Tracks

Play

Track

Time

Prologue (I Never Saw Another Butterfly) 02:32
Praeludium - Night in the Ghetto 01:04
I. It All Depends on How You Look at It 04:12
II. Man Proposes, God Disposes 01:22
III. Terezin 04:40
IV. Standing in Line 01:19
V. The Butterfly 04:00
VI. At Terezin 01:03
VII. The Garden 02:01
VIII. The Little Mouse 01:22
IX. On A Sunny Evening 03:27
X. I'd Like to Go Away Alone (Duet) 00:37
XI. Homesick (Alto Solo) 01:57
XII. Terezin 03:17
XIII. Yes, That's the Way Things Are 00:58
XIV. Bird Song 05:40
 

Liner Notes

Notes to the Original Recording by the American Boychoir:

Cantor Charles Davidson was commissioned in 1967 by the Eastend Synagogue of Long Beach, New York to set to music poems by the children of Terezin. The poems were written between 1941 and 1944 by the children who passed through the walled city of Terezin, Czechoslovakia, the "Paradise Ghetto." Nearly all of these children died, many at Auschwitz. The poems, which have been set to music by many composers, are a moving testament to the horror of the Holocaust, but even more to the faith and optimism of young people under oppression. Their central theme does not convey the sense of horror, tragedy, and loss, but rather one of hope and life.

Davidson's song cycle, completed in 1968, is unusually moving. Dedicated to the Columbus Boychoir (now the American Boychoir), the work was composed for a three- to five-part choir of boys' voices, and was originally written with piano accompaniment. During the past two decades, it has been sung in this version by the American Boychoir in scores of concerts throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Most performances of the work by the Boychoir are in a staged presentation by the Broadway stage director Dennis Rosa. In a somewhat revised version it has been sung by many other treble choirs in hundreds of performances throughout all parts of the world.

In preparation for a special performance of the work by the American Boychoir in Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University during June 1988, the piano accompaniment was orchestrated by the British composer and conductor Donald Fraser. This is the first recorded performance of the Butterfly in this newly orchestrated version.


 

Lyrics

PRELUDIUM – NIGHT IN THE GHETTO

Another day has gone for keeps
Into the bottomless pit of time
Again it has wounded a man, held captive by his brethren.
After dusk, he longs for bandages,
For soft hands to shield his eyes
From all the horrors that stare by day.
But in the ghetto, darkness too is kind
To weary eyes which all day long have to had to watch.

Dawn crawls again along the ghetto streets
Embracing all who walk this way.
Only a car like a greeting from a long-gone world
Gobbles up the dark with fiery eyes
That sweet darkness that falls upon the soul
And heals those wounds illumined by the day...
Along the streets come light and ranks of people.

I. IT ALL DEPENDS ON HOW YOU LOOK AT IT

I.
Terezin is full of beauty.
It's in your eyes now so clear
And through the street the tramp
Of many marching feet I hear.
In the ghetto at Terezin.
It looks that way to me,
Is a square kilometer of earth
Cut off from the world that's free.

II.
Death, after all, claims everyone,
You find it everywhere.
It catches up with even those
Who wear their noses in the air.
The whole, wide world is ruled
With a certain justice, so
That helps perhaps to sweeten
The poor man's pain and woe.

II. MAN PROPOSES, GOD DISPOSES

Who was helpless back in Prague, and who was rich before?
He's a poor soul here in Terezin
His body's bruised and sore.
Who was toughened up before, he'll survive these days
But who was used to servants, will sink into his grave.

III. TEREZIN

The heaviest wheel rolls across our foreheads
To bury itself deep somewhere in our memories.
We've suffered here more than enough
Here in this clot of grief and shame,
Wanting a badge of blindness to be a proof for their own children.
A fourth year of waiting, like standing above a swamp,
From which any moment might gush forth a spring.
Meanwhile the rivers flow another way
Not letting you die, not letting you live.
And the cannons don't scream
And the guns don't bark,
And you don't see blood here.
Nothing – only hunger.
Children steal bread here and ask
And all would wish keep silent
And just go to sleep again.
The heaviest wheel rolls across our foreheads
To bury itself deep somewhere in our memories

IV. STANDING IN LINE

...We got used to standing in line at 7 o'clock in the morning
At 12 noon and again at 7 o'clock in the evening
We stood in a long queue with a plate in our hand,
into which they ladled a little warmed-up water with a salty or a coffee flavor.
We got used to sleeping without a bed
To saluting every uniform
Not to walk on the sidewalks
And then again to walk on the sidewalks.
We got used to deserved slaps, blows, and executions.
We got accustomed to seeing people die in their own excrement.
To seeing piled-up coffins full of corpses.
To seeing the sick amidst dirt and filth
And to seeing the helpless doctors.
We got used to that, from time to time,
One thousand unhappy souls would come here
And that, from time to time,
Another thousand unhappy souls would go away...

V. THE BUTTERFLY

The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzingly yellow
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing against a white stone...
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished to kiss the world goodbye.
For seven weeks I've lived in here.
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one
Butterflies don't live in here, 
In the ghetto.

