Workshop leaders and performers

Hilda Bronstein
Ilana Cravitz
Susi Evans
Meg Hamilton
Ros Hawley
Carol Isaacs
Vivi Lachs
Steve Levi
Judith Plowman
Sally Russell
Guy Schalom
Yair Schleider
Polina Shepherd
Merlin Shepherd
Francesca Ter-Berg
Paul Tkachenko
Rachel Weston


Hilda Bronstein (London, voice)

Hilda Bronstein is well-known to London audiences as a singer and teacher of Yiddish Song. She was the Director of the JMI’s Weekly Song School from 2005 to 2008, and now runs regular Yiddish Song Workshops under the title Sing Your Roots. She has also taken masterclasses and song workshops at the West Road Recital Room in Cambridge, at the Spiro Ark in London and, with Shura Lipovsky and Polina Shepherd, at Klezfest London in 2009 and 2010.  In May 2008, she was awarded the Mira Rafalowicz Prize for the best interpretation of Yiddish Song at the International Jewish Music Festival in Amsterdam, and in 2009 she performed at the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music to a standing ovation. Hilda has made two CDs of Yiddish songs, the first with the Merlin Shepherd Quartet and the second with her newly formed Klezmer/Swing band Chutzpah! Tracks from both CDs have been widely broadcast in Europe and the USA and in October 2010 she sang live on BBC4 Radio Woman’s Hour.

Susi Evans (London, clarinet)

Susi graduated from the Royal Academy of Music with a first class degree in 2004. Much in demand for concerts and recordings with international artists as well as on the West End stage, her performances with the She’Koyokh Klezmer Ensemble, a group which she co-founded, have inspired press reviews remarking on her ‘nimble solo features and excellent tone control’ (The Scottish Herald), and ‘infectious enthusiasm’ (Oxford Times). Susi travels regularly for work and pleasure, and has studied in Istanbul with acclaimed clarinettist Selim Sesler

Meg Hamilton (London, violin, viola)

Meg played her first klezmer tunes to perform with Oi Va Voi in 2001 which she learnt by ear, by listening obsessively to a tape of Sophie Solomon. One year later she won a millennium award through the JMI to study klezmer music at KlezFest and SOAS, culminating in workshops at prisons, children's music centres and at Trinity College of Music. Soon afterwards she joined She’koyokh Klezmer Ensemble, one of the first world music ensembles to be picked for the late Yehudi Menuhin’s Live Music Now! Scheme, taking klezmer to all corners of the UK , giving interactive concerts, song, dance, rhythm and improvisation workshops at schools, universities, prisons, special needs centres, arts centres and festivals. Meg is also co-founder of and viola player with the Kosmos ensemble, a popular and unique string trio performing original arrangements of world music from Argentina to the Lebanon including klezmer and Sephardic  music. Inspired by klezmer, she has researched traditional music and the rich variety of fiddle styles in Europe and beyond while touring in Poland, Hungary, the Czech republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. Meg has a classical training, has played in top London orchestras, Fiddler on the Roof, as well as with Arabic, classical Turkish and flamenco groups.  She teaches the violin and klezmer to all ages, one-on-one or in groups with a focus on listening, ensemble playing and learning by ear.

Carol Isaacs (London, piano, accordion)

A classically-trained pianist, keyboard player and accordionist, Carol works in the pop and world music fields. She has recorded and toured with many international artists including Sinead O’Connor (Ireland), The Indigo Girls (US), Natacha Atlas (Egypt), Abdel Ali Slimani (Algeria), Ahmed Mukhtar (Iraq) and Phongsit Khampee (Thailand). She also plays accordion with Francesca Ter-Berg in the duo, Kavona, who specialise in traditional klezmer music. Kavona is half of the London Klezmer Quartet with Ilana Cravitz and Susi Evans, and also part of ‘Yalla’, an all-female interfaith Muslim and Jewish Hip Hop Klezmer collaboration.

Vivi Lachs (London, singing, dance)

Vivi has studied Yiddish for 10 years and has specially researched the songs and tales from the old Jewish East End of London. She is the singer and dance leader in the longstanding Klezmer band, Klezmer Klub. The band’s recent CD Whitechapel, mayn Vaytshapl is the product of her research into Yiddish songs of London. Vivi gives talks on the social, cultural and political histories the songs contain, and has been published in journals, as well as featured in both Jewish and non-Jewish press. The research is ongoing, including interviewing elderly East Enders.

