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Still the River Flows:

A Glimpse into Winter Rituals
from the Carpathian Village

Koliadnyky of Kryvorivnia especially here from the Carpathian Mountains
to perform the winter song ritual
scene from Yara Arts Group's Koliada: Twelve Dishes
and an installation with video and photographs created by Watoku Ueno, Virlana Tkacz, Andrea Odezynska, Alexander Khantaev and Wanda Phipps

Friday and Saturday, December 8th and 9th, 2006 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, December 10th at 2:00 PM
The Ukrainian League of Philadelphia
800 North 23rd St (at Brown Street) Philadelphia
(215) 684-2180

Still the River Flows: A Glimpse at Winter Rituals from the Carpathian Mountains was a multi-layered event featuring traditional music, performance, video and photography installation. The event took place three times the weekend of December 8-10, 2006 at the Ukrainian League of Philadelphia, 800 N. 23rd Street at Brown Street.

Still the River Flows was conceived by the Yara Arts Group of New York. It featured an art installation created by Yara artists based on the winter rituals they witnessed in the village of Kryvorivnia in southwestern Ukraine, and an excerpt from their recent theatre piece at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York that introduces the ritual. The highlight of the event was the performance of the ritual by the Koliadnyky, or winter song singers, from the village of Kryvorivnia. The Koliadnyky were joined by special guests --on Friday it was Bandurna Rozmova, a duet performing on the bandura, a traditional Ukrainian instrument. On Saturday they were joined by Svitanya, a women's vocal ensemble based in Philadelphia that performs traditional folk music from across Eastern Europe.

The Koliada songs are part of a winter ritual that now coincides with Christmas, but is much older in its origin, traditions and symbolism. It is considered to be the most important event of the year in the area, since people believe that spring and the harvest will not come to the village unless these songs are sung in every household. A separate winter song (or koliada), chosen specifically for that person by the leader of the singers, is sung to every member of the household, both living and recently deceased. The songs are incantations that assume the magical power of words: what is said will be so.

Director Virlana Tkacz, set designer Watoku Ueno, filmmaker Andrea Odezynska, photographer Alexander Khantaev, and poet-translator Wanda Phipps have created a collaborative installation presenting elements of the Koliada. For the past three years, Yara artists have been documenting the Koliada as it exists in the village of Kryvorivnia in the Carpathian Mountains of southwestern Ukraine, learning about the traditional rituals and listening to stories told by villagers.

The rituals included a Christmas Eve dinner of twelve dishes. Last winter, Yara’s new theater piece at La MaMa, Koliada: Twelve Dishes, was based on this ritual and an excerpt of it will be performed at the event. The Yara Arts Group, a resident company of La MaMa Experimental Theater, creates original theater pieces, art exhibits, and music and poetry events rooted in the cultures of the East. Yara was founded by Virlana Tkacz, Watoku Ueno, and Wanda Phipps, who have been working for years with Andrea Odezynska and Alexander Khantaev. Last year, Ms. Tkacz received an NEA Poetry Translation Fellowship to translate Ukrainian poetry, and Mr. Ueno is a recipient of the NEA/TCG Design Fellowship. Andrea Odezynska has film, The Whisperer, has been screened in numerous film festivals this year. Alexander Khantaev’s photographs were featured in the award-winning book Shanar: Dedication Ritual of a Buryat Shaman in Siberia published by Parabola Books. Since its founding in 1990, the Yara Arts Group has collaborated on seventeen original theater productions with artists from Ukraine, Siberia, and China.

Yara's first show, In the Light, was about Les Kurbas; it was performed in Kyiv during the week that Ukraine declared its independence in 1991. The workshop for Koliada: Twelve Dishes , Yara's recent show, took place in Kyiv during the Orange Revolution. Yara has created nine theater pieces with Ukrainian material, including Explosions (based on poetry and documentation about Chornobyl), Blind Sight (inspired by the work and travels to Japan of blind poet Vasyl Yeroshenko), Yara’s Forest Song (based on Lesia Ukrainka’s verse play), Waterfall/Reflections (with Nina Matvienko), Song Tree and Kupala (both with Mariana Sadovksa), and Swan (based on Oleh Lysheha’s poetry). Since 1996, Yara has also worked on theater pieces with Buryat artists from Siberia. In addition, Yara presents art, stages music and poetry events, and conducts master classes and workshops.

Ivan Zelenchuk, lead singer and leader of the Koliadnyky, comes from an old Kryvorivnia family. He is the son of Ivan Zelenchuk whose handwritten notebook of winter songs helped preserve this tradition for future generations despite intense persecution under fifty years of Soviet rule in this area. Now in his fifties Ivan considers his involvement in the Koliada his personal mission. He met the members of Yara when they first visited the village in 2002 and took part in Yara’s Koliada theatre production in Kyiv in New York. Singing with him will be his brother Peter and his son Mykola who plays the trembita, a traditional twelve- foot long mountain horn. They will be accompanied by Dmytro Tafiychuk, a virtuoso traditional fiddler, as well as a master player of the volynka, bag pipes made of goat skin. Still the River Flows tok place at the Ukrainian League of Philadelphia on Friday December 8th at 8:00 PM, Saturday December 9th at 8:00 PM and Sunday December 10th at 2:00 PM. Traditional food made by Anna Maria Kukuruza was served.

See also:
Koliadnyky in Concert at the Ukrainian Museum Dec 3, 2006
Koliada on Fifth Avenue at Ukrainian Insitute of America, Friday, Dec 15, 2006
Workshop in Winter Song Singing in New York Dec 16, 2006
Koliada Photographs at Spring Street Gallery, Saratoga Springs NY Sunday, Dec 17, 2006 to January 5, 2007

For reviews and more photos see Still the River Flows at the Ukrainian Museum
For reviews and photos of Yara's show see Koliada:Twelve Dishes at La MaMa
and Koliada:Twelve Dishes

Translation of a Koliada Song.

Photographs on this page by Makoto Takeuchi, Virlana Tkacz and Walter Holubowsky. Copyright (c)1995-2007 Yara Arts Group; all rights reserved.

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