Category: Performer Biographies

Pianist Irving Fields Mixed Bagels and Bongos

By , August 2, 2017 9:52 am

Irving Fields-playing piano

Two weeks after his 101th birthday, pianist and composer Irving Fields passed away August 20, 2016 in Manhattan. He was perhaps the longest working musician in the world. At the age of hundred, he used to play the piano several nights a week at Nino’s Tuscany restaurant in Manhattan. Irving Fields became known by fusing Jewish tunes, jazz, and popular songs with Latin music.

Born as Isidore Schwartz in 1915 New York City to Jewish immigrants, Irving Fields started working as a pianist in the thirties during the years of the Great Depression. In this time of high unemployment, he started playing piano in resort hotels in the Catskills Mountains, and then he found work as a pianist on cruise ships sailing from New York to Havana, capital city of Cuba. In Havana, Irving Fields listened to the great Cuban orchestras, and developed his love for Latin music. Attracted by pictures from palm trees and beaches in travel magazines, Irving decided to settle in Miami Beach and performed in hotels playing dinner music, and did sessions with local orchestras.

After joining the army, he began the Irving Fields Trio, with a bass and a drummer, and started composing his own songs. In 1947, his song Miami Beach Rhumba became a big success by versions of Kay Kyser, Freddy Martin, Carmen Miranda, and even by the popular band leader Xavier Cugat. During the Latin craze trend in the 40s, Irving Fields was at the right time and place, and soon Miami Beach Rhumba was followed by the number one hit song Managua, Nicaragua (1947) recorded by big band leader Guy Lombardo, and ten years later by Chantez-Chantez (1957) by singer Dinah Shore.

Bagels and Bongos - Irving Fields TrioIn 1959, the Irving Fields Trio recorded the album Bagels and Bongos blending popular Jewish tunes with Latin rhythms such as Bei Mir Bist Du Schön as a mambo, Havannah Negila a paso doble, and I Love You Much Too Much a rhumba. The album became a big hit all over the world, and was followed by the albums More Bagels and Bongos (1960), Pizzas and Bongos (Italian traditionals), Champagne and Bongos (with French standards), and Bikinis and Bongos (with Hawaiian music). Every song was mixed with a Latin beat, which turned out to be a story of success.

After the success with his trio in the sixties, Irving Fields went back working as a solo pianist on cruise ships again, where he sailed the whole world, and finally settled as a music entertainer in restaurants, from 2004 six nights a week in Nino’s Tuscany, Manhattan. This would become the place, where he started his second career.

In the last decade, several films appeared about Fields playing piano on YouTube. These films form a good impression of his talent, wisdom, and humor. Although Irving Fields was not a user of a computer or the Internet, he did compose the YouTube theme song.

 

Regarding my research about the influence of Jewish tunes in American popular song, I contacted Irving Fields, and then I received several handwritten letters from him. At my birthday March 2010, I met Irving Fields and his lovely wife Ruth in person in Nino’s Tuscany restaurant, where he entertained the guests with his music. From my letters, he knew that I should visit him this special evening. To my surprise, he welcomed me with a newly composed personal anniversary song. When listening to his music and talking to him, I knew that I was close to one of the last persons, already in his nineties, who could tell me first-hand about the history of popular music in the Tin Pan Alley period before the second World War.

 

Irving Fields and Niels Falch at Nino's

Irving Fields and Niels Falch at Nino’s

Of course, I also asked him about his secret for longevity, and he replied with more than ten rules. The first three rules for longevity are; (1) Have a sense of humor (you’ll never get ulcers), (2) Think of these three magic letters before you make a decision: L.T.D. Look, Think and Do, and (3) Be the first to say “hello” with a smile on your face and a friendly glow. Following these rules during his life, Irving Fields became ultimately 101 years young.

Even U.S. President Donald J. Trump admired Irving Fields, and shared one of his secrets for longevity: “Irving has said that work is a blessing, especially when you like your work. He loves his work, and that love is evident in his music. Irving is a great pro.”

Irving Fields will be remembered as the pianist who blended bagels and bongos, although he never had a way to play a bagel…

You can listen to over 30 recordings by Irving Fields on the Recorded Sound Archives website by clicking here.

