An evening with Kitka

Considered the foremost interpreter of Balkan and Slavic choral repertoire, the women's vocal ensemble Kitka will demonstrate its prowess in concert at 8 p.m. Friday, April 8, at the Unitarian Center, 87 Fourth St., Ashland.

The American group was formed in 1979 by a group of amateur singers, who met to share their passion for the vocal art form and has since developed into an internationally renowned musical ensemble. The 2010-2011 ensemble features Kelly Atkins, Caitlin Tabancay Austin, Leslie Bonnett, Briget Boyle, Shira Cion, Janet Kutulas, Elizabeth Setzr and Corinne Syke.

Each woman contributes to the asymmetric rhythms, harmonies and resonance of the music to meet the technical and artistic demands of contemporary Balkan, Slavic and Caucasian vocal stylings.

Kitka has traveled to Eastern Europe several times to perform and collect repertoire. In 2002, the ensemble was asked to perform with the acclaimed Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares for the choir's 50th anniversary event at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria. Last fall, Kitka also performed at the International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Under the co-direction of Cion, Kutulas and Juliana Graffagna, the group aims at expanding the boundaries of folk song. In 2000, with large grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and Rockefeller Foundation's MAP Fund, Kitka launched the New Folksongs Commissioning Project, recruiting several promising composers to write works specifically for Kitka. Among these commissioned projects are "The Rusalka Cycle: Songs Between the Worlds," a theater project featuring music by Ukranian composer Mariana Sodovask; "The Origin" by Ricard Einhorn; and "Rootabaga Opera" by Dan Cantrell.

Besides touring, commissioning, teaching vocal workshops and appearing on international radio and television broadcasts, Kitka has collaborated with various Hollywood and independent film composers on scores for movies such as "Braveheart," "Jacob's Ladder" and the "Queen of the Damned."

The ensemble's most recent and 11th album, "Cradle Songs," a collection of traditional and original lullabies and poetic texts, was named one of the "Most Memorable Internationally Flavored CDs of 2009" by National Public Radio.

Members of Kitka will offer a "Harmony and Dissonance" workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 9, at the Unitarian. The workshop costs $25.

Tickets to Friday's show cost $20 in advance, $22 at the door, $10 for ages 12-17 and free for children younger than 12. Tickets are available at Music Coop in Ashland, or by calling 541-535-3562. For more information, see

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