The last time the renowned Ukrainian choir Vesnivka travelled to Ukraine was 28 years ago, in 1991.
This spring, Vesnivka will be returning to Ukraine for a tour through Western Ukraine. The choir will also visit Poland.
As the choir’s conductor Halyna Kvitka Kondracki explained, the reason for the tour is to show off Ukrainian Canadian composers.
“We don’t just come here to work and to make money, we also really care about the culture,” Kondracki said. “We’re going to bring to Ukraine a program of Ukrainian Canadian composers, so it’s the songs that they have not heard. We have a number of very good Ukrainian composers in Canada.”
The tour will start in Poland, and then will move to Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk. The bulk of the concerts will be performed by the choir, Kondracki also hopes to partner up with other performers.
“A lot of us live in a Ukrainian little ghetto, singing at the same little place for the same people. And it’s important to see what the world offers as far as music is concerned, and there are fabulous choirs,” Kondracki said. “And when you go to festivals and you hear choirs from all over the world you realize ‘hey, you know, we’re good but there are much better choirs’ and there is something to work towards.”
Vesnivka looks towards other choirs to adopt their practice techniques, but keeps its repertoire original. “We are here to promote Ukrainian music,” said Kondracki. Lately, the choir has taken part in Carmina Burana at Festival 500 in Newfoundland, and joined the Orpheus choir at Koerner Hall. There, they performed the premier of Larysa Kuzmenko’s The Golden Harvest. Commemorating the 125th Anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada.
“If we are asked to take part in a mass choir then we do. We have been asked, which is very exciting for a Ukrainian choir,” she said.
Vesnivka has travelled across Canada, Europe cities and South America, and taken part in many competitions and festivals.
Kondracki started Vesnivka at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic School in downtown Toronto in 1965. She would stay behind with the girls and teach them singing.
“I could see that you could do something with that,” she said. “At one time I had 75 girls singing in the choir. Girls came from other schools to join.”
Vesnivka now is 54 years old, while most of its members have been with the choir for 30-40 years. Every year, the choir gives three concerts within a new program, starting in September.
The name of the choir – “Vesnivka” – has mysterious origins.
“I’m not sure who picked it. There’s Vesnivka, there’s Vesnianka. People call us all sorts of things,” said Kondracki. “There’s a song by Markian Shashkevych ‘Vesnivka’, which means ‘young spring’.”
Next year Vesnivka plans a concert tribute to Alexander Koshetz, a Ukrainian composer and choral conductor. Then, a traditional Christmas concert, which always falls on the first Sunday after Rizdvo, will come. The following year, there will be a Concert of Light, where the choir will be looking at different love songs: flirting, songs of love and despair, motherly love, young love, passionate love.
The details of the upcoming Ukraine-Poland tour will be available at www.vesnivka.com.