 

RSA Guest Blogger, Niels Falch, is a PhD candidate at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and is currently writing a dissertation on the influence of Jewish music in American popular songs.

Please note, due to copyright some of these recordings may only play for 45 second snippet to give the user a taste of what this music sounded like back in the day, if you are interested in full access considering applying for Research Station Access. Access to Research Station is limited to educators, students and serious researchers.

Highlighting the Voice of Cantor Zvee Aroni

By , July 25, 2017 1:31 pm

2016-Slideshow-cantorial-songs-zvee-aroni

There was a “joke” in the cantorial world that “If you can’t get Koussevitzky, get Aroni!”  Personally, I think Aroni (my dad) had a better voice.

His voice instructor and many others told him that he could have been, or should be an opera singer, but he loved being a cantor too much.

His voice didn’t age noticeably from his first recordings, specifically The Grape Song recorded in 1950, to his last recording Kohanecha Yilb’shu Tzedek recorded in 1990.

Both recordings can be heard on the RSA website, along with 34 other recordings by Cantor Zvee Aroni, just one of over 260 cantorial voices to choose from in the Cantorial Voices Collection.

3 Interesting Facts about Sergei Rachmaninoff

By , June 13, 2016 8:15 am

Sergei Rachmaninoff Playing PianoWhile digitizing recordings by Sergei Rachmaninoff at the Recorded Sound Archives, we found some interesting facts about Rachmaninoff that you may not of known. Such as did you know….

1. Rachmaninoff was twice offered the position of conductor at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He refused both times.

2. Aside from being a magnificent composer, Rachmaninoff was also a man of strong moral character. In 1912, Rachmaninoff resigned from his position as vice-president of the Russian Musical Society in protest to a musician being dismissed from his duties because he was Jewish.

3. Rachmaninoff’s last piano recital included Chopin’s Sonata no. 2, which includes a famous funeral march. Rachmaninoff died 40 days after performing the funeral march. Rachmaninoff’s composition All Night Vigil was sung at his funeral.

Want to learn more about Sergei Rachmaninoff and his music?

Click here to listen to over 40 recordings that have been digitized and learn more about the life of Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Cantorial Music from Shloimele Rothstein

By , January 25, 2016 3:51 pm

Cantorial Music by Shloimele Rothstein The Recorded Sound Archives has digitized a collection of cantorial music by Cantor Shloimele Rothstein , one of over 260 Cantorial voices to choose from in the RSA’s Cantorial Collection.

Born in Bessarabia on May 1, 1891 in the town of Falesty. He was the first Cantor to sing on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh in 1926 and was contracted by Columbia Grafonola to produce phonograph recordings along with being Cantor at Synagogue B’nai Israel in Brooklyn, NY.

Shloimele’s only teacher was Jerome Hayes of whom he learned several operas with. As a result, he was offered the leading tenor role in “La Juive” by an Opera Co., but refused the offer to give his attention to the Synagogue, Phonograph and Concert work. He passed away on October 19, 1966, at the age of 75.

He is also known as Shlomo Rothstein, Sol Rothstein & Solomon Rothstein.

To listen the voice and recordings of Shloimele Rothstein, click here.

To discover other cantorial voices, please visit the Recorded Sound Archives Cantorial Voices collection.

Gone but not forgotten – the Barry Sisters

By , January 5, 2015 8:50 pm
Bagelman Sisters/Barry Sisters

Bagelman Sisters/Barry Sisters early photo with Claire Barry on the right.

Yiddish music icons, Merna and Claire Barry, entertained generations of Jewish Americans with their jazzy versions of Yiddish songs.

For over 40 years the Bagelman Sisters, later known as the Barry Sisters, were the darlings of Jewish entertainment. Their recordings could be found in almost every Jewish household in the 1950s and 60s. The younger of the two sisters, Merna, passed away in 1976. The older sister, Claire Barry, died on November 22, 2014 in Hollywood, FL at 94. Click here for full NY Times obituary.

Who were the Barry Sisters?

Two beautiful girls, dressed in the latest fashion, hair  perfectly coiffed, singing with sultry voices that could make your heart leap.

