Two women performing on stage
Two women sit on stage with microphones holding a Ukrainian flag between them
A woman sitting on a bench with her knees up close to her chest, backlit by the sun
Two women perform in front of a crowd, lit by Christmas lights
A woman in traditional Ukrainian clothing, looking down with her hands on her chest
Two women in traditional Ukranian clothing standing in a forest looking at the camera


Season 8: 2025
Season 4: 2018
Available September-November 2025

Reaffirmation in a time of violence and resistance: Kurbasy’s urgent, time bending Songs of the Ukrainian Forest  

The idea of culture as a cosmic living organism is central to Kurbasy, whose folk-based multimedia performances vibrate in tight vocal harmonies, resonant lyrics, distinctive instrumentation, and phantasmagoric visual imagery. Kurbasy’s sonic-theatrical explorations of Ukraine’s rich trove of calendar songs, lullabies, and legends, conjure the natural world, beliefs, and rituals, channelling contemporary connections to an archaic past.

Songs of the Ukrainian Forest, was conceived by Kurbasy’s founders and friends of 24 years, actor-vocalists Natalia Rybka-Parkhomenko and Maria Oneschak, in a time of pandemic lockdown and then national invasion. The duo is performing the work at home and abroad as a polyphonic vocal piece while building the larger instrumental frame that will surround it on tour to the U.S. in 2025. 

The 14-song cycle draws on the repertoires of the Eastern, Central and Western Regions of Ukraine. The language varies according to the origin of the songs, for example those of the border regions with Poland are in Lemsky dialect, a mixture of Ukrainian and Polish. The lyrics tell stories of boys and girls, stories of love, joy, but also of war. “We want to affirm our loud and clear freedom, our love for our country and for our people,” said Mariia. “We want to show our independence and strength,” Natalia adds. 

Spring is summoned, the summer season is celebrated, wedding ceremonies are sung, and life stories told. Kurbasy envelops us in magical-musical charm. 



7 on tour: 5 vocalists and instrumentalists, sound and video engineers


Concert halls, theaters and other spaces with excellent acoustics and capacity for large scale video projection

2018 u.s. debut tour overview

Washington, DC - October 21-26

  • Kurbasy kicked off their Center Stage tour in Washington, DC with a welcome at the State Department, rehearsal time, and sightseeing. They performed to a full house at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage on October 24. 
  • On October 25, the group gave a lecture/demonstration at Howard University students at Childers Recital Hall. That evening, they presented an intimate, acoustic performance at the Hill Center coordinated by Multiflora Productions.

New york, NY - October 26-27

Hartford, CT - October 28

  • Heading north, Kurbasy performed at the Autorino Center at the University of St. Joseph on October 28. 
  • Steve Raider-Ginsberg, Director of the Autorino Center, traveled to Ukraine with Center Stage in 2017. You can read the blog about his experience here

Worcester, MA - October 29-30

  • The band spent two busy days in Worcester hosted by College of the Holy Cross. On October 29th, they held a lunchtime concert and taught a traditional Ukrainian song to the University's choir. 
  • On October 30th, Kurbasy opened New England Foundation for the Arts' Annual Idea Swap with a short performance at Mechanic's Hall. That afternoon, they visited an Imperial Russia class and were hosted for Russian Tea with students and faculty.


Nashville, TN - October 31-November 3

  • In Nashville, Kurbasy was hosted by the Buckman Performing Arts Center at St. Mary's Episcopal School. On November 11th, the band performed and was interviewed on Local Memphis Live with host Amy Speropoulos.
  • They presented a special "Magical Carpet Ride" performance for families and kids age 2-7 and a full set for the general public on November 3rd. 

Berkeley, CA - November 4-5

  • Upon landing in California, Kurbasy held a workshop with Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble and enjoyed a lively group dinner.
  • Sightseeing in the Bay Area brought them to the Golden Gate Bridge and the chance to touch the Pacific Ocean.

