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Bandura: The Soul of Ukraine



Event Type(s): Arts / Theatre / Music
Organization: Standing Rock Cultural Arts
Description: Standing Rock Cultural Arts'
"Around the World" Music Series
~~~Bandura: The Soul of Ukraine~~~
a solo recital by bandurist/vocalist Oleh Mahlay
with a showing of the documentary film Music of Survival: The Story of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus by Orest Sushko
8:00 p.m., Saturday, January 13, 2018
North Water Street Gallery
300 N. Water Street, Suite H
Kent, Ohio
$10 suggested donation (or pay what you can)
preceded by 7:30 p.m. meet-and-greet featuring light food and drinks

The 60-string bandura, a zither-like instrument with a crystalline tone, has been called “The Soul of Ukraine.” Formerly played by itinerant blind bards called kobzari, who served as the conscience of their nation, the bandura and its tradition were nearly extinguished over the past century due to rigorous Soviet oppression and the disruption of the Second World War. Bandura performer/vocalist Oleh Mahlay, a proud inheritor of this tradition who serves as the artistic director and conductor of the North American-based Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus, will introduce listeners to this magical instrument and its compelling history.

As a special bonus, the evening will also include a showing of a documentary film entitled Music of Survival: The Story of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus (dir. Orest Sushko, 2014; 60 min with English narration and subtitles.), which illustrates the bandurist as bard, as seer, as spiritual emissary for the soul of the Ukrainian people, then and now, in Ukraine and beyond. This film, which took 10 years to produce, was a labor of love for Orest Sushko, an Emmy-winning Hollywood re-recording mixer who has mixed seven films for director David Cronenberg, as well as films by Barry Sonnenfeld and Guillermo del Toro. More recently, Sushko was accepted as a Fulbright Specialist, and invited to Ukraine to speak on film production and post production as well as screen the film as part of Fulbright’s 25th Anniversary in Ukraine. The film was shown to wide acclaim in cities and universities across the country in the fall of 2017.

About the performer:

Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1969 to Ukrainian immigrants, Oleh Mahlay began to study the piano at the age of five. He studied violin, music theory and form at the Cleveland Music School Settlement where he received scholarships for his studies. Mahlay also studied piano with Dr. George Cherry of Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music. His violin teachers included Elmer Seltzer of the Cleveland Orchestra and Jeannette Drinkold-Meyer, a student of renowned violinist Josef Gingold.

Beginning in his early teens, Mr. Mahlay earned outstanding marks at various competitions on both the violin and the piano. At the 1986 Baldwin Wallace Conservatory Summer Music Clinic in Berea, Ohio, he won the piano competition, performing Mozart's Piano Concerto in G Major, K. 453 with orchestra. He repeated this feat the next year in which he performed Beethoven's Piano Concert No. 1 in C Major. He also played in various youth orchestra at the Baldwin Wallace Preparatory Department, and in 1987 was honored as the Outstanding Preparatory Student of the Year. That same year he was also the piano soloist in Beethoven's Choral Fantasy with the Parma Symphony Orchestra. He was also a member of the first violin section of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra in its inaugural season.

Mahlay received a bachelor of arts in music history and literature from Case Western Reserve University. He studied voice and piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He served as the concertmaster of the University Circle Chamber Orchestra for four years. During his undergraduate studies, the university awarded him the Kennedy Prize for Creative Achievement in Music, and the Charles E. Clemens Prize for Talent and Accomplishment in Music. He is also a member of the Pi Kappa Lambda music honorary society at CIM and CWRU. Mr. Mahlay was a magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate.

In 1988, Mr. Mahlay attended the Bolzano Institute of Music in Bolzano, Italy. There, he concentrated on piano chamber works and accompanying. The previous two years he participated in a choral conducting seminar in Edmonton, Canada. This workshop was run by Maestro Wolodymyr Kolesnyk, formerly of the Kyiv Opera and artistic director of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus for over a decade.

