Polina Shepherd (Skovoroda) is a performer, composer, choir leader with over 20 years of professional experience in teaching Yiddish and Russian song seminars and educational programmes, residential courses and choral workshops internationally. She works with audiences of different backgrounds and vocal levels making singing is the most accessible part of these East European cultures that have no borders and connects heart to heart and develop group spirit and bind people together.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Her latest collaborations include Sklamberg & the Shepherds (Russia-USA-UK) who blend Klezmer and southern Mediterranean Music featuring a UK leading klezmer Merlin Shepherd; The Stranniki with an “avant bard” Psoy Korolenko (Russia/US): a take on the Wandering Jew and the Russian Vagabond; and The Izba, the Shtibl and the Global Village: A melange of Russian and Yiddish songs with the lead singer of the Grammy winning Klezmatics Lorin Sklamberg (NYC).
Composer, choir leader, pianist, singer, arranger, educator, workshop leader, programme director.
QUALIFICATIONS & TRAINING
1993-1998 MA in history and theory of music, lecturer The State Conservatory of Tatarstan, Kazan, Russia.
1988- 1993 The State Secondary Music School of Kazan, Russia. Diploma in history and theory of music; equal to British Bachelor degree
2013 Estill for Singing Teachers Certificate of Attendance, day course
1992 Carl Orff pedagogic practitioner certificate
2003-2004 NLP practitioner certificate, Kazan, Russia
Russian (native speaker), English (fluent), Yiddish (basic)
Solo performances: since 1991 performed solo in dozens of cities in Russia; also Tallinn, Estonia; Kharkov, Ukraine; Dozens of solo performances in the UK since 2005, including Queen Elizabeth Hall and The Royal College of Music. The International Lourie Festival, Basel, 2010, Halle Klezmer festival 2010, Kleztival Brazil 2011-2012 and more.
Choirs: with the Brighton & Hove Russian choir, Chutzpah, the East European choir London - dozens of performances with the choirs in London South East UK including The Royal College of Music in 2012, V&A in 2013, The Roundhouse London 2011, Eastbourne Fiesta 2011, Musica Sacra in Hastings 2009, 2010, Brighton Bandstand 2009, Brighton Fringe 2008, The Brighton Sacred Music festival 2008 and more.
The Sound & Light Cinematic Duo (UK) - new and traditional Jewish music to accompany an archive of rare silent Jewish films. Pianist. World premiere – 20 August 2004 in Kiev, Ukraine. In 2004-05 as part of the British Jewish Film Festival. Performed in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Brighton, Liverpool, Cambridge, Northampton. USA performances in 2004: Makor in New York, The National Yiddish Book Centre, Amherst, MA, and KlezKamp. Other European performances in 2005-08: Prague, Paris, Geneva, Brussels, Vienna.
The Merlin Shepherd Quartet: pianist. Various performances throughout the UK since 2008.
The Vocal Quartet Ashkenazim (Russia/UK) 1991 - present. Project leader, composer, pianist, singer, arranger. Extensive touring in Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Baltic States, 2 tours in the USA, Festivals in Vienna, Kiev, Kazan, St. Petersburg, Chemnitz, Koln and others… Solomon Mikhoels III International Art Festival - Prize winner (Moscow, 2000).
Max Pashm Band, solo singer of Russian and Jewish songs, vocal improvisation, keyboards in 2007-08. Dortmund Me Plesemo Festival, Germany, Party Meditterraneo London (2007), Folkwoods Festival in Holland, Fonnefeesten Belgium (2008) and many others.
The Merlin Shepherd Kapelye featuring the Former Soviet Union Klezmer Allstars www.myspace.com/merlinshepherdkapelye - (International). Pianist. World premiere - Taganka Theatre in Moscow, Russia, March 2006, then Toronto, Canada (2006), Sheshory’2007-Podilsky in Nemirov, Ukraine, London and Brighton, UK (2007), Spain (2007).
Simkha klezmer band (Russia’s first Klezmer band since Perestroika, Kazan) 1993 - 2000; arranger, singer, keyboards, piano. Extensive performances in the former Soviet Union, including hundreds of weddings, Jewish ceremonies and private parties.
A Blade of Grass – Merlin and Polina Shepherd, 2012
Civilization – Polina Skovoroda with Fanfara, 2010.
Never mind the Balkans – Max Pashm, Elektrikos/Organikos Records, 2008
Baym taykh – The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience, Ashkeiazim, Oriente Records August 2007.
Hilda Bronstein sings Yiddish Songs Old and New, ARC Music , 2007.
