Marco Levytsky, Western Bureau Chief.
Lviv singer Oksana Mukha enthralled her Edmonton audience with a standout performance at MacEwan University’s Triffo Theatre, August 20.
The performance was organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council, which also sponsored a concert in Calgary the following evening.
Winner of the 9th Season of The Voice musical competition in Ukraine, Mukha takes her inspiration from the renowned Ukrainian American singer Kvitka Cisyk, who died of breast cancer on March 29, 1998, six days before her 45th birthday.
Although she recorded only two solo albums of Ukrainian music, Cisyk’s work was so much highly treasured in Ukraine that a yearly music festival is held in her name and a street was named for her in Lviv.
“Those people who leave us, their souls need to be remembered. When we remember her, she’s somewhere near us” said Mukha during an interview with Opinionus.com, May 24.
And the spirit of Cisyk permeated Mukha’s concert as she opened her with Ihor Shamo’s “De ty teper” (Where Are You Now), the lead track of Cisyk’s second album, “Dva kol’ory” (Two Colours). As in many of the pieces she would perform, Mukha maintained much of Cisyk’s instrumental arrangements in her recorded accompaniment.
After a heartfelt tribute in which she stated Cisyk “opened up an extraordinary planet of song”, Mukha broke into the lead track of Cisyk’s first album, “Songs of Ukraine”, “Ivanku”.
She followed with “Handzya” from the first and “Oy ne svity misiachen’ku” (A Song to the Moon) from the second, before launching into Mykola Mozhovy’s “U hory idu” (I Go to the Mountains).
Bubbling along with a charming exuberance, she was to round off her first set with a variety of songs including a Lemko number, Viktor Morozov’s “Zharivka” (Light Bulb), and brought out a guitar for accompaniment at one point before closing with yet another Cisyk number “Nich yaka Hospody, misiachna, zoriana” (Oh God, What a Moonlit Night), sung A Capella.
Guest artists, the Ruta Band which operates under the auspices of the Ukrainian Women’s Organization, Edmonton Branch, then came on to perform three numbers, before Mukha returned with yet another Cisyk piece “Teche richka” (The River Flows).
A highlight of her second set was an exuberant rendition of the popular folk song “Oy chorna ya sy chorna” (How Black am I) in which she invited the audience to participate, which they did with great enthusiasm.
After another folk favourite, “Teche voda kalamutna” (The Muddy Water Flows), she rendered an emotional tribute to the martyred Volodymyr Ivasiuk with “Ya pidu v daleki hory” (I Will Go to the Distant Mountains), yet another Cisyk recording.
Bringing out her violin, an instrument she studied at the Lviv Musical College, she then delivered a moving tribute to the soldiers fighting for Ukraine’s sovereignty in the Donbas. Mukha works with Iryna Vashchuk – the head of the foundation Revived Soldiers Ukraine to raise money for the rehabilitation of Ukrainian soldiers, and the proceeds of her concerts in North America go to fund that foundation.
After yet another Cisyk song, Ihor Bilozir’s ”Kokhanyi” (Loved one) she closed off with a poignant “Diakuyu” (Thank You), but a thunderous standing ovation brought her back for an encore with Ivasiuk’s signature “Chervona ruta” (The Red Rue) to which the audience responded with the chorus and a symbolic lighting of their cell phones in tribute.