Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Calgary Bandura

The bandura is the instrument of Ukraine, but it has played an important function in Calgary's Ukrainian community too.  The bandura movement in Calgary had its initial stages somewhere in the late 1970's and early 1980's.   Alberta Culture must have played a part, but I am sure community representatives including Calgary's Mrs. Lydia Hladyshevsky contributed greatly too.  I do remember that there was a great convergence of energetic support for bandura which brought about summer classes, year long lessons, performances, and animated bandura players!
J Kytasty 2012

The bandura is a stringed instrument considered the national musical instrument of Ukraine.  Prominent through history as harmonic support for singing and dancing, the bandura was adopted for recounting the stories of the day adding tone painting and colorful support to exciting exploits of the Ukrainian cossack warriors.  Kobzari - players of the bandura were persecuted for expressing uncomfortable truths during Stalinist times, many executed.  Despite censure, bandura interest has risen over the last century, especially because its striking sound has the capacity to express historical truths through music, and influence emotions regardless of words.  

I remember excitely unpacking my new bandura from Ukraine, and when we travelled to visit baba and dido in Manitoba, there was no question about bringing it along in the camper.   The bandura and a new cassette player with a radio rode with me on the bunkbed of the camper.  Somehow, late in the night, I managed to find a radio station from Windsor, and the beautiful sound of ensemble bandura playing enchanted me.  I remember the first song too!!  Zore moya vechirnyaya!  Зоре моя вечірняня! The entire trip home was dedicated to intent listening and extracting the parts for the voice and bandura.  By the time we got home, I could play it (in a kid way).  

While I began lessons with Professor Andrij Hornjatkevyc in Edmonton, with typical class and foresight, the Ukrainian community soon arranged for more unique opportunities for western Canadian participants.   They lured some of the most talented contemporary Ukrainian musicians of the time, sharing no expense in arranging for teachers of the prestigious Ukrainian Bandura Chorus for the program.  Victor Kytasty, Julian Kytasty (progeny of the amazing Hryhory Kytasty line) and Marko Bandera taught - the breadth of experience, talent and technical training was astonishing.  Edmonton and Calgary had hugely successful summer programs, lessons with ensemble work, individual classes and classic repertoire that resonated in the minds and spirits of families across the prairies.  Performances of stories, ballads, and dumas just like the ancient kobzari fed the community's sense of identity - it was resoundingly successful!

Julian Kytasty, the Ukrainian American composer, singer, kobzar, bandurist, flute player and conductor has had a passionate relationship with bandura - as you can read in this article from  Den'.

Will there be another phase in Calgary's bandura journey soon?  Let's hope!!

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