The Ukrainian Art Song Project’s summer intensive has a concert in Temerty Hall on Sunday at 3pm. It’s possible to sit in on the creation/rehearsal process so I went along yesterday to take a look. I last went to one of the UASP’s concerts a couple of years ago and it was presented as a standard voice/piano recital in Koerner Hall. This is going to be quite different. The songs have been ordered in a way that creates a kind of narrative described as “A poet, having lost their inspiration, retraces their life, striving to reawaken in themselves the passion that once allowed them to create great works of art”. Also, it’s all being staged “in the round”. I got to see the crew work on four or five numbers yesterday and I was impressed by the commitment and the high standard of the singing and acting as well of the sheer speed with which the singers picked up on the ideas thrown at them by “circus master” Pavlo Hunka. It’s dramatic. There’s even an orgy.
I was intrigued by the music too. All the songs I heard yesterday were by Myoslav Volyns’kyj, setting poems by Oleksandr Oles’. At first I found myself repeatedly checking the bios section of my press pack to confirm that Volyns’kyj was. as he is, a contemporary living composer. Much, though not all, of his music sounds seriously retro. Normally, especially in song, that drives me nuts but I was won over by these pieces. The texts are strong and the music has a real connection to the text. It’s also quite dramatic and the composer has a real gift for melody. In short, they are a million miles removed from the saccharine neo-Broadway stuff I rant about too often. The other composers date from the 1840s to the early 20th century and I’m intrigued to hear what they have to offer.
So, here’s another promising example of people doing something a bit different with art song. Tickets for Sunday are $40 ($20 student) and available here.