— What kind of harp does Jill play?

Jill owns a 34-string Kinneret floor harp by Pete Isacowitz of Woodsong, Israel. She tunes it to the Western key of Eb, at concert pitch (A440). Pete comments: “Jill, I’m proud to have sold you one of my harps. The thought of it being heard by hundreds of people, accompanying your beautiful voice, really makes me feel good.” Now she’s on the prowl for a small, medieval-style harp.

— What kind of guitar does Jill play?

Jill is the lucky owner of four beautiful guitars:

The first is a Tama classical guitar, a collector’s item from the mid-1970s: it is one of their handcrafted guitars by a Spanish luthier, before the company began turning out production-line instruments. Jill keeps this at standard tuning (EADGBE).

The second guitar, also Spanish or classical, is a Takamine Hirade. She keeps this at an open D-chord tuning (DADF#AD).

Jill’s third guitar is a steel-strung, high-strung, shallow guitar with symmetrical bracing, specially made for her by the late Ray Scudero. It has the sound of a mandola or a bass Appalachian dulcimer. This is kept at standard tuning, and sounds best when played alongside a regularly-pitched classical or acoustic guitar.

Her fourth one, a gift from restorer Pavel Mašek in the Czech Republic, is a late-nineteenth-century guitar from Bohemia. It has a seventh string, tuned to E, at the same pitch as the highest string.

— Does she play other instruments?

A touch of piano, recorder, percussion of various sorts, sruti box and — when really pushed — Appalachian dulcimer (just don’t ask for anything as fast as a jig, though!)… She considers her voice her main instrument.

— Has Jill ever received formal vocal training?

Jill has studied and/or consulted with several vocal coaches over the years: Jacob Roden  (Jerusalem); Judi Axelrod (Jerusalem); Neil Jenkins (London); Vivien Ellis (London); Sara Stowe (Oxford); Evelyn Tubb (London); Anne Azéma (Boston); Marcin Bornus-Szczycinski (Warsaw); Poppy Holden (London); the late Margaret Peckham (Frankfurt), and Miriam Meltzer (Jerusalem).

— What about other formal musical training?

Jill is mainly an auto-didact: she studied piano for two years in childhood, and took a fleeting interest in learning recorder in a group setting, but has had little formal training beyond that. She taught herself to play folk guitar and folk harp and recently took a course in ‘ethnic’ drumming. Her experience of singing in and, later, conducting choirs has stood her in good stead, however, and for further training in the more classical side of Western music, she took a series of private lessons with Philip Griffin (Adelaide). She deliberately avoided taking a music degree at her university, because she felt that the curriculum at that time was too narrow for her requirements. She continues to accrue skills as needed along her winding musical journey. While mainly self-taught on the small harp, she has also participated in workshops with Sunita StaneslowShira KammenGráinne HamblyMary MacmasterMonika Stadler, Ventura Rosenthal, William Jackson, Nicolas Carter, & Alfredo Rolando Ortiz.

— What is Jill’s favourite type of music?

Medieval music: it’s so varied that she can listen to it for hours on end (when no-one else is home). On the other hand, there’s so much fantastic traditional music out there!

— How many languages and dialects does Jill sing?

48 to date, but only one at a time. She had no plans to increase the number, but recently added ancient Finnish, Hungarian, and an old dialect of Serbo-Croat to her repertoire. She swears that’s it.

— Does Jill intend to record any of her Sephardic repertoire?

In summer 2006, Jill released her sixth solo album, The Voice of the Wanderer, which showcases traditional Jewish music from around the world, including several Sephardic songs. She hopes to record more of this repertoire in the future.

— Who are some of the musicians that Jill has sung with over the years?

Let’s see (in no particular order): Ray Scudero (z”l, Israel); Marc Gittelson (Israel/USA); Sunita Staneslow (USA/Israel); Betty Klein (Israel); Pius Bessire (Switzerland); Oswald Hebermehl (Germany); Illianna Garnier-Meier (Switzerland); Roman List (Austria); Carolina Mateos (Germany); Matthew Spring (UK); Bari Moscovitz (Israel); Amit Tiefenbrunn (Israel); Jiří  Hodina (the Czech Republic); Adiel Schmidt (Israel/USA); Itzik Tavi-Or (Israel); Jochewed Schwartz (Israel); Lynn and Judi Lewis (Israel); Mark Powell (UK); Steafan Hannigan (Ireland); Dave Stacey (UK); Deborah Schwartz (Israel); Bea Lieberman (USA); Cara Goodrich (Israel); Elisha Avshalom (Israel); Philip Griffin (Australia); Avery Ellisman (USA), Paul Graham (z”l; Israel); The Taverners (Israel), and Larry Gamliel (z”l; Israel), for starters.

— My daughter wants to become a singer. What does Jill advise?

Jill replies: “Don’t let her do it! 🙂 No, seriously: if she just wants to have some fun with the music — an ‘after-hours’ interest — why not? But as a full-time career, it’s really tough. There are frameworks in which to study classical music or jazz; and these, in turn, lead to opportunities. Perhaps one could say the same of the rock/pop world — not the framework, as such, but places like clubs etc., where one can learn how to present one’s particular brand of music. The commercial whirl, which I deliberately have avoided, may glitter, but it’s fraught with pitfalls of every kind. There’s far less infrastructure, however, for traditional music. I have chosen a rather difficult musical path, and am lucky to have a very supportive family that respects and appreciates what I am doing: I know that I simply couldn’t have done it without that understanding and flexibility. However, I know other musicians — some of them well-known — who have not been so lucky with their families. Advise your daughter to think long and hard before making any irrevocable decisions!”

— What makes Jill tick?
Good question!

Medieval illumination of Salome