Rohnert Park, CA: November 6-8

  • Slightly north, Kurbasy spent several days hosted by the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. The group held lecture/demonstrations for several classes including World Music, History: Europe since 1914, and Psychology: Myth, Ritual & Symbolism.
  • Despite the threat and proximity of the devastating Camp Fire, Kurbasy performed at the gorgeous Green Music Center on November 8th. The group sang a traditional rain song to end their performance.

Albuquerque & Santa Fe, NM - November 9-13

  • The band kicked off their time in the Southwest with a workshop with Sevda Choir on November 10th. That evening they performed at Paradiso in Santa Fe. 
  • On November 11th, Kurbasy performed at Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque. 
  • The group finished up their time with a Movement workshop and lots of sightseeing, including a 3 mile hike at Kashe-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Their five days in Santa Fe and Albuquerque were hosted by AMP Concerts.

Seattle WA - November 14-18

  • The final stop on Kurbasy's Center Stage tour was in Seattle, hosted by the Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington. 
  • They group sent several days attending hosted dinners, class visits with Ethnomusicology students, and performed for school aged kids at the Meany Center.
  • Kurbasy's last performance of their tour was at the Meany Center on November 16th. They posted a great photo with their enthusiastic last audience. 
  • Three men and three women stand on a stage with their hands in the air in front of a full audience

2018 program notes & backgrounder

U.S. Premiere (Lviv, Ukraine)

Of a mid-summer’s night

Devised, arranged and performed by


Maria Oneshchak          
Myroslava Rachynska    
Natalia Rybka-Parkhomenko              


Vsevolod Sadovyj             multi-instrumentalist
Artem Kamenkov              double bass
Markiian Turkanyk            violin

Volodymyr Stetskovych  video & lighting designer and vj
Ruslan Kharchenko         sound engineer

Kurbasy is a presentation of Center Stage, a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, and the Trust for Mutual Understanding. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.

Song List

1. Blagoslovy Bozhe / Your Blessings, oh Lord!
2. Oy hodyla Olenka/ Olenka
3. Posluhayte podruzhechky / Girlfriends, listen to where the doves coo
4. Oy otse zh tobi / Oh This is for You My Dear Mother
5. Oy hodyla da moloda / The Bride is walking
6. Nenko moya / My Mother
7. Chuite koni / Hear the Horses
8. Zasiyalo sriblo-zloto / Gold and Silver Glitter
9. Zpoza gory / Beyond the Mountain the Moon Arose
10.Da bulo v tioshchi / Mother-in-law
11. Soromitky / Soromitky
12. Kolomyiky / Pear
13. Konyky / Horses
14. Oy borovaya / Nightingale
15. Oy ne hody Hrytsiu / Oh Hyrts, Don’t Go
16. Oy ne stiy verbo / Oh Willow, Don’t Go
17. Na nashiy yuloytsi / On our Road
18. Shyrokaya nyvka / In the wide Fields
19. Na vysokiy polonyni / In the Mountain Meadows

Translations of selected songs

2. Oy hodyla Olenka/ Olenka

Oh, Olenka went through the oak grove
To collect her maids, her beloved trove
And in the while of their pursuit
A dew dust glazed in absolute
Ah, it glazed the braid around her face
Its whiteness framed by beautiful grace

4. Oy otse zh tobi / Oh This is for You My Dear Mother

Oh, this is for you my dear mother as I leave, with pardon
I planted a rose bush to grow in your garden
Grow and grow, grow roses without ever bending
Live and live, live oh mother without worries never ending
Oh, how can I not bend when the whimpering winds whirl as ever
Oh, how can I not worry—my child is gone forever
Children once ran all around, here and there everywhere
Now my poor bare child has been given to a marriage pair

9. Zpoza gory / Beyond the Mountain the Moon Arose

Beyond the mountain the moon arose
And on through the gates a bachelor strode

Round and round the garden he walks
All alone to himself he talks
His beloved so far-off, he balks

