It is fitting that violinist Carissa Klopoushak will make her solo debut with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO) at Saturday’s Ukrainian-themed concert.
Klopoushak is of Ukrainian-Canadian heritage and is the lead singer and violinist in the Ukrainian band Тут і Там, which has performed at every major Ukrainian festival across Canada and recently toured Ukraine.
Klopoushak, who grew up in Saskatoon, also has a long history with the SSO. She played as a member of the orchestra from 1998 to 2006, spending three years as the principal second violin before leaving for graduate school.
Saturday’s Ukrainian Oratorio concert will mark Klopoushak’s return to the SSO stage — but it will be her first time as the soloist.
“It’s a real privilege,” she said.
“To play for a hometown audience is always great . . . And I think it’s made extra special because I’ll be sharing the stage with so many friends.”
Klopoushak currently performs with many chamber groups, including the newly formed Ironwood Quartet, and joined Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra in September 2014.
She holds a doctorate in violin performance from McGill University, with her dissertation focusing on the little-known violin repertoire by Ukrainian composers.
However, she will not be performing a Ukrainian piece at the SSO concert; rather, she is a Ukrainian-Canadian musician who will help bring to life Emily Doolittle’s Sapling. It is a Canadian concerto work for violin and orchestra that the composer has said conjures up imagery of a sapling swaying and bending in the wind.
Klopoushak said the third movement of the piece represents the sapling bursting into leaves and flowers — something people in the audience will likely connect with, given that spring is just around the corner.
“It explores different colours in the orchestra. It’s definitely kind of poetic like that,” she said.
Also on the evening’s program is Golden Harvest, a new oratorio written by Larysa Kuzmenko to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Ukrainian immigration to Canada. Golden Harvest will feature local soprano Kateryna Khartova, who is originally from Ukraine, in her orchestral debut. As well, the audience will hear Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17, which also fits well with the rest of the concert.
“There’s a nice little Ukrainian theme running through the program, because Tchaikovsky’s family background was Ukrainian — although he is often recognized as a Russian composer. But much of his music uses themes, and this one is often called the Little Russian or the Ukrainian Symphony because it has lots of really famous Ukrainian folk songs in it,” Klopoushak said.
While she won’t be performing a Ukrainian composition on Saturday, Klopoushak often has that opportunity with her long-time band Тут і Там. The band, which was formed in 2003, has released four albums. Last summer, Тут і Там toured Ukraine for more than two weeks, playing at small pubs and large festivals there. Klopoushak said it was “an amazing experience.”
“It’s a band that my brother is in, as well as other guys that have become my brothers, and so that’s always had a special place in my heart,” she said.
While Klopoushak is involved in a number of musical endeavours, she continues to maintain close ties to the Prairies and to Saskatoon. For example, she is an artistic director of the annual Ritornello Chamber Music Festival, an event that aims to provide Saskatchewan audiences with opportunities to hear innovative concerts performed by young Canadian musicians. This year, Ritornello will be held on May 11, 12 and 14, and will feature Klopoushak’s Ironwood Quartet, from Ottawa, as well as pianist Jon Kimura Parker.
The SSO’s Ukrainian-themed concert is scheduled for Saturday, March 25, at 7:30 p.m. at TCU Place. Tickets are available online at tcutickets.ca.