Thursday, January 24, 2013

Litttle Moses

Shabbat Shirah ~ Sabbath of Song: This coming Shabbat is the Sabbath of Song, when we again read the story of the Crossing of the Red Sea and the ensuing celebrations.

And for those who are a bit Torah-challenged (aren't we all?), Abq Jew's sources tell him that some guy named Cecil B DeMille shot a movie of the whole affair. Here's a photo:

This is indeed a Shabbat for singing and celebration. Abq Jew therefore reminds you that, over at Congregation Albert, Mama Doni Is In The Building!

But wherever you are, you should especially sing and celebrate this Shabbat. Not only is this Shabbat Shirah - it's also Tu BiShevat (New Year of the Trees, aka Jewish Arbor Day) - the 15th day of the month of Shevat (and not the day before Three BiShevat).

What shall we sing? Abq Jew hears you ask. There's always Hava Nagilah, which, it turns out, is not about Abq Jew's friend Gila, who grew up in Cuba. And, of course, there's Adon Olam, which can be sung to almost any tune in the world if you try hard enough.

Nope - here is the song that Abq Jew intends to sing. You've probably never heard of it, but that's OK. Abq Jew will teach it to you!

Here is how Abq Jew first heard Little Moses - performed by Straight Drive, Abq Jew's favorite bluegrass band still performing (he thinks) today. Terry McGill was even Abq Jew's banjo teacher for a while! Here they are at the 2009 Pickin' in the Pasture Bluegrass Festival in Lodi, New York

Where did this song come from? Abq Jew hears you ask. Here's some background (from The Old, Weird America):
The Carter Family recorded “Little Moses”  in February 14, 1929, their third session for Victor. They arrived this time in Camden, New Jersey with a brand new Chevrolet, amazed at the popularity they gained during their three years in the recording business. During this session (that you can hear and download here) they recorded many of their best known songs like “I’m thinking tonight of my blue eyes”, “Sweet Fern”, “My Clinch Mountain Home”, “The Foggy Mountain Top”, “Engine 143″, etc… and the song we’re going to look more closely in this post, “Little Moses”. Sara Carter learned this “religious ballad” from an older relative, Myrtle Bayes and the song was collected in 1905 under the title “Moses in the bulrushes” in “Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folklore Society”. The song tells the story of the founding of baby Moses by Pharaoh’s  daughter  and some other famous scenes of the prophet’s life as told in the Bible book of Exodus. In his form, the song reads like a children’s Sunday school lesson and his simple melody in waltz time with his repetitive last verses in the chorus enhance this lullaby character.
Here are the lyrics:
Away by the waters so blue
The ladies were winding their way
While Pharaoh's little daughter went down to the water
To bathe in the cool of the day
Before it was dark she opened the ark
And found the sweet babe that was there

And away by the waters so blue
The infant was lonely and sad
She took him in pity and thought him so pretty
And it made little Moses so glad
She called him her own, her beautiful son
And she sent for a nurse who was near

And away by the waters so blue
They carried that beautiful child
To his tender mother, to his sister and brothers
Little Moses looked happy and smiled
His mother so good did all that she could
To raise him and teach him with care

And away by the sea that was red
Little Moses the servant of God
While in him confided, the sea was divided
As upwards he lifted his rod
And the Jews safely crossed while Pharaoh's host
Was drownded in the waters and lost

And away on a mountain so high
The last that he ever did see
With Israel victorious, his hopes were most glorious
That soon all the Jordan be free
When his spirit did cease, he departed in peace
And rested in the Heavens above
Now, under ordinary circumstances, that would be about it. But - DON'T PANIC! While searching around on YouTube, Abq Jew found an even more splendiferous version of Little Moses - by, of all groups, The Seekers.

For those of you who were too young (and still are), here's what Wikipedia says:
The Seekers are an Australian quartet folk music-influenced pop music group which was originally formed in Melbourne in 1962. They were the first Australian popular music group to achieve major chart and sales success in the United Kingdom and the United States. They were popular during the 1960s with their best-known configuration as: Judith Durham on vocals, piano and tambourine; Athol Guy on double bass and vocals; Keith Potger on twelve-string guitar, banjo and vocals; and Bruce Woodley on guitar, mandolin, banjo and vocals.

The group had top 10 hits in the 1960s with "I'll Never Find Another You", "A World of Our Own", "Morningtown Ride", "The Carnival Is Over" (Russian folk song which the Seekers have sung at various closing ceremonies in Australia, including World Expo 88 and the Paralympics and still stands as the 30th best selling song in the United Kingdom), "Someday One Day", and "Georgy Girl" (the title song of the film of the same name). Australian music historian Ian McFarlane described their style as "concentrated on a bright, uptempo sound, although they were too pop to be considered strictly folk and too folk to be rock."

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

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