At the age of 16, Mr. Mahlay became the choir director of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, Ohio. This position was held for many years by the late Hryhory Kytasty - Ukrainian composer, bandura player, Artistic Director of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus, and musical mentor to Oleh Mahlay. This post gave Mahlay the opportunity at a very young age to explore and gain insights into the art of choral conducting and the mystical sounds of Slavic sacred music. Mr. Mahlay also has orchestral conducting experience, once serving as the assistant conductor for the Parma Symphony Orchestra.

Mahlay began his bandura studies at the age of 15. In 1988, he began his long association with the annual Kobzarska Sich Bandura Camp in Emlenton, Pennsylvania, where he has served as conductor, lecturer, and music director over the years. He became a member of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus in 1987.

Maestro Mahlay was selected as artistic director in 1996 at the age of 26, the youngest in the history of the ensemble. His seven recordings with the UBC, Ukrainian Steppe, A Bandura Christmas, Golden Echoes of Kyiv: The Divine Liturgy, European Tour: Historic Live Recordings, Bayda, 1659, and Brothers! We Shall LIve! have earned artistic acclaim both in North America as well as in Ukraine. These recordings, as well as the group's current repertoire, feature some of the conductor's own compositions and arrangements.

Mr. Mahlay is a practicing attorney in the Cleveland, Ohio region. He continues to teach voice and bandura, lectures frequently on various musical topics, and conducts workshops throughout North America and remains active in the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus sponsored Kobzarska Sich bandura and vocal camp held in August every year.

During his first tenure with the UBC from 1996-2008, Mahlay directed the ensemble in seven concert tours throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Ukraine. Collaborative efforts with the Vesnivka Women's Choir of Toronto and Metropolitan Opera Soloist Paul Plishka also highlighted Mahlay's first term in addition to many special performances including the Stratford Summer Music Festival (2004) and at the Baldwin Wallace College World Music Series (2007).

Maestro Mahlay returned to the UBC as Artistic Director and Conductor on August 1, 2012.

More about the film:

Music of Survival is delivered with English narration and subtitles for the Ukrainian speakers and also includes the participation of today's most influential and talented bandura performers. The story of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus is one of courage and true grita vivid chronicle that celebrates the human spirit. This is the triumphant story of the original 17 members of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus who survived World War II as a musical ensemble. The film brings out the deepest roots of a fragile tradition, celebrating the resiliency of a music culture that has survived centuries. Set against the backdrop of the war itself, the story reveals the ways that music and musicians are used and abused by political regimes.

The film provides an educational, informative and compelling perspectivethe personal stories of the last two survivors intercut with the collective history of the bandura throughout the ages. Interwoven with contemporary musical performances, the film illustrates the bandurist as bard, as seer, as spiritual emissary for the soul of the Ukrainian people, then and now, in Ukraine and beyond.

Oleh Mahlay websites:

Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus websites:

Music of Survival websites:

Music of Survival trailer:

* * * * *

The North Water Street Gallery is conveniently located just a block north of the intersection of Main and Water Streets in Kent, Ohio, with free street parking on both sides of the street. Seating is limited, so arrive early for the best seats.

Established in 2015, the "Around the World" Music Series is a concert series presenting outstanding musicians from diverse cultures in an intimate setting.

Concerts are held approximately every other month in the new theater space of the North Water Street Gallery in downtown Kent, Ohio.

The series is an initiative of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, and is curated by ethnomusicologist David Badagnani. The series is made possible by the support of Drs. Terry E. and Sara Stone Miller and the Ohio Arts Council.

Facebook event page:

Standing Rock Cultural Arts Facebook page:

Standing Rock Cultural Arts official site:
Address: North Water Street Gallery
300 N. Water Street, Suite H
Kent, Ohio 44240
Contact Name: David Badagnani
Contact Phone: 330-673-1352
Contact Email: davidbadagnani@yahoo.com
Date: Saturday, 1/13/2018
Start Time: 8:00 PM
End Time: 10:00 PM
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