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"Before the World Began"
with Alina & Marika Kuzma

Hutsuls announce their arrival
with the trembitas
photos by K.kava

Three Wise Men Bring Gifts

Time and Herod
with Tamar Ilana & Ostap Kostyuk

Death enter
played by Alexandra Baczynskyj

Death triumphs
with Alexandra Baczynskyj & Ostap Kostyuk

"So go the power hungry of this world"
The Chorus sings the morale

The Goat refuses to dance
with Stephania Woloshyn

"Is the Master Home?"
sung by Lemon Bucket Orkestra

All Dance
with Lemon Bucket Orkestra


Midwinter Night

Sacred & Profane Rituals

World Music Theatre piece with traditional Carpathian winter songs,
a Baroque Folk Nativity Play & Carnivalesque Goat Songs

created by Yara Arts Group, directed by Virlana Tkacz
set & lights by Watoku Ueno, costumes: Keiko Obremski
music assembled by Julian Kytasty
script assembled by Virlana Tkacz, Alexandra Tkacz &
Svitlana Matviyenko, with assistance from Mykola Shkaraban
English translations by Virlana Tkacz & Wanda Phipps
projections by Mikhail Shraga & Volodymyr Klyuzko
stage manager: Nadia Tachin, wardrobe: Kiku Sakai
props: Olivia Volpi, director's assistant: Romana Soutus

Koliada singers from the Carpathians: Mykola Ilyuk, Ostap Kostyuk, Vasyl Tymchuk, Ivan & Mykola Zelenchuk
featuring Yara artists: Paul Brantley, Brian Dolphin, Inka Juslin Alina Kuzma, Marika Kuzma, Teryn Kuzma, Natalia Okolita & Mariko Pajalahti
Lemon Bucket Orkestra: Alexandra Baczynskyj, Marichka Galazda, Tamar Ilana, Michael Louis Johnson, Mark Marczyk, Alex Nahirny, Mike Romaniak, Karl Silvera, Jaash Singh, Emilyn Stam, Rob Teehan, Christopher Weatherstone, John David Williams & Stephania Woloshyn

Yara Arts Group is a resident company of La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club

premiere December 27-30, 2012 -- La MaMa ETC (Ellen Stewart Theatre), New York


Yara Arts Group has been working with traditional artists from Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia since 1990. Fo rMidwinter Night they team up with Koliadnyky--a traditional music group from the Carpathian mountains -- and Toronto's Balkan-punk Lemon Bucket Orkestra to create a Christmastime Ukrainian pageant.

Well, the musical instruments and customs of these residents of remote mountain areas probably pre-date Christianity, but have been adapted to make it a colorful holiday. You will see songs about the creation of the stars, a dance battle between old babushkas and the goat who is believed to make the crops grow, and fabulous solos on the bandura (an astonishing folk instrument with up to 68 strings), duda (goat-skin bagpipes), tsymbaly (hammered dulcimer), and trembita (mountain horn made from a lightning-stuck pine tree).

The Hutsul people live in the highlands of Southern Ukraine and the Maramures and Bukovina regions of Northern Romania. They wear colorful embroidered clothing (here credited to Keiko Obremski and Mykola Zelenchuk) and play the fiddle with a unique tuning.Virlana Tkacz and the other dedicated people from Yara Arts Group have assembled age-old artistry from the region (suppressed during Soviet times) which was written down by Ivan Zelenchuk, father of one of the performers in this show. There is so much amazing material presented here, starting with old winter songs (published 1693) which must be sung to insure the coming of the harvest.Next comes the enactment of a Ukrainian nativity puppet play from 1774. The conclusion has goat songs--where the goat goes, the grain grows--backed up by the high-energy Lemon Bucket Orkestra under the direction of Mark Marczyk.

I found myself pulled onstage to dance in the finale, which is good because I'd been wishing for an excuse to dance for most of the show. While the ensemble sings, they kindly provide English explanations of what is going on. Projections by Mikhail Shraga and Volodymyr Klyuzko add yet another spiritual dimension to the spectacle. I look forward to the next offering from Yara Arts Group, which promises to innovatively blend old and new.
Ed Malin, December 28, 2012.

