The Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings
The Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings comprises over 9,000 historical recordings‚ some 85% of all Yiddish recordings made in the United States.
Held by the UW-Madison Mills Music Library and curated by the Mayrent Institute, it is unparalleled in the breadth of its scope.
The long-term goal for the Mayrent Collection is to stream its entire contents and pair each recording with contextual information like label graphics, song synopses, and links to sheet music wherever possible.
“New Yorker Treren (The New York Tears)”
There’s a lot of work between now and full collection accessibility. In the meantime, here’s a teaser–listen to one of our recordings.
“Di New Yorker Treren (The New York Tears)”
Recording Frances Simonoff with unknown orchestra
Victor Records 16599
New York, June 14, 1910
This is the New York tears
Which can never stop
A moan, a cry
A gasp and a sigh
You can hear it everywhere
This is nothing new
Wherever you go
You see the New York tears.
Composed by Hyman Altman, (1881-1945) this was one of some 30 songs‚ including lyrics for three operettas‚ Altman penned in the two year period from 1909-1911. This waltz time song tells the dark underside of immigrant Jewish life in America, with its tabloid-like description of a triple murder and of a boy who killed another while playing with a pistol. Altman’s arranger was J.M. Rumshisky (1881-1956) who, under the slightly altered name Joseph Rumshinsky, would soon rise as a leading composer of the American Yiddish theater, a status he would retain until his death.
The cover design is one of a series done by Louis Terr for publisher S. Goldberg. Terr, a journeyman artist, not only conceived and illustrated covers for early Jewish sheet music publishers but was also a staff cartoonist for the popular Yiddish satirical magazine Di Groye Kundes (The Big Stick).
Note that only the cover contains the Yiddish lyrics in Hebrew characters, with the song inside rendered in Romanized transliteration. For the quickly assimilating Yiddish-speaking (and reading) masses, this was already a common occurrence in the publishing of Jewish sheet music.
This recording by Yiddish recording artist Frances Simonoff was released close on the heels of the sheet music publication a good example of the hand in glove coordination of grass roots Yiddish publishers and recording of 78s by mainstream non-Jewish record companies. This is one of only eight songs Simonoff made in her one year of recording.
Support the Mayrent Collection
It costs about $120 for a two-sided disc, or $90 per one-sided disc, to digitize, catalog, and add a 78 rpm record to the UW Library digital collection. For 9000 discs, that’s a mighty bit of work, but as the online collection grows, it will become one of the best resources available for the study of historical Yiddish music.
Please support our work by making a donation to offset the tremendous costs of this project.