I can’t now write her a letter
No, it’s too far to go get her

First I will write her a letter
So people will know me better

There are no people like neighbors
Who will spread the word, like favors

You, oh moon, light the way clearly
You, oh horse, tread the way dearly

As they got to her garden doors
The golden beloved, she came towards

She took the horse away by reign
And her beloved she took by hand

She led the horse to the stable
And her beloved to the table

14. Oy borovaya / Nightingale

Nightingale Nightingale! The green rye has bent! Nightingale…
Nightingale Nightingale “Petrivka’s” soberness is near its end!...
Nightingale Nightingale “Petrivka” fasting will soon be over!...
Nightingale Nightingale Make a match for Halochka, my daughter!...
Nightingale Nightingale A curled horned cow to the one who sought her!...
Nightingale Nightingale My dark browed beauty that nature has brought her!...

Oh you cuckoo of the forest woods
Oh don’t coo so early in the oak grove
Oh don’t coo so early in the oak grove
Don’t awaken my stirring my youth
For I am still young, but dutiful
I have taken my father-in-law’s orders
Yes my father-in-law has given orders
And with banging buckets I’ve made order!
And I have given my mother-in-law a drink
To stop her complaining in a wink!

17. Na nashiy yuloytsi / On our Road

On our road the girls gathered around, hey the girls gathered around
The oldest girl was young Marynka, hey young Marynka
Young Marynka sowed her rue seeds, sowed her rue seeds
Sowed her rue, waited for the bloom, then a wreath she made.
A wreath she made and placing it upon the Dunai River it laid.
Upon the Dunai she placed it with this intention on her lips:
“He who chooses this wreath is the one who will take my hand.”
Oh it was young Vasylko who answered her call,
“I will choose the wreath, I will take Marynka’s hand”
He fell into the river bed, head over heels, and drowned.
Fell into the river and his cap floated away, never again to crown.
Young Marynka’s life was drowned in sorrow

19. Na vysokiy polonyni / In the Mountain Meadows

In grassy meadows yon, on high
Grass Cutters cut the grass
To them some girls would come stop by
Waterbearing lasses.

Hey I cut the grass, the grass
And still will cut its aftermath
Hey I’d like a girlfriend
A young appealing sass

Hey I cut the grass the grass
High or low its end
Hey I’d like a girlfriend
Who is tall and slender

Hey how can I let this musing go
On about my sweetheart
When I don’t know how to mow
Grass at its greenest part

About the Program

Lviv, the eons-old Carpathian hub, holds Ukraine’s cultural core. Around this nucleus, spheres of tradition and innovation spin, collide and reform. The idea of culture as a cosmic living organism is central to Kurbasy, whose folk-based multimedia performances vibrate in polyphonic vocal harmonies, resonant lyrics, culturally unique instruments, and phantasmagoric visual imagery.

Conceived and directed by the band’s three actress-singers, Kurbasy’s sonic-theatrical explorations of Ukraine’s rich trove of calendar song cycles, lullabies, and legends, conjure the natural world, beliefs, and rituals, tracing contemporary connections to an archaic past.

With the blessings of God, of Father and Mother, Begin the Wedding! From beginning to end, may this union bring Joy to this Family and its Ancestors.

Ukrainian wedding songs are ancient beings, linking past to present to celebrate and support the rituals of marriage. The main character in the Bride, surrounded by the voices of her parents, relatives and friends. Formerly a girl, she is now "Moloda" – preparing to become a Young Woman. It is a time when she gathers her friends to say goodbye as she will leave them to become a wife.  She plants flowers as a grateful keepsake of living beauty in her mother’s garden as a means to ask forgiveness and help overcome the sorrow of leaving her family for good.  These songs can be heavy, with the burden of parents losing their beloved daughter.  And at other times they can be a jovial means to overcome the fear of all the new and unknown things to come.  On the horses she will ride, to the steep mountain, to the sacred temple shining in her silver and gold where she will bow before all the saints, whispering her prayers of promise. Her tears will flow as rivers as she steps into a rebirth and enter her new life.

