Tutors at KlezNorth 2019

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.


Gica Loening is a first generation born Scot of a secular Jewish family from Berlin. Originally taught classical violin as a child, she immersed herself in Scottish traditional dance music over the last twenty five years, riding the crest of the Scottish urban ceilidh revival of the 1990’s, with the Ceilidh Collective and her all women dance band The Belle Star Band.

Her passion for Klezmer in the last sixteen years has been fueled by a desire to connect with her cultural roots and bring together the shared traditions of Jewish and Scottish dance and music in Scotland . She founded Celter Schmelter Klezmer ensemble in 2004, performing with her sons Fin and Herbie, and bassist Jen Hill.

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

Polina Shepherd was born in Siberia and grew up in a home where songs were regularly sung at the family table. She is now an internationally renowned singer with her music deeply rooted in Eastern Europe and Russian folk. She is also a fabulous pianist and accompanist. She is a hugely experienced choral leader and arranger of yiddish songs . She has made numerous recordings, and toured much of the world with her music. With too many collaborations, events, and roles to mention, her current programme includes touring with Sklamberg and the Shepherds, performing as half of the Merlin and Polina Shepherd Duo, and working with a number of choirs under the umbrella, The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience.

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. Involved with Kleznorth from the beginning, Phil now chairs the Kleznorth organising group.

Judith Plowman ‘found’ dance (international folk) about 25 years ago, but then struggled to discover which of her many ‘left feet’ was actually her ‘right’ foot! That finally sorted, she has immersed herself in as much Klezmer Dance as living in a small Pennine town allows – with two trips to Weimar to specialist Klezmer dance workshops significantly expanding her repertoire, as well as the week-long Klezmer dance workshop with Erik Bendix in Findhorn. Judith has taught and led dance for many years, and is committed to spreading and encouraging Klezmer Dance, finding it such an inclusive and uplifting dance form. Judith was a founder member of KlezNorth but now focusses on the dancing.  Judith invented and will lead the wonderful ‘dance walk’ – a Klezmer exploration of the lovely countryside around Youlgrave.

Pam Singer grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home and community in Canada’s equivalent of Whitechapel — north-end Winnipeg. She went to a non-religious Yiddish speaking school, I.L. Peretz Folk School. She’s competent in two different accents!

Sue Cooper has been involved in the Klezmer revival for many years, playing in bands Klezmeidl (York), and Klezmic (New Mills). She also initiated, and then hosted the monthly Sunday Klezmer Sessions in New Mills for ten years. Together with Ros Hawley, Sue obtained funding for a series of workshops, concerts, ‘klezbarns’ and other events in and around Manchester building a network of klezmorim, and introducing Klezmer dance to the Northwest. Without these various events, the delight and the interest in Klezmer music, and thus the momentum for KlezNorth, would have never been stimulated.

She has attended KlezFest London most years since it’s inception, and with Adrian Dobson and Judith Plowman travelled to the Weimar Klezmer Festival to a specialist Klezmer Dance workshop. Her strong connection with her Jewish forebears strengthens her wish to explore and invigorate the many aspects of Yiddish past – the music, the history (European, American and British), the dances and the language.

Simon Carlyle was converted to Klezmer music from a background of active involvement in early music and traditional jazz. He is particularly interested in the original East European forms of the music, and the communities in which it flourished; he has given talks at KlezNorth, Glasgow Limmud and the Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society on various historical topics. He spends much of his spare time transcribing early klezmer relics, and currently organizes the Edinburgh Klezmer drop-in sessions, so that he can inflict the results on them, as relief from a vain pursuit of the lyric tuba.