Carissa Klopoushak, Eric Paetkau, & SSO – photo taken from SSO’s facebook page
March 25th, 2017: Ukrainian Oratorio: This concert was close to my heart because my late father was adopted and raised by a Ukrainian-Polish man and a Norwegian-English woman – so, he grew up with and raised us with a lot of Ukrainian culture and reverence for the cultures and traditions – especially at Christmas and Easter time.
Mark Turner, Executive Director of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO) greeted us with a reference to the slogan that SSO is using for the upcoming season: “You have to be in the room” – because that’s what Live Music is all about – actually being there experiencing it – Live Music is An Experience that cannot be had without being there. He went on to mention that the SSO will be embarking on recording projects over the next 4 years (very exciting and it’s definitely time for SSO to do this!!). Mark also mentioned all the wonderful things in store for next season – definitely time to become a subscriber!
The SSO’s next fundraising campaign “Share in the Future” will include attendance at a recording session for all donors who give $100 or more during this fundraising campaign.
There was so much good energy in the lobby and in the auditorium for this concert – much anticipation and excitement! The concert began with a work by Emily Doolittle: Sapling – played by violin soloist Carissa Klopoushak and the SSO.
iii. leafy green
The music told so many little stories through motivic imitation – imitation of small musical ideas throughout the orchestra. Mark mentioned to me at intermission that he was reminded of echoes and there were moments when it was hard to tell who was echoing whom (soloist and orchestra).
In composer, Emily Doolittle’s own words – quoting from the program:
“Many of my pieces are inspired by sounds, imagery, or processes from the natural world. In the case of Sapling, the musical ideas came first, and it is only after I had written the piece that I realized that it followed an organic process of development that made me think of the growth of a tree. The first movement begins with a persistent repeated note motive in the solo violin, which pushes its way upwards through a series of loud, percussive orchestra chords, before spreading outwards into a mist of overlapping, branching figures. The second movement, too, grows out of repeated note, this time gentle and flexible, swaying and bending like a sapling in the wind. The third movement explores the various colours of the orchestra, as the sapling buds and bursts into leaf and flower. Sapling was commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts for Calvin Dyck and the Vancouver Island Symphony in 2014.”
Carissa Klopoushak, a commanding presence on stage, played with great mastery and complete awareness – it was really breath-taking to see and hear her in action – to experience that presence on stage – that complete awareness, that complete immersion in the music, and her complete command of her instrument – just that experience alone was already worth the ticket price. Possibly because of Carissa’s immersion in Ukrainian music, the motivic elements of this piece seemed to reflect a Ukrainian flavour – which is not outside Emily Doolittle’s realm of creativity – often based on folklore. I was so very inspired by the freshness and modern-ness of the music and the many wonderful folk-like and possibly folk-inspired rhythms and ideas.
After the delicate echoes of Doolittle’s Sapling and our enthusiastic applause for Carissa and the SSO died away, The Golden Harvest by Larysa Kuzmenko was performed – A Ukrainian Oratorio incorporating Ukrainian folk music performed by SSO joined by Greystone Singers (Dr Jennifer Lang conductor), U of S Chorus (James Hawn, conductor), and vocal soloists Kateryna Khartova, soprano and Joel Allison, bass-baritone.
Where Sapling was filled with delicious rhythmic and melodic tidbits and clarity of statement and imitation, The Golden Harvest embraced a full rich Romantic and post-Romantic musical language – much akin to film music in its drama and storytelling. The chorus alternated with the soloists singing in English and in Ukrainian. The Oratorio with lyrics by Talia Zajac, told the story of Ukrainian immigration in 3 parts: 1. Journey, 2. Struggle, 3. Settlement: the hopes, the hard work, the loss, the despair, the war-time struggles and hopelessness, separation, imprisonment and ill-treatment, and ultimately the joy of reunion and reaping the harvest of hard work that went into the golden harvest of red fife wheat: “The music ends on a very optimistic note, with full orchestra and choir, celebrating the harvest that became one of the economic engines of Canada, and our most important international export.” – L Kuzmenko, 2016.
