Cork Profile - Ruti Lachs
When you were small, what did you want to be as a grown-up? Very small? A teacher. A wife. A mother. I was very sheltered!
Tell us about your career progression to your role today: I started learning piano at the age of 8. My music career as a busker in England and Wales didn’t really take off so I came to Ireland (Kerry) and started gigging in pubs. But once I had kids, I wanted to be home more, so I became a piano teacher (20 years in Kerry, and the past 6 in Cork) and did a couple of courses in youth and community work and an MA in community music at UL.
I have worked for 20 years as a self-employed community musician, in hospitals and other healthcare settings; creating intergenerational and intercultural arts projects in schools, preschools, and youth centres; running music workshops at festivals, libraries, arts centres. I have written and presented research about social and language benefits of using music in the preschool and have taught preschool teachers about using music in the classroom.
I continued gigging in various bands in Kerry and Cork, playing klezmer, jazz, folk and original music. When my kids left home, I moved to Cork, joined a funk band, Quangodelic, and I started writing and performing one-woman musical theatre shows. The grandma character in these shows led to me research the historic Cork Jewish community.
I have made 2 documentary videos about that community, ‘Cork Jewish Culture Virtual Walk’ and ‘Memories of a Cork Jewish Childhood’, and written a musical play ‘Green Feather Boa’ and the research continues. My most recent project has been composing the ‘Irish Klezmer Suite’, which will be performed in Cork City Library on 19 May. I always feel like my career is just beginning.
I think it’s often like that in creative careers because we have to keep reinventing ourselves.
Plus, my creative work is so niche – Jewish music and original musical theatre isn’t exactly mainstream – and I don’t have a manager, so I spend half my life applying for funding to make it happen.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do? That’s a hard one. I love sitting on my own creating work, but I love rehearsing it with others too, and performing it publicly. And I like meeting other folks on my research and writing journey, who know more than me and who fire me with enthusiasm.
What motivates you? Other people’s encouragement. And some internal thing that says, ‘you are possibly the only mad Jewish middle-aged musician woman out there writing this stuff, and jumping around with an accordion and trombone, so you have to keep doing this to inspire others’.
What advice would you give your 15 year old self? Same as my dad gave to my 35 year old self before he passed away: ‘Keep going, Ruti, you’re doing fine, you’ll be OK’.
If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing?For fun? Swimming in the sea. For a job? A food taster.
What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date?Having children.
Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life? My family, they’re great at telling me what to do!
What is the life dream now? Produce meaningful work. Stay healthy. Be nice to people.
How do you switch off? Press ‘start’ and then ‘shut down’.
What is your favourite Cork memory? So many good memories: either playing with Quangodelic in the Sextant or being shown a mezuzah (little box with a prayer in), still on a door post in a formerly Jewish-owned house in ‘Jewtown’, just round the corner from the Sextant. Oh, you don’t know what the Sextant is? No, they flipping pulled it down.
What is your favourite place in Cork? The Quay Coop. Although I just read there are new chess tables outside Myo. I love that spot and I love chess! So maybe that will be my summer place.
Do you have a favourite quote or motto? Yes to everything.
When are you at your happiest? In the sea. I feel like it’s my natural place. I don’t swim often at the moment though, because I’ve become a right wimp.
What is your hidden talent? I can play the violin. Does that count? I never play it in public, but I started learning it, and then viola, from the age of about 9.
What might we be surprised to know about you? I’m not really very confident. I just pretend to be. It’s true! I went to medical school from the age of 18 to 21, before dropping out.
Anything else you’d like to share with us? My next big project is creating an Irish Jewish Theatre Festival. There’s a bunch of material - plays, theatre songs, stories - that I know about, from as far back as 1916, until as recently as 2022. Maybe there’s more. I’m currently building a team and planning how to raise funds. I’d love to hear from anyone with ideas on this. Why am I doing this, you ask? Well, if not me, who? And if not now, when?
Name and position: Ruti Lachs, self-employed musician (piano accordion, piano, trombone and voice), music teacher with Cork City Music College, part-time writer and composer.
Location: Currently, Crosshaven, but I was in Kerry for 30 years and then Cork city for 3, in Douglas Street which is a great place to live. They’re all great places to live!
Family: I have 2 sons in their late 20s, early 30s. They are earning more than me, which is great! They have much more clue how to earn a living than I did at their age.
Pets: Not anymore. I’ve had dogs and cats but now I’m enjoying not having to look after anyone…except a few house plants.
Favourite thing about Cork: The varied and diverse music and theatre scene. The feeling of history around every corner.
Least favourite thing about Cork: Pointless empty buildings that people could be living in
One thing you would change about Cork: Take cars out of the city.