This weekend, a recital presents attendees the opportunity to discover rarely heard, richly crafted art songs.
“Liubov- Ukrainian Art Songs of the Heart and Soul” draws on a treasure trove of music assembled as part of the Ukrainian Art Song Project (UASP).
Founded in 2004 by bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka, the UASP is a ground-breaking initiative that aims to record and publish a veritable anthology of over 1,000 art songs by 26 of Ukraine’s greatest composers for distribution to the music world.
In addition to recordings, UASP presents more than 300 art songs available for download, free of charge, as part of their mandate to encourage the performance and awareness of the music.
“For me, my background is Ukrainian, so it’s personal but also I feel like this music is so underrepresented,” says soprano Katherine Mayba, who has organized the recital.
A master’s student at the Desautels Faculty of Music studying with Tracy Dahl, Mayba hopes to have these Ukrainian songs join the standard canon of German lieder, French chansons and English art songs.
“The (Ukrainian) people that were composing, they went to all these European institutes and then found their own voice,” she says. “Ukrainian music deserves to be there, to be celebrated and championed on the world stage.”
Arguably, the most recognizable form of Ukrainian music draws on folk idioms – shared through dance, music ensembles and early pioneers who immigrated and brought folk songs with them to new lands. This music, however, presents “sophisticated writing” in the Western classical tradition, says Mayba.
“It’s infused with such incredible counterpoint and lyricism,” she says, noting that the recital will present a range of composers from the Romantic era right up to the present day.
As part of the UASP imitative, Mayba travelled twice (2019 and 2022) to Toronto to participate in the weeklong Summer Institute which gives vocalists and collaborative pianists the opportunity to explore the rich style and variety of Ukrainian repertoire.
"For me, it’s really an aim by doing these concerts, and recordings and touring, that you demonstrate that Ukrainian culture is rich, distinctive and resilient.”
Featuring sopranos Katherine Mayba and Kasia Swintak, alongside pianists Megan Dufrat and Héctor Pinzón, “Liubov- Ukrainian Art Songs of the Heart and Soul” takes place at St. Andrew’s River Heights United Church (255 Oak St.) on Saturday, May 13 beginning at 2pm.
Admission is free, though a donation to the Ukrainian humanitarian appeal is encouraged.