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Mother’s Day is May 13, and while brunches, chocolates and flowers are tried-and-true ways to celebrate motherhood, it’s the life events that happen throughout the year that make this “job” memorable. Those whose tendencies lean toward laziness or forgetfulness might take a lesson from Solomon Shmulevitsh’s A brivele der mamen, a song telling the story of a mother whose only request to her son as he ventures into the world is that he remember to write “a little letter” from America. Written in 1907, A brivele der mamen was an instantaneous hit, spawning subsequent full-length productions of the same title that built around or incorporated it. The lyrics resonated forcefully with that generation of immigrants, many of whom had left parents behind in Europe, knowing they would never see them again. To see whether the son ever writes that letter, listen in. (Photo credit: Tracy O via Flickr)
Lag Ba’omer is the thirty-third day of the seven-week ritual of “counting the omer” (the biblical measure of barley) practiced in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem that connects Passover and Shavuot and commemorates the Jewish people’s suffering under Roman domination. Traditional mourning restrictions are in place during this time period and generally require abstention from all weddings and festivities, instrumental music, and other activities so specified under Jewish law—except on Lag Ba’omer, when these restrictions are suspended. Falling on May 10 this year, the festival is often commemorated in Israel with outdoor celebrations that have included children playing with bows and arrows and families lighting bonfires. If either of these ideas sounds too risky, there is also the option of lighting a mental bonfire by listening to Lazar Weiner’s (pictured) piece with the eponymous festival name. Composed to accompany a ballet celebrating the Lag Ba'omer festival, Weiner's Lag ba’omer for two pianos illustrates his continuation of the Society for Jewish Folk Music's effort to create a national Jewish art music based on Jewish liturgical and folk music.
Few composers exemplify the American Dream more than Irving Berlin. He was an immigrant, having been born in Russia on May 11, 1888 before journeying to America at age five. He was poor; the son of an impoverished cantor, Berlin ran away from home at age 14 and plied a living working as a street singer, vaudeville actor and singing waiter. He made it big -- really big -- and some would say he’s America’s most famous songwriter. From meager beginnings, Berlin (born Israel Baline) built a distinguished career as a composer on Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley, penning some of the most revered and memorable melodies and lyrics in the American Songbook. Yet, for all his success, Berlin never forgot that it was the freedom of America that had made it all possible. That sentiment is nicely expressed in his setting of the words excerpted from Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor is the final number of his 1949 Broadway musical comedy, Miss Liberty.