Born in New York, the two sisters were originally known as the Bagelman Sisters. Many saw them as the Yiddish answer to the popular Andrews Sisters in the 1940s. They combined old Jewish folk songs and Yiddish Theater ditties with swing arrangements and perfect harmony. When Clara and Minnie changed their names to Claire and Merna The Bagelman Sisters became The Barry Sisters. They have often been credited with creating Yiddish Swing, a music genre which did not exist previously.

The glamorous Barry Sisters were regular guests at Yiddish radio programs like Yiddish Melodies in Swing. They toured with the Ed Sullivan Show to the Soviet Union and performed in Israel in October 1962.

The popularity of their catchy and jazzy tunes may have paved the way for the Broadway hit, Fiddler on the Roof, and the klezmer revival of the late 70s.

Listed below are some of their most popular tunes. The Judaica Sound Archives has 41 recordings by this dynamic duo of Yiddish music.

Abi Gezunt (Stay healthy)

In Meine Oigen Bistie Shain (To me you are beautiful)

Channah from Havannah (A Gala Concert with Moishe Oysher album, no. 3).

Bublitchki (About the last bagel)

Dem Neyem Sher (At Home With album, no. 2).

Roumania

Click here for more Barry Sisters recordings. Due to copyright concerns only snippets can be heard on our public website.  Full versions are available to users of the RSA Research Station.

 

RSA guest blogger, Niels Falch, is a PhD candidate at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and is currently writing a dissertation on the influence of Jewish music in American popular songs.

Cantor Todros Greenberg: a family pays homage to their roots

By , November 5, 2014 6:17 pm

Todros GreenbergCantor Todros Greenberg’s great-granddaughter wanted her son to hear his great-great- grandfather sing, but all she had was a tangle of tapes from dozens of reel-to-reel recordings. What could she do?

After locating a box full of tapes belonging to her great-grandfather, Cheryl Silver reached out to the JSA. With her son Noah’s Bar Mitzvah only a few months away she wanted to preserve the music on the tapes as part of Noah’s Mitzvah Project.

Although most of the tapes seemed to be in fairly good condition they were in total disarray. The home-made tapes were not clearly identified. We had no idea who was singing what on which tape.

A bit of good luck: As it happened, Cantor Joseph Gross, friend of the JSA, remembered Cantor Greenberg and could identify his voice. Hour after hour after hour, Cantor Gross sat with ear phones listening to tapes and making notes.  JSA sound technician, Ben Roth-Aroni meticulously digitized the tapes, created separate tracks and organized the songs on CDs for the family.

Well-known among Cantors for his talents as an educator and composer,  Cantor Greenberg’s 40 year collaboration with  Cantor Sholom Kalib resulted in the critically acclaimed book, Heichal Han’gina V’hatfila. Vol.1, published in 1961 by the Cantor’s Assembly.

His compositions have been included in the Milken Archive’s CD: The First S’lihot by Benzion Miller and  in The Milken Archive’s 50 CD boxed set.  They were also featured as part of the 8-program WFMT (Chicago) radio series, The Art of the Cantor, hosted by Cantor Alberto Mizrahi. But, recordings of this great Cantor’s voice have been rare …..until now.

The Judaica Sound Archives is proud of its role in preserving the recorded music legacy of Cantor Todros Greenberg.The digitized music in this collection was lovingly and painstakingly created from Cantor Greenberg’s personal reel-to-reel tapes which were donated to the Judaica Sound Archives by Cantor Greenberg’s family in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of his great-great-grandson, Noah Johnson.

 Click here to read more about Cantor Greenberg and to hear his recordings.

Romance is in the Air: Efrem Zimbalist & Alma Gluck

By , June 25, 2014 9:26 am
Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist

Alma Gluck and Efrem Zimbalist

Before there was Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt…before there was Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall…before there was Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton…There was Efrem Zimbalist and Alma Gluck.

A little over100 years ago, a nice Jewish boy who happened to be a violin genius  met a lovely Jewish young woman who was making a name for herself as a singer. I guess you could say that when these two Jewish superstars of classical music fell in love they were destined to make beautiful music together.

