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Miriam Dvorin


Finding My Voice

My first featured vocal performance was as soprano soloist in my junior high school chorus singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. My French teacher, Madame Brune (Mrs. Brown), dubbed me la jeune fille avec la voix exquise which means the young (unmarried) woman with the exquisite voice. Even with such an auspicious beginning, who would have guessed that some day I would perform with vocal superstars Sherrill Milnes, Beverly Sills, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, and Tony Bennett?


When I was at Indiana University I cultivated a repertoire of songs recorded by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, and Joan Baez. One night I was singing a Child ballad recorded by Baez while accompanying myself on the guitar when several women walked into my dorm talking loudly. When they saw me they apologized for barging in like that, explaining that they thought I was a record! But my voice wouldn't be committed to vinyl for many years. Having discovered me that day, I was often asked by my dorm mates to provide entertainment in the dorm lounge when we had open house.

All-Women Band

The first band I was in was the Moonshine Women's Jug Band based in the Washington, DC area. We played Old-Timey and bluegrass tunes like Angeline the Baker, June Apple, and Old Joe Clark. I played fiddle, guitar, autoharp and was lead vocalist. My blues and ballads always brought the house down wherever we performed. Caroline, who played banjo, and I were the only band members who played store-bought instruments with the others contributing to the mix via washboard (and thimbles), spoons, washtub bass, and jug.


Soon after I arrived in California, I hooked up with The Klezmorim who were about to make an album with Chris Strachwitz at Arhoolie Records. Chris wanted to record the Yiddish song Mayn Rue Plats (My Resting Place) written by Morris Rosenfeld about turn-of-the-twentieth-century sweatshop workers. This was the last song recorded in the Streets of Gold sessions at 1750 Arch Street in Berkeley. Stuart Brotman played acoustic bass and David Skuse played violin as I sang my seat-of-the-pants arrangement in the remaining fifteen minutes of a day-long session. It was hot, I was tired, and the first take was perfectly in tune with the song's message. Soon after the LP was released, critic and columnist Nat Hentoff wrote a review of Streets of Gold in which he included my vocal contribution among the diverse pleasures:

a song by tailor-writer Morris Rosenfeld, My Resting Place. Singer Miriam Dvorin, who is also an impressively zestful violinist, learned the piece from a socialist songbook owned by her grandmother. It is another distilled memory of working year after year in a sweatshop—before there were unions, before there was much beyond survival: Don't look for me where myrtles are green/You will not find me there, my beloved./Where lives wither at the machines,/There is my resting place.

Read a review of the retrospective compilation CD entitled The Klezmorim/First Recordings 1976-1978 (that includes Mayn Rue Plats) here.

One Woman Band

Some years later I decided to find out how much music one woman could make all by herself. I went into a small studio in Santa Rosa and recorded my solo multitrack album Grandma Soup/Yiddish Songs singing my own harmony vocals and accompanying myself on:

Some of the songs I recorded come from the Yiddish Theater. Some are settings of the poetry of folk bards, and others are folk songs of unknown authorship. Cuts 4 and 9 are klezmer instrumentals.

Grandma Soup/Yiddish Songs

  1. UNDZER NIGUNDL Our Little Tune
  3. BOBE UN ZEYDE Grandma and Grandpa
  5. OYFN PRIPETSHIK On the Hearth
  6. DIRE GELT Rent Money
  8. SHPIL KLEZMERL Play Musician
  10. A BRIVELE DER MAMEN Mother's Little Letter
  12. ABI GEZUNT As Long as You're Healthy

Here are the rules for Yiddish orthography formulated by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and adopted by the Library of Congress to help with pronounciation:

	as in				as in

a	fAr			e	bEd
i 	Is			o	sO
u	fUll			ay	whY
ey	thEY			oy	bOY
sh	fiSH		 	tsh	suCH
kh	li-KHay-im!		y	Yes 
ts	leTS			zh	meaSure

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