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Traditional carols sung like you have never heard them before

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Jan. 12, 2012, 9:34 p.m. | Music — by Mariya Manzhos

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Ever wish Christmas carols were a little bit more exciting?

You’re in luck. This week several Ukrainian rock and jazz stars invite you to a Christmas after-party with Christmas carols as you’ve never heard them.

The Lviv group “Dyvni” and Taras Chubay from the band “Plach Yeremiyi” headline a musical event that takes original Ukrainian carols and turns them around, using new instruments, styles and arrangements. Some songs are accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar, others by a full orchestra.

Apart from traditional and musicians’ own original Ukrainian carols in new arrangements, the concert will feature lyrical songs about winter. Hopefully, the concert will be something of a compensation for the lack of snow and other types of fun associated with a real winter.

Wed, Jan. 15, 6 p.m., Dom Hudozhnika, 1-5 Artema St., tickets: Hr 80 – 120.
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Mykhayl Jan. 18, 2012, 11:23 a.m.    

Христос Раждається!

Ms. Manzhos,

Thank you for yet another timely h'orderve of Ukraine reenactment experiences, which only a quarter of a century or so ago was demeaned as mere farm play. Just as icons emerged from behind draperies or bookcases for the 1988 Millennium,now finally our culture. We are the ones who must ask is it organic or unnatural? Several centuries ago when neighboring empires, many whose names we still find on today's maps struggled to overpower us. Many of them are still around doing what their ancestors were doing back when. The main difference is today in free Ukraine if someone says; "Merry Christmas" "Christ's Nativity", "anno Domini", "Happy Sabbath" or "Ramadan peace" we receive it as a blessing not a call to unsheathe swords and scimitars.

Kollady, yes I know some of them very well. Among the persha [early] diaspora every church service started with verse 1 and ended with the last verses of Boh Predviichnyi like Khrystos Voskrece during Pascha. The melody of Schedryk became a popular Christmas in America icon instrumentally. Our Annunciation New Year's carol became a carol not of birds welcoming spring but bells welcoming Christmas, in three different English language verses. Of course there are also our customary carols embossed in our being. Our best sounding renditions my friends and I could rehearse as we caroled for the shut-ins and elderly, leaving Misses Pynko for last. She would not answer to Puney as she was not Polish and after you drank the Mason jar of her shine [horilka] you could only craw home. Urban Renewal replaced our home with a four lane road linking nothing with nothing. In improving our quality of life it only cost America the eradication of established ethnic neighborhoods. They left the churches, so we could burry our stock.

Persecution in the mother land and assimilation at home we had to kept what was important, so they would remember Ukrainians once lived. As we were the only ones positively promoting an independent indigenous Ukraine, at least culturally and in history we became its State Department in absentia. We volunteered to improve Ukraine's recognition becoming its international makeshift embassy staff, with the pysanky as our logo. Electricity revolutionized the how but not a shade could deviate. We had to document, preserve and maintain that which made us Ukrainian, as it is internationally recognized in our emergent diasporas circles. The three P's [Pascha / Easter, pyroghy / vareneky and pysanky / batiked egg shells] made sure of it. We could not return due to political flexing of their control muscles so we made Ukraine wherever we were. Ukrainian was not a pedigree it is an attitude in a velvet scabbard, many have married into. No, not yet a country but nevertheless a nation, unlike Carpatho Russian, Crimean, Kuban and Black Coast separatists. Every step we took forward there was two we were pushed backwards; invasion, occupation, famine, colonization persecution, reprisals and disinformation. Then a fresh whiff of Ukrainianization in the writings of Stus, music of Ivasyuk, etc. Their anthem was and is Chevona [Beautiful] Ruta [mandrake or rue herb]. Even the diaspora wedding bands were replacing polkas for the new upbeat of our Hopak [national dance / breakdancing], Chadash [western whirl] and zabavas [mill-hunk's hoedowns] while managing authenticity. The 70's was exhilarating, its liturgy was the protest with incense clouds of..., well you get the picture.

The Cheremshyna Ensemble of Montreal Canada produced an album of carols in the 70's Sviato Risdva. Promoting marketing used the adjectives: unique, all-time favorites, mellow approach, cozy atmosphere, beloved Ukrainian, excellent, fresh, new approach, and appeal all in three sentences. The how was played with but not its content and language. There were concerns, like its picking out of the beloved Boh Predviichnyi melody on piano in a cocktail bar fashion, not a-Capella. Over three decades later this recording is still a strong seller. Many other musical groups have imitated, improved and gone beyond the box, except in language. Recently I was sold a CD with a strong recommendation of its polished translations of customary carols. Got it into my car player and instead of hearing God Eternal, western Christmas songs in the Ukrainian language were heard. It was a good Ukrainian translation but again, the Ukrainian culture is isolated from the West in what it has to say. It lost the possibility of being featured in a Western Christmas album hungry for new discoveries with a timeless story telling history.

Will there be a review of the concert or a YouTube stage broadcast? Most of your readers I would venture to say do not live in or around Kyiv, Nevertheless the resurgence is encouraging and again indigenously embroidered like ours. We preserved a legacy yet it clandestinely evolved organically in the catacombs. Remember keep Christ in Christmas, as He is the reason for the season, Wise men still seek Him. Follow the star.

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