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A Singing Journey through the Steppes and the Shtetl

  • Silk Road House 1944 University Avenue Berkeley, CA, 94704 United States (map)

Led by Polina Skovoroda Shepherd (Russia/UK), one of Europe's leading musicians in this field, and Lorin Sklamberg (USA), a Grammy-winning singer and internationally acclaimed specialist of the style, this workshop is open to all lovers of East European vocal music.

$45 for three-hour vocal workshop
Reserve your place here

Music lovers of all backgrounds and singing levels are invited, no experience necessary. All tunes will be taught by ear and/or with sheet music.

Russian folk songs embrace the whole of the landscape and all of Mother Earth. This wide geographical span is present throughout the whole culture and gives the songs an extremely broad emotional depth. Large musical intervals in lyrical songs call to mind the vastness of Russian topography stretching toward a boundless horizon. In eastern folklore, each snowflake and each blade of grass embodies the spirits of nature and this connection is felt within every song for ritual pagan holidays, circle dance, laments, wedding and lyrical songs.

Yiddish is a 1000-year-old language of the Jews of Eastern Europe. Yiddish folk songs are deeply rooted in spiritual traditions, cantorial, and Chassidic singing; also they have been influenced by many other East European cultures. They speak about people's everyday life and express every color of human emotion. Niggunim form a part of Jewish worship that enables the singer to bring about a change in consciousness known as Dveykes, or union with God. They are the age-old Jewish songs without words and sometimes include improvisation and a lot of ornamentation, which participants will be invited to explore.

Workshop Instructors


POLINA SKOVORODA SHEPHERD (Russia/UK) Polina Skovoroda Shepherd 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 World 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. 

Now she is a highly experienced workshop leader and performer. Since moving to the UK, she has toured and taught internationally in Iceland, Brazil, Switzerland, Austria, France, Ukraine, Spain, and many other countries. In the UK, she has taught for Glyndebourne Education and the Natural Voice Practitioners Network and is now leading the Brighton & Hove Russian Choir, The London Yiddish Choir, the Brighton & Hove Chutzpah Singers, and The London Russian Choir. 


Lorin Sklamberg is the lead singer of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, and a leading exponent of Yiddish song and traditional Jewish vocal techniques.

The legendary music critic Robert Christgau has described Lorin Sklambergs voice as transcendent, ethereal and sensual, Since he co-founded the legendary klezmer group in 1986, Lorin Sklamberg has been on the receiving end of countless tributes, and his crystalline, expressive vocalizing never fails to have an emotional impact on all within its range.

He has also worked for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research for almost 25 years, most recently as its Sound Archivist. Lorin can be heard on some 50 CDs, and also composes and performs for film, dance and stage, and produces recordings. 


NOTE: Lorin and Polina, joined by Kitka, will offer two concert performances the day after this workshop:

Yiddish and Slavic folk tunes, songs from the Odessa underground, Soviet collective farm songs from a century ago, and original material exploring the connections between the steppes and the shtetl.

Sunday, September 24 - two shows at 4pm and 7:30pm
1728 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, CA
Tix: $25 in advance / $30 at the door
Advance reservations highly recommended!