Village crawl in Ukraine

Now that I’ve exhausted myself jumping around my condo, I am calm enough announce that I was awarded my very first Canada Council grant! I’ll be traveling to the motherland (Ukraine) this fall to research Ukrainian folksong and experience it first hand. I’ll be living in Kyiv and going on short trips to villages to meet singers, record their songs and sing with them. I will also join one of the ensembles that specialize in authentic performance of folksong. I hope that through singing I can better understand the different tuning systems, the slinky vocal ornaments and the unique way of using the voice common to this practice.

This research will result in a couple of new pieces. One will be a song (or set of songs) for Calgary-based soprano Edith Pritchard. I am hoping to track down some possibly folk-inspired modern poetry for this while I’m in Ukraine. The second will be a piece for The Thin Edge New Music Collective’s Wind, keys and strings tour (which will include a performance in Vancouver in early February).

Ukrainian folksong has been an important influence in my work over the last five years, so I am extremely excited to have this opportunity to experience it first hand. I am currently finishing up a chamber opera inspired by this practice, entitled On the Eve of Ivan Kupalo. I will be blogging about this experience regularly in the fall so check back for updates!

All the images in this post are from the Lira Surma, a collection of Ukrainian folksong, which first appeared in early 20th century and has been reprinted several times in different countries. I own a black-and-white version released in the States (can be purchased here) and was really excited to find the original edition at the University of Alberta library. Here all the section title pages are in colour and so are the first songs in each section. The cover is hand-embroidered.


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