With Christmas spirit still in the air, I think it is appropriate to remember Irving Berlin, the author of one of the most well-known Christmas songs - White Christmas (this song is over 75 years old and it is still popular - not bad for a song!), as well as many other hits that never grow old, like Puttin' on the Ritz.
For many, Irving Berlin's songs are the essence of the early 20th-century American music. George Gershwin called him 'America's Schubert' and the one who 'created a real, inherent American music'. George H. W. Bush, who was the US President when Irving Berlin died at the age of 101 in 1989, said that his 'words and music will help define the history of American nation'. Irving Berlin's music most certainly epitomises all things American.
So imagine my surprise when quite a few years ago, while interpreting a press conference with the then director of the Library of Congress (or, rather, Librarian of Congress), James Billington, I had to translate that among all the Russian immigrants who played an important role in American history and culture he especially admired Irving Berlin - an immigrant from Imperial Russia who was born in Tyumen' (of all places!) in 1888 and who arrived in New York in 1893!
Next May (May 11) is going to be Irving Berlin's 130th anniversary. Definitely worth celebrating!
My name is Elena Rafaelevna Watson, I have been teaching English as a foreign language for over 25 years now. I have also been translating and interpreting (English/Russian) for over 20 years.