Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II is the new recording of music created during the darkest chapter of European Jewish history. In the midst of World War II, a group of scholars led by ethnomusicologist Moisei Beregovsky (1892 – 1961) discovered songs written by Jewish Red Army soldiers, refugees, victims and survivors of Ukrainian ghettos. One song was written by a 10-year-old orphan who lost his family in the ghetto in Tulchin, another by a teenage prisoner of the Pechora concentration camp, and yet another about a Red Army soldier who learns, upon his return to Kiev, that his family had been murdered in Babi Yar. These were the people, whose voices are rarely heard in reconstructing history, none of them professional poets or musicians, but all at the center of the most important historical event of the 20th century, and making sense of it through music.
Following the war, the researchers were arrested during Stalin’s anti-Jewish purge. The scholars’ works were confiscated, and they died thinking the collection was lost to history. The songs were discovered in unmarked boxes stored in the archives of the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine in the 1990s.
In the early 2000s, a lucky coincidence brought Yiddish Professor Anna Shternshis to Kiev where she learned that these songs had survived all of these decades following the researchers’ arrests. Quickly deteriorating, fragile documents, some typed, but most hand-written, contained some of the most poignant and historically important Soviet Yiddish songs of World War II.
Many pieces were the first grassroots testimonies of German atrocities against Jews, detailing massacres in Babi Yar, Tulchin, Pechora and others places in Ukraine. Sometimes, composing music calling to fight against fascism was the first thing a person did prior to the invasion by the German Army, and sometimes it was the last act during one’s final moments. The raw emotional ballads convey despair, hope, humor, bravery, resistance and revenge.
The album, released February 2018 is the result of a remarkable collaboration between artist Psoy Korolenko and Yiddish Professor Anna Shternshis. Although some archival documents had their melodies preserved, most were simply lyrics written on small scraps of paper. Psoy Korolenko engaged in “musical archaeology,” and analyzed the scarce supplementary notes, contextualized the lyrics and then took a leap of imagination in order to create or adapt music for the texts. Sergei Erdenko (Russia’s greatest living Roma violinist, founder of the group Loyko and longtime collaborator of Yehudi Menuhin) created multi-instrument arrangements and wrote original music for one song (“Kazakhstan”).
The epic discovery of Yiddish songs from World War II and the Holocaust led producer Dan Rosenberg to bring together an ensemble of elite soloists from the worlds of classical, folk and jazz, which consisted of five vocalists (including Juno-award winner Sophie Milman), and five conservatory trained instrumentalists. The album “Yiddish Glory” is the fruit of this three-year-long process, and is not just a breathtaking recording, it is a time capsule that reveals how Jewish men, women and children fought against fascism, tried against all odds to save their families, and in their final moments chose to reveal their hopes and dreams through music. For the first time, the public will hear the voices of the Soviet Jews who were thought to be silenced by Hitler and Stalin.
Carol Off, CBC As It Happens
Howard Reich, The Chicago Tribune
BBC World Service
Mirjam Jessa, ORF1 (Austrian National Radio)
Matt Galloway, CBC, Metro Morning
Marilyn Lightstone, Toronto’s Classical 96.3 FM
“A life – changing even for the Jewish people and musical history”
(Top of the World Review) - Simon Broughton, SONGLiNES Magazine
Didier Melon, RTBF (belgian National Radio)
Andy Herrman, NPR Music
“A Minor Miracle”
Psoy Korolenko: Legendary Russian-American singer and songwriter. “Korolenko’s music clearly keeps …a sense of joy — even when discussing some pretty harsh realities” – PRI’s “The World”
Trio Loyko from St. Petersburg, Russia (often described as “Two Paganinis and a Segovia”).
Sergei Erdenko: Russia’s greatest living Roma Violinist, longtime collaborator of Yehudi Menuhin and founder of the group Loyko.
Artur Gorbenko: violinst, pianist, composer for numerous films and television programs, and former concertmaster from the Leningrad Conservatory.
Mikhail Savichev: virtuoso of classical and Romani guitar, graduate of Russia’s Novosibirsk Conservatory, before moving to Spain to study under the mentorship of Paco de Lucia.
Sophie Milman: Internationally renowned, Juno Award winning Jazz vocalist. “Sophie Milman reveals her interpretive finesse without a hitch” – The Washington Post.
Alexander Sevastian: from Quartetto Gelato, and winner of countless international classical accordion competitions and the world’s leading interpreter of Bach on the accordion.
Shalom Bard: clarinetist at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conductor of its youth symphony, and former principal clarinetist at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
David Buchbinder: Juno Award winning trumpeter, composer & producer, founder of Odessa/Havana and artistic director of the New Canadian Global Music Orchestra.
Sasha Lurje: acclaimed Yiddish vocalist and performer in a wide range of styles and genres, as well as instructor at various festivals around the world.
And introducing Isaac Rosenberg: (just 12 years old when the project started) performs music written by a Jewish orphan whose parents were murdered during the Holocaust.
Anna Shternshis: Al and Malka Green Professor in Yiddish Studies and the Director of the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.