Celebrating Yiddish American Popular Song

“Bist Mein Kroin Mein Welt” from the Library’s Yiddish American Popular Sheet Music Collection. Published in 1911 by Hebrew Publishing Company, New York.

The Library’s collection of Yiddish American sheet music is an unusual one for the Library of Congress, mostly because of the way it came together: It started not with acquisition of materials that were then cataloged, but with a catalog.

Lawrence Marwick retired as head of the Library’s Hebraic Section in 1980. Soon afterward, he set out to compile a list of Yiddish American plays and music the Library of Congress had acquired as deposits with copyright registrations. Because the deposits had not been cataloged, these works were virtually unknown to scholars at the time, and Marwick wanted to rectify that. He started by recording information on some 5,000 index cards.

“A Boychik Up-to-Date,” published in 1904 by Theodore Lohr, New York.

While doing so, he read a story in the New York Times about music historian Irene Heskes and her project to organize a collection of sheet music owned by the Hebrew Publishing Company of New York City. The collection included many Yiddish popular songs performed by stars of the Jewish stage. Marwick wrote to Heskes, and she agreed to meet him in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, in October 1981, before Heskes could come, Marwick fell ill and died.

But his vision for Yiddish American sheet music acquired through copyright endured thanks to Heskes. She began in 1984 to revise and expand Marwick’s unfinished work, adding composers, arrangers, publishers and other information. Her efforts culminated in Yiddish American Popular Songs, 1895 to 1950: A Catalog Based on the Lawrence Marwick Roster of Copyright Entries, published by the Library of Congress in 1992. Heskes donated sheet music from her Hebrew Publishing Company research to the Library after the book’s publication.

Much of the Library’s Yiddish American Popular Sheet Music Collection has roots in the Yiddish theater. It thrived in the Bowery area of New York City’s Lower East Side from the 1880s into the mid-20th century and expanded into a network of theaters in Jewish communities around the country. The collection also features popular arrangements of folk songs and sacred songs as well as instrumental numbers. Some compositions, most notably those of composer and violinist Abe Schwartz, became standards in the field of klezmer music.

“Uptown and Downtown,” published in 1906 by Theodore Lohr, New York.

Most items in the online presentation of the collection—which includes more than 1,300 items—were scanned from printed copies of sheet music published by companies that specialized in Jewish music. But many are copyright deposits that were submitted to the Library as unpublished manuscripts. These unique items are in many ways the jewels of this collection. Some also exist in published form, but many were never published and appeared publicly for the first time in the online presentation.

The online presentation stops at 1922, because many works published after that year remain under copyright protection in the United States. Researchers can access post-1922 items from the Yiddish American Popular Sheet Music Collection in the Library’s Performing Arts Reading Room.

Lawrence Marwick’s bibliography of more than 1,000 copyrighted Yiddish plays was published separately. A finding aid to the plays is available in the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Reading Room. In addition, 77 unpublished playscripts are available online.

 

New Online: Iconic Recordings, Presidential Papers and a Civil War Diary

The following is a guest post by William Kellum, manager in the Library’s Web Services Division.  Since the last installment in this blog series, published in mid-March, quite a few new offerings have been added to the Library’s website. Women’s History Month March was Women’s History Month, and we updated the site we maintain in collaboration […]

Inquiring Minds: Delving into the Library’s Jazz Collections

Ingrid Monson is the Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music at Harvard University and an award-winning author and scholar whose work in jazz, African American music and the music of the African diaspora is greatly respected. Her books include “Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa” and “Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation […]

Oz Squared, Cowboy Pop, Ziggy, Gospel and Pie

This year’s National Recording Registry is a sonic smörgåsbord– quite a lot to choose from, and all of it audibly appetizing. The 25 selections being preserved by the Library of Congress based on their cultural, historic or aesthetic value include two takes on “The Wizard of Oz,” in the form of Judy Garland’s version of […]

Bibliodiscotheque: Array of Events Planned to Celebrate Disco Culture

Today, the Library of Congress announced an exciting upcoming series: “Library of Congress Bibliodiscotheque.” Multiple events from April 12 through May 6 will explore disco culture, music, dance and fashion represented in the national collections. Disco’s influence on popular music and dance since the 1970s will be in focus through film screenings, performances, interviews and a […]

World War I: Wartime Sheet Music

The following post was written by Cait Miller of the Music Division and originally appeared on the In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog. Piano transcriptions of large-scale works, marches, sentimental ballads, and other examples of parlor music are well documented in the Music Division’s sheet music holdings; and from the late 19th century through the early […]

Beyoncé, Paul Bowles and More: Current GRAMMY Nominees with Library Connections

(The following is a guest post by Stephen Winick, writer-editor in the American Folklife Center.)  This year the GRAMMY awards promise to be exciting for music fans everywhere, but especially fans of the Library of Congress. At least four of the nominees have connections to the Library’s American Folklife Center (AFC). They present archival recordings, […]

Highlighting the Holidays: Under the Mistletoe

The holidays are full of many traditions – gift giving, sending cards, singing and cooking. Also kissing. If ever there was a time to pucker up, it’s in December, underneath the mistletoe. Washington Irving wrote in the 1800s, “young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under [mistletoe], plucking each time a berry from […]

Pic of the Week: Pulling Strings

Luthier John Montgomery inspects the strings on the 1697 “Castelbarco” cello made by Cremonese master Antonio Stradivari, one of five Stradivari instruments originally donated to the Library by Gertrude Clarke Whittall in 1935. According to her bequest, the instruments would be played from time to time, as they were intended. To that end, she established […]