“Christmas is Rizdvo” – Ukrainian Carols in Global Context

Myroslava Stadnyk, Toronto.

Just in time for Christmas, the Ukrainian-Canadian singer-songwriter YANA (Yana Bilyk) released her first Christmas album, the self-titled “Christmas is Rizdvo”. The five-song album was recorded last year in Regina, SK. It was sponsored by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Saskatchewan Provincial Council, and includes talented musicians who have previously worked with Serena Ryder. On December 14, 2014, YANA celebrated her debut album with a concert at the Toronto’s venue, the Piston.

For the CD, YANA compiled some of the most popular Ukrainian Christmas carols, and re-arranged them in jazz, pop and lounge-inspired styles. For her, Christmas holds a special meaning – as “…(she) always loved the rich melodies of Ukrainian carols, since (she) was a child… remembering how (she) used to spend time at her grandparents’ house.”

YANA also pointed out that for her, it is important to stay close to her heritage in another country (Canada) – as it is both comforting and an honour. For that reason, she decided to record a Christmas album in Ukrainian.

At the same time, YANA explained that she wanted to appeal to a broader audience, and hoped to present the Ukrainian traditional carols within a world context by arranging these koliadky and schedrivky in various styles.

“Christmas is Rizdvo” has some Christmas favourites with original arrangements, including “Schedryk”
and “Silent Night”. The CD also includes YANA’s original song, “Christmas Time in Town”. YANA’s unique arrangements of Christmas tunes feature vocal harmonies, accompanied by keyboard, acoustic and electric guitars, bass and hits of percussion.

“I wanted to re-create the Christmas carols in a fresh, easy-listening style,” YANA said. “This album includes a variety of instruments, which are associated with the Ukrainian carols, especially the acoustic guitar – but I also wanted to further put everyone in a holiday spirit by introducing a bit of a twist and jazzy feeling to those melodies.” As well, YANA added that she also included a violin accompaniment on a few tunes – which were heard during the CD release event.

Since YANA moved to Toronto over a year ago from Regina, she has put together a band with whom she launched an album and continuously performs. It consists of six talented musicians: Igor Kurtzman on keyboard, Constantin Necrasov on guitar, Myroslav Bileychuk on bass, Eskender Bekmambetov on violin, Stefan Hegerat on drums and percussion – together with herself as vocals and on keyboard.

To celebrate the release, the band also played YANA’s newer tunes, such as “Jealous” and “Leave Me Now”. “We wanted to keep the show lively, and had tunes played in English as well,” said YANA. “Also, we were happy to see many familiar faces and we were really glad to know we have so many new fans as well.”
In the interview, YANA added that: “It was an intimate show and an intimate CD release.” She thought everyone there had a really good time and she thanked everyone who is buying her album and supporting her music.

During the CD release event, a local singer-songwriter Alissa Vox Raw opened the night with a performance on vocals and guitar, whose styles of music range from jazz, soul, roots reggae to modern indie rock, garage and new wave. “I wanted something lively and engaged for an opening act, and I was absolutely thrilled for Alissa Vox Raw to be featured as a guest artist, as her music is truly unique and it entails so many genres,” said YANA.

Alissa Vox Raw uses a loop pedal and her voice to create rich tapestries of sound, organically building harmonic parts. Some of the songs performed were: “Don’t Keep Me Waiting”, “The Train’s Call”, “You See Me Coming”, “Absence” and “Still Feel You”.

The artist said during an interview that: “It was an amazing show with such a warm audience and a great feeling in the air!” She also added that she really enjoyed performing at the Piston, and loved YANA’s set. Alissa Vox Raw said that she thought that “… YANA’s songs captivated the audience and every musician was so on point. It just all worked beautifully together and the crowd loved it!” “Thank you to the Piston for allowing us to hold the event there. Thank you to my band members, and guests,” said YANA.

In a post-show interview, YANA added that she felt very appreciative of her sponsors, specifically the Ukrainian Credit Union Limited and their Head of Marketing Yuriy Diakunchak, for seeing the talent and providing support to young artists with a Ukrainian heritage. The event ended with a performance of YANA’s “Christmas Time in Town”.

YANA plans to continue performing at local venues in the coming months, including as the Cameron House. She can also be heard during the upcoming Lemko Malanka 2015 and Lemko Schedryj Vechir.

A copy of her CD, “Christmas is Rizdvo” can be downloaded on YANA’s website: www.yanabilyk.com and through iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/christmas-is-rizdvo-ep/id947898943. The album can be purchased at KAOS Music, Yevshan, Koota Ooma and Bukva. To get updates from YANA, ‘like’ her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/yanabilyk

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