Sholom Secunda Papers
Language of Materials
Sholom Secunda was a composer, arranger, director and critic who came to New York in 1907, and entered the Institute of Musical Art (later renamed the Juilliard School) where he trained with composer Ernest Bloch. Secunda's first love was classical music, but he first supported himself while a young student working as an extra in the Yiddish theater. In Yiddish theater, he found considerable success as a composer and director until the early 1970's. His compositions have been successful both inside and outside the Yiddish theater with hit songs sung by such artists as: the Andrews Sisters and Joan Baez. The bulk of the Sholom Secunda Collection is comprised of music manuscripts for Yiddish Theatre productions, Cantorial music, Liturgical music, Art Songs, Secular Songs and Folk Songs.
As a small child in the Ukraine, Secunda was known as a "boy cantor". He came to America in 1907 and immediately began singing in public. In 1914, he entered the Institute of Musical Art (later renamed the Juilliard School) and his extensive classical training included private lessons with composer Ernest Bloch. To support himself while a young student, he worked as an extra in the Yiddish theater.
While Secunda's first love was classical music, his livelihood came from his Yiddish theater compositions. For the 1916-17 season, he was engaged as resident composer and conductor for Brooklyn's Lyric Theater. In 1932, Secunda wrote the music for M'ken Lebn nor m'lazt nit (I would if I could) starring Aaron Lebedev and Lucy Levine. Included in the score was the song "Bei Mir Bist Du Sheyn" which when sung by the Andrew Sisters a few years later became the most popular worldwide hit of 1939.
From 1937 into the early 40's, Secunda was the composer for Maurice Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theater writing music for The Brother's Ashkenazi which toured North America and Europe. In 1940, Secunda composed the score for the popular musical Esterke which included "Dona, Dona, Dona" a song that was to resurface 25 years later as an international hit recorded by Joan Baez and others.
In the 1940s, he began working in radio, and from 1946 he was the music critic of the Jewish Daily Forward. In 1951, he wrote music for the Broadway review, Bagels and Lox. From 1945 to 1973, he was the music director of the Concord Hotel, where stars of the Yiddish theater (and many of the great stars of Broadway, Vaudeville, television, and movies) regularly appeared. At the Concord he also composed large amounts of Jewish liturgical music and regularly conducted performances of classical music with well-known classical musicians and opera singers.
Other Secunda compositions include America (1915); Honor Thy Father, (1923); Dos Yidishe Lid (1923); Faith Alone (1937); Dream of Me (1938); and the music for The Kosher Widow starring Molly Picon. His last musical score was for the 1973 production of Sholom Aleichem's Shver tsu Zayn a Yid. This show, starring Joseph Buloff and Miriam Kressyn is considered the last great production of the Yiddish stage.
His wife Betty Almer, the daughter of a Yiddish actress, was a dancer on the Yiddish stage before her marriage to Secunda in 1927. They met during rehearsals for Secunda's musical Margarita. They had two sons: Eugene and Sheldon.
Written by Ben Torpey, 1998
- Series I: Musical Theater
- Series II: Cantorial
- Series III: Vocal Music in English
- Series IV: Instrumental Music
- Series V: Sacred Music
- Series VI: Secular
- Series VII: Art Songs
- Series VIII: Hebrew Songs - Arrangements
- Series IX: Orchestral Arrangements
- Series X: Arrangements (Folk and Theater)
- Series XI: Goldfaden Arrangements
- Series XII: Published Music (Liturgical and Orchestral)
- Series XIII: Oratorios
- Series XIV: Symphonic Poem
- Series XV: Services
- Series XVI: Miscellaneous
- Series XVII: Photographs
- Series XVIII: Secunda's Belongings
- Series XIX: Correspondence
- Series XX: Sound Recordings (Acetates and Commercial)
- Series XXI: Related Materials
Folders are arranged alphabetically by subject/title heading within each series.
The materials are grouped into 21 series. The collection has been processed to the box level.
The initial processing of the collection was done by song title or piece and a card drawer with handwritten cards allowed access to the archive. Unfortunately, the processing was often inaccurate. Funding was subsequently made available to reprocess the papers, and through a donation by the family, to add Secunda materials to the Fales Library that were on deposit at New York Public Library's, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, bringing the bulk of the Secunda materials together in one collection.
The re-processing of the papers was done by Cantor, Doris Cohen, Secunda's associate, who thoughtfully and methodically reconstructed shows, identified fragments, and sorted the theatrical, liturgical, and art music into separate categories. Without Ms. Cohen, the collection could not have been made so accessible. Neil Bindelglass, likewise, oversaw the creation of the finding aid and the final processing of the papers. Without his extensive knowledge of Yiddish, of music, and of best archival practice, the collection could not have been completed.
Scope and Content Note
The Sholom Secunda Papers are a part of the Archive and Manuscript Collection at the Fales Library, New York University. The Fales Library is the primary special collections division of the NYU libraries, housing 200,000 volumes of English and American literature from 1700 to the present. Strengths of the collection include the development of the English and American novel, with an emphasis on the Gothic and the Victorian novel.
The bulk of the Sholom Secunda Collection is comprised of Music Manuscripts. These include manuscripts for Yiddish Theatre productions, Cantorial music, Liturgical music, Art Songs, Secular Songs and Folk Songs. Included with the collection are several sound recordings, in various media. These recordings include 78 RPMs, open reel tape, acetate transcription discs and cassettes. There is an extensive collection of Secunda's personal correspondence included in the collection. Also represented is a collection of published sheet music, written by Secunda as well as other composers. Photographs, a single daguerreotype, a book entitled "Daily Prayers," newspaper clippings and the manuscript of a Sholom Secunda biography round out the collection.
I. Musical Theater: scores and parts for theatrical productionsII. Cantorial: scores and parts for cantorial worksIII. Vocal Music in EnglishIV. Instrumental MusicV. Sacred MusicVI. Secular MusicVII. Art Songs: some on liturgical text, but not liturgical worksVIII. Hebrew SongsIX. Orchestral ArrangementsX. Arrangements (Folk and Theater)XI. Goldfadn ArrangementsXII. Published Music (Liturgical and Orchestral)XIII. OratoriosXIV. Symphonic PoemXV. ServicesXVI. Miscellaneous (Theater and Film)XVII. PhotographsXVIII. Secunda's BelongingsXIX. CorrespondenceXX. Sound Recordings (Acetates and Commercial). [Research copies may not be available for these materials yet. Check with the Fales archivist.]XXI. Related Materials (notes for biography, translations, etc.)
Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections, email@example.com, 212-998-2596.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright (or related rights to publicity and privacy) for materials in this collection was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder. Please contact the Fales Library and Special Collections, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-998-2596.
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); The Sholom Secunda Papers; MSS 054; box number; folder number; Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University Libraries.
The Sholom Secunda Papers were the gift of the Secunda family to the Fales Library.
About this Guide
The collection was originally organized before 1993 by a student under the supervision of Maxime LaFantasie. Further processing of the papers was done by Cantor, Doris Cohen, Secunda's associate, and Neil Bindelglass.