Archive for December, 2013

Ukrainian Institute of America Celebrates Taras Shevchenko’s Birth Bicentennial

Honoring the memory, legacy and continued impact of Taras Shevchenko, the Ukrainian Institute of America (UIA) is featuring a series of programs dedicated to Ukraine’s bard as it joins world-wide celebrations slated for 2014, the 200th anniversary of the great poet’s birth.

The UIA kicked off its Shevchenko Bicentennial commemorations with an essay contest for youth ages 14-21. The contest’s theme, “Taras Shevchenko—Why does he matter today?” aims to promote learning and awareness of Shevchenko’s legacy by those less or not at all familiar with his life’s work. This group includes students of Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian background, whose primary language is English and whose engagement in Ukrainian history and language has been comparatively limited or absent.

Shevchenko Essay Contest

Besides the essay contest, the diverse UIA events range from a presentation of the first-ever complete English translation of Shevchenko’s Kobzar, an art exhibition denoting Shevchenko as the root of the tree of life of contemporary Ukrainian culture, a performance of Shevchenko’s poems set to the music of major Ukrainian composers, and more.
“Our Institute’s mission is to act as a ‘Window on Ukraine’, and we’re proud to take this opportunity to help acquaint the general public with this seminal figure,” says Dan Swistel, the president of the Ukrainian Institute. “Shevchenko has played a gargantuan role in the history and life of Ukrainians and Ukraine, but what Shevchenko stood for has equal meaning for the world at large today—an abiding love of one’s country, uncompromising opposition to all forms of oppression, a deep humanism. These are universal values.”

With an entry deadline of Jan. 31, 2014, the English-only essay contest carries $9,000 in total prize money: a $3,000 first prize, $2,000 second prize and $1,000 third prize. Ten essays awarded honorable mention will receive $300 each. In judging the essays, jurors will take into account the writer’s age. The top three essays, and the names of all winners, will be published on the Institute’s website; in Atlas, the Institute’s newsletter; and in the Ukrainian-American press. Top-scoring essays will also be prominently displayed at the Institute’s headquarters in New York City during the summer of 2014. Contest guidelines and entry form are available at

The Institute recently also hosted the inaugural presentation of the first-ever complete English translation of Shevchenko’s poetry collection, the Kobzar, by Peter Fedynsky. The translator is a United States-born retired Voice of America journalist, whose assignments took him for extended periods to Ukraine and the former Soviet Union, including as VOA Moscow bureau chief. In his introduction to the book, Fedynsky notes that Shevchenko’s poems “are alternately frightening, funny, despairing, hopeful, sacred and sacrilegious, but always illuminating and entertaining. They serve not only as a guide to long submerged, even prohibited elements of Ukrainian history, geography, personalities and folklore, but also to universal themes of love, envy, oppression and freedom.” In addition, the poems of Shevchenko, who was born a serf, “represent considerable courage, because he took on Russia’s imperial regime at a time when few would dare to challenge it.”

Joining Fedynsky in reading excerpts from the translation were Ukrainian-American poet Dzvinia Orlowsky and Bob Holman, founder and owner of New York’s legendary Bowery Poetry Club. The presentation at the Institute also featured copies of Shevchenko’s art and manuscripts and the poet’s favorite music. The UIA co-sponsored the publication of Fedynsky’s translation along with Self-Reliance New York Federal Credit Union (Samopomich) and the Temerty Family of Toronto, Canada.

In early November, the UIA also hosted a launch by the Shevchenko Scientific Society of its recent publications about the life and work of its patron, Taras Shevchenko. Among the books, all reflecting the society’s scholarly mission, is a three-volume set of the facsimile reproduction of Shevchenko’s Haydamaky, a historical perspective of the work of Orest Fedoruk, and a critical analysis by George G. Grabowicz. Another new Society book is a bibliographical volume, Shevchenko v krytytsi, of all critical literature on Shevchenko that appeared during his lifetime. Attendants of the event were also treated to a performance by Pavlo Gintov, an award-winning pianist who regularly performs with orchestras and chamber music throughout Europe, Asia and the U.S.

