by Yara Arts Group with artists from the Carpathians
In “Midwinter Night: Sacred and Profane Rituals,” Yara Arts Group will perform a World Music Theater piece that includes the Koliadnyky, an ensemble of winter song singers from Kryvorivnia (Ukraine); the explosive Lemon Bucket Orkestra, a Ukrainian-klezmer-gypsy-rag-tag-punk super band from Canada; and an 18th century Baroque Nativity folk opera staged by Yara artists.
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, Virlana Tkacz, Artistic Director of the troupe, has adapted and translated a Baroque folk Christmas opera from Ukraine. A highlight is the original 18th century music, as arranged by Julian Kytasty. The third part of the evening offers raucous Goat Songs, celebrating the passing of the old year and its rebirth as the new. A wooden puppet of a goat dances, dies and is brought back to life because people believed, “where the goat will dance that’s where wheat will grow.”
Yara Arts Group began collaborating with traditional artists from the Carpathians in 2003 and has developed performances with them in Kyiv and New York. These include the theatre pieces “Koliada: Twelve Dishes” and “Still the River Flows” and “Winter Sun” at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York. Photographs and video of the koliada ritual in the village of Kryvorivnia have been exhibited at the RA Gallery in Kyiv, La Galleria and the Ukrainian Institute in New York, the Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga Springs. Yara artists also created a major art installation at the Ukrainian Museum in New York with this material. Yara is a resident company of La MaMa and has created 24 original theatre pieces rooted in the