Zisl Slepovitch Ensemble and Sasha Lurje

The Songs From Testimonies project collects and records songs and poems discovered in our testimonies. Our musician-in-residence, Zisl Slepovitch, took the songs, conducted research about their origins, then arranged and recorded versions with his ensemble, featuring Sashe Lurje. The songs and poems you are about to hear were sung or recounted in a number of testimonies and reflect the richness of these documents. They are songs from the interwar period and from the ghettos. Some of the songs are about dying and death, written and sung in the camps. Originally, these songs were sung individually and collectively, but in survivors’ testimonies they are recounted or performed by individuals. They thus remind us that the survivor singing them represents all those who did not survive to sing again, and remind us of the absence of the original audience.

This effort to recall them – part anthropological, part ethnomusicological, part historical – also recreates them. And my hope is that this recreation will form a link between the people who are no longer living and the living, all of us listening to this recording.

-Stephen Naron, Director, Fortunoff Video Archive at Yale University

Cry My Heart, Cry: Songs from Testimonies Vol. 2 is the latest collection in the Fortunoff Archive’s Songs from Testimonies project. The Fortunoff Archive is a repository of more than 12,000 hours of testimony from survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust. Starting in 1979, it is the oldest, continually operating organization to document the Holocaust through videotestimony.

Over the past four years, the Fortunoff Archive has worked closely with D. Zisl Slepovitch, a Belarussian composer, multi-instrumentalist, ethnomusicologist and Yiddish educator to document the songs recounted in the Archive’s collection. As the Archive’s first musician-in-residence, Zisl located songs and conducted research about their origins. He then arranged and recorded versions with his ensemble, featuring renowned singer Sashe Lurje. Sashe, a Latvian-born Yiddish singer, specializes in performing and teaching old Yiddish singing styles.

Cry, My Heart, Cry, the second volume, features 13 new songs originally shared by Holocaust survivors in interviews conducted by the Fortunoff Video Archive. The widely diverse compositions presented on the album recreate a multidimensional image of people’s lives and the multiple identities they carried. “Some of the songs are humorous, some realistic, and some are pre-war songs that received new meanings as a few songs are parodies (contrafact) i.e., new lyrics to known melodies are created to express the circumstances and emotions of that time,” says Gila Flam, Director, Music Department and Sound Archives of the National Library of Israel.

The songs were performed by Zisl Slepovitch (woodwinds), Mariana Slepovitch (tsymbaly), Joshua Camp (accordion, piano), Dmitry Ishenko (bass), Craig Judelman (violin), and Sasha Lurje (vocals). Liner notes include contextual information for each song, translations, and biographical information about each of the survivors who originally sang the song in their testimony. Cover art was produced by Yulia Ruditskaya.


Sasha Lurje sings at the Songs from Testimonies at the Fortunoff Video Archive concert at Sudler Recital Hall at Yale University on March 30, 2019. Photo © Arnold Gold

Sasha Lurje sings at the Songs from Testimonies at the Fortunoff Video Archive concert at Sudler Recital Hall at Yale University on March 30, 2019.
Photo © Arnold Gold

From left, Dmitry Ishenko, Sasha Lurje, Craig Judelman and D. Zisl Slepovitch perform at the Songs from Testimonies at the Fortunoff Video Archive concert at Sudler Recital Hall at Yale University on March 30, 2019. Photo © Arnold Gold

From left, Dmitry Ishenko, Sasha Lurje, Craig Judelman and D. Zisl Slepovitch perform at the Songs from Testimonies at the Fortunoff Video Archive concert at Sudler Recital Hall at Yale University on March 30, 2019.
Photo © Arnold Gold

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Zisl Slepovitch
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