In the Middle of Summer, at the zenith of the Sun, a celebration is performed. The Sun is at “his” peak and announces his intention to unite with Water – he has found his bride with whom to start life anew.  On the night before this summer solstice – known as St. Johns Day/St. Ivan’s Day (and also Kupala Day) great bonfires burn along the rivers to reenact this Marriage of Elements. Young people join to circle around the fires. Living streams of dancers flow from circle to circle. Girls take off their wreaths of flowers and place them upon the river. Boys make and guide fire wheels to the water.  The spirits of these young people become purified by the fire’s flame. A couple will jump through the fire holding hands in testimony to the honesty of their feelings for one another. If they land still holding hands, their love is revealed to be eternal. A gigantic figure of Morena made of willow branches is burned; the river transcends into her willowed body from which bright burning flames emerge. A flowered figure made of straw, Kupalo, the embodiment of sunlight, is taken to his union with the river. There he bathes, succumbs to the Water, and sinks to its depth. I John/Ivan went to bathe, so should we! Hundreds will take part in this fire and water dance – a dance everyone should join! With our living presence we celebrate the Marriage and unite the energy of its life force which derives from beyond all time and space: Lineage, the Charmed Miracle of Creation, and the driving force of Love.

--  Special thanks to Julie-Anne Franko for her song text translations, and assistance in preparing these notes.

About the Artists

Kurbasy is an avant-garde musical project of the renowned progressive Les Kurbas Theatre in Lviv, Ukraine. Started in 2008 as an informal vocal gathering of singer-actresses during rehearsals for other theater productions, in the last two years Kurbasy has performed across Europe-from the front lines of occupied Eastern Ukraine to concert halls in Western Europe. The ambient approach of Kurbasy gives life to the indigenous polyphonic sounds of Ukraine’s rich traditional music heritage. Founded as a female a capella vocal trio, Kurbasy is now experimenting with the sounds of Ukrainian instruments – zither, cymbals, tambourine, drums, with violin and contrabass. The theatrical background of the group is a core component of Kurbasy's esthetic. The music they perform is tied to, celebrates, and renews the rituals, the memories, the cycles of Ukraine and her people.

Maria Oneshchak was born in the historic city of Ivano-Frankivsk in Southwest Ukraine, and moved to Lviv to study drama and psychology at Ivan Franco National University. In 2004 she joined the Les Kurbas Theatre as an actress. She co-founded and directs Kurbasy.

Myroslava Rachynska is a film and theater actress, and singer, and a native Lviv. She received studied computer science at Lviv’s National University but ultimately earned degrees in music and choreography; she also studied studio art. She has served on the faculty of Les Kurbas Theatre for 18 years. She is a co-founder and director of Kurbasy and also takes part in many independent international projects.

Natalia Rybka-Parkhomenko is a native of Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine. A conservatory graduate, she majored in drama and film acting. She has worked with various theaters and participated at a number of acting and musical projects across Ukraine and abroad. A resident actor at Lviv’s Les Kurbas Theatre for last 12 years, she also teaches acting and is a vocal coach. she co-founded and directs Kurbasy.  

Vsevolod Sadovyj (multi-instrumentalist), a native of Lviv, graduated from Lviv National Music Conservatory with a master’s degree in music. He is a concert performer and conductor in the division of wind and percussion instruments at the Conservatory. In addition to his academic work, he is interested and engaged in researching and performing historically-informed music and instruments, singing folklore, and instrumental dance music -- including modern genres of electronic music. Since 2010 he has performed with Liudy dobri (folk), Gych Orchestra (ethno fusion), and Lemko Bluegrass Band (folk, country bluegrass). He joined Kurbasy as a collaborator in 2012. 

