Polina works as an educator leading choral workshops internationally. Her choral work is united by the umbrella of The Polina Shepherd Vocal Experience and covers many aspects of vocal music from large scale choirs to smaller chamber groups, from highly arranged and conducted pieces to on spot choral improvisation. Her specially developed teaching and conducting methods are based on specific East European sound, ornamentation, modal experimentation with attention to history and context. Choir leader of the Award Winning Russian choir of Brighton & Hove 2007-2023, The London Russian Choir 2013-2023, Brighton & Hove Yiddish choir and the London Yiddish choir in 2015-2022. Music Co-Director of Caravan Orchestra and Choir: a German - Israeli youth project (2019 - 2023), where Polina experiments with creating musical forms on the spot with a 40+ group of musicians with classical, jazz and Arab music backgrounds. Other past choirs include East European Choir at UCL (London) 2009-2013, Chutzpah choir Brighton 2007-2011, Khorovod, Brighton & Hove, 2011-2012.

Her choral collaborations include Söngfjelagið Choir (Reykjavik, Iceland, 2012, 2018, 2019), A Besere Velt Yiddish Chorus (Boston, USA: a joint concert programme and a recording, 2020-2022), choral workshops for Kleztival in Brazil (Rio-de-Janeiro, Sao Paolo in 2011- 2014, 2019), Sheshory’2007-Podilsky  (Nemirov, Ukraine, 2006), Klezmer Paris (2005, 2008, 2009), A. Lourie Festival in Basel (2009, 2011, 2012) and dozens more.

Polina's current weekly UK choirs are Slavic Voices in London and Brighton and Hove.

Polina's choirs are open to all. You do not have to be fluent in any of the languages to join. In each of these choirs a true feeling of community is combined with dedication to the cultural, spiritual and folk roots of its singing tradition. The repertoire ranges from folklore to popular songs, festival music, great classical works by composers such as Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, contemporary material - all with cultural specificity to East Europe. Polina's choirs perform regularly and take part in festivals throughout the year, occasionally appearing on the radio or TV. They also frequently combine forces to sing at larger events and for recording sessions, collaborate with guest musicians and bands.

150 Voices  - a unique programme of Russian & Yiddish songs with groups or choirs with a lead singer of a Grammy winning The Klezmatics (USA). Here is how it works: we come to your town, teach a workshop and then put a public performance together. This can be with an existing choir, several choirs brought together or a group of people who come together just for the event. Workshop can be anything from 3 hours with an existing choir to a full weekend. The original programme is a recording with five choirs in the UK and USA: 150 voices. Contact us for more information.

 Choir members write:

"This is a very old song about a young man killed by an arrow". We look at the words and then each of the harmony lines. We are sitting in the usual church hall but we are not at a usual choir rehearsal. The words are in Russian and the melodies and harmonies are slightly exotic to my English ears. So what am I - a non-Russian speaker - doing here? 

…There are about 30 of us - all ages, nationalities and singing experience. This very mixed group works together and produces some wonderful music. The music we sing has been a revelation. I knew some Russian opera, church music and some popular songs. What we sing is very different: very old almost ritualistic music; more recent romances; wild dance-like song; tragic songs. And the actual process of singing seems different. It's difficult to pin down. Something to do with the throat, or chest, or diaphragm? I don't know. But the sound produced sounds Russian more than English.
To get such a group to sing this music to such a good standard with 90 minutes rehearsal a week could not be done without an exceptional leader. Polina Shepherd has not only great technical expertise - and endless patience - but also the ability to communicate to us her own enthusiasm. The benefits of singing are well known: - a feeling of physical and mental well-being, a sense of achievement  membership of a community of singers. But the benefits of singing with the Brighton and Hove Russian choir somehow exceed all these.

Hazel Orchard, Brighton & Hove

So what’s a good, born-and-bred Yorkshireman who doesn’t speak a word of Russian doing, singing in the Brighton & Hove Russian choir? The short answer is Enjoying it!

We’re twenty-odd strong, about a third of whom are male. Only 2 or 3 are actually Russian and about the same number can speak the language, but it’s the music, folk songs and some beautiful serious songs that hold us together, well that and our musical director, Polina Shepherd. She is fantastic. She teaches us the songs, some of which she herself arranges for four parts. Her conducting owes little or nothing to Sir Simon Rattle or Sir Colin Davies. In the more energetic songs she may pirouette, turn to the audience and even dance as she extracts the utmost verse from us and from the audience. We have learned to interpret her movements: a roly-poly with both arms means Sing it again. One finger upwards equals This bit for the first time, followed by two fingers and even three. We simply have to watch her.

Sydney Levine, Brighton & Hove

… I joined just after Christmas last year, and I have found it more and more rewarding all the time. The traditional repertoire includes lyrical and epic songs, ritual calendar music for pagan holidays, wedding songs and weeping songs.
I have been in other choirs. I was part of an a cappella sixteenth century, I was also part of a gospel backing group for a while. I sang in an opera chorus which regrouped after the opera was over to sing ‘favourites’. This was fun, but I would never have paid to go and listen to something which was a mixbag of ‘something for everyone’, and I have to admit that there was an element of competition which I did not feel comfortable with.

Polina Shepherd’s choir is different. It is soulful, sublime, rousing, ethereal, liberating, and there is a good proportion of men. There is no audition, so voices are real – some booming, some tiny whispers, all textures. Everyone enjoys it – the sounds surprise us and encourage us. Polina, the director, is engaging and inspiring. The excellent musical arrangements she brings are challenging, but she doesn’t brow beat us. She teaches us everything simply, with clarity. We learn at our own pace – she provides a variety of ways – recordings, written music, links to other performance versions on the Internet.

Cyrillic script, transliteration and translation are all available. We choose what’s best for us. I had sung before in Russian, and I studied the language to ordinary level at school, but the majority had probably not uttered much more than stravstvweetye, spaseeba and da svidanya before they joined. This is unimportant. The quality of the pieces motivates us to perform our best, to perfect our pronunciation, to develop our registers, and to strengthen our rendition.

Within two weeks of joining I performed with the choir. In fact I took part in a duet in the performance. It was great to see the faces of the audience light up when they heard the harmonies. Since then we have done four more performances – always a great sound. There is never a hint of nerves, we are so confident. The best thing about the choir for me is the opportunity it brings to let my voice play. We are encouraged in parts of the songs to improvise and invent. That is when my soul speaks and I feel my heart grow.

Pam Hewitt, Lewes

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