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Winter Light


world music theatre piece based on
winter songs from the Carpathian Mountains
an 18th century nativity show
and the crisis in Ukraine today

created by Yara Arts Group directed by Virlana Tkacz,
music directed by Julian Kytasty,
set & lights:Watoku Ueno,
projections: Volodymyr Klyuzko
with the Koliadnyky of Kryvorivnia
featuring: Paul Brantley, Marina Celander, Sean Eden,
Alina and Teryn Kuzma

December 27- 28, 2014
Saturday 3:00 and 8:0 PM, Sunday 2:00 PM
La MaMa E.T.C. (Ellen Stewart Theater)
66 East 4th Street, New York
tickets: $25, $20 studnets/seniors, $10 children
Ten $10 tickets will be available to every performance on a first-come, first-served basis.
For tickets go to the La MaMa box office at 66 East Fourth Street, visit or call 646-430-5374
Runs 1:15. Reviewers are invited to all performances.

In "Winter Light" Yara Arts Group will perform a World Music Theater piece that includes the Koliadnyky, an ensemble of winter song singers from Kryvorivnia (Ukraine); scenes from the crisis in Ukraine today and an 18th century Baroque Nativity folk opera staged by Yara artists. La MaMa E.T.C. will present the piece December 27-28 in its Ellen Stewart Theater, 66 East Fourth Street (in Manhattan's East Village).

The evening, created and directed by Yara's Artistic Director Virlana Tkacz, celebrates Koliada, a winter ritual that now coincides with Christmas but is much older in origin and symbolism. Its oldest songs are preserved in villages high in the Carpathian Mountains, where the Koliada is considered to be the most important event of the year. Some people believe that spring and the harvest will not come to the village unless the songs are sung in every household. The songs are incantations that assume the magical power of words: "what is said, will be so." These songs are featured in the first part of Yara's show. For the second part of the event, Tkacz has adapted and translated a Baroque folk Christmas opera from Ukraine. A highlight is the original 18th century music, as arranged by Julian Kytasty. Woven into the piece are scenes from the crisis in Ukraine today written by Serhiy Zhadan, Ukraine’s most important young writer.

Ivan Zelenchuk, is the lead singer or bereza. Now in his sixties, Ivan is the son of the man whose handwritten notebook of winter songs helped to preserve this tradition despite persecution under Soviet rule. Ivan considers the Koliada his personal mission. He met the members of Yara when they first visited the village in 2002 and has worked with them ever since. 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 its “Still the River Flows,” “Winter Sun” and “Midwinter Night” at La MaMa in NYC and at the Harbourfront Theatre in Toronto.

Mykola Ilyuk is a master fiddler and plays most traditional instruments. He is director of the renowned Hutsul Instrumental Ensemble and has his own museum of musical instruments from the area. He was the master fiddler for Yara’s “Winter Sun” and “Midwinter Night,” as well as all the Koliada events in 2010-2013. Vasyl Tymchuk plays the tsymbaly (hammer dulcimer) and teaches children to play Hutsul instruments. He has worked with Yara since 2010. Ostap Kostyuk plays the duda (bagpipes) and various flutes. He represents the newest generation that has become expert in this ancient tradition and was featured in Yara’s shows in New York and Toronto.

Instruments played by the Koliadnyky include: trembita – (Carpathian mountain horn) made of hollowed pine tree that has been struck by lightning and wrapped in birch bark. Trembitas are used primarily in the mountain pastures. In the villages they are only used during the koliada and at funerals. Fiddle -- played in the Carpathian style. The musicians also play duda -- (bag pipe) made from a goat and tsymbaly -- (hammer dulcimer) and a variety of hand-made Carpathian flutes, including the tylynka. Yara has produced a CD Koliada: Winter Songs and Music from the Carpathians.  For a sample with photographs: Instumental from the Koliada CD

“Winter Light” is directed by Virlana Tkacz, who has created 25 original theatre pieces with Yara at La MaMa, which have performed in theatres and festivals in Ukraine, Central Asia, Siberia, China and Canada. Her production of “Fire Water Night” received two nominations for New York Innovative Theatre Awards this year She was also a recipient of the NEA Poetry Translation Fellowship for her work on Serhiy Zhadan’s poetry.

