songs from the midsummer night festival
created by Yara with Mariana Sadovska
at the Ukrainian Diaspora
International Theatre Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine
and in the villages of Kraichkivka in Poltava
and Svarytsevychi in Polissia
Toward the end of October 2002 Yara actors Zabryna Guevara, Akiko Hiroshima, and Jina Oh arrived in Kyiv, Ukraine, to work with Virlana Tkacz and Mariana Sadovska, the musical dramaturg and director of Yara’s new project Kupala. The cast also included Elzara Batalova and Zarema Tupykova, two Crimean Tatar singer-actors, as well as four young women from Kharkiv’s Oira vocal ensemble. Soon they were joined by Yara’s Marina Celander who brought her 10-month old daughter, Maya. The staff included Svitlana Matvienko, Sofia Riabchuk, Maria Korotchenko, and Nadia Sokolenko. Anna Korotchenko did the costumes and Serhiy Kyselnko the lights.
In a little over two weeks of rehearsal in Kyiv they created a concert version of Kupala that was presented at the Young Theatre in Kyiv on November 14, as part of the International Ukrainian Diaspora Festival in Kyiv. But the highlights of the trip were visits to two very special villages -- Kriachkivka in the Poltava region and Svarytsevychi in the Polissia region, where many of the songs were first recorded. Women from both Kraitchivka and Polissia also appear on the CD Song Tree which Mariana put together in Poland last year and which Yara helped to produce.
On November 9 Kupala’s international cast sang with the women of Kraichkivka in the village hall. It was an unforgettable event. The cast and staff of the Kupala project was joined by a mini-bus load of friends from Kyiv, including the amazing Nina Matvienko, who sang with the women of Kriachivka, director Serhiy Proskurnia, Dan and Angela Thompson from USAID, and many people from the Kyiv press. Then on November 16 the Kupala cast and two writers from Lviv Mariana Savka and Mariana Kiyanovska made the long trek out to Svarytsevychi in Polissia for another unbelievable dialogue of songs with the women of that village.
Here are some of the reactions of the Yara actors to the events:
"Although my recent experience at the festival was wonderful because we saw so many people interested in this traditional music the most profound impressions were made in the villages . To sing the music of these women back to them and have them receive us with open arms and singing even more songs was awe-inspiring and enlightening. The love and kindness we were showered with made any attempt to match it pale in comparison. I do hope that in some small way it is an inspiring event for the youth of the villages to continue this long-standing and heartening tradition alive for generations to come." -- Zabryna Guevara
Yara's Zabryna Guevara and Jina Oh listen to Nadia Rozdabara sing in Kriachkivka.
"This trip to Ukraine has been an experience beyond my expectations. Whether we were in Kyiv rehearsing for the International Theater Festival with the Crimean-Tatars and Oira from Kharkiv, or visiting the villages of Kriatchkivka and Svarysevytchi - all very different places with their own unique character, one thing remained a constant throughout our trip, which is that we encountered some of the most beautiful, giving, enormous hearts I have ever known. Everywhere we went, people opened their homes and their lives to us and shared everything they had - offering us their gift of food, love, and above all, their beautiful, piercing voices. Although I could not understand what the songs meant, I somehow felt it deep in the core of my heart through the music and through their voices. We were communicating through music and it was more powerful, deeper than any words can express. It was incredibly moving. Every time the grandmas sang none of us could control the flow of tears. I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet such inspiring people through our work. My only regret is that we cannot spend more time with them. This has been an experience that I will hold very close to my heart."
-- Jina Oh
"My experience of this trip to Ukraine has been one of the most special trips I've made in my life! Partly because of the people we met and made contact with: from the girls from Kharkiv and Crimea we performed with, to the people we performed for in Kyiv, Poltava, and Polissia. And partly because Virlana and Mariana gave me the amazing opportunity to travel with my 10-month old daughter, Maya, who got to hear and feel the enormity and power of the voices of the grandmas and the songs they sang in the villages. This will surely stay with her for the rest of her life! The highlights were of course the visits to the villages and meeting these BEAUTIFUL women - in particular Ulana Kuzlo whose voice spoke to me in such a deep way when I heard it for the first time on the CD Yara co-produced, that I HAD to meet her - but also all the love I felt from everybody toward Maya and support for bringing my baby along." -- Marina Celander
"I would like to thank Virlana and Mariana for this great opportunity to be here in Kyiv and especially to visit the villages to meet grandmas. The grandmas were all full of energy and treated us like their own daughters and granddaughters. It was great to see the young people come to see the concert and sing with us. I hope this helps them pass on the great songs that we have learned. Also this trip was very special because, through meeting new people in Kyiv and villages and by learning these songs, I also learned to appreciate my own culture more than before. I'm supposed to visit my family in Japan next year, and I believe it's going to be as great a trip as this one."
-- Akiko Hiroshima
The following spring Yara performed at Passaic County Community College and Yara actors were still talking about their experiences in Ukraine. See Oksana Bauer's article on the event at "Yara Brings Diversity to Community College.") - see page 12.
In the summer of 2000 Yara's director Virlana Tkacz and video director Andrea Odezynska traveled to Ukraine. Together with Ukrainian artists Mariana Sadovska and Yaryna Turianska, they recorded ancient ritual songs in the villages of Poltava and the Carpathians. (For more information on this trip see "Kriachkivka: A Village That Sings" and"Utoropy: A Village With Salt in Its History." see (Our Life, Novmeber 2002)