150 Voices by Beth Dwoskin
150 voices, a concept album by Polina Shepherd and Lorin Sklamberg, was recorded before the pandemic hit, but it was released at just the right time. This album is a celebration of choral singing. Five choirs were involved, four in England and one in Boston. They sing with a passion and intensity that no professional choir can match, and they provide backup, fill, counterpoint, and harmony through inspired arrangements that highlight these two singers, who are possibly the finest two singers in Yiddish in our day. Both singers are also the expert accompanists, on piano and accordion.
All the English choirs are directed by Polina, and two of them sing in Russian. The idea was to “explore the connection between the steppes and the shtetl”, and several of the songs are in Russian. The collection ranges from traditional Yiddish folk tunes to composed art songs, and even a translation into Yiddish of “I am Willing”, the original by American folksinger Holly Near. The spare and musically savvy arrangements allow the beauty of the songs and the performances to shine through. Most of these pieces will be unfamiliar to all but the most dedicated students of Yiddish song, and they could not have a better introduction to the listening public than they will have through this album. The concept here is at once simple and profound, and so resonant in our time—the power and spirit of voices lifted together.
Beth Dwoskin is a librarian, a writer, and a Yiddish translator, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.