The musical director is Julian Kytasty, who combines a mastery of traditional styles with a distinctly contemporary sensibility.  He plays the “bandura”, a traditional Ukrainian instrument, but his collaborators include artists as diverse as Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Mongolian master musician Battuvshin, performance poet Bob Holman, pioneering klezmer revivalist Michael Alpert and composer/saxophonist John Zorn. He has worked with Yara since 1998 performing in such productions as “Scythian Stones,” “Raven” “Midwinter Night” and “Capt. John Smith Goes to Ukraine.”

Serhiy Zhadan calls himself a “postproletarian punk” and is the most popular writer of the post-independence generation in Ukraine. His work speaks to the disillusionment, difficulties and ironies following the collapse of the Soviet Union. His readings fill large auditoriums and he performs with rock groups. Zhadan was born in Luhansk Region, today scene of the crisis in Ukraine, and lives in Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine. On March 1, 2014, he was seriously beaten by pro-Russian protesters. His assault created an international reaction. See New Yorker. Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps received a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Translation Fellowship to translate his work; their translations have appeared in American literary journals and websites, and are included in the anthology “New European Poets” published by Graywolf Press.

The set and lights are designed by Watoku Ueno, a recipient of the NEA/TCG Design Fellowship. Costumes are by Keiko Obremski. Projections are by Volodymyr Klyuzko, who was nominated for a New York Innovative Theatre Award for work on Yara’s “Raven.” Featured artists in the production include: performers  Marina Celander, Sean Eden, Alina and Teryn Kuzma and cellist Paul Brantley.

Yara Arts Group ( is a resident company of the world renowned La MaMa Experimental Theatre, where it has created 29 original theater pieces based on material rooted in the cultures of East Europe, Central Asia and Siberia. Yara began collaborating with traditional artists from the Carpathians in 2003 and has developed performances with them in Kiev and New York. The results of this collaboration include the theatre pieces "Koliada: Twelve Dishes," "Still the River Flows," "Winter Sun," and “Midwinter Night” all at La MaMa. Yara has also worked with such contemporary music groups as Gogol Bordello with whom they created "Song Tree” in 2000 and "Circle" in 1999. The Village Voice critic, Eva Waa Assantewa  then wrote: "A stunningly beautiful work, 'Circle' rushes at your senses, makes your heart pound, and shakes your feelings loose."

Photographs and videos of the koliada ritual in the village of Kryvorivnia have been exhibited at the RA Gallery in Kiev, La Galleria and Ukrainian Institute in New York, Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga Springs, Bezpala-Brown Gallery in Toronto and as a major art installation at the Ukrainian Museum in New York.

Yara's Koliada events were made possible with public funds from New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and by Self-Reliance (NY) FCU, the Coca-Cola Company and Yara Arts Group's numerous friends and donors. For updates see

Press photos of Koliadnyky available for download (Current press photos)

Related Events in December 2014

Saturday Dec 6, 2014 at 7PM
Koliada and Music from the Carpathians
with special guests Crimean Tatars musicians and Julian Kytasty
Ukrainian Museum, 222 East 6th St, New York

Sunday Dec 7, 2014 at 1:30 PM
Koliada and Music from the Carpathians
with special guests Korinya, Max Lozynskyj and Julian Kytasty
UACCNJ, 60C N Jefferson Rd, Whippany, NJ

Thursday Dec 11, 2014 at 8PM
Koliada and Music from the Carpathians
with special guest Raphaelle Condo and Julian Kytasty
Bard College, Chapel, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Sunday Dec 13, 2014 at 7:30 PM
Koliada and Music from the Carpathians
with special guests Accolada Chamber Choir and Julian Kytasty
Ukrianian League, 800 N 23rd St, Philadelphia

Sunday, Dec 14, 2014 at 2:30 PM
Koliada and Music from the Carpathians
with special guests SPIV-Zhyttya and Julian Kytasty
Ukrainian National Catholic Shrine of the Holy Family
4250 Harewood Rd NE, Washington, DC

Tuesday, Dec 23, 2014
Volodymyr Klyuzko’s “Carpathian Photo Patterns”
as part of La MaMa Family Show Exhibit- Opening with Koliadnyky
Dec 23-Jan 4 Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 1:00-7:30 PM
La MaMa Galleria, 47 Great Jones St, NY

"In Search of the Hutsul Koliada of Kryvorivnia" by Virlana Tkacz

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