How Chaim Nachman Bialik, great Jewish poet who died July 4, prevailed upon Isa Kremer, internationally famous Jewish diseuse, to sing the first of the Yiddish folksongs for the rendition of which she is most celebrated is told in an interview with the singer in the Yiddishe Zeitung of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Miss Kremer is now on tour.
Up to the time of her first meeting with Bialik Isa Kremer had sung the folksongs of many nations, but none of her own people’s, although, having been born in Bessarabia, she had a good command of the Yiddish language.
In 1914, in Odessa, Bialik called upon the singer and invited her to participate in a concert which was being arranged in one of the theatres. Isa Kremer accepted the invitation.
“But,” Bialik said, “You must not merely sing. I’d like you to sing Yiddish songs.”
The artist was embarrassed. She had never sung in Yiddish. Bialik, however, insisted that since she spoke Yiddish she would not find singing in that language difficult. Urging her to try it, he left three songs for her to learn. Those acquainted with her repertoire have heard them: A Lied Fun a Feigele: Sog Mir Du Shein Meidele: Lo Mir Sich Iberbeten.
Isa Kremer found learning the songs a simple matter and a pleasure, she told her interviewer. The next day, at the concert, which was attended by the cream of Odessa’s intelligentzia, Mendele Moicher Sforim, grandfather of Yiddish literature, Bialik, and S. Frug, Russian-Yiddish poet, were among those who sat in the front row.
“I could kiss her for that song,” Mendele said when the artist finished singing “Lo Mir Sich Iberbeten.”
“If you’re going to kiss her on the stage, in the presence of the audience, go ahead,” Bialik said. “But if you’re thinking of going backstage, there are younger men than you here.”