Merlin Shepherd’s clarinet provides the perfect foil for his deep musicality. Whether he’s playing traditional Klezmer with the Sound&Light Cinematic Duo or wild ecstatic music with Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars and Boban Marcovic, or playing with his own quartet, his music is a powerful and emotional force that redefines the instrument. He has been central to spreading interest and knowledge of klezmer music in the UK for several decades, both through teaching and performance. He has been Musical Director at the Royal National Theatre, RSC and Globe Theatre, composed numerous scores for theatre and dance companies, and has made many recordings. He has just returned from an international tour with Sklamberg and The Shepherds.

Listen to a interview with Merlin Shepherd

Gica Loening started playing classical violin at the age of eight, going on to discover the world of Scots trad music and the burgeoning Scottish ceilidh dance revival of the 1990s. She performed with Edinburgh’s Ceilidh Collective, and in 1995 formed the all women Belle Star Band. Her passion grew for klezmer fiddle and connection to Yiddish culture and she set up the Scottish based Celter Schmelter klezmer ensemble, performing at Festivals, weddings and Bar Mitzvahs with her son Fin and double bassist Jen Hill. In recent years she has collaborated and performed with Michael Alpert, exploring both Jewish and Scottish repertoire. A seasoned fiddle teacher, she managed the programme for The Scots Music Group and in 2004 went on to lead and direct Edinburgh’s Fun Fiddle project for children and adults, which has nurtured hundreds of fiddlers , and built a strong community of players. She became established as one of Scotland’s leading klezmer fiddle proponents and educators, teaching klezmer at the Centre for Open Learning, The Scots Fiddle Festival, KlezNorth, and local events. As a trained community music practitioner, Gica developed ‘Makin a Brew’, a music and storytelling project for vulnerable families and pre school children. In addition to her freelance work, Gica is Youth Music Initiative Education Officer for East Lothian Council and co-ordinates a wide programme of accessible music making projects for schools.

Michael Alpert has been a pioneering figure in the renaissance of Klezmer music for over 30 years providing a bridge between Old World Jewish culture and the contemporary Yiddish/Klezmer Renaissance. He is internationally renowned for his award-winning performances and recordings with Brave Old World, Kapelye, Khevrisa, Krakauer, Itzhak Perlman, Theodore Bikel – amongst others. He is a mentor, friend and colleague to many of the brightest new lights of contemporary Yiddish and Jewish arts and scholarship world-wide.

Michael Alpert tells the story of the Jewish people and the human race in song, music and the spoken word. Drawn from his family heritage and his own travels through the cultures and terrain of Europe and the Americas, his performances are sojourns through inner and outer landscapes, sagas of immigrant journeys, and epics of the universal search for home.

Michael Alpert has conducted extensive documentation of music and dance in Jewish Communities across USA and Europe, and is a leading contemporary teacher and researcher of Eastern European Jewish traditional dance. He has been Co-Director of KlezKanada, and Director of Jewish Heritage and Arts Programming at the Jewish Cultural Festival in Krakow.

Phil Tomlinson is an experienced singer and performer, specialising in singing and teaching Yiddish songs. Phil’s background is not Jewish, but through 40 years marriage to his wife who is from a Jewish family of Holocaust refugees, he has become ever more involved with Yiddish culture, especially music and song. Performing since the age of 7 in choirs, singing competitions, orchestras , bands, and folk clubs, over the last decade or more he has played and sung with the klezmer band The Klatsh. More recently with his group Yoyvl he has taken performances of “Mir Zaynen Do” and “Yiddish Revolutionaries” to a number of cities and towns in the Midlands. (The former consists of ghetto and Holocaust songs, the latter follows the history of the Jewish left). Phil still finds time to sing in several choirs, and play in a local rock band. 

Sonia Gollance is Lecturer in Yiddish at UCL. She is a scholar of Yiddish Studies and German-Jewish literature whose work focuses on dance, theatre, and gender. Her first book, It Could Lead to Dancing: Mixed-Sex Dancing and Jewish Modernity, was published by Stanford University Press in 2021. Previously she taught at the University of Vienna, The Ohio State University, and the University of Göttingen (Germany). She received her PhD in Germanic Languages and Literatures from the University of Pennsylvania and her BA in Comparative Literature and Germanic Studies from the University of Chicago.