Alte Libe

Music and Texts of  GARY BACHLUND

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Alte Libe  - (1995)  

אלטע ליבע

Song songs on Yiddish Folk Sayings 

for high or medium high voice and piano

i. With peace at home.

מית שלום־בית

מית שלום־בית איז מען צופרידן

מית א כזית׃

With peace at home, one can be satisfied with only a little.

ii. The best prayer

די בעסטע תפילה


אכילה איז די בעסטע תפילה׃

אז דער מאגן איז ליידיק איז דער מוח אויך ליידיק׃

Eating is the best prayer. When the stomach is empty is the brain also empty. It is good to fast with a leg from a goose and a half a bottle.

iii. An art

א קונץ


טאטא־מאמע איז א קונץ צו זוון

און אלע נעמען עס זיך אונטער׃


עלטערן עלטערן זיך׃

Parenting is to be an art, and almost everyone undertakes it. Children grow up and parents grow old.

iv. A beautiful world

א שיינע וועלט

אז מען האת קינדער, געזונט און געלט

האט מען א שיינע וועלט׃

עס איז בעסער צו לעבן אין נחת

איידער צו שטארבן אין צער׃

If one has children, health and money, one has a beautiful world. It is better to live with joy than to die with sorrow.

v. When one becomes old

וואס מען וורט אלט

עס ארט ניט וואס מען וורט אלט

ווען די יארן שלעפן ניט מיט׃

פארלירן ציין און האבן קינדער

מאכט אלט געשוונדער׃

It is not so bad when one becomes old and the years drag us along. Losing teeth and having children makes age come quickly.

vi. Old love

אלטע ליבע


אלטע ליבע זשאווערט ניט׃

ווי גאט טוט אבי אין איינעם׃

Old love does not rust. Whatever God wills, but together.

vii. The boss

דער בעל־הבות

דער מאן איז דער בעל־הבות

אז די ווייב זיינע לאזט׃

The husband is the boss, as long as the wife allows it.

viii. The world is a wheel

די וועלט איז א רעדל

די וועלט איז א רעדל און עס דרייט זיך׃

די וועלט איז א גרויסע׃

די וועלט איז א קליינע׃

,א שיינע וועלט, א ליכטיקע וועלט

נאר וויפאר וועמען׃

די וועלט רוקט זיך ביז זי ווערט פאררוקט׃

The world is a wheel, and it turns. The world is big, and the world is small. A beautiful world, a light-filled world, but only for whom? The world goes on and on, until it goes crazy.

The texts in the score are transliterations from the Yiddish.

Yiddish, as a language, is perhaps one thousand years old. With origins in the Rhineland, Jews who had immigrated from France began to speak a Germanic vernacular which incorporated elements of biblical Hebrew. as well as old French and Italian. With further immigration eastward into Poland, elements of Slavic languages also became a part of the language and its various pronunciations. Though Germanic in origin and therefore in much of its verb structure, it was written using Hebrew characters since the Torah and additional writings was an integral part of the Yiddish culture. Historically during the period of the European Enlightenment, European Jews found themselves a greater role in European cultures and began to discard Yiddish voluntarily. It is ironic after this time that the early twentieth century's barbarity brought on by the advent of National Socialism resulted in a violent repression of this language and culture. It is by no means the only Jewish language, for Ladino was like unto Yiddish though rooted in Spanish linguistic roots.

These songs combine individual short Yiddish folk sayings into longer song texts. The original Yiddish adages may be found in the collection, Words Like Arrows, University of Toronto Press, 1984, edited by Shirley Kumove, though my less clever translation are directly from the Yiddish. The setting for strings and harp is available only in the high key. Another cycle of songs is the comic set poking fun at cantors, titles Ale khazonim.

The score for Alte libe is available as a free PDF download in either medium or high key and formatted for 8 ½ x 11 or A4 paper, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphics below for this piano-vocal score.


Alte libe

high key

8 ½ x 11 edition


Alte libe

high key

A4 edition


Alte libe

medium key

8 ½ x 11 edition


Alte libe

medium key

A4 edition