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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 hes 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 was 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 sixties, 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, Philadelphia, and Saratoga Springs.

MYKOLA ZELENCHUK, the son of Ivan, 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. He has taken part in Yara productions and was featured in Still the River Flows and Winter Sun in New York at La MaMa.

MYKOLA ILYUK is a master Carpathian fiddler and plays most of the traditional instruments of the Hutsuls, including the wolynka (bag pipes) and the trembita. He has been the director of the renowned Hutsul instrumental ensemble and has his own museum of musical instruments from the area. He has worked with Yara Arts Group since 2010 appearing in Winter Sun.

VASYL TYMCHUK plays the tsymbaly (hammer dulcimer) and other Hutsul instruments. He has been part of the Koliadnyky (winter song singers) since 1991 and has worked with Yara since 2010.

OSTAP KOSTYUK plays and makes many of the Hutsul wind instruments, such as the trembita, telynka, floyarka, and dentsivka, as well as the wolynka (bag pipes). He represents the newest generation that has become expert in this ancient tradition. He appeared in the role of the King in Yara's Winter Sun in 2010.

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, New Paltz and Saratoga Springs, as well as productions Koliada: Twelve Dishes, Still the River Flows and Winter Sun at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York. Pictures of the koliada ritual in the village of Kryvorivnia have been exhibited at RA Gallery in Kiev, La Galleria and Ukrainian Institute in New York, Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga Springs and a major art installation at the Ukrainian Museum in New York. Volodymyr Kliuzko is a photogrpaher who has helped document this tradition.

see also:


Koliada and Music from the Carpathians at the Ukrainian Museum in New York, Dec 11, 2010
Twelve Dishes/Sviat vechir
at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York December 17 & 19, 2010 Festival of Traditional Song and New Interpretations of Ritual Food Koliada winter songs, readings by poets and food artist Olesia Lew
Winter Sun a theatrical celebration featuring Carpathian musicians and winter song singers from around the world at La MaMa Experimental Theatre, New York Sunday Dec 26, 2010
Hutsul Music at Barbes, 376 9th St, Brooklyn, December 21, 2010
Hutsul Dance Party at Ukrainian Sports Club, 122 Second Ave, New York December 30, 2010
Bonfire a New Year's Celebration featuring Koliada Winter Song Singers
at the Rokeby Estate, upstate New York

Still the River Flows a theatrical celebration featuring Carpathian musicians and winter song singers from around the world at La MaMa Experimental Theatre, New York Dec 26-28, 2008 see pictures and reviews
Winter Sun: New Art and Tradition at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York December 19-21, 2008 Exhibit of works by contemporary artists, concert, readings by poets and new interpretations of ritual food, workshop in Hutsul music
Koliada and Hutsul Music at the Ukrainian Museum in New York, Dec 7, 2008

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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