An Ethnomusicologist's Look at Holidays Songs - Part 1


Since we are full swing into the holiday season at this point, we’re ending the year with a couple of blogs that celebrate the season even as they educate.  This week, we’re sharing the story behind “The Dreidel Song”.

“The Dreidel Song” (also known as “I Have a Little Dreidel”) was written by New York born composer Samuel E. Goldfarb.  He worked in Tin Pan Alley when he was young, and later, with his brother, Israel, composed and arranged many volumes of music, including collections of Jewish melodies.  He eventually moved to Seattle and served as music director at Temple De Hirsch.  While there, he wrote and arranged for the choirs and also served as Temple organist.  What began as a simple song for his students has become one of the mainstays of American-born Hanukkah music.   The song is a delight and shows the whimsical side of this excellent composer.  A dreidel is a toy that is similar to a top.  It has four sides with Hebrew letters on each side.  Bets are placed, the dreidel is spun, and the player who did the spinning acts based on the symbol that lands upwards.  The youtube recording link below features PS22 in a spirited rendition of the song from a 2006 concert.  As you enjoy this recording, try to visualize the dreidel spinning and the accompanying family fun it portrays.



Author:  Susan Anderson-Benson, Center Program Manager


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