Cabbages and Nonsense: Cockney-Yiddish Music Hall

Making a CD of music from the forgotten history of the Cockney-Yiddish music hall.

We did it!

On 8th Mar 2017 we successfully raised £6,160 of £4,000 target with 104 supporters in 35 days

New stretch target

The stretch target will allow us to fund a community event, workshop and discussion about the songs in their historical context.

If the target is further exceded, we will produce a video of parts of the live music-hall performance.

Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants at the turn of the Twentieth Century worked in the sweatshops  of the East End of London by day. By night they were entertained with the edgy, nuanced, funny and heartbreaking songs that both reminded them of their hard lives, but took them into another world of exuberant music and performance. The songs tell of work and poverty, of pawning belongings to court in Crystal Palace. They tell of sexy encounters between young people in Regent Street and dalliances amongst the married and the ubiquitous 'lodger'. The songs describe the pain at losing faith and the joy of being in a Yiddish-speaking world. And they do it with exuberent full-on drama.

We are Katsha'nes ('Cabbage-stalks' or 'nonsense') - Vivi Lachs, Rebekka Wedell, Sarha Moore and Flora Curzon - we perform these Cockney Yiddish music-hall songs, in part to re-create that past, and in part to comment on migration today, and see the past as a part of our lives of 2017.  Discovering old songs with old tunes, and finding old lyrics and composing new tunes has brought us hours of joy.  We have been gigging for around two years, and now want to take this tried and tested material and produce a lasting document. 

This is particularly timely because Yiddish as the language of the community who went to the Yiddish music hall is fast disappearing. This CD is especially dedicated to two people who contributed songs and who have recently passed away - originally an Eastender, the radio personality Rabbi Lionel Blue and holocaust survivor and actor on the London Yiddish stage, Esther Brunstein.

The money raised will pay for recording, mixing, mastering and producing a CD of up to 14 songs. This will also be available as digital downloads. The CD will include a booklet with images, lyrics, translations and historical context. We hope that this slice of Anglo-Jewish and London history will be something to cherish, enjoy and sing along to.

Anyone who doesn't live within reach of London, please contact us so that we can arrange alternative equivalent rewards.

Background images to the show by Caryn Rosmarin.

Cockney-Yiddish is our heritage. It is a colourful and accessible slice of our immigrant history not (yet) found in history books. It has a social and cultural value that enriches our sense of community and our sense of being part of an Anglo-Jewish Yiddish culture from back in Victorian and Edwardian times. It has a humour that tells of surviving poverty and the anxiety of immigration.

 Katsha’nes have performed in a range of community events, and have had cracking responses at concerts in synagogue and local and national Limmuds. We have been told of kids singing choruses of songs at bathtime, and adding new verses in English. We hope that this CD will inspire young and old to write their own songs in their own musical idioms about their Jewish experiences today.

The community will benefit from the CD of our regional Yiddish repertoire, packaged with lyrics and historical context. It will allow community groups, schools, choirs and individuals to enjoy and use the songs, and keep alive the repertoire and messages within them. And not only the Jewish community, the songs offers insight and understanding into London heritage and broader issues of migration, thus speaking to later migrant communities.

 For more information on Katsha'nes and our gigs, go to www.katshanes.com

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