Kateryna Khartova, Joel Allison, SSO, chorus: Greystone Singers and U of S Chorus
– photo from SSO facebook page
During the oratorio, there were moments of complete clarity in the chorus and moments that incorporated gorgeous instrumental solos in the orchestra: cello solos played by Principal cellist, Lahni Russell, a sweet violin solo played by Concertmaster, Michael Swan, and “an ominous oboe solo” (L Kuzmenko) played by Principal oboist, Erin Brophey. There were wonderfully dramatic moments involving trumpets and percussion – great big, thrilling sounds to experience and feel in person – the vocal soloists used these moments dramatically by standing up during them prior to singing. Both Kateryna and Joel were completely immersed in their knowledge of the piece and engaging in the presentation of their parts.
Kateryna’s gorgeous soprano voice soared beautifully and expressively over the orchestra expressing a mother’s fear for her children and husband. I loved Joel’s characterization and his presence vocally, physically, and dramatically in his rich bass-baritone solos. The timpani (played by Principal timpanist Darrell Bueckert) played a huge role in setting the tone of this piece along with masterful snare drum & bass drum playing by Bryan Allen (Principal percussionist), and Kevin Grady with military precision and artistic flare. Great balance between orchestra and soloists and then the thrilling combination of orchestra, chorus, and soloists all together for the ending of this piece added a triumphant note! The end of The Golden Harvest had people in the audience on their feet clapping and cheering wildly!!
After Intermission, the SSO played Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2 in C minor Op 17 with great energy and focus from beginning to end!!! In SSO conductor, Eric Paetkau’s words (from his interview with Kateryna Kartova), “Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer but had big Ukrainian roots. He would spend his summers at his sister’s family in the Ukraine. In his 2nd Symphony, he uses 3 Ukrainian folk tunes in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th movements and it actually is nicknamed ‘Little Russia’ which at the time, that’s what Ukraine was called: Little Russia. And so, there’s a wonderful tie between Tchaikovsky’s use of Ukrainian folk song and how he incorporates that into the Russian orchestral tradition …”
This symphony starts off with a Ukrainian folk tune played inspiringly by Principal horn player, Carol-Marie Cottin – this is echoed shortly thereafter on bassoon by Principal bassoonist, Stephanie Unverricht. The orchestra goes on to elaborate on elements of the folk tune in imitative and expansive Romantic style. Intimate moments alternate with orchestral building and thrilling orchestral largess throughout the work. I was taken with the exuberant energy with which the orchestra members approached this work – at the end of an engaging concert! Their efforts certainly paid off in the glorious finale to this work. We were on our feet again in the audience at the end of the Tchaikovsky!
Huge thanks from the bottom of my heart to everyone involved in bringing this concert to us here in Saskatoon – featuring 2 Canadian composers and celebrating Ukrainian music! A really wonderful commemoration of 125 years of Ukrainian culture in Canada. There was a true feeling of community in the audience and it was wonderful to see so many friends there – for me, it had a bit of a feel of family reunion.
photo credit: Marie Bekolay
Thanks for reading,
– Anna Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT
soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator
Anna Marie Bekolay has her Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Orff Level 1, a gold medal ARCT in Voice Performance, and grade 10 Violin RCM. Anna has performed as a soloist and in a variety of ensembles over the years, including Saskatoon Opera Chorus, National Youth Choir of Canada, Collegium Musicum, Voci Strane, and the drowned. Ms Bekolay is continually advancing her musicality through attending and performing in concerts. Her current projects include: Back of the Bus, Troubadours du Bois, The Whiskey Jerks, Mac Talla Quartet, The Stephanies, a recording project of classical vocal pieces, and a variety of freelance collaborations that come up here and there.
In addition to rehearsing, performing, and recording, Anna is an adjudicator for the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio – a very busy Music Studio at her home teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Anna makes her home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.