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created by Yara Arts Group
at the 6B Community Garden
in New York City
July 6, 2001

Mariana sings out.

A Community Kupalo

Fireflies flickered in the balmy night, the fragrance of mint, thyme, and sweet blossoms drifted through the air, and a tiny brook babbled nearby. As a full moon smiled down on the Community Garden in the East Village, men, women, and children strolled from one candle-lit area to another marveling at the sights and sounds produced by the Yara Arts Group at its second outdoor Kupalo festival.

Yara's Zabryna.

In a leafy bower at one side of the garden Julian Kytasty, Michael Andrec, and Jurij Fedynsky of the Experimental Bandura Trio plucked a bewitching stream of music. At the other side, Budmo Musical Group held sway in a small glade as violinist Valeryi Zhmud led fellow musicians George Cheremoch (violin), Roman Galynsky (accordion), and Petro Gorganyuk (tsymbaly) through a riot of toe-tapping dance melodies. Folk-harpist Odarka Polanskyj Stockert performed Kupala songs near a bevy of women weaving flower and fragrant scented herbs into wreaths under the direction of Roksolana Luchkan. Award-winning actress Shona Tucker read visitors' palms and revealed their fortunes.

From a brightly lighted stage adorned with leafy branches, boisterous Kupalo songs about Sviaty Ian (St. John) and St. Peter's feast, about planting roses and lighting fires, pierced the night air. Ms. Sadovska and Alla Kutsevych, prompting spectators to raise their voices and clap their hands, joined vocalists Iryna Hrechko, Zabryna Guevara, and Meredith Wright in providing the lyrics. Jina Oh brought a Scandinavian touch with a Norwegian cow-calling song. The dusky voice of Canadian singer/producer Alexis Kochan, the Winnipeg-born artist whose CDs were seminal to the new movement of Ukrainian folk music on this continent, added two quiet heart-felt solos to the mélange of songs and Bandura music.

Alla, Ira, and Mariana teach the audience to sing.

There was dancing, of course, impromptu folk dancing by spinning couples and barefoot young girls with wreaths on their heads. When they grew tired, groups of bystanders joined hands and moved in circle dances to the Budmo musicians' seductive refrains.

The festivities, which opened with a Joel Schlemowitz film installation and poetry by Wanda Phipps, included the breaking of a large papier-mâché zubr (bison), which spilled out brightly wrapped candies over the stage for children and adults to gather up and enjoy. The piñata-take-off -- the idea and creation of food artist Olesia Lew, with decorative painting by Lynne Brown - illustrated the symbolic roasting and pulling apart of a large animal during Kupala celebrations.

Virlana Tkacz, founding director of the Yara Arts Group, a resident company of La MaMa E.T.C., produced the imaginative event with the assistance of Mo-Yain Tham, Dzvinka Dobriansky and Nestor Budyk.

"Dateline New York: Midsummer merriment in East Village" by Helen Smindak
Ukrainian Weekly July 15, 2001.

More on Yara's Kupala Events

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Copyright (c)1995-2001 Yara Arts Group; all rights reserved. All photos on this page by Mark Bodnar.
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