I’ve been following the Yiddish Glory project for a while now and this year there’s something special for Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur without Fascists surfaced in Almaty, Kazakhstan where it was written in 1945. It fantasizes Adolf Hitler as the kapporot; a sacrificial chicken. It has the same dark humour as most of these Yiddish songs of resistance. There’s a great performance of it on Youtube or you can follow this link to Six Degrees Records where you can buy an audio recording or read the full lyrics.
Back in 2018 I wrote about the Yiddish Glory project including a concert at Koerner Hall and a CD. Well, Anna Shternshis and her team are back with more music from the ghettos, in particular Pechora Camp in Transnistria. This time it’s themed around the typhus epidemic of 1941/2 and the impact it had on the camp’s inmates. The music and accompanying narrative feature in a short but interesting Youtube video. There’s dark humour here especially in the song I’m a Typhus Louse which personifies the disease in a way that’s curiously similar to Spitting Image‘s portrayal of COVID. Like most Holocaust related material it’s not easy to watch but it’s a compelling story with interesting music which is beautifully and wittily performed. The filming is rather good too and the technical quality is excellent. All the performers are fully credited on the video so I’ll not duplicate that information here.
OK so it’s a bit off the Operaramblings beaten path but there’s a concert coming up at Koerner Hall on August 28th that intrigues me. It’s called Yiddish Glory and it resurrects anti-fascist music that documents Nazi atrocities and Jewish resistance/partisan activities in the Soviet Union after the German invasion of 1941. They were collected by a team of Jewish Soviet ethnomusicologists led by Moisei Beregovsky during the war, but shortly afterwards, during Stalin’s anti-Jewish purge, the members were arrested, their work confiscated, and they died thinking the music was lost to history. In the early 2000s, a lucky coincidence brought University of Toronto Professor Anna Shternshis to Kiev, where she learned that the music had actually survived in the intervening decades following the researchers’ arrests, and in the years since, has led the research project to restore these songs. There’s also a CD. I’ve listened to a few tracks. The music is clearly Jewish and very much of the time. It’s redolent of horror and resistance and ultimately, hope. I find it deeply moving.