Essex Zingt! took JMI’s fantastic Yiddish Song project to 18 primary and secondary schools all over Essex between February – March 2022.
JMI was proud to once again collaborate with Essex Music Education Hub in delivering a large scale Jewish youth music education programme to children of all backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities across Essex.
Joseph Finlay once again led the project with support from Klezmer musicians Josh Middleton (accordion) and Dan Gouly (clarinet). The programme consisted of 18 in-person workshops at all of the participating schools where the 3 musicians performed songs in Yiddish and English, and explored ideas around Jewish identity and culture.
A series of online learning resources were also created for this project which included short videos of Yiddish songs for the children and teachers to learn in school in their own time.
The programme culminated in a Final Performance at Theydon Bois Primary School which was live streamed to all of the other participating schools in the project.
The final performance involved Joseph telling a story about a time travelling Klezmer musician from 19th Century Odessa who found himself transported to 21st Century Essex! The Don Kipper band provided wonderful support, and more than 70 children from Theydon Bois Primary School took part singing the songs they had learned.
Yiddish Song Project for primary school children in Redbridge
In 2019 Jewish Music Institute partnered with Redbridge Music Service to commission ‘East Zingt!’ – a primary school Yiddish song project celebrating Jewish music and culture.
A programme of 5 workshops in two Jewish (Clore Tikva Primary and Wohl Ilford Primary) and two non-Jewish (Glade Primary and Churchfield’s Junior) schools took place throughout November – December 2019 in East London, and culminated in a community daytime concert at Redbridge Town Hall. 300 children from all four participating schools performed to a large crowd of more than 300 parents and family members.
‘East Zingt!’ celebrated Yiddish language, history and culture through song (‘zingt’ meaning ‘sing’). The project gave school children the chance to learn songs in Yiddish, and also to experience Jewish music played by world-class professionals from London-based band Don Kipper. Workshops were planned and led by talented musician, writer and composer Joseph Finlay. Joseph taught songs in Yiddish and English using piano, and was accompanied in all classes by one or more instrumentalists who played accordion, clarinet or cello.
The original programme (Canvey Zingt!) was devised in 2018 and taught in 4 schools in Canvey Island. JMI was delighted to be given the opportunity to bring the project to Redbridge in 2019 thanks to the generosity of the Dorfman Foundation’s award of a grant towards our education work.
“I really enjoyed the East Zingt project because I think it was an amazing opportunity being able to sing with a real Klezmer band and it was wonderful being able to learn Yiddish.” – Maisha
“I enjoyed performing in front of the audience, 4 schools and lots of parents, although it was very nerve racking! Overall, the experience was amazing! – Sahib
“Being at Ilford Town Hall was a fantastic experience, and performing on stage was such a joy! Learning about different cultures is very enjoyable and educational. It was a glorious opportunity for year 5 to sing Yiddish music. It was the best!” – Allegra
“An enormous thank you for inviting us to be a part of this project!”
“We all (children and staff) thoroughly enjoyed learning the songs and Yiddish at school with Joseph and Josh, and then of course, the wonderful performance at The Town Hall with the other schools and the fabulous Don Kipper band.”
“Thank you so much for such a joyful and rewarding experience.”
“A great opportunity for schools to mix and share a unique experience. The children thoroughly enjoyed learning the music and history behind this project.”
“It is so important for schools and other groups to promote an understanding of one another’s cultures.”
“Josh and the band were very engaging and knowledgeable. It was wonderful to see the children so enthusiastic and involved.”
“The songs chosen were uplifting and Joseph made sure that children understood the meaning and background of each song.”
From Don Kipper musicians:
“It has been a pleasure to do the Zingt! project again, it has been very different and in some ways bigger than last year, and I’ve really enjoyed it, so thanks for getting me involved.” – Josh Middleton (accordion)
“Thanks very much! I think it was a massive success and [the concert] really was wonderful! I heard so much positive feedback from audience/teachers.” – Dan Gouly (clarinet)
Faculty and partners
Joseph Finlay (project leader)
Joseph Finlay is a composer and musical director, trained at Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music. His musicals include Superhero, which premiered in 2017 at the Southwark Playhouse, and was awarded Best New Musical at the ‘Offies’ awards, and This is Also England with Raphael Smith. He works extensively in Jewish music: he is Musical Director of the London Jewish Male Choir and Mosaic Liberal Synagogue, and has worked as Musical Director/Choirmaster at Hendon Reform, New London, New North London and Central Synagogues. He specialises in Yiddish song and is accompanist for the Golden Peacock Yiddish song school
Don Kipper, a multi award-winning ensemble playing a wide range of traditional musical forms reflecting the cultural diversity of North East London, from Turkish and Greek Folk Music to Romani music and Klezmer. It attempts to root in deeply in traditions and bring musical cultures together in innovative, exciting, and unusual ways that mirror London’s vibrant, cosmopolitan energy. Don Kipper offers music to an intimate audience on a musical journey through Europe – taking in a frantic journey around the dancefloor, at home both on large outdoor stages playing to a crowd of ecstatic dancers, and in sweaty tents getting the throng jumping!
