Concert Songs of spring, songs of summer
Many of us who love traditional music are especially captivated by the oldest of phenomena. We look for what reaches down to the depths of time and is not just an individual creation. Such is the case of ritual songs. They are the oldest forms connected to the rhythm of nature and magical endeavours intended to protect people against whatever could bring mayhem and misfortune into their world.
In folklore spring and summer were times that directly weighed on the fate of the whole community. Its existence depended on the crops. Women’s songs sung at that time of year invocated the ancestors for protection, kindness and support from the nether world. Although people went to work the fields in groups, their songs were personal tales of struggle with life and misery like laments. Other songs were sung in the forest while picking berries and mushrooms.
Although the rites that the songs referred to come from pre-Christian times, in the peasant calendar they were assigned to religious celebrations such as Easter, Pentecost, St John’s Night, St Peter’s, Elijah and they took their titles from their names. They had characteristic musical structure and were sung in peculiar voice. Today we only find rare remnants of them in the memory of the few.
The idea behind this concert is to bring back old sounds and juxtaposing different vocal traditions east of the Vistula: from Podlachia, Polesia and Russia, and to see what they have in common and how they differ as far as lyrics and music go. Singers from Malinniki and Dasze, two villages in Biała Podlaska and Hajnówka districts, shall bring spring songs: rohulki (sung in the week before Easter), wesnuszki and harvest songs. The ladies continue to sing those songs up until now in their villages, but it is not a widespread custom anymore. The singers will be accompanied by Julita Charytoniuk, young lady from Białystok in Podlachia who documents vocal traditions of that region and learns from them.
Further to the east in Polesia we get even closer to the past. Until not so long ago local people celebrated the rites of spring – they walked around the village and sang spring songs on Pentecost, they had midsummer fires on St. John’s Night, and a week after Pentecost ritually walked out water spirits rusałki. Nadia Semenivna Klopotenko, old generation singer from the southern end of Polesia will bring some of the atmosphere of that place. She will sing summer songs petrivki with folk singer from Kiev, Ihor Perevertnyuk. Nadia and he shall perform lyrical ballads from her repertoire.
Z lasu ensemble (From Woods) shall present a wider panorama of Polesia traditions. The Polish group performs a repertoire collected from different parts of Polesia, including the provinces located in Ukraine (Rivne Oblast) and Belarus (Brest Oblast). Their songs include the ones that the singers wrote down during field research as well as the ones only found in archive records.
The last part of the concert will belong to Moscow ensemble Repei and various Russian pan flutes. Further to the east is still another world and still different approach to traditional music. Spring songs played on instruments made from plant stems will carry us musically into another dimension. Next to them we will hear completely contemporary instruments, self-made after traditional fashion.
Dasze (Podlaskie voivodship, Hajnówka district)
Zofia Kirdylewicz (born 1943) is leader of Kalina ensemble, established in 1978. Presently the ensemble is made up of three ladies who sing in local Ukrainian dialect. They perform at local cultural events songs such as wesnuszki (spring songs), carols, wedding songs, baptism, Lent, lyrical and humorous ones. They also partake in reconstructive projects recreating rites, for instance country wedding for the Tradition (re)Uniting Generations initiative.
Eudokia Markiewicz (born 1933) used to sing with Kalina, which owes her most of their songs. These days she only sings in church. She can be heard on the album recorded by Podlachia Heritage Association with “Folk religious songs from Podlachia”.
The singers have already run workshops under various projects such as Ritual songs from Podlachia and Chance for Oscar 2016.
Malinniki (Podlaskie voivodship, Biała Podlaska district)
Wiera Niczyporuk (born 1940 r.) is one of the most esteemed Podlachian singers. She represented Orla many times at regional and national festivals together with Malinniki ensemble that she founded. She has conducted several workshops with Podlachian Heritage Association.
This year she got a grant from Minister of Culture and National Heritage, and her festival workshop will be part of her grant project.
Nadia Semenivna Klopotenko (born 1940) from the village of Cervena Volya (Zhytomyr Oblast) is an outstanding singer although she doesn’t often perform on stage, and when she does it is at local events. She has been singing since childhood and learned from her mother and other older singers. Her repertoire includes songs about the cycle of nature: carols, spring songs, midsummer songs, St Peter’s and harvest songs, as well as wedding songs, lyrical and others. Her beekeeper husband taught her to look after bees and now that he is dead she takes care of them on her own. The region where she lives is southern part of Polesia, described by Oskar Kolberg in Volhynia and Polesia-Belarus volumes.
Ihor Perevertnyuk, (born 1986) is a singer and folklore researcher. He studied and lives in Kiev. He used to sing in all-male and mixed ensembles such as Krosna and Kralica, at present he is member of Drevo and Tchornomorci. He learned to sing from many masters and sings pieces from various regions of Ukraine.
POLESIA (Ukraine and Belarus)
Z lasu (From Woods) is a vocal ensemble, who sings traditional songs from the Ukrainian and Belorussian parts of Polesia. Its members have long experience with traditional music and have singed together since 2008. They have travelled to Polesia looking for old songs and traces of archaic culture. They got in contact with older residents of eastern villages, recorded their songs and learnt to sing them. The idea to form an ensemble came from Jagna Knittel in the course of projects implemented by Cultural Panorama Society in Polesia in 2008.
The songs presented at the concert come from the villages of: Załawie, Stari Koni, Kurczyca, Perebrody (Ukraine) and Kletnia (Belarus).
Musical artists: Maniucha Bikont, Julita Charytoniuk, Joanna Gancarczyk, Ewa Grochowska, Anna Jakowska, Jagna Knittel, Olga Kozieł, Karolina Podrucka.
Repei (Moscow). The ensemble was established by Marina Kryukova, an accomplished ethno singer, instrumentalist and teacher of traditional music since 1990s.
Repei’s main focus is playing Russian pan flutes of various types. They are for instance kugikle (with pipes made of bulrush and reed), pieljany and zorki (made of edible plants such as angelica). Instruments like these are found in musical traditions of many regions of Russia and are considered womanly.
The ladies from Repei play sounds of the past that surprise and amaze contemporary audiences. Listening to Repei it is hard to say if what we hear is minimalist and avant-garde music or birdsong from the thick of a bulrush. It is an organic music leaving lots of room for imagination. Repei does not follow traditional styles of playing plant instruments to the letter, but speak in a language of traditional culture.
Their artistic programme entitled Wetlands includes traditional spring songs and pan flute pieces from Kaluga, Kursk, Belgorod Oblasts, as well as own compositions by Marina Tzvietayeva.
Marina Kryukova – vocals, kugikle, swistun
Nina Ostroumova – vocals, kugikle, pieliany, zorki
Maria Yerokhina – vocals, kugikle, pieliany, zorki, swistun
Maria Tarasenko – vocals, kugikle, pieliany, zorki