Ilana Cravitz is a violinist specialising in historically informed performance of klezmer and baroque repertoire. She is one of a handful of professional violinists in the UK playing klezmer music in the traditional style; a link in a musical chain stretching back centuries, having learned aurally from living exponents of the tradition and through recorded sources dating back to the dawn of the recording era.
Ilana has toured extensively, performing at classical, folk and world music festivals and venues in the UK and internationally, including in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel/Palestine, Latvia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. She is no stranger to a studio, regularly broadcasting live and recording, including for BBC radio and television, ABC Radio National and regional stations, New Zealand national radio, and Brazilian television.
Ilana is also a teacher: she has introduced hundreds of people of all ages to klezmer, and recently set up the framework for a National Klezmer Youth Ensemble, NKYO. Her unique and practical book, Klezmer Fiddle - a how-to guide, is published by Oxford University Press. Some of the places Ilana has taught klezmer are: Aberdeen University * Austin Klezmer Bund, USA * Benslow Music * Cambridge University * Fiddles on Fire Festival * Fiddlers on the Move, Belgium * Folkworks Summer School * Folk at Witney * Genius of the Violin Festival * Halsway Manor * Klezfest * KlezNorth * LIKE festival * Manchester University * MCY, Paris * National Folk Festival, Australia * Sibelius Academy (SibA), Finland * SOAS, University of London * Vassar College, USA * Yiddish New York * Yiddish Summer Weimar.
Ilana re-established the UK's international Klezfest in 2015 at the invitation of the Jewish Music Institute, directing the festival for two years. She has also been the artistic lead for KlezNorth, and in 2020 set up and ran a huge online festival - the London International Klezmer Experience (LIKE). She has since developed LIKE into a brand which so far has appeared on publications, productions and workshop events.
Ilana co-founded the London Klezmer Quartet (LKQ), a traditional 4-piece ensemble, in 2009. During her time playing with and managing the group, they toured the world to great acclaim and recorded four albums. Ilana has also been a guest artist with many bands including Klezmer Klub, Oysland, She'koyokh, and the US ensemble Isle of Klezbos. She specialises in leading and playing for klezmer ceilidhs (barn dances). Under the banner Hopkele, she produces klezmer music and dance events with drummer/dance leader Guy Schalom (watch Jewish News Online video).
Forays into the world of Sephardic music and flamenco have seen Ilana working with Los Desterrados (Radio 3 World Routes recording), and Kantos, an ensemble with singer Monica Acosta. Ilana also enjoys playing English and Celtic folk music: she has appeared many times with ceilidh band The Muckers, and performed the Scottish fiddle solo in the world premiere of Nigel Hess's ballet suite 'The Old Man of Lochnagar' at Sadler's Wells in October 2007.
Ilana also performs on the baroque violin and viola da gamba, and has toured and recorded with the European Union Baroque Orchestra, The Sixteen, and Victoria Voices and Viols. She is a member of London Viols and the John Jenkins Consort and appears regularly with Cafe Mozart, Essex Baroque Orchestra, Suffolk Baroque Players and her own group, The Lantana Ensemble. She has also performed with Norwich Baroque and The Parley of Instruments. The Lantana Ensemble premiered Ilana's work for soprano and string quartet, 'Geoffrey's Jubilee', in 2018, which led to an offer of publication from Corda Music. You can see video of Ilana's appearances with period performance group Il Festino at St John's, Smith Square, and St James's, Piccadilly playing a Castello sonata and Vivaldi 'La Folia'.
Ilana studied traditional klezmer fiddle technique and Yiddish dance with leading artists in the klezmer revival including Deborah Strauss, Alicia Svigals, Michael Alpert, Zev Feldman and Andreas Schmitges. Her baroque violin studies included lessons with Catherine Mackintosh, Walter Reiter, Andrew Manze and Mimi Mitchell, and she also studied the viola da gamba with Richard Boothby. Ilana gained an ARCM (PG) as a result of her post-graduate studies at the Royal College of Music.
An interesting fact: during 2020 Ilana was expecting to spend six months in Kaustinen, Finland, studying local and regional folk music on an extraordinary course run by some of Finland's finest folk musicians. Her explorations were, sadly, cut short by the COVID pandemic, but she hopes to return and play with the course's graduate ensemble in future at the renowned Kaustinen Folk Festival.
In a parallel life, Ilana has a BSc in Biological Sciences and Chemistry from the University of East Anglia, and for 15 years the majority of her time was spent promoting the work of charities and campaigning organisations.
"Thank you so much for playing on our special day, and for the dance calling as well, it was enormous fun! You guys truly made the evening." Daniella, bride
"Thank you so much for playing so wonderfully… it was a very special occasion and made all the more so by your extremely talented trio. We have had so many comments from our non-Jewish friends who had not really experienced klezmer before." Victoria, mother of bat mitzvah-iste
"The dancing was great. Ilana was understated in how she gave instructions and got everyone to follow her lead. We especially enjoyed watching the teenagers getting involved!" Suzanne, bride