Leah, Teddy & the Mandolin, is a story told through the ten years of archival footage from the Annual Leah Todres Yiddish Song Festival, held in Cape Town. Leah, Teddy & the Mandolin raises an awareness of the rich genre of Yiddish song – bringing it to the attention of a wider and younger audience. Yiddish song extends from traditional folksongs through music hall and vaudeville to Broadway and beyond. The songs allow an informed audience to appreciate the contribution of Yiddish song and songwriters to the contemporary American musical. Listening to the 1938 song Undzer Shtet’l Brennt – Our Town is burning, written by Mordechai Gebirtig, one sees the powerful resonance to Kurt Weil. The bitter-sweet, minor key compositions, distinctive of Klezmer music, evoke comparisons to jazz and the blues. The documentary highlights these associations and the overall context and contribution of Yiddish song.
The festival even inspired an international song writer, the late Hal Shaper, to contribute two original songs to the festival. ‘Those Were the Days in Muizenberg’ is based on the Gene Raskin classic ‘Those Were the Days’ that he had based on a Russian and arguably Jewish melody. ‘The 10 Tap Dancing Rabbis from Minsk’, completed the day before Shaper died, is a remarkable parody that tells the story of Yiddish song’s journey from shtetl to Broadway, and is included in the documentary.
Leah, Teddy & the Mandolin records this achievement and honours the singers and musicians, who contributed to reviving Yiddish song in Cape Town.
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