Friday, May 16, 2008

Jewish People's Philharmonic Chorus
brings Yiddish song to Symphony Space

NEW YORK CITY -- After years of packing smaller houses around the city, the Jewish People's Philharmonic Chorus will make its debut at NYC’s 700-seat Peter Norton Symphony Space for its 86th Annual Spring Concert on Sunday, June 1, at 4 pm.

Peter Norton Symphony Space, which has already signed up the JPPC for 2009, will enable a much larger crowd to hear the Chorus' century-long repertoire of rare and popular Yiddish music, directed by composer/conductor Binyumen Schaechter.

And yes, there is a new wave of people from all walks of life, ages, and religions who are becoming enthusiasts of this 1,000-year-old “mame-loshn (Yiddish for mother tongue) ” spoken by Eastern European Jews, and the music that helps keep it alive.

Founded in 1922, the all-volunteer JPPC boasts members ranging in age from 20s to 80s and has made guest appearances at Alice Tully Hall, Shea Stadium, Ground Zero, the Museum of the City of New York and, most recently, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The Chorus’ membership includes students, grandparents, Canadians, Israelis, a Brit, gays and straights, all of varying levels of Jewish observance. Some people speak Yiddish, such as the adult children of Holocaust survivors and late Yiddish poets and thinkers. Some speak no Yiddish at all, but love the music. Conductor and Manhattanite Binyumen Schaechter is himself the progeny of the illustrious late Yiddish linguist Mordkhe Schaechter.

There are lawyers, retirees, recent college grads, and veteran journalists from The New York Times and the Financial Times. There is even the gifted soprano whose jaw-dropping rendition of "A Brivele Der Mamen" could rip your heart out, and who spends her life devoted to Yiddish culture and music. Not Jewish.

This unlikely army of Yiddish singers gathers once a week at the social hall of an Upper West Side senior residence to rehearse its dynamic repertoire -- no less diverse and interesting than the singers – from exciting oratorios and comic operettas to labor anthems, beloved folksongs, and popular tunes.

In its June concert, the JPPC will spotlight the songs of the "Father of Yiddish Theatre," Abraham Goldfaden, who is famous for his lullaby "Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen" / "Raisins and Almonds." It will also perform Wolf Younin and Maurice Rauch's rarely heard folk oratorio,"Fun Viglid biz Ziglid" / "From Lullaby to Song of Victory," tracing the lives of two Jewish children before and after the Holocaust. English translations will be provided.

"Two seasons ago, the JPPC’s selling point had been Sholom Aleichem and I.L. Peretz, whose names themselves sold tickets," explains Schaechter, referring to two of the most renowned and best-loved Yiddish authors of the past century.

Last year, the Chorus featured works by beloved Yiddish composers Mordecai Gebirtig and Mark Warshawsky, who are not exactly household names, Schaechter says. "But as soon as you mentioned ‘Afn Pripetshik’ or ‘Es Brent’, the crowds came running.”

This year, two of the top Yiddish hits, “Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen” and “Afn Pripetshik,” will round out the JPPC’s spring concert, which will also feature lesser-known but equally spellbinding material into which Schaechter has breathed new life.

The JPPC will perform at Peter Norton Symphony Space on Sunday, June 1, at 4 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $15. Symphony Space is located on New York City's Upper West Side, at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street. To buy tickets, visit either or, or call the Symphony Space box office at 212-864-5400.

All about Binyumen Schaechter

Binyumen “Ben” Schaechter is an award-winning composer of musicals, revue songs and cabaret songs which have been performed in theatres and cabarets everywhere. Represented off-Broadway by his musical Double Identity, and in four revues: Naked Boys Singing (now nine years running in New York; also performed throughout five continents, with a film version released on DVD last year); Pets! (published, Dramatic Publishing); That’s Life! (Outer Critics Circle nomination); and Too Jewish? (with Avi Hoffman), for which he was also the Musical Director and on-stage pianist/back-up singer (nominated, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards). Too Jewish? was also seen on PBS TV stations across the nation last year. Other musicals include: The Wild Swans (ASCAP's Bernice Cohen Award for Outstanding Achievement in Musical Theatre; Eugene O'Neill National Music Theatre Conference) and Dinner at Eight (2001 BMI Foundation's Jerry Bock Award for Outstanding Achievement in Musical Theatre).

Ben’s music has been sung by Nancy Dussault, Tovah Feldshuh and Andrea Marcovicci; featured on PBS, ABC and NBC; and recorded on nine CDs, including five original cast albums and IT HELPS TO SING ABOUT IT, all songs with Ben Schaechter’s music. He is an alumnus of the BMI Lehman-Engel-Musical Theater Workshop, and a member of ASCAP and the Dramatists Guild.

Now in his "bar mitzvah" 13th year of musical direction with the JPPC, Schaechter’s arrangement of “Borukh Ate,” and original composition , “Ba Di Taykhn Fun Bovl”, will be performed during the June 1st concert.

The skinny on this year's concert’s composers

Jacob Schaefer, founder and "patron saint" of the [formerly Communist] Yiddish Choral movement. Born 1888. Celebrating his 120th anniversary with compositions and arrangements including: “Tsigayner-lidm Nishka,” “Tsum zig” two very different songs by the same name of “Viglid,” “Kirchn-glokn,” “Komunarn-lid” and “Dunay.”

Abraham Goldfaden, father of the Yiddish theater. Died 1908. Commemorating 100 years since his passing with “Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen,” and medley of “Tsu Dayn Geburtstog,” “Flaker Fayer [melody of “Haynt iz Purim”],” “Drey Zikh,” “Di Milekhl [melody of later "Drey zikh du dreydele"],” and “Gekimen Iz Di Tsayt.” The chorus will be singing the medley in the dialect of Goldfaden and the Yiddish theatre, known as "Voliner Yidish."

Wolf Younin, known Yiddish author and teacher. Born 1908. Celebrating 100 years since his birth with “Fun Viglid Biz Ziglid.”

Mark Zuckerman, great a cappella arranger of Yiddish choral music. The JPPC has sung many arrangements of his through the years, including “Dolye Mayne,” “Unter Dayne Vayse Shtern,” “Vilne,” “In Kamf,” “Mayn Rue-Plats,” and others. Born 1948. Celebrating 60 years since his birth with his composition “Mir Zaynen Do Tsu Zingen” and arrangement of “Amerike di Prekhtike.”

Marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish State of Israel, the Chorus will also perform two Hebrew compositions sung in Yiddish for years, including “Ba Di Taykhn Fun Bovl (By the Rivers of Babylon/ Al Naharot Bavel)” and “Af A Bergl (Galil Melody / Alei Giva Sham Ba'Galil).”