As classically trained musicians, our goal is to bring the music to life – to connect the past to the present.
The music should pluck at your heartstrings, give you hope, and leave you dancing in the aisles.
Ahoy Vey! Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Schmaltz!
In this tangled web of tales from the time of the Spanish Inquisition, an unlikely group of swashbuckling Sephardi Jews took to the high-seas to escape persecution and ultimately allied with other European powers to attack Spanish fleets and protect Jews in-hiding. From a pirate Rabbi who kept kosher food aboard his privateer to ships bearing names such as Prophet Samuel and Queen Esther, these are stories that were left out of the history books until now.
Ahoy Vey! includes music in Ladino (ancient Spanish), Yiddish, Hebrew, and English, with translations in the program notes. Even for those unacquainted with this musical genre, familiar songs from Irving Berlin, J. S. Bach, Paul Simon, and Leonard Bernstein are woven in along with other songs pirated from across the seas. And of course the program is loaded with typical Millie & the Mentshn lighthearted humor, parodies, costumes, and lots of fun family entertainment in addition to history, stories, music, and pictures.
Heavy Mettle: From Shtetl to Tin Pan Alley
The Jews left the shtetls of Eastern Europe and arrived in the New World bearing the gift of Klezmer. The music they had passed down from generation to generation over centuries quickly blended with the sounds in their host country. In Argentina it merged with tango. In the U.S. it fused with jazz, swing, Dixieland, and Gospel.
What became of the children in immigrant families such as Jacob and Israel Gershovitz, Israel Beilin, Aliza Greenblatt, Abraham Gornetzsky, Isidore Hochberg, Hyman Arluck, and Aaron Gumbinsky and what was their influence on our current popular music? Surprises may be in store when their adopted New World names are revealed.
“I’m overwhelmed with naches as a result of MTM’s performance of Heavy Mettle.
The background about lineage of the music, the composers and the historical context
added so much to the kickoff to the Idaho Jewish Cultural Festival. Millie and the Mentshn
brought much simcha to our festival and I look forward to their many returns.”
~Oliver Thompson, Director of the Idaho Jewish Cultural Festival 2013
Homeland to Heartland
Homeland to Heartland, follows the immigration of Jews to America from Lithuania at the end of the 1800s to the late 1940s and includes:
- Story telling directly from the journals of the immigrants,
- Music selected from each era (including Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Ukrainian, and English), and
- Slides from the Shtetl (village), the ship voyage, and arriving and settling in the US.
The stories were written by Millie’s ancestors (Tenenbaums, Tatlebaums, Bleherts, etc.), who kept very detailed and literate diaries and photos of their experiences both in the Old Country and the New World. Some of the stories were published by the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest (JHSUM) entitled, “In America People Were Free” which comes from the writings of Millie’s grandfather’s first cousin Morris Tenenbaum. Included among the photos in the slide show are pictures that were drawn by Morris, such as pictures of the village Vsoko-Litovsk, Lithuania, their house, the ship (interior and exterior) and many others.
The music speaks of love, work, prayer, family, strength, and tradition.
Translations are provided to audience and accessible to all.
Concert: Songs Never Silenced*
Millie & the Mentshn present a program of the music and history of the Jewish people with a comparison of selections from before, during, and after the Holocaust. Yiddish songs reflect the life and customs of the Jewish people so that we can witness their history as passed down from generation to generation.
Songs prior to WWII speak of family, romance, children, work, and tradition, as well as tragedy, war, tyrants and social movements, or basically life in Eastern Europe from mid 1800s.
Most of the songs created during WWII in the ghettos and concentration camps were tragically destroyed along with the composers. In 1948 Shmerke Kaczerginsky, a Holocaust survivor from the Vilna ghetto, wrote down all the songs that he remembered or gathered from others. Altogether he hand-wrote the lyrics for 221 songs and the melody transcriptions for 100 of them. These songs depict the poignancy, the pain, the heroism, and even the humor of those who underwent unimaginable torture.
Post WWII, the music reflects a synthesis of the Old Country traditions of the survivors with the sounds of jazz that surrounded them in America, the New World.
The music illustrates the story, the history, and reveals the will to survive in the soul of the people.
Translations will be provided to the audience and accessible to all.
* with permission from Velvel Pasternak
“You were wonderful. The audience loved the concert, and I still keep getting compliments on your behalf. One lady said that the whole TwinCities was “A buzz.” — Mirjana Mladinov, Jewish Cultural Arts Director, St. Paul JCC, Minnesota
“We just moved to Fairbanks from New York. I am so happy that we were able to see your concert here instead of in New York, where we would never have been able to get in past the crowds.” — Anonymous Fan
“Thank you again for the wonderful experience you provided our Fairbanks community. They want you back and I assured them that it will happen. Sincerely, your most humble “Honorable Mentshn.” — Chuck Lemke, President of Board of Directors, Fairbanks Symphony Association