Polina Shepherd (UK; voice, piano)

Polina Shepherd (Skovoroda) was born in Siberia and grew up in a home where songs were regularly sung at the family table. Now an internationally renowned performer, she brings the songs of the Steppes and the Shtetl up to date with passion and haunting soul. Her singing, though based on traditional forms, cuts a unique sound deeply rooted in east European Jewish and Russian folk song. Growing up in Tatarstan also placed her close to Islamic ornamentation and timbre which can be heard in her unique vocal style and four octave range.

Whilst living in Kazan (the capital of Tatarstan) and studying at the State Academy, Polina joined Russia′s first klezmer band after Perestroika, Simcha (1990-2000). She soon became the principal Yiddish choir leader of the former Soviet Union, composing original material for large groups of voices and touring internationally with her Quartet Ashkenazim (1991-2007). As a Russian and Yiddish singer she worked and recorded with remix artist Max Pashm in Never Mind the Balkans, a Romanian Gypsy style brass band Fanfara and many others.

One of Polina’s latest projects is Sklamberg & The Shepherds, which blends the world of traditional and newly composed Yiddish and Russian song together with klezmer and southern Mediterranean Music.

As s solo performer she presents a variety of original songs including her latest solo album Three Centuries Ago in Russian and Yiddish, all the songs in Russian are composed to her own poetry.

As a pianist she works with the Sound & Light Cinematic Duo (UK), who play live accompaniment to rare black and white films.
The Merlin and Polina Shepherd duo travel the world and have the reputation of ‘the magical sound’ on the Ashkenazi music scene. Their CD A Blade of Grass was published in 2012.

Polina’s choir work is united by the umbrella of The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience and covers many aspects of vocal music from solo voice to large scale choral improvisation or highly arranged and conducted choir pieces and smaller chamber groups. She is choir leader the award-winning Russian choir of Brighton & Hove since 2007, The London Yiddish choir and The London Russian Choir since 2013.

Polina works as an educator leading choral workshops internationally. Her specially developed choral teaching methods are based on specific eastern European sound, ornamentation, and modal experimentation with attention to stylistic details, history and context. For Jewish music based choral workshops, she teaches Hassidic nigunim, the age-old songs without words, and Yiddish songs. Polina’s Russian choral repertoire covers Russian classics and folklore from ritual calendar songs for pagan holidays, exorcism and sibylline song, wedding songs, weeping songs to Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, all with correct attention to history and style.

Polina was program director for the International Klezmer Music Festival and Seminar in Moscow in 2005 and 2006, the International Festival of Jewish Culture, and the Competition of Jewish musicians in Kazan, Russia in 2002 and 2003. She has been Jewish song and choir tutor at International Jewish events including KlezKanada (2014),  Furth (2007), Klezfest London (2004-11), Klezmer Paris (2005, 2008), Moscow (2005-06), Kharkov Klezmer Teg (2003, 2013), Klezfest Kiev (2000-2005), Lviv (2013-2014), Jewish Festival in Kazan (2001-03, 2013), Sheshory’2007-Podilsky in Nemirov, Ukraine, Kleztival Brazil (2010-2014) and many others. She lectured on Jewish music at the Centre of History and Culture of Jewish People, Kazan State University in 2002-03. In 2008-09, Polina worked for Glyndebourne Education in 2008-2009.

She was the Yiddish Music adviser for a theatre show production Paul, strange Kind of a Hero in Brighton UK by Goodcompanymedia in April 2007, music director and composer at Coventry Belgrade Theatre for the production of Marriage by N. Gogol, 2013. She has written some 100 compositions including music for theater shows, large scale choir compositions, settings for Yiddish poems, piano work, and niggunim performed by soloists and choirs all over the world.

Polina’s You Tube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/polinashepherd


Photo: Alexej Nesterov