The Little Trees Are Weeping ...and not a Dry Eye Anywhere Either!
Carl Nelkin's second highly accomplished album, The Little Trees are Weeping - Songs of the Holocaust and Resistance, was released earlier this year for (the European) Holocaust Memorial Day. (Nelkin's 2003 debut album Irish Heart - Jewish Soul is also reviewed on this site.) A part-time chazan (cantor) from the small Irish Jewish community, Carl Nelkin focuses on Yiddish songs from the ghettos and the Jewish partisans of the Holocaust era on this album.
Two things stand out immediately on The Little Trees are Weeping. Carl Nelkin's beautiful outstanding voice and his sensitivity for his material, and the exceptional quality, beauty and sensitivity of the arrangements, credited to producer and pianist Derek Cronin.
While Carl Nelkin's vocal style is very cantorial, this somehow enhances the overall feel, poignancy and quality of The Little Trees are Weeping. Add to this Nelkin's sensitivity and utter conviction, and you have as near perfection as it is possible to get.
The songs of Carl Nelkin's The Little Trees are Weeping are old friends here, but if I am not mistaken this is the largest collection on a single album of songs from the ghettos and particularly partisan songs that I have encountered. And a wonderful, outstanding collection it is, too. Love songs, lullabies, songs of suffering and resistance, songs of hope, songs of the indefatigable human spirit even in the face of overwhelming odds, seemingly endless terror and almost certain death, songs of victories over an inhuman foe and fiend, all of life in the ghettos and in the fields and forests, it's all here. All too often, Jews, along with especially also the African slaves and their descendents in the Americas and the Caribbean, are portrayed as mere victims. Carl Nelkin's wonderful album goes some way in redressing the balance and shows that far from the stereotype, Jews did not go to their deaths as lambs to the slaughter but fought back as best they could and by any means possible. These songs are songs of hope for all humanity.
And what better or more beautiful way to close The Little Trees are Weeping than with what is perhaps the best known of all Yiddish songs from the Holocaust era, Zog Nit Kein Mol, or Never Say..., also known as The Partisan's Song. This rousing anthem, inspired by the Warsaw ghetto uprising, was adopted as the official anthem of the legendary Vilna (Vilnius) partisans soon after it was written in 1943. Yes, indeed, "We're still here!"
English translations of the lyrics are thoughtfully provided in the liner, along with annotations (albeit in far too tiny print) and the original Yiddish lyrics. The lyrics are very easy to follow thanks to Carl Nelkin's beautifully clear diction.
Carl Nelkin's The Little Trees are Weeping - Songs of the Holocaust and Resistance is an album of hope and beauty of spirit, and is in turn inspiring and hauntingly beautiful. You will probably find it very difficult to keep a dry eye listening to this wonderful collection of songs.
Any collection of Yiddish song, and especially of songs from the ghettos and partisans, cannot be complete without Carl Nelkin's The Little Trees are Weeping, and any general world music collection certainly will be greatly enriched by it.
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