"Menner Menner, von 'Bais Duwed'"

by Frank Seiden

At the turn of the last century, Jewish Theatre was very much alive in New York. This tune was from one of those shows, an operetta called "Bais Duwed" (translation: "David's Home"). The operetta as a whole was written by the Russian native Abraham Goldfaden who founded Yiddish theatre in Romania (see this entry at Wikipedia about him), but the exact authorship of this tune is in doubt - musicals in that day frequently featured songs by more than one composer. The cylinder's printed title does not mention the performer's name, but in the announcement at the beginning the phrase "Herr Seiden" can be heard. That would be Frank Seiden, an early recording pioneer who specialized in Yiddish material. He led a wild life, winning a bar in New York's bowery during a poker game (!) and tending bar there after his recording career was over. (Great thanks go to Peter Nahon for relaying this information to me.) He recorded similar titles for Columbia Disk, as well as Victor, and the Edison cylinder 12000 International series between the years 1901 and 1905. He sings this song in a Latvian Yiddish dialect, appropriate for this song, not "Hebrew" as Columbia called it on this 1903 cylinder. The surface has no mold damage, though it has been played a lot and there were lots of small pits in the groove area. Manually removing clicks and pops in the sound sample, and keeping the other types of noise reduction to a minimum, has yielded a very listenable sample of this interesting slice of history. L'chiam! (More recordings by Frank Seiden can be heard at the "Judaica Sound Archive" - put the name "seiden" into the web site's search engine to display the different clips.)
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