Lemon Bucket Orkestra : Bringing Ukrainian Music to Others

On August 3, 2014, the New Pathway sat down with Lemon Bucket Orkestra (LBO) ring leader Mark Marchyk for an update on their biggest coast-to-coast tour of Canada:
NP: When did the tour start?
MM: We started in Windsor on June 19th. So we’ve been going ever since then, we’ve been back to Toronto for 2 or 3 days but we’re going strong until the middle of September. We do come back in August to do the Ashkenaz Festival (Aug. 30-31) but we also go to Guelph (Sept. 6) and Orillia (Sept. 7) and between those two dates we’re recording in Waterloo. So we will have been gone from June 20th to September 14th.
NP: It’s literally a coast to coast tour of Canada?
MM: Yeah! We’ve done Halifax twice, we’ve played Montreal, we did Ottawa. In Halifax we did the Multicultural Festival and the Halifax Jazz Festival and in Montreal we did the Montreal Jazz Festival. In Ontario we did the Sun Fest in London and Northern Lights in Sudbury…We also did a Serbian festival in Windsor. We then went to Calgary to check out the Stampede. But what we found was that we got way more connected to the cycling community…people that are into integrated community spaces and so we created a big community event with them that was a lot more fulfilling than any busking we did outside of the stampede grounds. And then we went to Edmonton and worked with the St. John’s Institute which was really fantastic. We did go to Banff to do a show and out to Vancouver for the Vancouver Folk Fest which was huge and they received us really well. And the Mission Folk Festival which was also great…
We’re going back to Montreal now and heading up to Gaspe (Aug. 8-10) for a festival and a few small hostel dates on the way up to the coast and back down to Sherbrooke (Aug. 14-16) and to St. Donat to perform and take part in a series of workshops where we’ll be learning more about the Klezmer music tradition and Hebrew cantorial stuff…The Guelph Jazz festival is actually really renown, so we’re excited to get over there and we’ll be doing a night-time thing there, like a midnight parade sort of thing. And that would have been three months on the road.
NP: Have to been in contact with the Ukrainian community throughout Canada?
MM: Yeah, everywhere we go we’ve been in touch with Ukrainian communities and trying to help them promote with what we’re doing. The most helpful was St. John’s Institute in Edmonton – they put together a full show and they housed us…We actually played after a great Cuban touring act and it was great that they were reaching out and facilitating a space that not only we could express Ukrainian culture but that it would be put on alongside other cultures of the world…
In Ottawa, we connected with Pokrova – which is an organization that runs a summer camp for kids and we performed with them as part of the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival that is run by Roman Borys, a really influential Ukrainian-Canadian chamber music and classical music musician. He brought us in to make this community engaging parade through the ByWard Market and we included Pokrova and did some stuff with their camp and their women’s singing group…We also did some dance workshops as well there.
In all of the festivals that we’ve been visiting we’ve explained a little bit about where the music comes from, where the dances comes from – and we have a chance to show the people the traditional village folk dances. The goal has been to get the Ukrainian culture out to people beyond the Diaspora groups so it creates a context for people to celebrate the Ukrainian culture everyone – even in their mainstream, everyday lives. Especially in the summer when they’re out celebrating nature and enjoying their families [and] celebrating everything about the Ukrainian and eastern European culture. In Mission, we played with Boris Sichon – he’s an amazing Ukrainian, multi-talented instrumentalist who lives in Dnipropetrovsk. He can play on anything and that was a really great workshop since he build a marimba-cymbaly and we sang Ukrainian tunes with him. And people were really excited about that collaboration because it’s with a guy they love and know over there collaborating with an internationally touring act.
NP: Did you get a chance to sing songs from the Lemonchiki’s Ukraine tour?
MM: I’ve done them a little, but not so much except for ‘Plyve Kacha’ that we’ll sing once in a while. What’s really important to Lemon Bucket is to bring people together through a variety of contexts. We like to explore the spaces that we perform in. So, if we’re doing a concert show, we’ll like to break the barrier between the audience and performer. We’ll come off stage and create an inclusive, welcoming environment where people no longer feel like they’re just watching a show but are part of a cultural experience.
But apart from that, when we’ve been at these festivals, we’ve really scoped out various spots so we can change the way people think about those spaces. In many cases, the festivals have existed for many years and there have been these set stages that people set up. But we try to go further and say: ‘this whole space is a stage, this whole space is a place to perform and engage in your culture, it doesn’t have to be a place to come to once a year.’ So we try to find those places and bring a different energy to it, sometimes it’s a loud, boisterous party and other times it’s an intimate moment.
What we’ve been doing at some of the festivals is finding the really quiet, intimate spaces and then getting people to sit down and tell them that we’re celebrating a culture that comes from Ukraine and what’s happening in Ukraine right now is that there are a lot of people living in a situation where they can’t express that. Not necessarily because they’re being stopped from doing that but because they’re in the middle of a war and priorities change. And I know of several examples of that: several talented musicians who are volunteering their time in hospitals or have gone to the front lines or have become part of the National Guard or are helping with social media to get the dis-information out…So we try to pay homage to that as people in a country where musicians are supported by the festivals and culture has an opportunity to thrive. We want to pay homage to the people that are fighting in a place where that isn’t the case.
There’s three really great spaces where we brought people to an intimate space and sat them down and told them about what’s happening in Ukraine and said ‘we want to sing a song for all of those people…who have had to sacrifice this thing that we’re sharing now in order to survive.’ So those moments have been very special and emotional and in every one of those instances you can hear a pin drop. Not only because of the song and the emotion we bring to it and the context but also because of those spaces because it really makes people appreciate the country we live in.
One of the places we did it was in Pier 21 in Halifax…This is the place where Ukrainians first landed. I saw the names of my grandparents and my family up there on the wall when they came here when they fleeing the Second World War. And it’s a culturally and politically loaded place. We were out there with the ships and shipping containers and out on the pier and we got everyone out there to sing.
Another moment was on the opposite side of the coast after a great show at the Vancouver Folk Festival at Jericho beach and we brought everyone down to the beach…It’s a huge beach with massive logs set up as benches and there’s boats lit up all over the harbour. And if you look one way you see the city…and if you look straight you see mountains and if you look left it’s the beach, boats and ocean. It was a really beautiful space and right in front of you there’s woods. So it’s a completely overwhelming place of natural beauty where we got a chance to bring people down and sing a song for them there.
We did the same thing in Ottawa on Major’s Hill with the girls from Pokrova while there was a big fireworks displace which was really emotional for me having been on the Maidan during the time when protesters were using fireworks to defend themselves. So that was a particularly difficult one to get through…

The second part of our interview with Mark Marchyk will be available in next week’s edition. But for more information on their touring dates, venues and any other useful information please see their website: www.lemonbucketorkestra.com

 

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