Composer and arranger for Second Avenue Yiddish theater productions, Joseph Brody is remembered (if at all, and, by name, by very few—whose numbers are diminishing) primarily for his setting of Av haraḥamim, of which this vi y’malle setting is a part. It came to be sung at Jewish weddings among traditional circles at one time, and achieved substantial popularity. It has been surmised that Brody composed the setting originally for an as yet identified Yiddish theatrical production—either for a synagogue or a wedding scene—and that it was then adopted by one or more choirmasters and/or cantors for use at weddings, where it has been (and still is in some cases) sung just prior to commencement of the actual marriage liturgy. So popular was the melody of vi y’malle at one time in connection with weddings, especially in the Greater New York area and its extension on the East Coast, that young choirboys with alto or soprano voices who were selected to sing it (either alone or in duet with the cantor) and became known for doing so at numerous weddings acquired the moniker of “vi y’malle boys.” But few if any ever realized the melody’s source as a larger composition for cantor and choir (with alto solo) by Brody.
By: Neil W. Levin