As I closed last month's article, I wished that I had more space to continue
with the exchanges that took place, the chain of events, which began my writing.
It occurs to me that those exchanges are no longer relevant, except for the fact
that Michael Fein got to read those same letters and invited me to submit some
writing for publication in The Gantseh Megillah
Let me begin with who I am. Eventually I'll get to how I became involved with
The Yiddish Theater in New York, which goes a bit beyond just being the son of
Harry Rothpearl, although he did have an awful lot to do with it
I was born in 1943, the second child of four children born to Rochelle and Harry
Rothpearl. My mother was a concert pianist and my father was an ex-musician
whose chosen instrument was the violin. He got involved in theater as a musician
in the orchestra pit.
My mother's father was a world-renowned cantor, (a singer of Hebrew liturgy),
who took his interpretations from the temple to the concert stage. He was my
namesake since I was born after his passing, (he died at age 50). His name was
Elias Josef Kritchmar but in Hebrew, his name was Eliyahu, (Elijah). It is the
Jewish custom to name children after a deceased relative, (to perpetuate the
line), so I was named Eliyahu. My birth certificate reads Elliot. It started
with an “E” and I suppose it was a popular name way back then.
My father's father was Samuel Rothpearl and he was a gifted carpenter. (One of
my sons still enjoys playing chess on a chess table built and inlaid by Sam).
I began my singing career in 1946. The legend is that I sang Jimmy Crack Corn at
age three. My father would sit me atop a piano and my mother would accompany me
as I sang: “Jimmy, crack corn and I don't care” etc. I'm told that this took
place onstage at one of the many hotels we stayed at while summering in the
Catskill Mountains. Since there is lots of corroboration, the legend must be
true, at least in part. In either case "… I don’t care"!
Now let me take you on a little detour, (remember the on and off ramps on Memory
When I was five years old, (1948), I decided I wanted to play the guitar. My
parents wouldn’t hear of such nonsense, but pacified me with a ukulele. My
father kinda’ insisted I take violin lessons at age six, so I suffered through
almost a year of purposefully playing badly until my seventh birthday was
approaching. I then struck a deal with “good old dad”. He would buy me a guitar
if I would consider playing the violin a little more seriously. My first guitar
was a Stella sunburst cowboy model. It cost $12.00 including a chipboard case.
The dealer threw in a black and yellow braided guitar strap with a yellow tassel
and an extra set of strings, (Black Diamond, heavy), the only ones readily
available in 1950.
I had a busy schedule for many years after that. I attended public school,
Hebrew school, took private lessons on violin and guitar, and went to music
school on Saturday to study theory and harmony. I also had to attend choir
practice once a week for two months a year as I sang alto solo with several
choirs, which performed on the Jewish High Holidays.
Well, that brings us all the way up to my seventh birthday. I'm now sixty so
I've got a lot more years to tell you about. Until next month, Shalom.