The Zimbalist-Gluck romance provided lots of material for the gossips of their day. While the idea of such a wonderful pairing of talents was thrilling, there were those who pointed out that Gluck was six years older, as well as a divorcee with a daughter. Scandalous!

 

Read more about Alma Gluck’s relationship with Efrem Zimbalist.

Read more about Efrem Zimbalist.

Browse 40 recordings the talented couple made together.

Cantor Elias Rosemberg

By , May 28, 2014 11:56 am

Rsemberg photo Growing up in a family of Hazzans and Klezmer musicians, Cantor Elias Rosemberg may have been born to perform.

From his early days as a wedding singer in Buenos Aires to his present position as the Cantor for Temple Emanuel in Newton, MA. (the largest Conservative synagogue in New England)  his talent and energy have made him a stand-out performer. No stranger to radio, television, and the recording industry, he won the “Argentina Sings for Israel” vocal contest in 1998.

Since coming to the United States in 2000, he has continued to receive honors and recognition for his talent as a great singer and as a gifted Hazzan. His repertoire includes Cantorial, Israeli, Yiddish, and Ladino, as well as opera and Broadway selections. True to his Argentinean roots, he also enjoys singing Tango. At the Cantors Assembly Convention in 2002 he was asked to sing the memorial prayer at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

You can visit his YouTube channel to see live performances.

The Judaica Sound Archives is proud to include these four  wonderful recordings by Cantor Rosemberg. Click album cover to play.

Let my people singShabbat aliveHoly Daysprayers

Cantor Joseph Gross

By , March 10, 2014 11:41 am

Cantor Joseph Gross is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about Jewish liturgy, Cantorial music, Cantorial voices and the history of the Cantorate in North America.

A delightful gentleman who has stored  a lifetime of learning into his diminutive frame, Cantor Joseph Gross showed up at the Judaica Sound Archives a little over three years ago wondering if he could be of any help. His warmth and his big smile took us in immediately.  But what captivated us was his encyclopedic knowledge of all things Cantorial and liturgical.

As he spoke I could not help but think that he has probably forgotten more than most of us will ever know on the topic. But as he continued, I realized that he is blessed with almost perfect recall.  Not much seems to have been forgotten at all. You may have heard of people with photographic memories, but Cantor Gross is the only person I have ever met with “phonographic  memory,” i.e. he can recall voice and music impeccably.

A master cantor and composer, Joseph Gross has been a regular volunteer at the JSA for over three years now. Several of our Cantorial music restoration projects have been possible only with his guidance and help.

The JSA has created three albums from the original tape recordings of Cantor Gross.  These recordings are not available anywhere else and have never been commercially released.  They were restored under the vigilant supervision of the Cantor himself.

RebbeSoul: Jewish roots, world music

By , January 14, 2014 10:04 am

Deeply emotional and rooted in the ancient songs of Judaism, the music of RebbeSoul brings a modern vibe that re-imagines the music of our ancestors. This is not your grandmother’s Jewish Music.  This is not some crazy mash-up of eclectic sounds.  This is spiritually-based music with modern sensibilities and a deep respect for the past.

After earning a degree in engineering, Bruce Burger (aka RebbeSoul)set off to explore L.A.’s music scene.

Leaving parental expectations and  upstate New York’s brilliant autumns and wintry snows behind him,  it was in L.A. that he finally found his sound….and his voice.

At the age of 22, after sharing a Shabbat dinner with an Orthodox family he was inspired to write “Sister Sarah.”  Despite having been a secular Jew for many years, this experience touched him so deeply that he was moved to take on the name RebbeSoul.

As he added the melodies of nigunim and prayers to his repertoire he made a decision. “Every time I play as RebbeSoul, I put something on my head….To the great Rebbes, a nigun, a melody, is something that comes from the heart and goes straight to heaven without anything getting in the way.  So when I do it, I want to make sure there is something on my head, out of respect.”

To strengthen his connection to the Jewish people even further, Burger made aliya in 2007. Now residing in Zichron Ya’acov, he is exploring his musical roots and enjoying where his musical journey is taking him.

The Judaica Sound Archives at FAU’s Wimberly Library is delighted to be able to add Bruce Burger as our newest JSA featured performer. Click on any album below.

 

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