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"But If an Irishman
Sings a Jewish Song It's Going to..."
Composer Sholom Secunda, who wrote the score for "Bagels and Yox," the Yiddish-American revue at the Holiday Theater, whimsically claims that he is not only a music-maker but a friend to genius.
"After all," says Secunda, "if it hadn't been for me, George Gershwin might never have written 'Rhapsody in Blue.' George, you see, originally wanted to team up with me to write songs for the Yiddish theater, but I turned down his idea and he wound up as a song plugger at Remick's, from where he progressed to writing for Broadway musicals."
More seriously, Secunda can boast that he helped launch the Andrews Sisters on their way to success. It was their recording of his song, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," that rescued the trio from the obscurity of $25 club dates and springboarded them to their current eminence.
"'Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,' incidentally," says Secunda, "was a great favorite under Hitler until someone pointed out it was written by the composer of 'The Jewish Song,' which we are now featuring in 'Bagels and Yox''."
A graduate of the Julliard School of Music, Secunda, who came here with his family from Russia at the age of 12, has turned out more than 60 operettas and over 1,000 songs, not counting his religious, symphonic and chamber music. Local residents also know him as musical director of the Brooklyn Jewish Center. According to Secunda, many types of music, including Gregorian chant, are derived from Jewish melodies. "An Italian aria" he says, "if sung by a cantor will reveal its Jewish background, but if and Irishman sings a Jewish song, it's going to sound Irish."
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