Music from today, images from the past

A series of short films from the past have been given a new, contemporary soundtrack by cellist and composer Francesca Ter-Borg


Crowds march through London protesting against the treatment of Jews in Germany in 1938. In Manchester, 1962, children line up with baskets to celebrate Shavuot. A 1929 East End wedding, and the groom tries for a kiss with his bride. On a Newquay beach, the same year, a group of friends go surfing.

These film clips and more from Anglo Jewry’s past have been brought together as Jewish Britain on Film, on show as part of the UK Jewish Film Festival on November 17. Issy Suttie is the narrator and, for some of the films, JW3 commissioned an original score from composer and cellist Francesca Ter-Borg.

She was determined not to make the scores “cheesy and obvious”, she says, and was struck by how the people in the East End clips looked like people she remembered from growing up in Hackney. The scenes of Jewish friends surfing in Newquay in 1929 “could be a bunch of hipsters”. So their music accordingly features synths. For the children celebrating Shavuot, Ter-Borg sampled her collection of cantorial extracts. Improvisation also played a part. The resulting multi-layered soundscapes add a new slant to these vintage movies, in several cases giving them a surprisingly eerie, contemporary feel.

Ter-Borg trained as a classical cellist but has more recently become a fixture on the international klezmer scene. She discovered it at a party thrown by the radical group Jewdas, a “life-changing” moment.

She learned more at a course run by the Jewish Music Institute and, ten years later, is now recognised as a leading klezmer teacher and performer. She performs in a duo as Fran & Flora, and has written film scores and for installations.

She grew up a member of West London Synagogue, and says she is now “very into the spiritual aspect of Judaism”.

A “big nature lover”, she has left the capital to live in Margate, where there is a lively arts scene, and plentiful peace and quiet for creative work. Her grandfather used to come to Margate to swim in the sea, she says. For a composer whose work blends the traditional and the contemporary, it feels like a good place to be.

‘Jewish Britain On Film’ is at the Regent Street Cinema on November 17 at 1pm, and at the CCA in Glasgow at 2.30 on the same day.

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