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Eastern Voices: Traditional Carols for Orthodox Christmas from Russia, Ukraine and Poland


East Warsaw Ensemble will perform traditional Christmas carols from different parts of Russia, Ukraine and Poland.  The repertoire of the concert will include both canonical lyrics about Virgin Mary and nativity themes, as well as some interesting traditional Christmas well-wishing songs.  These were often sung outdoors, or at someone’s door, to bring good luck and a healthy crop to the host in the coming year. Other category of Christmas repertoire are wishing carols for a girl to get married soon – there will be some examples of such songs as well. Moreover, East Warsaw will sing some most beautiful lyrical songs.

Musically, traditional carols represent the whole range of styles: from archaic heterophony, through polyphonic structures, to most sublimated church-like sounds.

The variety of styles is united by traditional way of singing: with an open, unconstrained voice, full of energy, not hidden behind an instrument or an orchestra.  Some of the songs were reconstructed from Polish and Russian archives, some of them - learnt from local singers during field expeditions: “Music is then transmitted naturally – by learning, singing together, absorbing it, not forgetting about the most precious source – the village musician who opened his or her world to us”.

This will be the second concert of the East Warsaw Ensemble at Pushkin House.


East Warsaw ensemble documents, reconstructs and performs Polish, Ukrainian and Russian traditional folk music. Amongst the repertoire of the group are songs recorded during field trips in Ukrainian Polissya, southern Russia (Belgorod Oblast), and in Poland. 

The members of East Warsaw have been singing folk music since 1999, when they first met, united by their fascination for the ancient musical traditions. The group aims to preserve the unique vocal styles and traditional repertoire of the Eastern-Slavonic music culture. Polish, Ukrainian and Russian music archives remain very important sources of information; the most important inspiration however is the contact with local artists – singers of older generations, whom the members of the ensemble have been visiting for many years.

East Warsaw ensemble has organised and taken part in various cultural projects, in 2014 its new album was released, with Russian field recordings and East Warsaw studio session. Recently the group participated in big concerts with Polish repertoire - in the Royal Castle in Warsaw at Mazurkas of the World festival, as well as in the Warsaw Ethnographic Museum. Moreover East Warsaw ensemble had many times performed in Poland (including festivals: Crossroads Festival in Krakow, Mazurkas of the World in Warsaw, Songs of our Roots in Jarosław, The Oldest Songs of Europe festival in Lublin), and abroad (in Moscow, Petersburg, Paris, Odense in Denmark, and London).

Members of the group: Justyna Piernik, Joanna Górska, Ewa Grochowska, Anna Jakowska, Jagna Knittel, Taras Shumeyko, Cezary Szymański, Monika Walenko-Ili-Tsang.