Friday 7 June – Polina and Merlin: Klezmer for clarinet and piano


Polina and Merlin Shepherd, both amongst world leading exponents of klezmer, will perform original and traditional compositions based on several folkloric styles: east European Jewish sacred and secular culture, Mediterranean instrumental music, Russian folk and Art songs.

Using melodic patterns, harmonies, ornamentation, phrasing and prayer modes specific to these traditions, they weave a rich tapestry of music and reflect the complex and diverse world of their respective backgrounds. Polina and Merlin prefer to play their pieces through without talking but offer a pre-concert talk at 7pm.

Clarinettist, composer Merlin Shepherd, a uniquely innovative force in the klezmer renaissance, and Polina Shepherd, a virtuosic vocalist, pianist, composer originally from Siberia, blend traditional and newly composed Yiddish and Russian song with klezmer and southern Mediterranean music. Full of passion, depth & subtlety not often encountered in our global village, their style which has its roots in traditional forms takes us to new dimensions.

Merlin is one of the world’s leading players of traditional East European Klezmer Clarinet style, and apart from his own ensembles he has recorded and played with Boban Marcovic, Fanfara Ciocarlia, Fanfara Savale, Selim Sesler, Budowitz, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars and numerous others.

Polina was born in Siberia and grew up in a Russian Jewish home where songs were regularly sung at table. Growing up in Tatarstan placed her close to Islamic ornamentation and timbre which can be heard in her unique vocal style and four octave range. Touring with Simkha, the first klezmer band since Perestroika she sang in dark Soviet theaters, to Boris Yeltsin and to the World.