Monday, September 29, 2008

Can You Top This?

Like whirling dervishes, the New York Voices spun into town last week to record a stunning version of one of Israel's most celebrated Hannuka songs, "Sivivon, Sov, Sov,Sov" (Dreidle-spin like crazy!). In a new arrangement by the Voices' own Darmon Meader, the melody takes on a quiet, nostalgic feeling, and the English lyrics make the song accessible to all. The Voices' harmonies are stunning, as usual...
"Sevivon, Sov, Sov, Sov has become one of the best known Hanukkah songs in Israel and in the Diaspora, despite its having two sets of lyrics. Levin Kipnis (1894-1990) was responsible for the original text, which he set to an anonymous folk melody. The poet had made aliyah from his native Ukraine in 1913, and immediately achieved some success as a writer of children’s literature, to which he turned upon realizing that no one in the yishuv was writing original material for the youngest Hebrew speakers. Kipnis studied at the Bezalel Art Academy soon after arriving in Palestine, but in 1922 he traveled to Berlin to take additional classes in art and craftsmanship. Several of his first books of children’s songs were published there, in Hebrew; Sevivon appears in the collection titled “Machrozet” (The String), published by “Omanut” in Frankfurt am Main in 1923. The spinning tops made in eretz yisrael bear letters that stand for the words “Nes gadol hayah po,” a great miracle happened here. In the Diaspora, the phrase -- and the tops - is retooled to say “Nes gadol hayah sham,” a great miracle happened there. Adaptations to accommodate the different rhyme schemes were made as the song became popular outside the Jewish homeland, but this is only one of many songs for which the poet achieved renown. In 1978 Levin Kipnis was awarded the coveted Israel Prize for ''devoting his life to the development of children's literature in Hebrew.'' (MBE)

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