechor fragment

Here is the full version of the ballad by from a 1936 publication for the curious ones, in Russian only. Oy ne vechor full song Russian 1936 Ой не вечор


Monday 18 January - SWM 91 - Yiddish song 

Welcome to our 2021 sessions. We are starting with a song from an unknown authour. I know it from the wonderful Arkady Gendler z''l, a legend and a source of Yiddish song for a whole generation of Yiddish singers, born in Bessarabia, whose first language was Yiddish and who remembered lots of Yiddish songs. This one is a tango and a cry for hope. Shik Mir a Shtral - Send Me a Ray of Light. I was encouraged to teach it by a recently published video of Sidney Zoltak, who survived the Holocaust as a child, recorded by The Yiddish Book Centre's Oral History Project. Here he talks about learning songs from his grandmothers and in the Dispanced Persons camps. He sings Shik Mir a Stral which he learned after WWII. Here is the song sheet: Shik mir a shtral Send Me a Ray of Ligh

Related Images: