Koliada: Winter Songs on Mars
A world music theater event celebrating Koliada, a winter ritual of the Carpathian Mountains and an 18th century Ukrainian Nativity play, as well as winter songs from around our planet.
created & directed by Virlana Tkacz
Julian Kytasty (music director)
Anthony Coleman (Martian music)
translations by Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps
Shigeko Sara Suga (movement)
Watoku Ueno (set)
Keiko Obremski (costumes)
Jeff Nash (lights)
Nadia Tatchin stage manager
Koliadnyky: Ivan Zelenchuk, Mykola Zelenchuk, Mykola Ilyuk, Vasyl Tymchuk & Ostap Kostyuk
Yara Arts Group: Marina Celander, Darien Fiorino, Chris Ignacio, Akiko Hiroshima, Tatyana Kot, Max Lozynskyj & Joanna Mieleszko with Ulana Pryjmak, Iryna Voloshyna & Ezra Halleck
Nova Opera: Roman Grygoriv, Ruslan Kirsh, Yevhen Rakhmanin, Zhanna Marchynska & Andriy Nadolsky
December 21, 2019
La MaMa Experoimental Theatre, New York
“Koliada is a solstice ritual from Eastern Europe that predates Christianity in some parts. Koliadnyky is a Ukrainian vocal group that sings Koliada songs. The group has teamed up with the Yara Arts Group to present for one performance the show “Koliada: Winter Songs on Mars” at La MaMa. The text is adapted from a 1780 puppet show, a nativity play called Vertep, and fused with traditional Koliada songs. It s all put into a clever context of Martians discovering their ancestors were Ukrainian - it’s silly but it gives the play a nice frame.
Of course, those ancestors show up - with drums, vibes, piano, a bass, a cello, more drums, and specially tuned fiddles. The traditional instruments are a trembita (a “mountain horn”), the duda (bagpipes made from a goat), drymby (jaw harps) and a tylynka (an “overtone flute”). And there’s a large hammer dulcimer - at one point the musician turns it over and raps on the wooden back. The grand, full-bodied singing is largely from men and almost always in unison. At one point there’s an interesting call-and-response passage.
The play is the story of The Holy Innocents, and it is inventively presented. In one scene, Herod speaks Ukrainian but his soothsayer speaks English. We don’t need to understand Herod because we know what he’s saying, and the technique gives an interesting distancing effect.
This wonderful show is created and directed by Virlana Tkacz, Yara’s Artistic Director. The costumes are designed by Keiko Obremski - she’s created a gorgeous gown for Alita, the rightful queen of Mars. The whole event is joyous, life-affirming. When the chorus sings “Ring the bells” the assembly does so. And the announcement “Awake and fear not for great joy is upon us!” - well, “Winter Songs on Mars” is great! Thank you, Yara and Koliadnyky! Steve Capra, New York Critic, December, 2019