The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition was organized to commemorate the tragic and lamentable Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911, in which 146 garment workers died due to the criminally negligent actions of the factory owners. The event became a rallying cry for the international labor movement and impetus for many of our fire safety laws. Metropolitan Klezmer is honored to have participated in a number of events commemorating the victims and memorializing the Fire, most notably the March 2011 Centennial.
Di Fire Korbunes [The Fire’s Sacrifices], a long-forgotten piece composed in tribute to the victims directly after the tragedy, was recently discovered by Remember the Triangle Committee researcher Adrienne Sosin, Ed.D. She and the Library of Congress Music Division's Karen Moses retrieved the original sheet music, and brought it to the attention of Metropolitan Klezmer, who treated it to a new arrangement. Above is footage of the band performing Di Fire Korbunes at the 2011 Triangle Fire centenary concert, with an introduction by Eve Sicular. The video was originally broadcast by CUNY TV; thanks to Allen Rickman for translated subtitles. Vocalist Melissa Fogarty is accompanied by Debra Kreisberg (clarinet), Pam Fleming (trumpet), Reut Regev (trombone), Shoko Nagai (accordion), Michael Hess (violin), and David Hofstra (bass). This arrangement was co-created by bandleader Eve Sicular and Metropolitan Klezmer. The song lyrics were written in 1911 by Louis Gilrod, set to a melody composed by writing parter D. Meyrowitz. (view PDF of the lyrics)
Triangle Fire Coalition founder and interactive technology designer Ruth Sergel has for the past eight years organized the public art project CHALK, where volunteers recall the identities of victims in chalk at the places of their former homes. This year her video documentation of the event will include an excerpt of our recording: “The more closely I listened to this song — it’s just the most heartbreaking thing and your orchestration is so achingly beautiful. The voice + every instrument hums with such fierce emotion. It’s really breathtaking work.”
We are also honored to have our recording of the 1911 Yiddish Triangle Fire ballad featured within the Activist New York exhibition at The Museum of The City of New York.
Listen to the full recording of Metropolitan Klezmer performingDi Fire Korbunes:
Di Fayer Korbunes and Mameniu : Yiddish Triangle Fire Ballads, excerpt of an essay by Eve Sicular
“The 1911 Yiddish ballad Di Fayer Korbunes [Di Fire Korbunes | The Fire’s Sacrifices], an almost immediate response to the Triangle Fire tragedy, is a complex and contradictory piece: earnestly poignant yet bitterly ironic; barbed with references to an ancient Jewish cultural-religious past as well as to dystopic modern immigrant times; and critiquing the catastrophic results of exploitative capitalism from within its own competitive commercial sheet-music packaging. The song’s powerful title and final refrain have an alternate translation, with biblical undertones: the word korbones (plural of korbn) is used in the Torah specifically to describe those animal sacrifices roasted at the Temple altar. Hence the song’s terrible, none-too-implicit political meaning superimposed on liturgical understanding: those who died at Washington Place were burnt offerings, sacrificed in a land worshipping the Dollar.”
— from the essay by Eve Sicular. View the entire essay