Kitka, a nine-voice women's choir based in Oakland, has been singing Eastern European folk-based music for almost thirty years, becoming one of the top world music ensembles in the Bay Area. The Rusalka Cycle may be the most forceful piece of music the ensemble has ever been associated with, an overwhelming performance full of mystery, magic, and an undeniable spiritual force. Rusalkas are female entities that live in forests, rivers, and fields, the emanations of women who have died unmerited or unexpected deaths in childbirth, girls who committed suicide after an unhappy affair, and stillborn babies. In Eastern Europe, these spirits are feared, celebrated, and soothed with dance, ritual, and song.
Composer Mariana Sadovska's song cycle weaves music from Bosnia, Ukraine, Croatia, Bulgaria, and other Balkan states into a soul-stirring dramatic score of heartbreaking poignancy. Backed by the deep, sonorous cello tones of Elaine Kreston and Moses Sedler, and the subtle percussion of Kevin Mummey, the women of Kitka sing, scream, whoop, wail, howl, and harmonize, imbuing the music with an almost fearsome primal power. There are no translations, but the dark, melancholy music is often beyond words. "Farewell" blends the melodies of a Ukrainian song "Oj proscaj, proscaj" with the traditional American hymn "Farwell." The elegiac, sustained notes the women use to deliver the songs dissolve individual words to create a vocabulary of expression beyond language. The harmonies intertwine, shattering the divisions of space, time, and spirit, spinning a emotional spell that will haunt you long after the last note fades into the breath of the infinite.
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