Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Representing, connecting, and supporting Jewish people in Scotland

“Waiting for the Nightingale” –
Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht


March 2020

Click here to watch a short video from the concert!


“Waiting for the Nightingale” - Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht

What ScoJeC planned was this: a series of four Klezmer Yiddish song concerts, in St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Arran – the last to be a house concert hosted by the Arran Jewish Cultural Association. But as the Yiddish saying goes, Mann Tracht und Gott Lacht – Man plans and God laughs – and in the light of the coronavirus health emergency, it didn’t quite work out like that!

Fortunately the first events went ahead. international Klezmer and Yiddish song performers  Michael Alpert (US and Fife), Sasha Lurje (Lithuania and Germany), and Craig Judelman (US and Germany) played to a packed crowd in the Society Room at the beautiful Hotel du Vin on the seafront in St Andrews.  It was strange having to avoid hugs and handshakes – and we gave out the kosher rugelach and strudel in individual napkins rather than getting people to help themselves.

The evening started with Michael and Sasha singing songs in Yiddish, mixed in with a little Russian.  There were traditional songs, unaccompanied songs, songs in close harmony, some accompanied by Craig’s exciting, inventive fiddle, ranging up and down around the melody with old timey as well as Klezmer influences. Sasha’s vocal range took us from her mournful, sad soprano for the minor key heartfelt love tragedies, to raucous rhythmic loud chorus songs.

“Waiting for the Nightingale” - Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht

Michael Alpert led a beautiful Klezmer doina (which he likened to a Scottish slow air) with Craig backing him on sekund (literally ‘second fiddle’), as well as accompanying several of the songs on guitar, and playing sekund to Craig’s wildly rhythmic Klezmer tunes. Michael sang a version of Si Kahn’s Crossing the Border, about the writer’s grandfather’s journey from Russia, which resonated with a song in Yiddish and English that Michael had written about his own father.  At one point, Sasha memorably did a solo dance to a Khosidl played by Michael and Craig, and the concert ended with a rip-roaring American old-timey fiddle tune which left the appreciative audience stamping and shouting for more.

Click here to watch a short video from the concert!

By Saturday evening, when the tour moved o Edinburgh, the mood of the audience was a little more sombre, and we’d moved the chairs further apart.  Around thirty people came in person to the Edinburgh Synagogue Community Centre and another seven joined us from their homes as we were able to live-stream the event. The work of SCoJeC is to bring Jewish people together, as well as bringing Jewish culture to the attention of Scottish audiences, so it seemed most fitting that we were able to do this. 

Sadly by that stage it was clear that increasing anxiety about social contact and travel meant it wasn’t going to be sensible to go on with the tour, so with great regret we had to let people who had signed up for the Glasgow and Arran concerts know that they weren’t going to happen,

“Waiting for the Nightingale” - Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht

But there was one more commitment before the band scattered. On Sunday afternoon, we were able to go ahead with the Yiddish song workshop with Sasha Lurje. We came together in the beautiful Sukkah at Edinburgh Synagogue to enjoy Sasha’s combination of song workshop and erudite seminar, covering Yiddish language, culture, history, law, ritual, food, and gender, and a good deal of reference and homage to the collectors who had brought us these songs from the old singers. We learned three sad songs - Sasha told us the golden rule in folk song is ‘if you find yourself in a folk song, don’t go near the river!’ as you were very likely to drown. To conclude, Sasha sang us a beautiful version of Sholem Aleykhem by Shelem Berenstein, learned from Arkady Gendler.  As we all agreed – a fantastic last activity before a long quarantine. 

David Bleiman, who attended the workshop, was moved to write a poem in honour of Sasha Lurje. David writes poems about history, politics, memory, and identity, generally in English, but also in Spanish and in "macaronic" verse ("you never heard such a mish-mosh!")  He has experimented with the dialect of Scots-Yiddish which older readers might remember.


Singing with Sasha in the Sukkah
for Sasha Lurje


Singing with Sasha
in the shul in Sciennes,
singing in the sukkah,
mayn harts veynt in mir,
s’iz mir nit gut, ay yaba baba boy.

Es brennt, shwesterle
our big world's burning,
oy, just last week you taught us a lidl
un oysshpilen dos lidl konen mir nit,
s’iz mir nit gut, ay yaba baba boy.

Fun daynen shtetele
in East Noykh Fifele 
vest Zoomn shoyn this week tsu mir
and singsts tsu mir on consonants,
s’iz mir shoyn gut, ay yaba baba boy.

David Bleiman                


Singing with Sasha
in the synagogue in Sciennes,
singing in the tabernacle,
my heart weeps within me,
I feel so wretched, ay yaba baba boy.

It's burning, little sister,
our big world's burning,
oy, just last week you taught us a wee song,
now there’s no way to play it out,
and I’m so wretched, ay yaba baba boy.

From your little village
in the East Neuk of Fife 
this week you’ll Zoom to me,
you’ll sing to me on consonants,
already I feel better, ay yaba baba boy.

SCoJeC and the Arran Jewish Cultural Association are grateful for the support of the Jewish Music Institute, Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust, and the Alma and Leslie Wolfson Charitable Trust.


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Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC029438