Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mick Moloney, a Gorgeous Former Synagogue, and Brooklyn Brewery Beer

All of these things came together Tuesday night at a Tenement Talk entitled "If It Wasn't for the Irish and the Jews." Mick Moloney, an ethno-musicologist, specializes in 19th and early 20th century American music. He's particularly interested in the way that cultures intermingle in song. He's done a lot of work to investigate the American music scene in its early days.

His latest CD focuses on an unlikely cross-cultural collaboration between Irish and Jewish Americans at the end of the 19th century. Musicians, songwriters, and performers easily swapped identities based on the direction the music industry was going... George M. Cohan, for instance, the writer of such classics as "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "You're a Grand Old Flag" was the son of Irish immigrants whose family name was Keohane. His parents were in show business on the Vaudeville stage, so perhaps there was specific intent when they changed their name to Cohan, which at a glance seems like Cohen, a common Jewish name. Working with many Jewish songwriters and performers, Cohan likely took advantage of this misconception to gain a foot hold in his industry. As always in show biz, performers would change their names if it helped to insure their success.

Here's a bit of the title song, written and composed by William Jerome (ne Flannery) and Jean Schwartz:

What would this great Yankee nation
Really, really ever do?
If it wasn't for a Levy,
A Mon-a-han or Don-a-hue,
Where would we get our policemen?
Why Uncle Sam would have the blues
Without the Pats and Isadores.
You'd have no big department stores,
If it wasn't for the Irish and the Jews.

McDonald built the subway and his name we'll not forget.
A word of praise is due to Nathan Strauss.
For pasteurizing baby's milk,
the world owes him a debt.
He's a friend to every kiddie in the house.
Without Big Tim Sullivan what would the Bowry do?
Just ask the man that needs a pair of shoes.
There wouldn't be an East Side in the City of New York,
If it wasn't for the Irish and the Jews.

Below are some photos from our event, held at the beautiful Angel Orensanz Foundation Center on Norfolk Street. Many people asked on Tuesday about the building's history. It was formerly the Ansche Chesed Synagogue (constructed 1849). Click here for a link to a pdf history pamphlet.

Full-sized photos can be found directly on our Flickr page.

Thanks to all who joined us for the event!

- Posted by Kate

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