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The Ivasyuk song contest in Chernivtsi

 

The city of Chernivtsi in Western Ukraine was the venue of a song festival and a song contest rolled into one. It was dedicated to the memory of Volodymyr Ivasyuk, the Ukrainian songster of wide fame who tragically died when still quite young. The festival is a regular occasion and is named after him. This year it was held for the ninth time. Since 1999 it has been an international event.

 

The participants of the festival were young singers who came from all over Ukraine and from Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Rumania and from the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan. All the songs performed at the festival are supposed to be the Ukrainian ones, with at least one song written by Ivasyuk to be performed by each of the contestants. I had a very special feeling listening to songs performed in Ukrainian by singers from other countries.

The Ivasyuk Song Contests are organized by Mykola Mozgovy, a composer and president of the Ivasyuk Ukrainian Artistic Fund (Mozgovy and Ivasyuk were good friends; Mozgovy says that the contest is not a commercial venture but a tribute to the friend organized to promote young talented singers). The director of the contest is Violettea Mozgova, Mykola Mozgovys wife; the art director is Olena Mozgova, Mykola Mozgovys daughter. Even the young daughters of Olena Mozgova and Oleksandr Ponomaryov hand in the prizes. The Mozgovy family also regularly organizes another festival  The Sea of Friends in Yalta, the Crimea. Oleksandr Ponomaryov, now a popular singer, is a regular member of the jury. He won the contest in 1995 and this victory launched his pop-singers career.

The participants and journalists were taken on a tour to the museum which used to be Ivasyuks apartment. The tour guide told them the story of his life. There are many photographs of Ivasyuk in the museum taken at various times of his life. In many of them he can be seen on his travels to the Caucasus, the Carpathians, and the Crimean Mountains. He loved hiking in the mountains and was said to have visited every little corner of the Carpathians. In addition to enjoying the sights, he talked to the locals, wrote down their legends and songs, and later used some of the folk tunes to transform them into his own songs. His probably best known songs  Vodohray, Chervona Ruta and Ya pidu v daleki hory bear the imprint of folk tunes. After the tour the festival participants laid flowers at the bas-relief depicting Ivasyuk.

In addition to the museum, the participants and journalists were taken on other tours: to the Khotyn Fortress, to the Carpathian Mountains, to the Petrivsky Fair. The most daring took a swim in the fast waters of the Cheremosh River, and the whole company enjoyed meals made up of local national dishes. In the city itself, the sites visited included the university which occupies the premises of what used to be the residence of the local metropolitans, one of the architectural landmarks of Chernivtsi.

The Ivasyuk Song Contest lasted for several days on the stage erected in the Central Park. In the background hang the portrait of the smiling Ivasyuk who will always remain young. In the audience there were his age peers who are now 55.

Ivasyuks songs live on though they are performed in a manner different from the one which was popular in his days, and the reaction of the audiences is also slightly different. Every performer is free to interpret Ivasyuks song in his or her own personal manner. Frankly, I was slightly disappointed by the fact that out of Ivasyuks vast legacy of songs (about 120 of them), only a dozen most popular ones were chosen to be performed. Incidentally, the jury was of the same opinion  at the Ivasyuk song contest the contestants should perform as many of his songs as possible. The head of jury, Mykola Mozgovy, admitted to me that he hoped that this time the main prizes would be awarded to Ukrainian singers rather than to foreign ones like it happened several times before. He also expressed concern over the dominance of female voices at the contest  Ivasyuk meant his songs to be performed mostly by male singers!

But personal wishes and concerns were put aside when the contest began. The jury as always did their collective best to be as objective and fair as possible. There were three stages at the contest which at the third stage produced a short list of eight singers. Among them the best were awarded. The third place went to Sherzod Davronov from Uzbekistan; the second place was awarded to Stefka Toncheva from Bulgaria and the first place was won by Volodymyr Kvasnytsya from Donetsk, Ukraine. Other awards went to Olha Ivanova from Chernivtsi, Ukraine; Seryzhan Zhanakhmetov and Zhadra Tulehenova from Uzbekistan; Kremena Kryaklova from Bulgaria, and Maryana Sobol from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Kvasnytsyas talent and excellence of performance were so obvious that there was hardly any doubt as to who would win. Lets hope he will get enough promotion in Ukraine to become a popular singer.

The gala concert held at the closing of the festival involved the winners of the contest, members of the jury and well-known pop singers who were invited to join in. Ivasyuks song, Pisnya bude pomizh nas (The Song Will Always Remain With Us) was performed at the end of the concert by all the participants who joined their voices in a moving chorus.

 

More photos

By Natalya Obolenska

Photos by Oleksandr Burkovsky

 

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