Tapes by Sima Miller and her late husband Arnold - Heritage: The Art of the Yiddish Folk Song - were the inspiration for the Leah Todres Yiddish Song Festival in Cape Town.
Sima Miller and her late husband Arnold were members of Nathaniel Stampfer's Yiddish class that he conducted in Skokie for the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.
This class went on for a good many years, and Alan Todres joined some time into its existence, and was a member for several years.
Our mother, the late Leah Todres attended as a guest during her visits to Chicago, and greatly enjoyed the experience. Nathaniel used songs as part of each class, and Sima led the singing (Arnold was a pianist, who accompanied Sima in performances, but not during the class). Our mother loved that, and Nathaniel gave her some of the tapes the Millers had made.
These are the tapes that were passed along to musicologist Fay Singer and the 'tapes from America' that she refers to in the documentary 'Leah, Teddy & the Mandolin'. Fay sensed that they took considerable care with authenticity, and I think that was a major part of our mother's enjoyment of the tapes. Fay was particularly thrilled, because Arnold's accompaniment on the piano was so sympathetic, she could hear every word in the song. She observed that sometimes she had the score and no recording. At other times she had a recording and not the score with the lyrics. But often the song was so over-orchestrated that she could not easily get the lyrics.
Sima and Arnold Miller's series Heritage:The Art of the Yiddish Folk Song were an invaluable resource. As Fay mentions in the documentary, she used the tapes to teach Yiddish Songs to seniors who attended the Cape Jewish Seniors Association (CJSA).
This interaction with Sima and Arnold Miller's series of tapes, plus the fact that Fay had encouraged Matthew Reid to form a Klezmer Band, were pivotal to the idea of having a Yiddish Film Festival in Cape Town.
"Sima is still listed as a Chicago YIVO board member, and will hopefully attend the showing," observes Alan Todres. "I plan to talk about the connection in my introduction to the documentary."
So the screening of the musical doccie 'Leah, Teddy & the Mandolin' on 26 June at 7:00pm, as part of the Chicago YIVO Society 2018 Summer Festival of Yiddish Culture, is in fact a return to its roots in Chicago! Bashert?
Chicago YIVO Society 2018 Summer Festival of Yiddish Culture - click here for program
For more info about the documentary and the Summer Festival - please click here to read 'Chicago Welcomes Leah, Teddy & the Mandolin'