Artem Kamenkov, (bass) is a Lviv native who studied at the Lviv National Music Conservatory. He is the principal double bass player of the Lviv Symphony Orchestra, and is involved with many other music projects including Kurbasy, the Lemko Bluegrass Band, and Marija Kopytchak ta Orchestra Pochuvanj (Marija Kopytchak and the Orchestra of Feelings), which have taken him on tour to all parts of Ukraine, and to Poland, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada.

Markiian Turkanyk (violin), was born in Ternopil, Ukraine and graduated from Lviv National Music Conservatory where he is now a Lecturer of orchestral string Instruments. He is a member of Lviv’s symphony orchestra, chamber ensemble and a solo concert performer. Since 2008, he has also performed with Liudy dobri (folk), Gych Orchestra (ethno fusion), Lemko Bluegrass Band (folk, country bluegrass) and began collaborating with Kurbasy in 2012.

Volodymyr Stetskovych (projections and lighting designer and vj) lives and works in Lviv, Ukraine. He is the art director and scenic designer, responsible for the overall visual designs of Les Kurbas theatre. He also creates 3D mapping projections (art shows) on buildings (exterior and interior).  

Ruslan Kharchenko (sound engineer) is a native of Kyiv and graduated from Kyiv Natural Science Lyceum # 145. He works as a sound engineer for several Ukrainian bands and rental companies. Also I am PhD student at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, specialty: physics.

KURBASY makes its U.S debut tour October 21-November 18, 2018 as part of Center Stage. Stops include Washington DC, New York City, Hartford CT, Worcester MA, Memphis TN, Sonoma CA, Albuquerque and Santa Fe NM, and Seattle WA. 

Center Stage invites performing artists from select countries to the United States to perform, meet, and share their experiences with communities around the country. Now in its fourth season, by the end of 2018, 29 ensembles from Algeria, Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ukraine, and Vietnam will have made independent month-long tours from coast to coast, hosted by colleges and universities, festivals, music clubs, and cultural centers. Each tour includes residencies in large cities and small towns, and a range of activities from performances, workshops, and discussions, to artist-to-artist exchanges, master classes, and community gatherings. Center Stage artists engage with audiences onstage, offstage, and online sharing their work with audiences in the U.S. and friends and fans at home to build mutual understanding through shared cultures and values.

Center Stage Staff

Producer: New England Foundation for the Arts
Adrienne Petrillo, Kelsey Spitalny

General Manager: Lisa Booth Management, Inc.
Deirdre Valente, Lisa Booth

Production Manager: Robert W. Henderson, Jr.
Company Manager: Theresa L. Teague



Intimate Cultural Magic: Kurbasy Summons the Spirits, Lovers, and Eerie Tales of Ukraine with Shifting Harmonies, Unique Instruments, and Folk-Inspired Images

In moonlit mountainside forests, in broad meadows and remote fields, it’s still there. The eerie otherworldliness that pervaded traditional village life remains, vibrating in the tight vocal harmonies, unique instruments, and magic formulas that bring harvests or household happiness.

Lviv-based alt.trad group Kurbasy’s folk-based multimedia performances explores these moments, drawing on the ritual songs and stories of Ukraine. Conceived and directed by the band’s three actress-singers, Kurbasy’s sonic-theatrical explorations of Ukraine’s rich trove of calendar song cycles, lullabies, and legends, conjure the natural world, beliefs, and rituals, tracing contemporary connections to an archaic past. 

Kurbasy was formed, and its sound is centered by a beautifully blended vocal trio -- Maria Oneshchak, Myroslava Kyshchun-Rachynska, and Nataliia Rybka-Parkhomenko. They are accompanied by instrumentalists Vsevolod Sadovyi (percussion, dulcimer), Artem Kamenkov (double bass), and Markiian Turkanyk (violin). in performances that intermix music, folk-influenced costumes, and phantasmagoric images to conjure the beliefs and emotions in the cycle of life. It’s Ukrainian magical realism in rich, gorgeous sight and sound.