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On March 8, 2014, Music at the Institute (MATI) will present a special concert, “Shevchenko and Shakespeare,” featuring the internationally renowned British bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka. The singer will perform a program of Shevchenko poems set to music by Mykola Lysenko, Jakiv Stepovyi, Stanyslav Liudkevych and Stefania Turkewich, and contrast that with a song cycle of Shakespearean sonnets by the contemporary Ukrainian composer Oleksandr Jacobchuk. “In this way, “ says Hunka, “Shevchenko takes his rightful place on the world stage alongside another of the world’s great poets.” Hunka, who was born to a Ukrainian father and an English mother, has performed in many of the world’s top opera houses, with leading conductors including Claudio Abbado and Zubin Metha, Jeffrey Tate, Peter Schneider and the late Richard Bradshaw. The Shakespeare song cycle was composed specially for Hunka, whose performance at the UIA will mark its world premiere. Accompanying Hunka on the piano will be Albert Krywolt, one of Canada’s foremost opera musicians.

Still another Art at the Institute program (ART@TI) dedicated to Shevchenko, the contemporary art exhibit “Root and Crown” will open March 21, 2014. A multi-faceted project consisting of constructed art, paintings and photographs, the exhibit’s idea, according to its Ukrainian artists-curators, is to present Shevchenko as “a root of the tree of life of the contemporary Ukrainian culture that constitutes a part of the human and cultural heritage of the Ukrainian people, and as a creator of visions and essences of the nation’s cultural heritage.” Artists contributing to the exhibit include Petro Bevza, Mykola Zhuravel, Oleksyi Lytvynenko and Oleg Yasenev, as well as a number of photographers who took aerial views of Ukraine. “Root and Crown” is scheduled to run through April 20, 2014.

By Roman Czajkowsky
This article was originally published in The Ukrainian Weekly.

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Music from the New World

The final concert of 2013 on December 7th featured “Music from the New World” as represented in compositions by Kodaly and Dvorak and the recent works of contemporary American composers Adam Silverman and American-Ukrainian Boris Skalsky, performed by violinists Charles Castleman and Yuriy Bekker, violist Daniel Farina, and cellist Amy Sue Barston.

Charles Castleman1

CHARLES CASTLEMAN, perhaps the world’s most active performer/pedagogue on the violin, has appeared as soloist with the orchestras of Philadelphia, Boston, Brisbane, Chicago, Hong Kong, Moscow, Mexico City, New York, San Francisco, Seoul, and Shanghai. Medalist at the Tchaikovsky and Brussels competitions, his Jongen Concerto is included in a Cypres CD set of the 17 best prize-winning performances of the Brussels Concours’ 50-year history. His solo CDs include Ysaye’s six Solo Sonatas (made at the time of his unique performance at Tully Hall in NYC), eight Hubay Csardases for Violin and Orchestra, and ten Sarasate virtuoso cameos on Music and Arts, Gershwin and Antheil on MusicMasters, and contemporary violin and harpsichord music for Albany. As one of sixteen Ford Foundation Concert Artists, he commissioned the David Amram Concerto, premiering it with Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony and recording it for Newport Classic. He is a dedicatee of “Lares Hercii” by Pulitzer winner Christopher Rouse. Mr. Castleman has performed at such international festivals as Marlboro, Grant Park, Newport, Sarasota, AFCM (Australia), Akaroa (New Zealand), Budapest, Fuefukigawa, Montreux, Shanghail, Sheffield, and Vienna Festwoche. He regularly participates in the Park City, Round Top, and Sitka festivals in the U.S. His recitals have been broadcast on NPR, BBC, in Berlin, and in Paris. Mr. Castleman has been Professor of Violin at Eastman School of Music since 1975. He is founder/director of The Castleman Quartet Program, in its 43rd season, now at two locations, at SUNY Fredonia and at the University Colorado Boulder, an intensive workshop in solo and chamber performance, which Yo-Yo Ma has praised as “the best program of its kind… a training ground in lifemanship.”

