Monday, December 4, 2017

Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus: Kalifornyer Kholem

Yiddish Performance of the Week

Kalifornyer Kholem by Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus (2014)
Via: Youtube

Filmed as a live performance at Symphony Space, NYC, the Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus, with Binyumen Schaechter, conductor; Shinae Kim, pianist; and Andrew Roth, soloist, perform a Yiddish rendition (“Kalifornyer Kholem”) of  “California Dreamin’, ” a song made famous by the Mamas and Pappas, an American folk group, in 1965. The song was written in NYC in 1963, possibly on such as day.

Here is some background on how the Yiddish rendition came into being, the  Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus writes:
As a student at the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, Stephen M. (Shloyme-Khayim) Cohen thought it would be fun to arrange the Mamas and the Papas' popular song, "California Dreamin'" for chorus. Many years later, in 2001, he decided that what would make it more special still was to have it be in Yiddish, and not as a direct translation, but rather with a Jewish touch. Some years after that, our conductor, Binyumen, who knew Cohen mainly from Yugntruf's annual Yidish-Vokh retreat, heard the arrangement himself. He loved it and wanted the JPPC to sing it. However, Cohen's arrangement called for a lengthy flute solo in the middle, and the JPPC didn't have a flutist.
Furthermore, the JPPC at that time lacked a strong bass section that could handle the low key. So, with Cohen's permission, Binyumen set about making the piece user-friendly for our chorus. He raised the overall key so that the bass section (at that time consisting of only 3-4 baritones) could sing the low notes. He cut out the flute section and replaced it with an exciting, upward modulation to a repeat of the refrain. And he made a few other tweaks here and there. Ironically, when we gave the NYC premiere of this arrangement in June 2012, the key was now too high for the tenors, and so the tenor solo had to be sung by an alto! But all's well that ends well: now, our chorus has a much stronger bass section, so we've returned to the original lower key for the 2014 performance at Symphony Space (NYC) heard in this YouTube video, making it easier for the basses and the tenors, and allowing for the soloist once again to be, as intended, a tenor.
This is a fun song and nothing more. The lyrics made me laugh, as would be the case for anyone who spends a winter in a place that has snow, freezing rain, bare trees and grey overcast days—the opposite of California. 

Original English words and Music: John and Michelle Phillips Yiddish words and Choral arrangement: Stephen M. (Shloyme-Khayim) Cohen Edited: Binyumen Schaechter