Press+1: Tales From Ukraine – The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

Written and photographed by: Daria Belseck (Edmonton)

Tales from Ukraine, a Robbins Lighter Classics production, brought together a fantastic combination of local music and dance in an unforgettable night of celebration and cheer. Joining the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) onMalanka, Ukrainian New Year’s Eve, was the Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton, Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company and The Honourable Gene Zwozdesky. Conductor Lucas Waldin said it best when mentioned that the night’s performance was going be as big a hit as vodka and perogies! With the audience’s laughter and the high caliber productions performed, we were in for a great night of culture and tradition.

Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance performed throughout the night and the passion and high quality level of dancing left a great impression on the audience likewise. Highlights included the very entertaining character performances of the dancers in Once Upon a Time in Old Kyiv, where we see what happens to a young man who likes to court many women. Also, between the boys and girls all outfitted in bright colors of red, yellow and green, in the Edmonton Hopak, the stage was a whirlwind of turns, jumps and spins and brought the passion of Ukrainian culture and tradition to all-time grand finale.

The ESO’s performance of music was fantastic and highlights included Tchaikovsky’s,Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, telling the story of a meddling bird stealing seeds from gardens. The Ukrainian Christmas Medley, had a very patriotic yet graceful and tranquil sound to it – it was easy to lose where you were and imagine yourself frolicking in the snow or ice skating on a beautiful frozen lake around Christmas-time. Another highlight of the night was the Zwozdesky Malanka Suite: Selections, telling the story of a woman of the house getting up early in the morning and singing to her keys. This piece was very rhythmic and catchy, and the ESO’s idea to use the keys as an added accent instrument was a hit! Prokoviev’s Peter and the Wolf was another hit and The Honourable Gene Zwozdesky did a fantastic job of narrating and keeping the audience in laughter and suspense.

The Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton were the stars of the night – from the moment they opened their mouths and began singing, the auditorium hushed over and their beautiful harmony charmed each and every last person in the auditorium. No matter which piece they were singing, the heart and soul they emitted was truly touching. They performed a variety of pieces including Tchaikovsky’s, Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Zwozdesky’s Malanka Suite, Tiomkin’s Theme from High Noon and a surprise final performance of Tiomkin’s Rawhide, also familiarly known as Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin. From start to finish, it was one of the most animated and energetic chorus performances I have ever heard and they sang full of hope, happiness, faith and love on this new year’s eve. One of the hit performances of the night was their surprise performance of Rawhide, which brought the house down with cheers. The music started, and in a surprise move, the chorus went full out with hidden cowboy hats and when Conductor Waldin surprised the audience with his cowboy hat as well, the audience couldn’t help but erupt in laughter.