ברוך דיין אמת Israel Mourns
ברוך דיין אמת
“America the Beautiful” in Yiddish and English
English words: Katharine Lee Bates
Yiddish words: Berl Lapin
Melody: Samuel Ward
Choral arrangement: Mark Zuckerman
Filmed live in performance
June 1, 2014 • Symphony Space, NYC
Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus
Binyumen Schaechter, conductor
Three months after the tragedies of 9/11, our chorus was asked to sing in a memorial service at Ground Zero. Four of our members – one on each of the vocal parts – sang Mark Zuckerman’s wonderful arrangement of “America the Beautiful,” first in English and then in Yiddish. It was an experience those singers have never forgotten. Our chorus has since then performed this song over 20 times.
The song itself has an interesting history. The text was written in 1893 by an English professor named Katharine Lee Bates, who was deeply inspired by the scenes of American nature that she saw out her window while riding a train cross-country. But it was published as a poem, not as a song. Similarly, the melody was not originally written to go with this text: Samuel A. Ward, a church organist and choirmaster, had written it to go with a Christian hymn, “O Mother dear, Jerusalem,” more than 10 years before Bates wrote her poem. It wasn’t until 1910 that Bates’s poem and Ward’s melody were published together, and the combination achieved such popularity that it often vied with the “Star-Spangled Banner” for national-anthem status.
Mark Zuckerman composed his dual-language arrangement — half English, half Yiddish — in 1996, using Berl Lapin’s Yiddish translation. (Berl Lapin also translated the “Star-Spangled Banner” into Yiddish, which you can hear us sing at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkxCk…)
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