A Little Child Shall Lead Us
Viral online hit of Isaac et Nora performing a Yiddish song personifies the Christmas spirit.
Merry Christmas everybody. I have a present for you: I’m going to give you religion. Not the kind that will make you go to church or set off on a holy war. But you will once again love this stricken planet where the only known life form that makes music and is moved by it exists. Watch this video of two children — the youthful and talented Isaac et Nora — performing the Yiddish hit from long ago, “Bei Mir Bistu Shein”, and all will be right in your world — if only for a moment. Repeat when necessary.
Isaac, who plays trumpet, was 11 at the time this video was made, and maybe 12 now. Nora, who sings the song, was all of 8 and operating at maximum cuteness. She may set a record for sheer adorability. Their dad is on guitar, their uncle on accordion and I’m not sure who the second trumpeter is. The videos are shot by the mother, with a cinematographer’s talent for framing things in a natural way.
I haven’t found a last name for this extended family. It’s probably better anyway. They don’t appear to be celebrities, despite the massive following on Youtube. I hope it stays that way. They create a vision of a loving family unit, one that includes a lot of music and fun. It doesn’t seem like an act; if it is they need to get into movies, they’re that good.
In their version of the modern chestnut, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” dad is playing a small music box as Nora sings. The effect of her singing such grown up material is not dissimilar to that of “The Langley School Project | Innocence and Despair,” an oddball recording from the late 70’s. In it a music instructor at a school in Vancouver had his middle school students sing hits of the day. The melancholy performance of The Eagle’s “Desperado,” a well crafted song that nevertheless left me cold, by a girl who couldn’t possibly fathom the meaning of the jaded material yet somehow intuits its sadness, is a spooky delight.
Children singing love songs and sophisticated material so far from their daily experience — what a strange proposition! Somehow in these two instances, magic is the result. But how?
I think children understand emotions even when the specific adult experiences referenced in the songs are beyond them. Nora also sings “The Thrill Is Gone”. Just look at her face and the world weariness in the title and lyrics evaporate. This song is not the one sung by B.B. King, it’s a beauty that dates all the way back to the 1931 Broadway revue, “George White’s Scandals.” It was sung by that steaming cauldron of emotion, Rudy Vallee.
Music travels around the world, delivering happiness to good little girls and boys, just like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. I hope your holidays are nice break from the cycle of disheartening news we’re stuck in. I also hope 2020 is light on such news and filled with lots of great songs.
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