Redbridge Music Service
Redbridge Music Service (RMS) is the lead organisation of the Redbridge Music Education Hub which supports schools and other organisations to meet the aspirations of the National Plan for Music Education. RMS provides instrumental and vocal lessons to over 6,000 pupils and organises over 30 different ensembles from beginner clubs and early years music groups to their Symphony Orchestra and other senior groups. Concerts are held at local venues and major concert halls. In the New Year RMS are looking forward to taking over 2,000 pupils to perform at the iconic Royal Albert Hall in the bi-annual Redbridge Choral Festival.
Yiddish song project for primary school children in Canvey Island
In 2018 Jewish Music Institute partnered with Essex Cultural Diversity Project and Essex Music Hub for the first time to offer workshops at various schools in Canvey Island ending with a community concert to celebrate Hanukkah.
Canvey Zingt! celebrated Yiddish language, history and culture through song (‘zingt’ meaning ‘sing’). It gave school children the chance to experience Jewish music played by world-class professionals from London-based band Don Kipper, with workshops led by musician, writer and composer Joseph Finlay, who taught the children arrangements of Yiddish songs.
Charly Richardson, Music Service Lead Officer for Essex County Council:
“A number of Haredi Jewish families have recently relocated from Stamford Hill in North-East London to Canvey Island. We are all thrilled to have this great opportunity to work with our partners and the community to celebrate and learn more about Yiddish music and culture.”
Indi Sandhu, Creative Director Essex Cultural Diversity Project:
“We are very honoured to work with Essex Music Education Hub and The Jewish Music Institute in a very exciting commissioned project in Canvey Island to support Culturally Diverse activity in the area.”
Joseph Finlay, Canvey Zingt! Workshop leader:
“I am thrilled to be leading Canvey Zingt – it’s a joy to teach Yiddishsong, language and culture to students with little or no experience of Jews and Judaism. I feel this is a great way of teaching cultural diversity – focussing on a diasporic culture, showing that many languages belong to peoples not states, and that in any area there will be many languages being spoken. It’s wonderful to see the students embrace Yiddish song in all its variety, religious, secular, comic and sad. I hope it provides a template for similar projects.”
The project was funded by Essex Cultural Diversity Project and Essex Music Education Hub (using funding from Arts Council England). It was produced by Essex Music Education Hub and delivered by Jewish Music Institute.
An educational journey in Romanian and Yiddish storytelling, music and dance.
This highly successful and long lasting project – created in collaboration with Sue McCall (Harrow Music Service) – brings together some of the UK’s best educators in Eastern European music to inspire students with a rich programme of folk tales and song. Primary School children explore the colour and energy of the four seasons through interactive sessions that include instrumental workshops, puppetry and dance.
The course consists of an 8-week programme teaching music of Eastern European origin, with 4 of London’s finest professional musicians who specialise in these styles. The repertoire taught includes a Serbian song ‘Dunje Ranke’, a Romanian song ‘Paparuda’ and a song from the Jewish festival of Hannukah. The children learn the dances that accompany these songs and are taught a simple melody to play on the piano accordion (15 accordions are provided by Harrow Music Service). The project culminates in a performance called ‘Anotimpurile’ or The Seasons, which parents and other members of school are invited to.
Classes are led by renowned klezmer clarinettist Susi Evans, who is supported by expert klezmer musicians Simon Roth (percussion), Zivorad Nikolic (accordion) and Paul Moylan (double bass).
“This programme has proved very successful for several reasons. The musicians from the Jewish Music Institute are not only highly skilled in their disciplines but also have a wealth of knowledge of Romanian songs and dance music, infused with Yiddish tradition and culture.
Of course there are along the way several children for whom this particular cultural adventure strikes a poignant chord and for whom this is an affirmation of their culture – many who are at the start of their lives in Britain, so this is well timed! I wholeheartedly recommend this programme as one which not only enriches the music curriculum but also relates to other areas of the curriculum”
– Sue McCall, Manager of Harrow Music Service