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  • Richard Carsey

"Intrigue" and the Barry Sisters

Updated: Apr 23

My partner Jurg (pronounced "Yerg"--no hard "J" sound) and I get enthusiastic about things. It might be a recipe or drink, perhaps a movie or television show, but most often it's music. Jurg collects and restores record players, and we have thousands of 78's, 45's, and albums, with lots of machines to play them on. There are even a few jukeboxes in our house that he has brought back to life. Come over for dinner, it's a blast.


Our latest obsession is The Barry Sisters. We discovered them while watching "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" on Amazon--if you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor. So good. Anyway, one episode begins with the song "Vyoch Toch Toch" (which is Yiddish for the sound your heart makes). Jurg is from Zurich, Switzerland and speaks Swiss-German. He was delighted by how much Yiddish he understood because of the similarities between the two languages.

Naturally, the next thing to do was find this album.


The Barry Sisters (originally Bagelman) were a popular singing duo from the 1940's through the 1970's. The Andrews Sisters had a huge hit in 1937 with their version of the Yiddish tune "Bei Mir Bist du Schoen" and suddenly combining jazz and klezmer was all the rage. A live weekly radio program called "Yiddish Melodies in Swing" was begun on WHN in New York. Minnie and Clara, The Barry Sisters, were regulars. Their radio success was a springboard for live appearances, most notably in the Catskills. Later they would appear on the Ed Sullivan show 19 times, release 11 albums, and travel the world performing.


They covered a lot of musical ground, and many of their arrangements are startlingly inventive. They were glamorous, enthusiastic performers, and their musicianship is impeccable. Their phrasing, ornamentation, and wide-ranging voices can dazzle you, and they excelled at tight harmonies. When they both go for a full-throated belt sound, it's thrilling.


Some of their later recordings have not aged well to my ears (their version of "Do You Love Me?" from "Fiddler on the Roof" is a particular low point), but there's so much that is great. Jurg and I are obsessed right now with a song called "Intrigue". Notice how simple and smart the arrangement is--vibes, one sax, marimba or xylophone played in it's highest range (maybe a percussionist will be able to tell me which it is), bass, and some very subtle male backup singers. It's hypnotic and sexy. I just love it.



I'm gonna leave you with one more. This "Hava Nagila" is guaranteed to brighten your day. Dance everyone, dance!






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