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Concert of the group "Drevo", Riga,
April 25th 2004


      On the Sunday afternoon following St. George's day, in the Small Guild, as is customary in the Riga Music festival setting, the Ukrainian folklore group Drevo (Tree) performed a concert. The group had already performed in Latvia as part of the folklore festival Baltica '03; however, this evening would allow us to get to know them much further.
      As stressed in Sergey Alyonkyn's introductory speech, the ensemble has both an educated background (it is classed under the Kiev Conservatory) as well as a link with ethnographic performance styles.


      The group began with a song that they had named Oh, there is a tree in the field. The second piece, a spring song, was performed by the female members and the third was a psalm about searching for one's mother, followed by a Cossack song about love (performed by the men).


      All the songs were performed in beautiful melodic variations, but the ones from the Poltava region had the most harmonies.


      One of the ensemble's most striking members is Sergey Ofimchuk, who not only sings the lower voices beautifully, but also plays the violin. During the concert, he played three pieces - a Carpathian dance (his method of playing that he learnt from real folk musicians, sounded truly authentic: one could picture oneself in the Carpathian region listening to an old musician playing), a wedding song (as an accompaniment to the female voices) and a polka (which was slightly spoiled by the unconvincing tambourine accompaniment but was noticeably enhanced by the jolly dancing couple from the group).


      The majority of songs performed seemed mournful, even the ones introduced as comedy songs. Most of them were in fact dedicated to sad occasions, for example, unhappiness in love and even the poisoning of one's brother, and the other songs sounded equally sorrowful. Who knows whether this really was the case or if it just appeared so compared to some of the styles we are used to hearing.


      It would be remiss not to mention the ensemble's leader, Kiev Conservatory's professor Eugeny Efremov. It was evident from his behaviour on stage that he displays a deep love of folk music, which is moving to observe. Emotion aside, the performance's high level of professionalism taken together with the love and work invested in it, and the fruits of its labour, commanded respect from the listener.

Ukrainas vēstnieks Latvijā pateicas kopas dalībniekiem

      So, Sergey Alyonkyn was right, the ensemble has managed to recover authentic material without corrupting it, as well as achieving a high quality performance. Real folk music enthusiasts could not fail to enjoy a show given by this group. Still, sad (envious?) feelings cannot be avoided - such a group does not exist in Latvia. And probably never will.
      It was pleasant that the ensemble's leader addressed the audience in Ukrainian. He did so slowly, translating more unusual words into Russian, so that audience members would understand even without any prior knowledge of the Ukrainian language.

      Songs performed/recorded:

      Article: Ansis Ataols Bērziņš, June 4th 2004
      Photos: Ansis Ataols Bērziņš
      Translation to English: Līvija Vārna-Uskale and Zinta Uskale

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03 September 2018

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