NEW York singer and music educator Shira Kline uses song to share her love for Jewish life, especially to a young audience through hip pop songs.
For much of the year, Kline tours around the United States with her band, ShirLaLa, presenting shows at Jewish festivals, schools and community centres.
Kline will be back in Australia in June – without her band – to take part in the three-day Limmud Oz festival of Jewish learning in Melbourne and the one-day Yom Limmud festival in Sydney.
“I had a great time at Limmud Oz two years ago and am looking forward to my return visit,” says Kline by phone from New York.
Kline, 36, has been teaching and performing for more than 15 years. She has performed in Britain, Europe and Asia and with her group, ShirLaLa, she has released three CDs of Jewish kiddie rock music for Shabbat, Chanukah and Pesach, which have sold more than 25,000 copies.
Kline is also a founding member of Storahtelling: Ritual Theatre Revived, which was established more than 12 years ago by Amichai Lau Lavie, an Israeli-born teacher of Judaic literature and a performance artist.
Rooted in biblical text and ritual practice, Storahtelling fuses dramatised English translation, traditional chanting, music and live interaction.
In addition to performing, Kline conducts adult Jewish music meditation and professional development for early childhood and music teachers.
“In 2010 I focused on my Storahtelling, but this time I will be involved with music workshops for children,” she says.
“And I hope to establish a Limmud Oz children’s choir to perform with me during my concerts.
“Then I will go to Sydney for Yom Limmud and also do some professional development work with the preschool association, talking to early childhood teachers.”
Before travelling to Australia, Kline will join hundreds of musicians at the annual five-day Hava Nashira conference in Wisconsin.
“This is where several hundred of the brightest and hottest music composers come to share their new music,” she says.
“It’s like a birthplace for new music to get started and passed around, so I will come to Australia with pocketfuls of great new contemporary Jewish music.”
At the Hava Nashira conference, Kline will lead workshops for religious school music teachers to help them learn techniques for the classroom.
“Music teachers usually work solo, so even if a teacher has been working for a long time, it’s easy to get a little stale. So when they get the opportunity to come together at a workshop and be around their colleagues, all their creative lights are turned on.”
Kline says she is looking forward to her visit to Australia. “Limmud is wonderful for me because it is very nourishing and is invaluable professional development,” she says.
“I love praying with different communities as prayer style is different all over the world. I enjoy checking out different scenes.”
These days, much of Kline’s music has an environmental message, which has built on the release two years ago of her CD Earth Worm Disco.
““Environmental education is important in getting a green message across. It has become a central theme in many of the concerts that I perform at,” she says.
“This year, for Earth Day in New York, my band was the headline act and we performed for a wildly diverse group of people who got a real kick out of the music, which is full of different characters and fun games.
“The Earth Worm Disco CD has turned into a full-blown musical that is touring around the United States.
“Children are learning environmental values and you can see it progress from the classroom to their daily lives – it is very exciting.”
Kline does a lot of touring around the US with concerts in venues ranging from schools and halls to Jewish music festivals.
“It’s wonderful to tour and everywhere we go we get a great response, from grandparents to little children,” she says.
“I have also started doing some adult concerts, which have been great, but are quite different to the ones specially for kids.”
During her visit to Melbourne, Kline will hold a concert for students at Mount Scopus Memorial College.
REPORT by Danny Gocs
PHOTO of Shira Kline