In Midwinter Night: Sacred and Profane Rituals the action takes place in three parts: the first – includes ancient, authentic winter songs and rituals performed by the Koliadnyky from the Carpathians, and the soloists Marika, Alina and Teryn Kuzma, the second is a winter folk-opera from the 18th century adapted by Virlana Tkacz, with music by Julian Kytasty and light design by Watoku Ueno, the third – the “Goat Song" is in a wild new interpretation by the Canadian Lemon Bucket Orchestra (Ukrainian-klezmer-gypsy-rag-tag-punk super band) thanks to whom the traditional Ukrainian “Goat Song” takes on a new meaning.
            This time Virlana Tkacz's direction masterfully exceeded all her previous work. She seamlessly connected that which usually can’t be connected: epochs, languages, culture, and people… Her connections were so deep and far-reaching that they resulted in an opera which ends today in a real time and a real place…You have to be there and be a participant in the action. Tthis exactly happens in the final scene -- the boundaries between the stage and the audience are erased.
Kateryna Kindras, Nova Hazeta, January 2, 2013.

With the performance space in complete darkness, the huge disc deep in stage left glowing a silvery white reminded one of a full moon just risen above the horizon, much larger than any moon one has ever witnessed. Musical notes twinkled like stars and then a breeze, a breath, was heard. The lights slowly went up, revealing the Sun, portrayed by Marika Kuzma. Seated to the side was Julian Kytasty, providing the astral aurals on his bandura .As she sang “Poduy zhe  Hospody,” the opening lines of the age-old Creation Song, her voice was joined by those of Alina Kuzma as the Moon and Teryn Kuzma as the Stars.
            These opening scenes greeted audiences attending the four sold-out performances of “Midwinter Night: Sacred and Profane Rituals” produced by Virlana Tkacz and the Yara Arts Group at the La MaMa ETC in New York City on December 27 through 30,2012. Watching these scenes unfold, one felt drawn in to them, compelled to become one with them, spiritually and emotionally joining the three perfectly matched voices as they created the world and the heavens from the golden sands brought up from bottom of the endless sea.
            The sound of Mykola Ilyuk on the fiddle announced the entrance of the Koliadnyky from Kryvorivnia. Led by Ivan Zelenchuk, they sang “Grechna Gazdynya, VynoSadyla.” This koliada tells of the Sun, the Moon and the Rain that will visit during the coming year. Mykola Zelenchuk sang that the Sun will shine brightly so all the mountains and valleys are warm. The Moon, Vasyl Tymchuk sang, will shine in the dark night, lighting the way for all travelers and for all the creatures on land and in the sea. Ostap Kostyuk sang that the Rain would fall gently and water all the growing crops.
           “Vertep,” the second act, began with original 18th century choral music wonderfully  arranged  by Mr. Kytasty, the  musical director for “Midwinter Night.” Accompanying his bandura playing, the chorus of Paul Brantley on cello, MarkMarczyk and Emilyn Stam on violins, Alex Nahirny on guitar, and vocalists Marika Kuzma (the choir director at UC Berkeley), Rob Teehan, Brian Dolphin and Christopher Weatherstone reinforced the intricacies of those works. The koliadnyky returned with the sound of the trembita, singing the koliady that praised the master of the house and wished prosperity, health and wealth to all in the next year.
            The scene shifted to the arrival of the Three Wise Men (Ivan Zelenchuk, Mr.Teehan and Mr. Weatherstone) and their encounter with Herod, portrayed by Kostyuk as arrogant and out of touch with the people, driven by power and a supremely evil heart. With the Wise Men not returning, Herod sought out his soothsayer, played by Mariko Pajalahti, to discern what had taken place. She whirled around, dragging the end of her long staff on the ground, which produced a dry rattling sound as she conjured up a vision to answer his question. Mykola Zelenchuk, as Herod’s soldier, executed all commands without question or emotion. Having lost her child, Rachel, played by Natalia Okolita, condemned Herod to eternal damnation. Tamar Ilana, as Time, danced the flamenco, her flashing steps rapidly counting off the remainder of Herod’s days. The entrance of Death, played by Alexandra Baczynskyj, was so casual that one almost was not aware that it was Death who had entered. Her portrayal was perfect – not too  dramatic and not too dark. Death came in the door and calmly claimed her Herod, despite his pleas and cries that he was not ready. Mr. Marczyk, as the Devil, fiddled the final notes of Herod’s life, and death exited, cradling a skull capped with his crown. Mr. Brantley, on cello, played his work “Arbor,” providing a contemplative transition from the drama that had just been played out.