Yuriy Bekker blog

Violinist YURIY BEKKER has led the Charleston Symphony Orchestra as a concertmaster since 2007 and has been the orchestra’s acting artistic director for the past three seasons. He has also held the position of concertmaster for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and AIMS Festival in Graz, Austria, as well as additional positions with the Houston Symphony and the Houston Grand Opera and Ballet Orchestras. He is an adjunct faculty member of the College of Charleston as conductor of the College of Charleston Orchestra. He has also been artistic advisor to the Piccolo Spoleto Festival for the last three seasons. Mr. Bekker has performed worldwide, including with the Vancouver Symphony, Ulster Orchestra, Chicago Chamber Music Society, European Music Festival Stuttgart, Pacific Music Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Aspen Music Festival, and at the Kennedy Center. He has collaborated with Herbert Greenberg, Claudio Bohorquez, Alexander Kerr, Andrew Armstrong, Robert DeMaine, Sara Chang, Gil Shaham, Joshua Roman, JoAnn Falletta, and Andrew Litton. His 2013-2014 season solo engagements include a performance with the Midland Symphony Orchestra (Michigan) of “Under an Indigo Sky,” a violin concerto written for him by composer Edward Hart. Other performances include conducting the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Pops Series in January 2014 and leading the Charleston Symphony Chamber Orchestra Series.


Violist DANIELLE FARINA enjoys a varied career as soloist, chamber musician, orchestral musician, teacher, and recording artist in both the classical and pop genres. As a soloist, she recently recorded Jon Bauman’s Viola concerto with the Moravian Philharmonic, Andy Teirstein’s Viola Concerto with the Kyiv Philharmonic, and premiered Peter Schickele’s Viola Concerto with the Pasadena Symphony. As a member of the Lark Quartet, she toured extensively in North America, Europe, and Scandinavia, performing at some of the most prestigious venues and festivals, including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institute, Schleswig Holstein, and the International Istanbul Music Festival. Currently a member of the Elements Quartet, she participated in the Tibor Varga Festival in Budapest, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival in Detroit, was in residence at Utah Valley State College, and premiered “Snapshots,” a project commissioning dozens of composers ranging from Regina Carter to Angelo Badalamenti to John Corigliano and many more. She also performs with a number of ensembles in the New York area, including the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Concertante, and American Modern Ensemble (AME), with whom she recorded the music of Robert Paterson, and Music from Copland House, with whom she recorded the music of John Musto. An active teacher, she is on the faculty of Vassar College and the Juilliard School Pre-College Division.

AMY Sue - Copy

Cellist AMY SUE BARSTON has performed as a soloist and chamber musician on stages throughout the world, including Carnegie Hall, Ravinia, Caramoor, Bargemusic, Haan Hall (Jerusalem), the Banff Centre (Canada), International Musicians Seminar (England), Power House (Australia), and Chicago’s Symphony Center. At seventeen she appeared as soloist with the Chicago Symphony on live television, won the Grand Prize in the Society of American Musicians’ Competition, and First Place and the Audience Prize in the Fischoff International Chamber Music competition. Since then, she has performed as soloist with the Chicago Symphony, Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Prometheus Chamber Orchestra, Rockford Symphony, and the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, among many others. This past season, she gave thirty solo recitals and master classes, spanning from New York to New Zealand. She is artistic director of the Canandaigua Lake Music Festival in New York and the cellist of the Corigliano Quartet, which was hailed by Strad Magazine as having “abundant commitment and mastery,” and whose recent Naxos CD was named one of the top two recordings of the year by both The New Yorker and Gramophone Magazine. She also performs regularly in duos, trios, and quartets with the world’s most celebrated fiddler, Mark O’Connor, and with Trio Vela, a piano trio in residence at Bargemusic. She has performed sonatas and chamber music with many of the world’s leading musicians, including Leon Fleisher, Jon Kimura Parker, Arnold Steinhardt, Bernard Greenhouse, and Ani Kavafian. A devoted teacher, some of her students commute from as far away as Alaska and Japan.

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“Music at the Institute” was sponsored by the Ukrainian Institute of America, 2 East 79th Street, New York, NY

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