From the start, Kurbasy has woven visuals into their live stage performance. The vocal trio works closely with the multi-instrumentalists, a costume designer, and a digital artist to weave symbolic talismans, gorgeous colors, and layered textures to create an entire world woven from these songs. Abstract images swirl, suggesting light through leaves, lace tatting, and embroidery patterns. “We gave the artist who does the multimedia clues, and hints and ideas, and he offered us his insights,” says Rybka-Parkhomenko. The projection surface is mirrored, and angled. “We wanted to do something new, something that creates a sense of illusion and layers and depth, not just projecting on a backdrop.”

U.S. Debut Tour

Kurbasy joins four other ensembles from Egypt and Ukraine that will make independent tours of the U.S. from July-December in 2018 as part of Center Stage, a cultural exchange program that invites performing artists from abroad to the United States to perform, meet, and share their experiences with communities around the country. The group’s fall 2018 tour, now in formation, will mark their U.S. debut.

Kurbasy sprang from a highly respected Lviv theater named for renowned avant-garde theater director Les Kurbas. Their performances trace a theatrical arc to reveal the stories held in each of the songs of their rich repertoire, a collection of which can be heard on ‘Raytse,’ a title that references both paradise and the mythical egg at the origins of the universe, released in 2009. “We were all working on a play together, based on the poetry of [groundbreaking early 20th-century Ukrainian poet] Bohdan-Ihor Antonych,” recalls singer Nataliya Rybka-Parkhomenko. “Someone suggested we improvise a bit. We’d play around with some of the songs we were singing in various productions. The more we did, the more we heard from fans that we needed to record something.”

These fans were onto something, and soon other performers, composers, and artists were offering encouragement. One early supporter was Mariana Sadovska, a vocalist-turned- composer who got her start as an actress in the same theater troupe. She taught Kurbasy a large number of traditional Carpathian wedding songs, songs that are now woven into the first part of their performances.

“We started to dig around and try to figure out what exactly was going on. Why this song order? Why this particular verse? A million unknown whys,” muses Rybka-Parkhomenko. “We started to hear all the joy, sorrow, the humor and the erotica. It was a microcosmos.”

And this led to more questions, more digging around. “We didn’t approach this project consciously,” say Kyshchun-Rachinska. “We found songs from the calendar cycle, Kolyada [Advent/Christmas] and Kupala [St. John’s Day/Midsummers] for example, but many of them express the relationship between men and women on both the intimate and universal, spiritual levels.”

As they developed their own interpretations of these songs, “We tried to distill the essence of how they saw the stages of life, when you have to say goodbye to your child as she becomes a bride and moves to a new home,” singer Myroslava Kyshchun-Rachynska notes. “It’s a tool to deal with your emotions. It’s very subtle.”

The leave-taking and grief, as well as the joy and revelry, suggested something beyond village traditions, hinting at questions, ideas, forces, and struggles of people everywhere. “When we started to think about this, we started to feel there’s something of a magic charm, something that’s not logical, to these songs,” reflects Rybka-Parkhomenko. “It’s something that comes from deep inside, a vibrating energy, a living organism. From that, we got the theme and concept for our performance.”

Musically, Kurbasy has a keen sense of inherent dramatic tensions and grounds them in taut rhythms; they articulate unexpected modes, and highlight harmonies and dissonances. “We are conscious of the linkages, of one song to another, from one emotion to the next, one vocal expression to the next. Within each individual song we are building the story of the concert, and Vsevolod, Artem, and Markiyan are looking for the same thing in the instrumentation,” Rybka-Parkhomenko explains.

“Spring is summoned, the summer season is celebrated, wedding ceremonies are sung, and life stories told. Kurbasy envelops us in magical-musical charm,” (LOCALCOMPASS.DE) a charm Kurbasy unlocks for audiences far from the slopes of the Carpathians.

additional Press


Listen to these Kurbasy tracks via Soundcloud: