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Abraham Ellstein, one of the “big four” composers (along with Sholom Secunda, Joseph Rumshinsky, and Alexander Olshanetsky) of New York’s Second Avenue Yiddish theater, was born on the Lower East Side on this date in 1907. Ellstein was a young prodigy who trained at Juilliard. He was an arranger, composer, and accompanist for Molly Picon during her European and South American tours, and wrote the music for her performances of Abraham Goldfaden’s Shmendrik, as well as 32 other Yiddish theater scores. He also wrote two film scores, Mamele and Yidl mitn fidl (with lyrics by Itzik Manger), which starred Picon and became Jewish box office hits. Ellstein was a regular on WEVD, New York’s Yiddish-language radio station, and composed synagogue music, operettas, oratorios, and other classical pieces. To hear his orchestra (with Dave Tarras on clarinet and Seymour Rechtzeit singing), see below.
“A little joy, a little laughter
A drink with friends, more fun thereafter
If you have your health, then thank your lucky stars!” —“Abi Gezunt,” by Abe Ellstein and Molly Picon