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Winter Song Singers
from the Carpathian Mountains

Koliadnyky are Hutsul winter song singers. They are from Kryvorivnia, a village high in the Carpathian Mountains which has preserved an ancient 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, since people believe that the spring will not come to the village unless these songs are sung in every home. A separate long song is sung to every member of the household, both living and recently deceased. Each song is chosen specifically for that person. The words are of ancient origin and exhibit traces of the worship of sun, ancestors and nature. They assume the magical power of words: what is said will be so.

Instruments: Trembita – (Carpathian mountain horn) made of hollowed pine tree that has been struck by lightening and wrapped in birch bark. Trembitas are used primarily in the mountain pastures. In the villages they are usually only used during the koliada and at funerals. Fiddle -- played in the Carpathian style. The musicians also play wolynka -- (bag pipe) made from a goat, drymba (jaw harp) and tsymbaly (hammer dulcimer).

The Winter Songs:

Is the master home?
We all know he’s home
He is sitting at the head of the table
At the head of the table made of maple
And his table is beautifully set
Beautifully set with braided breads
With braided breads made of spring wheat
On his table are three jugs
The first jug holds sweet mead
The second jug holds dark beer
The third jug holds green wine

… (translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps)

The Winter Song SINGERS:

IVAN ZELENCHUK, is the “bereza,” lead singer and leader of the Koliadnyky. He comes from an old Kryvorivnia family and is the village head, as well as the best known winter song singer. He is the son of Ivan Zelenchuk whose handwritten notebook of winter songs has helped to preserve this tradition for future generations despite the 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 workshop in Kyiv and shows in New York.

PETRO ZELENCHUK, the brother of Ivan, and personally took great risk preserving his father’s handwritten notebook of winter songs. He has taken part in the Koliada in Kryvorivnia, since he can remember, leading the Tsaryna group, which is charged with all the homes of that section of the village.

MYKOLA ZELENCHUK is the son of Ivan and proudly carries on the tradition of his forefathers, both as a winter song singer and the best trembita (mountain long horn) player in the village. He also makes the traditional costumes for the winter song singers.

MYKHAILO TAFIYCHUK is the best musician, musical instrument-maker and blacksmith in the Carpathians. He has legendary “golden hands” and plays all the instruments he makes, as do all his children. Several years ago Koka Records of Poland issued a beautiful two CD set of the music of the Tafiychuk family.

DMYTRO TAFIYCHUK, is a virtuoso wolynka player, as well as master fiddler. He was born into the most famous musical family of the Carpathians. Dmytro has learned to make traditional musical instruments from his father Mykhailo. Dmytro took part in Yara’s workshop of Koliada in Kyiv and the shows in New York. He plays the fiddle for a koliada group in Kryvorivnia, where he now lives.

YARA ARTS GROUP began its collaboration with traditional artists from the Carpathians in 1995. Yara’s Koliada project was initiated in 2003, and has developed into performances in Kyiv, New York, Philadelphia, and Saratoga Springs, as well at productions La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York, a festival of art, music and video at the Ukrainian Institute and an art installation at the Ukrainian Museum in New York.

see also:
Koliada: Photographs by Alexander Khantaev at Spring Street Gallery, Saratoga Springs, NY Dec 17, 2006 to Jan 5, 2007
Workshop in Winter Song Singing with Koliadnyky, Alexis Kochan and Julian Kytasty in New York Dec 16, 2006
Koliada on Fifth Avenue Art and Music Festival at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York December 15, 2006
Still the River Flows installation and concert Ukrainian League of Philadelphia, December 8-10, 2006
Koliadnyky in Concert at the Ukrainian Museum in New York, Dec 3, 2006
Still the River Flows installation at the Ukrainian Museum, reviews and photographs December 11, 2005 - February 6, 2006
Koliadnyky of Kryvorivnia in Concert at La MaMa Galleria March 16, 2005
Koliada: Winter Rituals photo exhibit and video installation at La MaMa Galleria January 15-23, 2005
Koliada: Twelve Dishes information on theatre piece, reviews and photographs at La MaMa ETC March 4-20, 2005
Koliada theatre workshop at Les Kurbas National Theatre Center, Kyiv, Ukraine December 4-5, 2004

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