Contacts: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940, Jill Brett (202) 707-2905

February 1, 1993

The Library of Congress Publishes Catalog of Yiddish-American Popular Songs, 1895 to 1950

The Library of Congress has recently published Yiddish American Popular Songs, 1895 to 1950. This bibliographic catalog of Yiddish music is based on the work of the late Dr. Lawrence Marwick, who served as head of the Library of Congress's Hebraic Section for more than three decades and who compiled entries of more than 3,000 Yiddish songs from the Catalog of Copyright Entries. Musicologist Irene Heskes, a specialist in Jewish music, has completed the volume for publication.

Focusing on Yiddish-American plays and sheet music that had been deposited in the Library of Congress for copyright registration but were virtually unknown to scholars, Marwick's efforts provide a historical perspective on this work, an evolution of Yiddish music in the United States. The author, Irene Heskes, supplements Marwick's material with published Yiddish songs that were not registered, with background information on the songs, and with introductions to each featured year.

Heskes also provides an extensive historical introduction to the catalog, tracing the origins and development of Yiddish theater and music in America, to the Jewish tradition of traveling minstrels. The music, sometimes incorporating elements of Jewish liturgical chants, or borrowing from traditional Slavic melodies, was later incorporated into American vaudeville.

This publication highlights material from the Library's collection of Judaic music. Songs telling of the struggles of migration, settlement, and acculturation and the hopes and promises of a New World serve as a form of recorded history. Yiddish theater helped immigrants to America interpret their new experiences by infusing them with qualities of the Old World. The theater was an important cultural aspect of Jewish immigrant life, but it also speaks to the universality of immigration in the American experience.

The catalog is illustrated with a dozen sheet music and album cover reproductions and is indexed alphabetically by song title, composer, arranger, and lyricist. It includes a brief guide to the Yiddish language and many titles are transliterated into English for wider use. Copies of Yiddish American Popular Songs, 1895 to 1950: A Catalog Based on the Lawrence Marwick Roster of Copyright Entries are available for $44 from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402 (Stock No. 030-000-00242-3).

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PR 93-006
ISSN 0731-3527

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