Polina and Merlin Shepherd
(HUDSON, N.Y.) – The world-renowned Merlin and Polina Shepherd Klezmer Duo brings its innovative blend of world music, jazz, classical, Islamic, Russian, Yiddish, and klezmer sounds to Club Helsinki Hudson on Sunday, April 8, at 7pm, as part of the Rogovoy Salon, the music and literary series curated and hosted by cultural journalist and music critic Seth Rogovoy.
This concert by the UK-based, international virtuosos caps a day-long celebration of a milestone in host Seth Rogovoy’s life and will likely include appearances by surprise special-guest artists. Come out and help celebrate with Seth and the assembled crowd of family, friends, and music lovers.
Merlin Shepherd is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential klezmer clarinetists of our time. He is simultaneously a pioneer of the early-music approach to klezmer, re-creating the sound of 19th-century ensembles on period instruments, as well as one of the most forward-looking musicians in the field, drawing on his extensive musical background and palette to find affinities among Yiddish music and classical, theater, jazz, punk, funk, and rock – occasionally even swapping his clarinet for electric guitar and letting loose like klezmer’s answer to Jimmy Page.
As a teacher, the Welsh-born and -raised Merlin Shepherd has mentored several generations of young, emerging, and rising klezmer artists — especially clarinetists. It’s no exaggeration to say that the sound of klezmer clarinet as it is widely played across the globe today has in large part been shaped and molded by Merlin Shepherd.
Polina Shepherd’s diverse musical background and her extraordinary native talent as a vocalist and pianist have quickly propelled her to the top rung of Yiddish and Russian performers. Polina was born in Siberia and grew up in a Russian Jewish home where songs were regularly sung at table. Growing up in the Republic of Tatarstan placed her close to Islamic ornamentation and timbre, which can be heard in her unique vocal style and her stunning, four-octave range. One writer compared her phenomenally soulful singing to that of Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin.
Together, Merlin and Polina Shepherd, who are now based in the south of England, combine their individual styles to blend traditional and newly composed Yiddish and Russian songs with klezmer and southern Mediterranean music. Their numbers include Yiddish and Russian folk tunes; pulsing, ecstatic improvisations; original songs and compositions; and upbeat klezmer dance tunes.
Polina and Merlin Shepherd
Seth Rogovoy is one of Polina’s co-songwriters, and the two are developing a unique body of work reflecting their shared Yiddish-Russian ancestry and Seth’s background as a rock critic and Bob Dylan author.
The Rogovoy Salon is a series featuring musicians, writers, and artists hand-picked by Seth Rogovoy. Each event will be hosted by Rogovoy and include conversation and Q&A with the artists when appropriate. For over 20 years, Rogovoy has contributed a weekly cultural commentary for WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Rogovoy has been a cultural journalist and music critic based in the Berkshires and Upper Hudson Valley for 35 years, and is a contributing editor at the national Jewish newsweekly the Forward.
Seth Rogovoy is the artistic director of the annual YIDSTOCK: Festival of New Yiddish Music at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., and the producer of the upcoming “From Shtetl to Stage: A Celebration of Yiddish Music & Culture,” to be performed at Carnegie Hall on April 15, 2019. His books include “Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet” (Scribner) and “The Essential Klezmer” (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). Rogovoy lives in Hudson, N.Y., and Manhattan.
For reservations in The Restaurant or in the club call 518.828.4800.