The debut album of American guitarist-songwriter Ty Citerman’s Bop Kabbalah + Voices, «When You Speak of Times to Come (Ven Du Redst Fun Naye Tsaytn)», was recorded in 2019 and was released in December 2020 during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Finally, after a two-year hiatus from live performances, Bop Kabbalah+Voices – the trio of Citerman with vocalists Sara Serpa and Judith Berkson – performed two passionate concerts at Brooklyn’s Scholes St. Studio in June 2021 during Infrequent Seams Streamfest II that produced «The Yiddish Song Cycle Live».
«The Yiddish Song Cycle Live» is a 29-minute presentation of five leftist songs about the fight against capitalism from the 150-year-old Yiddish labor movement. These songs originated at the turn of the 20th century, during the time of Citerman’s grandparents’ escape from state-sponsored persecution in Ukraine and Russia. That generation brought not only their varied and sometimes limited skills as workers to the United States but also their political consciousness from the fight against Tsar Nicholas II and a desire to organize their workplaces. These songs call for a truly just and equitable world and, needless to say, are still defiant, courageous and prescient, resonating loudly even today.
Bop Kabbalah + Voices delivers these inspiring texts – sung in Yiddish and English – as guiding texts for the hyper-capitalist modern world. The trio begins its set with the humble poem of Avrom Reyzen, «Gebet» (A Prayer), where Serpa and Berkson with their close, dissonant harmonies wonder how they can make this world better for all. The following «Geyt Brider Geyt» (Go Brothers Go) demands «bread and human rights» from the Russian Tsar Nicholas II, and its plaintive spirit resonates with the determined fight against evil. The lyrics of «Mit Eyn Hant Hostu Undz Gegebn Di Konstitutsieh» (With One Hand You Gave Us the Constitution) are from the 1905 Russian Revolution, and yet its cries against fascism, false promises and fake policies by authoritarian rulers ring true today, in the United States as well as in its allies around the globe. The fierce delivery of Berkson and Serpa and Cimerman, with his distorted and effect-laden electric guitar, turn this song into an anti-fascist chant that promises the coming demise of the murderous and corrupt fascist rulers.
«Ver Tut Stroyen Movern, Palatsn» (Who Builds Wall…) is a promise to the future generation about a better future, where the children would be a «whole person». The last «Es Rirt Zikh» (It’s Moving), a labor poem excerpt by Morris Winchevsky from 1886, deepens the optimist veins of the previous song and foresees the sounds of the coming victory. The chamber, delicate atmosphere of this performance charges it with irreverent, prayer-like devotion and commitment, spiced with the sober realization that the fight against reactionary, greedy evils is never over, but always needs inspiring texts to motivate its supporters.
Judith Berkson (v), Ty Citerman (g, elec), Sara Serpa (v)