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Those still recuperating from hangovers caused by New Year's Eve debauchery can rest easy knowing that it could be worse. In 539 B.C., during an orgiastic banquet in the palace of Babylon, King Belshazzar gave drunken orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so they might quaff heathen wine from them. At the height of the festivities, the revelers were astounded to see a disembodied hand writing a mysterious sentence on the wall. The strange words defied all attempts at interpretation--until Daniel arrived and informed the king of his impending doom. Now, the well-known phrase "the writing on the wall" has been used to foretell a coming misfortune that should have been avoided. A depiction of Belshazzar's feast and the "the writing on the wall" can be heard in Joseph Achron's Two Tableaux from the Theatre Music to Belshazzar.
The coming year will bring several new recordings to the Milken Archive's online library, starting off with Volume 01. Titled Jewish Voices in the New World: The Song of Prayer in Colonial and 19th-Century America, this compilation focuses on meticulously researched, discovered and historically reconstructed prayer and Psalm settings, hymns, and biblical cantillations heard in American synagogues from the Colonial era through the first century of the young republic. This volume features the oldest known music of American Jewish worship along with the earliest arrangements and original compositions of the succeeding decades--including music for Sabbath, Festival, and High Holyday services, as well as chants and elegies for Tisha Ba'av (the Ninth of the Av), commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn by lyricist Jacob Jacobs (pictured) and composer Sholom Secunda, is a Yiddish theater classic that is probably first known to today's audiences by its English-language equivalent. But how did the song that was a huge dance hall hit during the swing and big band era get its start? In this video interview, Jacobs' granddaughter, Melanie Mintz, shares the family lore behind the beloved song. Hint: Atlantic City and a flirtatious married man are involved. Watch and see.