MIKHL GELBART (August 21, 1889-December 23, 1962)
He was born in Ozerkov (Ozorków), near Lodz, Poland. His father was a well-known prayer leader and a scholar, but terribly poor. There were seventeen children in their home, ten sons, and all went hungry. The sons inherited from their father an inclination toward vocal music, and at the age of six Mikhl was an assistant cantor to his father. One year later, he sang with the city cantor and later with the Kutner cantor. At age fifteen he was a chorister in the great Yiddish theater in Lodz. At sixteen he was choral director at the town synagogue school. He went on to direct the Hazamir chorus in various Polish cities, and he wrote operettas for a Yiddish theatrical troupe in which he also participated. In 1912 he emigrated to the United States and became a cantor and director of the Yiddish singers’ union in Paterson, New Jersey. In 1917 he moved to New York, and from that point forward he worked as a voice teacher in the schools of the Workmen’s Circle in New York.
In 1913 he published a series of articles on Jewish music in Dos idishe folk (The Jewish people) in New York, and thereafter until 1920 he was the music critic for Tog (Day) in New York, where he wrote under the pseudonyms: Ben-Arn, Mikhele Ozorkover, and Avrom Luzzato. He also contributed pieces to: Di idishe velt (The Jewish world) in Philadelphia, Idishe zhurnal (Jewish journal) in Toronto, and Kultur un dertsiung (Culture and education) and Der fraynd (The friend) in New York, among others. He wrote the music for works of numerous Yiddish poets and to hundreds of Yiddish children’s poems. He composed the music for six children’s operettas and compiled songbooks for the modern Jewish secular school.
Among his books: Lomir, kinder, zingen: 32 lider, far klas gezang, solo un geklibenem khor mit piano bagleytung (Let’s, children, sing: 32 songs, for class singing, solo, and assembled chorus with piano accompaniment) (New York, 1925), 50 pp.; Zingen kinder, gezang-khrestomatye far idish veltlikhe shuln oyb neytik far der heym: 40 lider (Children singing, song reader for Jewish secular schools and if necessary for the home: 40 songs) (New York, 1933), 40 pp.; Kinder operetes (Children’s operettas) (Vilna, 1933), 47 pp.; Lomir zingen: lider far heym, shul, yontoyvim un fayerungen (Let’s sing: songs for home, school, holidays, and celebrations) (New York, 1927-1938), 95 pp.; Gezangen (Songs) (New York, 1938), 52 pp.; Lider, gezungen in di arbeter-ring-shuln (Song, sung in the Workmen’s Circle schools) (New York, 1941), 17 pp.; Fun meshoyrerim lebn (From the life of choristers) (New York, 1942), 205 pp.; Zingt mit mir: lider far heym, shul, yontoyvim un fayerungen (Sing with me: songs for home, school, holidays, and celebrations) (New York, 1945), 159 pp.; Gezang bukh, far der elementar-shul (Songbook, for elementary school) (New York, 1946), 94 pp.; Lider fun getos and lagern (Songs from the ghettos and camps) (with Sh. Katsherginski) (New York, 1948), 435 pp.; Teater-shpil (far kleyn un groys) (Theater play, for young and old) (New York, 1949), 232 pp.; Zeks operetes (Six operettas) (New York, 1952); among others. He died in New York