2009 marks the 30th anniversary of Bandura Seminars sponsored by the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus held at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Camp of “All Saints" in Emlenton, Pennsylvania. Thirty years ago a group of young bandura enthusiasts visited the recently purchased property in Western Pennsylvania. Impressed with the excellent facilities for such a music workshop, and with the beauty of the evergreen forests along a mountain river, The Chorus established these bandura seminars.
In 1978, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA bought the former YMCA camp which encompassed 90 acres of land and 15 buildings, all along the Allegheny River. During the next decades many improvements were made to the facilities, additional sports fields, a pool and large heated building with a hall and classrooms were added. In 2008, a wooden chapel in the Carpathian style was constructed and completed with iconography. Every summer, the camp hosts various church and non-church camps including the bandura workshops.
The musical director of the early bandura camps was Hryhory Kytasty, a well known bandurist, composer, and conductor of the famous Ukrainian Bandura Chorus. Administrator of the first camps was Maestro Kytasty’s student Ihor Mahlay. During these 30 years, hundreds of youth and those young at heart have participated in the bandura seminars. Students of the bandura did not just learn how to play a musical instrument, but the love of music and the Ukrainian heritage was nurtured at was to become known as “Kobzarska Sich”. Bandura enthusiasts from various countries and continents ventured to this beautiful corner of the world. Students from Western Europe and Australia, even from Ukraine joined the participants from the US and Canada.
This year, the general two weeks course was held from August 8 through the 22. A separate and special one week seminar was given for young children ages 8 to12. Held daily were classes of level appropriate instruction, singing, music theory, music history and ensemble rehearsals. Beyond the 8 hours of instruction, time was set aside for sports, swimming and relaxation. This year the total number of participants was 67 (students, staff and instructors). During the two week encampment at All Saints, a five day Ukrainian Sacred Music Seminar was also given, sponsored by the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus in conjunction with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. 16 participants were enrolled in the Sacred Music Course.
This year’s musical co-directors of the Bandura camps were Taras Lazurkevych and Oleh Sozansky - wellknown bandura performers from Lviv and Merited artists by the Government of Ukraine. Taras and Oleh frequently commentated during this Seminar that this is the only bandura camp to be held anywhere in the world. Taras added that these “courses are on high professional level among the natural beauty, and we are happy to be a part these children’s bandura future.” The administrator of all bandura and sacred music courses was Anatoly Murha- president of the Ukrainian Bandura Chorus.
The Bandura Seminar concluded with a concert on Saturday, August 22 with all the students participating. The program included instrumental and vocal pieces of various genre repertoire. Participating in the concert were students that just 2 weeks ago did not know how to hold a bandura. The excitement of camp, the enthusiasm of the participants motivated even the visitors to take up the bandura and learn how to play. During “Kobzarska Sich” all the participants were busy learning, tired but excited to be at camp. Complaints were not heard about the difficulty of playing or singing. Respect was predominant, not only toward the bandura and music but in the behavior throughout the two week period. The singing of the “Lord’s Prayer” before meals put a Christian perspective to all that was done. Participants of the bandura courses had an opportunity to sing, to learn, to delve deeper into the rich heritage of our Ukrainian nation. Some even learned to speak better Ukrainian and established longstanding friendships.
Thirty years ago Hryhory Kytasty had a dream to share the bandura with others far away from his native land. Maestro Kytasty rightly so, named this camp “Kobzarska Sich” as a nurturing center for the future, and the future generations are fulfilling these dreams. For further information about the Bandura Camps or general information about the Bandura please visit www.bandura.org