THE UKRAINIAN WEEKLY (Sunday, October 28, 2001)

Folk singers, opera stars and TV luminaries

by Helen Smindak

As the lilting voice and infectious laugh of singer/actress Mariana Sadovska rippled through the air of CB's restaurant/bar on the Bowery, jammed with enthusiastic fans of folk music on an early September evening, the dim interior lit up, metaphorically and musically.

It was an evening that brought out intoxicating and wild rhythms, yodeling, calling sounds and other unique characteristics of old-time village music in Ukraine - folk songs that the Lviv-born Ms. Sadovska unearthed during 10 summers of diligent research in the villages of Poltava, Polissia and the Hutsul and Lemko regions of Ukraine.

Teaming up with a bevy of singers and musicians with whom she has appeared in past months, the vivacious vocalist turned in a spirited, rousing performance. It was the first concert of a brief U.S. solo tour marking the finale to a year filled with workshops and performances; in mid-October, Ms. Sadovska returned to her full-time occupation with the Gardzienice Experimental Theater in Poland.

Accompanying herself on the harmonium, an organ-like keyboard instrument with small metal reeds and a pair of bellows operated by the musician, Ms. Sadovska cast a spell over the audience with a wide range of ritual songs and ballads, some of them her own arrangements. There were throaty calling songs, high-pitched, loud songs with trills and quavers, songs to drive the clouds away, spring calling songs filled with longing and yearning. Explaining each number, Ms. Sadovska also imitated the rhythmic "singing" speech of villagers who provided answers to her queries for road directions.

As the evening progressed, other soloists and groups were invited to come on stage, among them the Experimental Bandura Trio of Julian Kytasty, Michael Andrec and Jurij Fedynskyj, Rumanian singer Sandra Wiegl, keyboard artist Anthony Coleman, drummer and vibraphone player Matt Moran, accordionist Ted Reichman, gusli musician Illya Temkin, clarinetist Doug Wieselman and violinist Valery Zhmud.

Singers Alla Kutsevich and Iryna Hrechko, accompanied by Yara Arts Group members - Laura Biaggi, Marina Celander, Akiko Hiroshima, Zabryna Guevara, Jina Oh and Joanna Wichowska - raise their voices in a chorus of calling songs. The evening wound up as Eugene Hutz and Sergei Ryabtsev of the punk cabaret band Gogol Bordello brought in their unique style of lusty punk rock music fused with Slavic and Gypsy strains, to which Gypsy dancer Piroshka gyrated with abandon.

Introducing her American sponsor, Thieching Tsieh of Brooklyn, who provided a one-year stipend, and her close mentor Virlana Tkacz, director of the Yara Arts Group, Ms. Sadovska also extended thanks to her sponsors, SUMA (Yonkers) Federal Credit Union, the Ukrainian National Federal Credit Union, Western Union and the MEEST Corp.

Later in September, Ms. Sadovska launched The Washington Group Cultural Fund concert series before a capacity audience at The Lyceum in Old Town Alexandria, just outside the nation's capital, with a recital illustrating the depth and breadth of emotions expressed in Ukraine's folk songs. Cultural Fund director Laryssa Courtney dedicated the concert to the victims ot the September 11 terrorist attacks. Minister Counselor Volodymyr Yatsenkivsky of the Ukrainian Embassy of Ukraine greeted the audience, which included former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Green Miller and his wife, Suzanne.

TWG cultural correspondent Lesia Bihun, providing information about the Lyceum concert, eloquently describes Ms. Sadovska's artistry: from a young woman's longing for the carefree moments of her childhood in "Oy, Vershe, Mii Vershe" to the rollicking "Piemo, Piemo," in which four women wonder what kind of liquor could have made them so drunk after three days of drinking, the program moved the audience from sadness to laughter, and then further into the heart-rending grief of a young widow asking her son about the whereabouts of his father in "Vdova" and to outright hilarity over a young village woman's marital problems with a much older man in "Ozhenyvsia Staryj Did."

Ms. Sadovska's final concert in this country took place at the Europa Gallery in Brooklyn just before her departure for Poland on October 15. I have a feeling we will see her again before too long...