No stranger to social singing at celebrations such as weddings, family parties, and gatherings, Polina grew up in a home where songs were frequently sung at table after eating borsht and drinking homemade wine. Her grandfather, a veteran of the second war played bayan (button accordion) and her mother, a professional singer would often sing for hours while Polina listened with the hungry ears of a child, learning deeply rooted traditions throughout her childhood years. As she grew up and learned the repertoire and trade, she was chosen by her mother to be her accompanist, often taking overnight trains to far reaches of the Steppes, to play to dark theatres with wildly responsive audiences.
Whilst living in Kazan (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 worked and recorded with a remix artist Max Pashm in Never Mind the Balkans, a Romanian Gypsy style brass band Fanfara and many others.
As s solo performer she presents a variety of original compositions and traditional songs: lyrical and epic songs, ritual calendar music for pagan and Christian holidays, wedding songs, dance songs and other folk. Another part of the repertoire represents much loved by native Russians Art Songs (Romances) from the 18-19 centuries. She has toured with her solo show Songs of the Steppes and the Shtetl in Russia, USA, Canada, Switzerland, Belgium and Brazil.
As a pianist works with the Sound & Light Cinematic Duo (UK), who play live accompaniment to rare black and white films.
Merlin and Polina Shepherd duo travel the world and have a reputation of ‘the magical sound’ on the Ashkenazi music scene. Their CD A Blade of Grass was published in 2012.
Her 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. Choir leader the Award Winning Russian choir of Brighton & Hove since 2007, The London Yiddish choir, Chutzpah choir (Brighton) since 2015 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 East European sound, ornamentation, 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 Skovoroda live on BBC World, Jan 3 2011: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gctc89PEWvQ
More video on Polina’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/polinashepherd
And audio on: soundcloud.com/polina-shepherd