Wintersongs: Weathering the Storm
Shira Cion, Director
Kelly Atkins, Briget Boyle, Shira Cion, Janet Kutulas, Erin Lashnits Herman, Hannah Levy, Maclovia Quintana, Katya Schoenberg, and Lily Storm
Powerhouse women’s vocal ensemble, Kitka, returns to Old First Concerts with their Wintersongs program, performing exquisite and unusual seasonal music from a wide variety of Eastern European ethnic and spiritual traditions. This year’s program is subtitled Weathering the Storm, and features songs that speak to the powers of the elements in wintertime: blustering winds, storms, avalanches, rain, snow, ice and floods. These selections will be balanced with seasonal ritual songs in traditional settings and original new arrangements designed to bring light and hope to communities who must bond together to survive the ravages of wintertime.
A centerpiece of this year’s Wintersongs program will be the premiere of a newly commissioned work, Sljozhy Nashej Materi-Zemli (The Tears of our Mother Earth) with original text by local Uzbekistan-born poet and music educator Gala Yaroshevsky aka Victoria Roshe and music by Russian-born composer Dmitry Garkavi. Inspired by Russian penitential chants, in which the singer begs for divine forgiveness for worldly sins, this work is a secular plea on behalf of humanity to our fragile planet.
“As this Wintersongs tour will take place entirely in California, our own homeland that is currently experiencing the terrible impacts of wildfires, we will also perform a number of traditional rain-calling songs,” added Cion. “One example is Geshem, Geshem, a Hebrew children’s song in a new arrangement by Kitka’s own musical co-director Janet Kutulas.”
Kitka’s Wintersongs is supported, in part, by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the City of Oakland Cultural Funding Program and the Alameda County ARTSFUND.
Inspired by traditional songs and vocal techniques from Eastern Europe and Eurasia, Kitka has earned international recognition for its distinctive sound, exploring a vast palette of ancient yet contemporary-sounding vocal effects. Kitka’s commitment to presenting traditional song as a living and evolving expressive art form has led to adventurous collaborations with some of the world’s most exciting indigenous musicians and contemporary composers ranging from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares to Meredith Monk. Currently celebrating its 40th season, Kitka began as a grassroots group of amateur singers from diverse ethnic and musical backgrounds who shared a passion for the stunning dissonances, asymmetric rhythms, intricate ornamentation, and resonant strength of traditional Eastern European women’s vocal music. Since its informal beginnings, the group has evolved into an award-winning touring ensemble known for its artistry, versatility and mastery of the demanding techniques of regional vocal styling, as well as for its innovative explorations in new music for women’s voices. The ensemble’s wide-ranging performance, teaching, and recording activities have exposed millions to the haunting beauty of their unique repertoire.
For more information about Kitka and all its programs visit Kitka.org.