Intimate Hopes and Terrors – The Merlin Shepherd Kapelye, Oriente Records 2006
Fun yener Zayt Lid - The Vocal Quartet Ashkenazim, 2002
Di Yiddishe Gas – The Vocal Quartet Ashkenazim, 2000
Jam-da - the Jewish Vocal Quartet, 2001
Lekhaim – The Vocal Quartet Lekhaim, 1998
About 100 compositions including music for theatre shows, large scale choir compositions, settings for Russian and Yiddish poems, piano work, and niggunim (wordless songs) performed by soloists and choirs all over the world.
Has taught music from the age of 14 with first professional experience at State School N30 in Naberezhnye Chelny, Russia, 1987-88.
Glyndebourne Education (the Music Manifesto’s National Singing Programme UK) singing leader in 2008-09: a series of sessions at Meeching Valley primary school, Newhaven.
Russian Song course for SOAS University of London Summer schools 2009 - 2012.
School choir leader at St. Martin’s School, Brighton, spring/summer 2009.
Sing Up! (the Music Manifesto’s National Singing Programme UK) singing teacher in 2008: a series of sessions at Fairlight and St. Martin’s Primary schools in Brighton.
Workshop leader from 2006 until present as part of a Joint project with Rosaria Gracia for the Arts Council of England – Afro-Brazilian dance and Jewish Niggunim in SYNERGY: Personal Development
with Voice and Movement.
Workshop leader in group singing at the All-Russian psychology (NLP) seminar in Kazan, "Niggun (Tune) as Therapy".
Choir leader of the East European Choir at UCL since 2010, Chutzpah (Brighton & Hove Yiddish choir) in 2006-2011, the Award Winning Brighton & Hove Russian choir since January 2009 until present, the East European singing group Khorovod since 2011 and the London Yiddish Choir since 2012.
Choir seminar leader at International East European music events: A. Lourie Festival in Basel (2009, 2011, 2012), Furth Jewish music festival (2007), Klezfest London (2004-10), Klezmer Paris (2005, 2008, 2009), Moscow (2005-06), Kharkov Klezmer Teg (2003), Klezfest Kiev (2000-2005), International Festival of Jewish Performers in Kazan (2001-03), Sheshory’2007-Podilsky in Nemirov, Ukraine, Kleztival in Brazil (Rio-de-Janeiro, Sao Paolo in 2011, 2012), Ot Azoy London 2011-2012, Söngfjelagið Choir in Reykjavik, Iceland (2012) and many more.
Lecturer on Jewish music at the Centre of History and Culture of Jewish People, Kazan State University, 2002-03.
Piano improvisation and keyboard teacher at State Music School N8 in Kazan, Russia, 1998-1999.
Workshop course leader “Carl Orff Pedagogic for music school and college teachers” in Kazan, 1992-93.
OTHER PROFESSIONAL WORK
From the age of 13 as a pianist professionally accompanying choirs and solo singers.
Musical Director, singer and musician for The Belgrade Theatre Coventry production of N. Gogol’s The Marriage, 2012-2013.
Accompanist (piano) for Breatheasy Singing Group for people with breathing difficulties funded by Primary Care Trust in from 2007 until present.
Russian and Yiddish style singer worked in a remix project of Max Pashm, Never Mind the Balkans, 2007-08.
Music adviser for the production of Paul, strange Kind of a Hero in Brighton UK by Goodcompanymedia, April 2007.
Accompanist (piano) at KlezFest London (2004-08), Klezmer week in Paris (2005, 2008), KlezFest Kiev, Ukraine (2001/02/03/04 05), Jewish Music Festival in Moscow, Russia (2005/06), and others.
Composer for Chelm! by Stuart Olesker and Tony Gee, lyrics by Stuart Olesker. Portsmouth/London 2006-2008.
Klezmer accordionist in production of Molier’s Hypochondriac, Coventry, 2005.
Choir accompanist at Kazan Jewish Community in 1998 – 2001.
Klezmer musician at parties and events, celebrations and weddings in the Former Soviet Union and the UK from 1998.
Yiddish Song School Director at Klezfest London, Jewish Music Institute, SOAS London University August 2009.
Coordinator for East European participants for London Klezfest and Jewish Song School 2005/06/2007 Jewish Music Institute, SOAS, University of London.
Festival & Seminar programme director for International Klezmer Music Festival and Seminar in Moscow in 2005 and 2006.
Festival & Seminar programme director for the International Festival of Jewish Culture and the Competition of Jewish musicians in Kazan, Russia in 2002 and 2003.