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7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope


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28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.

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Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.

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Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.

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Ukrainian Culture

Ukrainian Conductor Herman Makarenko

Womens Day, 8 March, is actually a relic of the Soviet era. While some Ukrainian women ignore the holiday and others are happy to receive flowers and chocolates on the occasion, the National Opera House has planned something sophisticated: a concert called the Declaration of Love, dedicated as much to the age-old celebration of the coming of spring as anything. Conductor Herman Makarenko sat down in his rehearsal room at the opera to talk about the problems and delights of working in classical music in Ukraine.

This years Declaration of Love concert is the fifth in history, and will include love-themed selections from the worlds great composers, including Bizet, Verdi, Puccini, Adam, Tchaikovsky and Lysenko. We wanted to make our declaration of love through different genres of classic music, Makarenko says. We wanted to combine the arts of opera, ballet and symphony music in one concert, to please everybody and satisfy all possible tastes. He adds, Weve chosen the very best pieces from the history of classical music. These are melodies that you cant help but like, music thats been tested over the course of hundreds of years.
Behind Makarenkos plan is a difficult project to attract to a classical music event people who dont ordinarily go for such things. I was once startled by what a teenager told me when he was invited to the National Opera to attend one of my concerts, says Makarenko. He said he would be laughed at if his friends knew he went to listen to classical music. I realised then that the generation reared on pop music is really afraid of the classical. Makarenko says the deep economic and social trauma that characterised the beginning of the 90s has much to do with why the young dont relate to classical music. That was an era when, out of necessity, people receded into material concerns and concentrated on the vital question of mere survival. I remember days, Makarenko says, when scientists and musicians got five to 10 dollars per month in salary. People didnt go to the theatre. They didnt even have enough money to buy food. Many musicians had to sell cigarettes at street markets. Today we see the result of those times: a young generation that doesnt go to the opera.
It doesnt help that a four-act opera or a three-act ballet requires concentration, something a three-minute pop song does not. Makarenko has responded by selecting only the most popular classical pieces, hoping to bring the catchier tunes of the tradition to a mass audience. Classical music can and should have a large audience. It had a large audience when it was written and in the Soviet days, he says. Im not against pop music, not by any stretch of the imagination, but pop should not be the only music we hear on the air. A listener should have a choice of the best of pop, folk, jazz, rock and classical.
The Soviet UNI0N was a great promoter of classical music, at least in part because its ideologists declared jazz, rock and other genres bourgeois. The whole country listened to and watched Swan Lake whenever a Soviet leader died. Special state departments decided and approved the repertoires of each theatre. I barely remember the constraints of those times, says Makarenko. I began my career in the National Opera House in 1987 as a prompter before becoming conductor. Honestly, I was so completely happy to be in the theatre I didnt care much about Soviet censorship or the laughable salaries of the 1990s.

A Musical Family
Makarenko was born to a theatre family. His father is an opera singer, his mother a ballet dancer. He spent his childhood running around the Lviv Opera House and dreamed of becoming a conductor starting at age three. Ever since hes been unable to live without music and the atmosphere of the theatre. The profession of conductor is probably the most difficult among all musical professions, but I didnt know that at age three. I thought then that conductors werent people but creatures from the heavens sent down to earth. Above all I wanted to be in the theatre and breathe the theatres special air. You know, when I got my first salary payment, I was sincerely surprised. I was getting paid for doing what I love to do.
Today Makarenko is one of Ukraines best-known conductors. Hes presided at concerts in some of the most respected music halls in Europe, Japan and the United States. Hes come to several conclusions about his profession. People of different countries and nations perceive the beauty of classical music in the same way, because classical music consists of algorithms that appeal to every human being. Its like a key to the human soul. But there is a difference in the way musicians work. American musicians are highly professional, they perform accurately and virtuosically. Ukrainian musicians play well, too, but they also have these Slavic emotions that they cant hide. They perform passionately.
Herman says the music still resonates with him after all these years. He knows all the scores he conducts by heart. He has no favourite composer. When I come out to play Verdi, hes my favourite, but when its Puccini, hes my favourite. You have to love Tchaikovsky, and as for Gulak-Artemovsky, I dont have the words. Herman says he is never tired of music, but nevertheless requires complete silence at home, a luxury hes increasingly without, thanks to his newborn twins (who listen to Mozart all day long, naturally).
At the end of our conversation, Makarenko describes his profession. During a concert the conductor has to start a fire in his heart, then pass that fire to the orchestra, choir and ballet troupe, blow it up until its a hundred times bigger and then throw it behind him the back to the audience. And then the fire ignites back there.

Kateryna Kyselyova

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didnt Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they dont understand the meaning of these words.


    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades childrens favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. Whats On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.

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