Concert of the group "Drevo", Riga,
April 25th 2004
On the Sunday afternoon following St. George's day, in the Small Guild, as is
customary in the Riga Music festival setting, the Ukrainian folklore
group Drevo (Tree) performed a concert. The group had already
performed in Latvia as part of the
folklore festival Baltica '03;
however, this evening would allow us to get to know them much further.
As stressed in Sergey Alyonkyn's introductory speech, the ensemble has both an
educated background (it is classed under the Kiev Conservatory) as well as a
link with ethnographic performance styles.
The group began with a song that they had named Oh, there is a tree in the
field. The second piece, a spring song, was performed by the female
members and the third was a psalm about searching for one's mother, followed
by a Cossack song about love (performed by the men).
All the songs were performed in beautiful melodic variations, but the ones
from the Poltava region had the most harmonies.
One of the ensemble's most striking members is Sergey Ofimchuk, who not only
sings the lower voices beautifully, but also plays the violin. During the
concert, he played three pieces - a Carpathian dance (his method of playing
that he learnt from real folk musicians, sounded truly authentic: one could
picture oneself in the Carpathian region listening to an old musician
playing), a wedding song (as an accompaniment to the female voices) and a
polka (which was slightly spoiled by the unconvincing tambourine accompaniment
but was noticeably enhanced by the jolly dancing couple from the group).
The majority of songs performed seemed mournful, even the ones introduced as
comedy songs. Most of them were in fact dedicated to sad occasions, for
example, unhappiness in love and even the poisoning of one's brother, and the
other songs sounded equally sorrowful. Who knows whether this really was the
case or if it just appeared so compared to some of the styles we are used to
It would be remiss not to mention the ensemble's leader, Kiev Conservatory's
professor Eugeny Efremov. It was evident from his behaviour on stage that he
displays a deep love of folk music, which is moving to observe. Emotion
aside, the performance's high level of professionalism taken together with the
love and work invested in it, and the fruits of its labour, commanded respect
from the listener.
Ukrainas vēstnieks Latvijā pateicas kopas dalībniekiem
So, Sergey Alyonkyn was right, the ensemble has managed to recover authentic
material without corrupting it, as well as achieving a high quality
performance. Real folk music enthusiasts could not fail to enjoy a show given
by this group. Still, sad (envious?) feelings cannot be avoided - such a
group does not exist in Latvia. And probably never will.
It was pleasant that the ensemble's leader addressed the audience in
Ukrainian. He did so slowly, translating more unusual words into Russian, so
that audience members would understand even without any prior knowledge of the
Article: Ansis Ataols Bērziņš, June 4th 2004
Photos: Ansis Ataols Bērziņš
Translation to English: Līvija Vārna-Uskale and Zinta Uskale