(Russia - UK)
A remarkable group that is at the forefront
of Jewish a capella singing.
The group sings Jewish music a cappella and also performs with ensembles and orchestras. Their repertoire consists of rare and popular Jewish songs, folk songs in Yiddish, klezmer music, niggunim (tunes), and their original compositions. Their sideline (a separate programme) is Russian folk songs.
Although classical in its composition, the quartet are aiming for a folk sound. A special manner of performing, traditional instrumental styles copied by the voices, form the unique Ashkenazim style. A style which is recognisable from the first few bars.
Since their beginning in 2001 they've performed in dozens of cities in Russia, Ukraine, USA and Europe, and recorded two CDs.
"This ensemble (The Quartet Ashkenazim), comprised of four young singers, performs largely a cappella vocal arrangements of classic and newly composed Yiddish songs. Bringing extraordinary musicianship, cultural authenticity and creativity to the new Jewish song movement, the ensemble Ashkenazim, is a rare thrill to hear. The leader of the group, Polina Achkinazi (Shepherd) is among this generation's most talented composers and arrangers of new Yiddish music. The ensemble's level of musical artistry is very high and the attention to detail and to the Yiddish text is extraordinary.
The group also represents a new and exciting phenomenon in world Jewish culture, the rebirth of cultural creativity in the communities of the former Soviet Union. The Ensemble Ashkenazim are among the finest fruits of that investment in nurturing Jewish creativity in what was the heartland of Yiddish culture"
Adrienne Cooper for the coming CD "Di Yidishe Gas" 2002:
"As a Yiddish singer myself, and a teacher of singers, these four are a gift to me as well - first students, then, grown into colleagues that I never dreamed I would discover, half a world away, and as close as my own thoughts, my own breath. I remember hearing Polina for the first time, a number of years ago, in St. Petersburg, where I had gone to teach musicians from the former Soviet Union - and I can still conjure the shock of recognition. This is what Yiddishland sounded like - what I imagine it sounded like. That was before Polina and her colleagues created their Yidishe gas / Jewish street. But, of course, this CD is not what Yiddishland sounded like at all - instead it is the dreamt of, the struggled with, the pushed away and then drawn close soul of Yiddish, wedded to impatient, sensual, joyous young sensibilities. Welcome to a new Yidishe gas"
"Ashkenazim" at Klezfest in Ukraine, 2005 (mp3, 892 Кb)
Polina Shepherd (Brighton, UK) - leader, composer; vocals/soprano, piano, accordion.
Yana Ovrutskaya (Moscow, Russia) - vocals/alto.
Alina Ivakh (Moscow, Russia) - vocals/alto.
Merlin Shepherd (Brighton, UK) - vocals/baritone, clarinets.
Composer, singer, pianist and the leading choral conductor of Yiddish song in the Former USSR. She has performed and taught internationally. Her specially developed choral teaching methods are based on instrumental ornamentation and Jewish modes. Performs with her own a capella ensemble, The Vocal Quartet Ahkenazim and works with the Sound & Light Cinematic Duo, who play live accompaniment to rare black and white silent Jewish films. Polina's music is performed by choirs and soloists all over the world.
See also www.polinashepherd.co.uk
Studied at the Music theory and history department at Kazan Music College, and Kazan State University, History department. In 1992 she was awarded Grand Prix (trip to France) at Interuniversity French Song Festival in Kazan. She won similar contests during the next 3 years.
In 1996 - 2003 Yana worked as a journalist: editor of Kazan magazine, reporter for Woman, editor and presenter for TV companies Efir and Variant (Kazan).
Yana ran the PR campaign for the II and III International Pliner Festival and L. Sonts Jewish Culture and Music and Dance Performers Contest in Kazan (2002, 2003). In 2003 she recorded a solo CD A bisele Haynt. Yana has sung in the quartet since 1998.
Yana Ovrutskaya at Klezfest in Ukraine, 2004 (mp3, 1,12 MB)
Graduated from M. Zankovetsky Ukranian Academy Theatre College as a theatre and cinema actress. Performed in V.Kachalov Kazan Bolshoy Drama Theatre. Received awards in several of Russia's festivals for singing actors.
In 1994 - 2002 Alina worked for TV Company Efir (Kazan) as a producer and TV presenter. A. Ivakh is a soloist of klezmer ensemble Simkha (Kasan, Russia) and Dona (Moscow). Artistic director of Moscow Centre Euro-class.
In 2005 Alina directed a Purimshpil-Show at Klezfest Kiev.
She has been singing with Ashkenazim since 2001. Alina's solo CD Feygele was released in 2003.
Alina Ivakh at Klezfest in Ukraine, 2005 (mp3, 0,99 Mb)
Internationally acclaimed performer, composer and educator. Has been Musical Director for The Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London. Merlin has developed a special method of teaching klezmer instrumentalists by ear and has taught at many international Yiddish Arts Programmes in North America and Eastern Europe.
Composed scores for numerous dance and theatre companies. International performances, television and radio appearances with New Presumption, Merlin Shepherd Klezmer Trio, RNT, Sukke, Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars, The Sound & Light Cinematic Duo.
Merlin has been singing with the Ashkenazim since 2004.
See also www.merlinshepherd.co.uk
Ex-member of the group Vasily Gafner (Kazan, Russia) - tenor
Graduated from Kazan State Conservatory, choir conducting department.
Vasily took part in recordings of Jamda (2000) and Fun Yener Zayt Lid (2003). Vasily performed with Ashkenazim as a member of the ensemble and a soloist in 2000 - 2004.