            The third act, “Celebration”, started off with a “baa-a-a-a!” as the Koza (goat) peeked out from behind a curtain. Based in Toronto, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, with Stephania Woloshyn as the Koza, presenteda slightly updated version of the traditional Koza dance.
Playing the tsymbaly, violin, flute, drum and cymbal of the troista musicians, the Koliadnyky returned to the stage. With Mr.Teehan on sousaphone counting off, and Mr. Weatherstone on alto saxophone, John David Williams on clarinet, Ms. Baczynskyj, Marichka Galadza, Ms. Ilana and Ms. Woloshyn on vocals, Michael Louis Johnsonon flugelhorn, Mr. Marczyk and Ms. Stamon violins, Mr. Nahirny on guitar, Mike Romaniak on sopilka, Karl Silveira on trombone and Jaash Singh on darbuka, they launched into a spectacular “Arkan.” As the audience clapped along, Mykola Ilyuk flawlessly led the 19-member ensemble through “Batko Spyt.” and back to the energetic rhythm with “Batko Vstav!”
           The Lemon Bucket Orkestra followed with the rousing koliada “Rai Rozvyvsia.”As the last notes from that piece hung in the air, Ms. Ilana performed “Kondzha Mia” (Flower of Mine), a traditional Sephardic song. Mr. Marczyk on violin added to her voice filled with emotion. Mr. Kytasty and the Koliadnyky returned to perform “IshlyMolodtsi,” a koliada from Sumy region. The lively “Kozachok” that followed was picked up by the Lemon Bucket Orkestra as they sang the shchedrivka “Oi Chy Ye, Chy Nema.”The troista musicians then launched into a “Hutsulka,” which was enlivened by the rest of the ensemble joining in.
            A razor slice of white light cutting the floor of the blacked out stage provided the dramatic entry for Inka Juslin as she danced “Awakening.” With a violin, clarinet, bandura and voice at times hinting “Shchedryk, Shchedryk,” that projected image morphed into a swirling pattern. Stepping within the image, the swirls wrapped over her, creating living spirals of brilliant white energy as she moved through that space. Mikhail Shraga transformed that into dappled grey shapes, looking almost three-dimensional coming out of the floor. Inka Juslin once again entered the image space, now her body and her broad white streaming scarf revealing that those greys were green stalks with white and yellow flowers, her movements giving the sensation that she was the wind weaving through a field of daffodils. Along with these floor projections, Mr.Shraga and Volodymyr Klyuzko used the disc in deep stage left throughout “Midwinter Night” for projecting various images that flawlessly and unobtrusively matched and amplified the actions taking place on the stage.
           Led by the Koliadnyky, the ensemble sang “Teche Richka.” For the finale, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra started playing a dance tune. As the beat became more invigorating and the music more urgent, the house lights slowly came up. Dancing ensemble members began walking into the audience, bringing attendees on stage to dance with them. At the same time, some of the musicians went up into the seats to play among the now clapping audience. The piece ended with the whole theater a huge sea of exuberant playing, singing and dancing, the audience now a physical part of the performance.
Ihor Slabicky, Ukrainian Weekly March 10, 2013

More photos on Yara's Facebook page Midwinter Night December 27, 2012 at La MaMa
Photos from Ukrainian Museum in New York | Ukrainian League in Philadelphia
Barbes and WFMU | "Photo Patterns" by Volodymyr Klyuzko at La MaMa Galleria


other Koliada: Winter Song events 2012

press release about Yara's Midwinter Night

This program was made possible by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs, Self-Reliance (NY) FCU, The Coca-Cola Company, and numerous friends of Yara Arts Group. The Koliadnyky have found a home in NY thanks to Ellen Stewart and La MaMa Experimental Theatre.



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