Yiddish Curiosities: a library of wonderful but forgotten Yiddish songs from the late 1920s and after (includes Polish Jewish Cabaret). Have a listen!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Shvayg, hertsele (Be Silent, Heart) - Jack Rechtzeit's forgotten Yiddish theater song

UPDATE: Reposted to add this youtube video (with translation and the lyrics so you can learn the song if you like):

Or click the album cover to hear and/or buy this track, Shvayg Hertsele, from our In Odess album (Roger Lynn Spears on piano).

Caraid O'Brien was in touch with me about this song and says at the Harvard Judaica Collection there's a recording of Jack's brother Seymour singing it. I hope to hear it some day. She's catalogued more than 1500 Seymour Rexite radio shows and hopes to have the work published by fall of 2016.

Yiddish theater actor Jack RechtseitJack Rechtzeit (1903-1988) was born in Petrokove in Poland; he moved with his family to the United States in 1923. In the 1930s he did tours in South America and Europe, including Warsaw. He was an actor in the Yiddish theater for more than 60 years and was president of the Hebrew Actors Union.

He was the older brother of the better-known Seymour Rexite (Miriam Kressyn's second husband).

I don't know when or where Jack composed Shvayg, hertsele! [Be quiet, little heart] and I've not seen mention of any recordings of it.

The only trace of it I found was a stack of orchestra parts in Rechtzeit's archives at Harvard University's Judaica Collection. Often only orchestra parts for these theater songs survive - perhaps the lead singers did not need to have lead sheets, or perhaps they were afraid some other actors would steal them, or perhaps they just got "loved to death" and fell to shreds before they could get preserved in the archives. I reconstructed the song from the violin and clarinet parts (knowing that violins and clarinets often played in unison with the singers).

In Zhelonek's book, a long self-pitying monologue has also been meticulously copied out, but I didn't record it. If you want to buy the sheet music with the Yiddish words (in transliteration), translation, and a copy of the original page from the Zhelonek book (with monologue), click here:

UPDATE: as you will see below, I heard from Jack's granddaughter. She told me in a later email that her grandmother remembers this song well, that it was part of a play, and that it was sung in the concentration camps.

I also had a chance to talk with Professor Miriam Isaacs at Yidish-Vokh yesterday, and discovered that somebody sang this song to Ben Stonehill in 1948 at the Hotel Marseilles in upper Manhattan (he recorded 1,054 songs that summer!), and that it is part of the Ben Stonehill archive she is researching. I'm looking forward to hearing that recording... She estimates that half the songs in the Ben Stonehill collection are unknown even to people who know the bulk of the Yiddish language repertoire as it's survived to our times.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jack rechzeit is my grandfather and I know my grandma who lives in NYC still has some stuff of his but donated the majority of his music and other material to the Harvard library if you tell me specifically what you are looking for I may be able to help my name is Caron Stone my email is cardst17@aol.com

August 11, 2013 at 7:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am looking for the song by Herman Yablonski, Shvayg Mayn Harts. This song was actually written for the U.S. theatrical production of Papirosen. i can't find an audio recording of this song. I would appreciate any help with this issue. Thank-you.

July 15, 2016 at 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Jane Peppler said...

Here's a video about him:

July 15, 2016 at 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Jane Peppler said...

FAU has the sheet music

July 15, 2016 at 11:20 AM  

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