Steve Levi

Biog to follow ...

Judith Plowman (Glossop, Derbyshire: Klezmer Dance Leader/Teacher)

Judith came late to dance, and even later to Klezmer Dance!   In 2006 she went to Weimar's Klezmer Dance Workshop led by Michael Alpert and Zev Feldman ~ wonderful links with the 'dancing past'.  Since then, Judith has attended any Klezmer that living in the Pennines allows.  She has attended JMI KlezFest London since 2007 and helped run the dance strand. She runs Klezmer dance sessions, workshops and Klezmer ceilidhs across Northern England with 'The Klatsh' klezmer band.   In March 2010, she was part of the team that created the 'KlezNorth Weekend' an event that pulled a 100 people to a Village Hall, deep in the Peak District.

Sally Russell (Cello)

Sally is a versatile cellist and music educator, specialising in klezmer, experimental music, folk and pop/rock. Highlights of her performing career include, being an on-stage musician for two productions by Glasgow's Theatre Fusion. She has run numerous performances and workshops with her klezmer ensembles, ‘Celter Schmelter’ and ‘Yidl’s Fidl’, and made recordings with electronica artist ‘Double Thumb’, prog rock band ‘How to Swim’, folk singer John Malcolm and children's educator Jess Gold. Sally studied classical cello with David Smith at Chetham's School of Music and later with Mark Bailey (RSAMD) and Betsy Taylor (University of Strathclyde). She completed a Masters in ethnomusicology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where she specialised in researching the contemporary UK klezmer scene and studied klezmer performance with Merlin Shepherd and Ilana Cravitz. She is also a 'Wider Opportunities' instrumental tutor for Tower Hamlets Arts and Music Education Service. She teaches the cello to private pupils, and facilitates music workshops for clients including the Jewish Music Institute and Midlands Arts Centre.

Yair Schleider (London, Keyboard, Accordion, Guitar, Trumpet)

Yair studied piano and composition at the Rubin Conservatory in Israel, and then joined the Israeli Indie-Rock scene playing alongside inspirational singer-song writer Eithan Fisher, who became a major influence in his musical career.  Since arriving in London from Israel seven years ago, Yair has played with some of the top performing artists in the UK. He toured Holland with pop diva Lisa Alea, played with Mentor Kolective at Abbey Road Studios and toured the UK with Funk Federation. It didn’t take long after his arrival, however, for Yair to become part of London’s Jewish Music scene. He developed a keen interest in Klezmer and Yiddish music and has now played with performers such as Daphna Sadeh, Stewart Curtis, the Shir Ensemble and many others.  In 2008 and 2009 he participated as accompanist with Yiddish song prize-winner Hilda Bronstein in the International Jewish Music Festival in Amsterdam. He accompanies Hilda frequently both in the UK and Europe and is a member of her new Klezmer/Swing band Chutzpah! with which he has recently recorded the group’s debut album ‘Yiddish Songs With Chutzpah!

Paul Tkachenko (London, voice, tuba, double bass, accordion)

Multi-instrumentalist and singer Paul Tkachenko has an impressive performance and teaching career. Paul has worked as a primary and secondary music teacher as well as playing for several outfits including The Yiddish Twist Orchestra, Shekoyokh, FDT Klezmorim, Shtetl Superstars, Hadar Manor, Tatcho Drom, Chancery Blame and the Gadjo Club, Yurodny and well known Klezmer clarinettist Stuart Curtis.

Paul's MA about Turkish nationalism was published in 2009 and he is currently writing up a PhD about Klezmer musicians in London at City University where, amongst all this, he somehow finds the time to teach as well.

Rachel Weston (Brighton, voice)

Rachel has extensive and varied experience in performing, events organisation, promotion and hosting. Since January 2006 she has organised ‘Wordplay’, a very successful  live music and performance poetry event in Brighton and has compeered events, radio shows and festivals in Brighton and London.

Rachel is currently studying on a two year postgraduate performance degree at SOA, specialising in the research and performance of Jewish music. Her research topics have included Chassidic Niggunim and Tischen, Israeli popular music and gender, and fieldwork research into the gender politics of the Halacha of Kol Isha (Jewish laws regarding women’s voices). Although she is a Classically trained singer her focus has moved towards the performance of Yiddish folk music and some Chassidic and liturgical music. Performing Jewish music and enabling large audiences (both Jewish and non-Jewish) to enjoy it is a mission she endeavours to work hard towards over the coming years.