Canvey Zingt 2023

Canvey Zingt 2023

Celebrating Jewish Culture through music

Canvey Zingt 2023 saw the return of the hugely popular and successful Yiddish Song Project to local primary schools in Canvey Island.

The project first took place in 2018, responding to the influx of Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish families relocating from North-East London to Canvey Island, and we saw this as a great opportunity to celebrate and learn more about Jewish music and culture.

Between February and March 2023, weekly workshops took place in four schools, Winter Gardens Academy, Canvey Junior, Northwick Park and William Read, where project leader Joseph Finlay introduced Year 5 pupils to themes around Jewish culture and music through learning songs in Yiddish and English. Each school was given two unique songs to learn as well as two songs which were taught to all of the schools.

A final performance took place at Winter Gardens Academy in their auditorium, where 240 children from all of the participating schools performed the songs they had learned in front of a live audience of 100 parents and family members.

Joseph was accompanied by Josh Middleton (accordion) during all five workshop sessions and Daniel Gouly (clarinet) at selected workshops, and Klezmer band Don Kipper performed at the final concert, accompanying the children’s singing. Joseph wrote a unique story for the final performance which added a narrative to tie all of the themes around Jewish culture and the various Yiddish songs together. He wrote new lyrics for some traditional songs, specifically alluding to aspects of Canvey Island, which children, parents and staff all enjoyed very much.

Online learning resources (created during COVID for a previous Zingt project) were provided as a useful tool for teachers to use outside of workshops in order to help the children learn the songs.

The project was jointly funded by Essex Cultural Diversity Project, Essex Music Education Hub, Shoresh Charitable Trust, School contributions and Jewish Music Institute.

ECDP logo

  Jewish Music Institute logo


Participant Quotes

“Canvey Zingt was a wonderful project to work on. The children worked hard to learn a diverse array of songs, in a language which was totally new to them, and performed them brilliantly at the final concert. They got a huge amount out of it and some were emotional at the project ending. This is a great way to promote the Yiddish language, Jewish culture and live music in schools, all at the same time. Halevai (if only) all schoolchildren could experience a project like this.” Joseph Finlay (project leader)

“Canvey Zingt is a lovely project which engages local children in Jewish culture, and who otherwise would have little contact with other cultures… It is very affirming to see the eagerness with which the children engage and get so much excitement and enjoyment from learning about another culture. For some schools it is the only live music the children are exposed to, which is so important.” Josh Middleton (support musician & Don Kipper accordionist)

“Zingt is a wonderful project which over the last couple of years has enabled children from a diverse range of backgrounds to have a window into Yiddishkayt, something which would probably otherwise be impossible. It’s also heartening to see hundreds of children bellowing out that we are ‘all brothers, all sisters’!” Daniel Gouly (support musician and Don Kipper clarinetist)

“Thank you and the team for all your support over the project! On behalf of myself, the other teachers, children and parents we were chuffed with the final performance. We really enjoyed getting to know each of you and found the workshops really engaging. Learning not only the lyrics, melody but also the culture/history surrounding Jewish culture. We thoroughly enjoyed coming together with the other schools to perform at the final concert and loved that we have two individual songs just devoted to our school.” Daneka Shimmin, Canvey Junior teacher

“I loved singing the songs and finding out common phrases in Yiddish.”
“I really enjoyed singing in a different language.”
“It was so much fun being able to perform the songs at the end of the project with other schools.”
Canvey Junior school children

“Our Year 5 children really enjoyed learning all the different songs and amazed us all with their ability to pick up the Yiddish so quickly too!” Annette Hyde, Northwick Park teacher

“I really enjoyed learning all of the songs- Sputnik was my favourite.”
“My favourite was Chiri Bim – it was really fun to learn”
“It was really jolly and really fun!”
“I really enjoyed the stories which came with each song.”
“My grandparents really enjoyed the concert.”
Northwick Park school children

“The final performance of Canvey Zingt was wonderful! The children’s enjoyment was clearly evident and they embraced the opportunity to experience Jewish music, learn about its cultural context and to perform in Yiddish. What a great experience for all involved!” Kathy Marck, Essex Music Services Administration Assistant