VI. AT TEREZIN

When a new child comes
Everything seems strange to him.
What, on the ground I have to lie?
Eat black potatoes? No! Not I!
I've got to stay? It's dirty here!
The floor – why, look, it's dirt, I fear!
And I'm supposed to sleep on it?
I'll get all dirty!

Here the sound of shouting, cries,
And oh, so many flies.
Everyone knows flies carry disease.
Oooh, something bit me! Wasn't that a bedbug?
Here in Terezin, life is hell
And when I'll gome home again, I can't yet tell

VII. THE GARDEN

A little garden,
Fragrant and full of roses.
The path is narrow
And a little boy walks along it.
A little boy, a sweet boy,
Like that growing blossom.
When the blossom comes to bloom,
The little boy will be no more.

VIII. THE LITTLE MOUSE

A mousie sat upon a shelf,
Catching fleas in his coat of fur.
But he couldn't catch her – what chagrin! –
She'd hidden 'way inside his skin.
He turned and wriggled, knew no rest,
That flea was such a nasty pest!

His daddy came 
And searched his coat.
He caught the flea and off he ran
To cook her in the frying pan
The little mouse cried, "Come and see!
For lunch we've got a nice, fat flea!"

IX. ON A SUNNY EVENING

On a purple, sun-shot evening
Under wide-flowering chestnut trees
Upon the threshold full of dust
Yesterday, today, the days are all like these.

Trees flower forth in beauty,
Lovely too their very wood all gnarled and old
That I am half afraid to peer
Into their crowns of green and gold.

The sun has made a veil of gold
So lovely that my body aches.
Above, the heavens shriek with blue
Convinced I've smiled by some mistake
The world's abloom and seems to smile.
I want to fly but where, how high?
If in barbed wire, things can bloom
Why couldn't I? I will not die!

X. I'D LIKE TO GO AWAY ALONE

I'd like to go away alone
Where there are other nicer people
Somewhere into the far unknown
There-where no one kills another.

XI. HOMESICK

I've lived in the ghetto here more than a year,
In Terezin, in the black town now.
And when I remember my old home so dear
I can love it more than I did, somehow

Ah, home, home,
Why did they tear me away?
Here the weak die easy as a feather
And when they die, they die forever.

I'd like to go back home again,
It makes me think of sweet spring flowers
Before, when I used to live at home,
It never seemed so dear and fair.
I remember now those golden days
But maybe I'll be going there soon again.

People walk along the street,
You see at once on each you meet
That there's a ghetto here,
A place of evil and of fear.
There's little to eat and much to want.
Where bit by bit, it's horror to live.
But no one must give up!
The world turns and times change.

Yet we all hope the time will come
When we'll go home again.
Now I know how dear it is
And often I remember it.

XII. TEREZIN

That bit of filth in dirty walls
And all around the barbed wire
And 30-thousand souls who sleep
And once will see their own blood spilled.
I once was a little child, 3 years ago
That child who longed for other worlds
But now I am no more a child
For I have learned to hate.
I am a grown-up person now
I have known fear
Bloody words and a dead day thenz
That's something different than bogie men.
But anyway I still believe I only sleep today
But that I will wake up a child again
And to start to laugh and play.
I'll go back to childhood sweet like a briar rose
Like a bell which wakes up from a dream
Like a mother with an ailing child
Loves him with aching woman's love.
With enemies, with gallows ropes.
How tragic then for children on your lap to say
"This is for the good, that for the bad."
Somewhere far away out there
childhood sweetly sleeps
Along that path, among the trees,
There O'er that house
Which was once my pride and joy.
There my mother gave me birth into this world
So I could weep...
In the flame of candles by my bed
I sleep
And once perhaps I'll understand
That I was such a little thing.
As little as this song.

These 30-thousand souls who sleep
Among the trees will wake,
Open an eye,
And because they see a lot
They'll fall asleep again.

XIII. YES, THAT'S THE WAY THINGS ARE

In Terezin, in a so-called park
A queer old grand-dad sits
Somewhere there in the so-called park.
He wears a beard down to his lap
And on his head a little cap,
Hard crusts he crumbes in his gums
He's got only one single tooth.
My poor old man with working gums
Instead of soft rolls, lentil soup,
My poor old gray beard.

XIV. BIRD SONG

He doesn't know the world at all
Who stays in his nest and doesn't go out
He doesn't know what the birds know best.
Nor would I want to sing about
That the world is full of loneliness
When dew drops sparkle in the grass
And earth's a-flood with morning light.
A black bird sings upon a bush
To greet the dawning after night
Then I know how fine it is to live, to live.
Hey, try to open up your heart to beauty
Go to the woods some day
And weave a wreath of memory there.
Then, if tears obscure your way
You'll know how wonderful it is
To be alive.


 

Credits

Composer: Charles Davidson

Length:
Genre: Choral

Date Recorded: 06/01/1988
Venue: Richardson Auditorium of Alexander Hall, Princeton University, New Jersey

Additional Credits:

This recording under license from Ashbourne Music.

Subscribe

Don't miss our latest releases, podcasts, announcements and giveaways throughout the year! Stay up to date with our newsletter.

Login

×