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BrooklynJay Bikel's An Actor's Holiday album (12) RE: Bikel's An Actor's Holiday album 20 Aug 15


Here are the notes from the back of the album cover. Actually, this is just the part written by Theodore Bikel. Unfortunately, my old vinyl album (with the song lyrics inside) is currently in storage and unavailable. But I hope this helps a little:

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The phrase, "An Actor's Holiday," is very fitting to my state of mind when it comes to playing and singing folksongs. As a businessman might go fishing or a politician take to golf clubs, so would I fill in a substantial part of my time off from the theatre by cultivating this six-stringed key to international folklore.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to folksongs and folksingers. Not only for countless hours of deep personal delight while listening and learning or passing on to others what I had learned that maybe in itself being as great a pleasure but also I find that what was actually no more than a hobby has become closely interrelated with my work as an actor. The sense of rhythm and timing that are so necessary on the stage are indispensable when it comes to playing and singing. The more time and concentration I dedicate to this, my secret vice, the better I find myself equipped for my work as an actor. And as for slipping into different languages and nationalities this cannot be but an extension of character acting; even more so, for one has to create the illusion of different costumes, bearing, or looks through sound alone.

If, then, the title of this album seems to suggest a busman's holiday I accept the inference gladly.

Some words about the songs and how I came by them:

Khag Laro'e and Khof Shakett are both Israeli songs by Amitai Neeman who taught them to me when I revisited Israel in 1954. Amitai, incidentally, accompanied me on his accordion during the recording of these two songs (as well as two others in this collection).

Rue I learned from Isla Cameron, one of Britain's best folksingers. She is responsible for a good many of my songs.

Two items on Side A are heirlooms in my family. Ay Te Tsi Nye Te my grandmother, Mrs. Riegler, taught me when I was very small. Ruthenian, incidentally, is a dialect of the Ukrainian language spoken by the peasants of my grandmother's native Bukovina. Vi Zenen Mayne Yinge Yoren is one of my father's favourites. When he taught it to me I was fascinated by the mixture of the two languages, Yiddish and Ukrainian.

Mangwani Mpulele was given to me by my African friend, Lionel Ngakane, whi came to London to complete his part as the young murderer in the film, Cry the Beloved Country. A fine actor and a very intelligent man.

Burl Ives first sang me his version of Wheel of Fortune; the words I sing here were given to me by Isla.

Both Hallelujah and Ma Guitare Et Moi are songs by Stephane Golmann whose home is Paris and who writes what undoubtedly must be called 20th Century "folklore." The sarcasm of Hallelujah and the unsentimental nostalgia of Ma Guitare are self-evident.

Be'er Bassadeh , a Hebrew song by E. Zamir, I unaccountably failed to include in my album of Israeli folksongs (EKL-132). It is included here to right a sin of omission.

There are many versions of Los Quatro Muleros that have been recorded, including some with new words dating from the Spanish Civil War. In fact, I first learned the song as "Los Quatro Generales" but liked the original Muleros better when I heard it. For this particular rhythmic pattern I am beholden to Ray Boguslav.

When I was playing a blind Portuguese cobbler on a "Star Tonight" Television show entitled Footfalls we thought it might be a good idea if I were to sing at the work-bench. A charming lady of the Portuguese Information Office in New York, whose name unfortunately escapes me, took the trouble to teach ne the song Vira which we then used.

Being very partial to the harmonics of Russian folk-songs, especially when sung by a group, I wanted to turn myself into a male trio. Thanks to modern technology I sing all three voices in Na Konye Voronom. Driving from England to Spain on a song-hunting trip with Prince George Galitzine who like myself is a fiend for guitars and gypsies we used to hum this tune and harmonize on it while taking turns at the wheel. It made me want to learn the words properly. This as well as Kto Yevo Znayet is a fairly recent Russian tune.

Welcum to Scotland was composed and sung by Will Dunbar, the Scottish poet and minstrel, on August 8th, 1503 at the wedding of Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland. My version comes from Donald Swann.

The Neapolitan song Scalinatella, too, was used in a TV play in which I took part: "A Patch on Faith" by John Secondari. My thanks go to him for the English translation of this song.

Both Blow the Candles Out and Perrine Etait Servante I have known for a good many years and the interpretation of them changes with the degree of naughtiness one feels while singing them.

Snyezhnaya Kolibellnaya was sung by that king of Russian romanticism, A. Vertinsky. Theo Bennahum helped me procure the words. I find the emotional impact of this babysitter's lament quite extraordinary.

Stenka Razin and Folklore Limited are a kind of mockery and fooling around with folksongs and the all-too-serious-interpreters-of-same that I am likely to come up with when a party is well under way. If you like this sort of thing, there it is; if you don't, there is an unusually wide space just before Band 8 so you can take the needle off right there. I won't be angry.

THEODORE BIKEL


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