On Sunday September 20, the music festival Chervona Ruta ‘09 ended in Chernivtsi, to the accompaniment of the State Anthem and the Church Hymn of Ukraine (Oh God, Almighty and Gracious/Always keep our Ukraine safe…). The ceremony was attended by President Yushchenko of Ukraine and his family. This festival commemorated the 20th anniversary of Ruta’s first fateful performance in 1989. The gala concert was broadcast live by the First National Channel. Vasyl Ilashchuk, the current president of the National Television Company of Ukraine, was the emcee of the first Chervona Ruta.
This year’s festival offered a program made up of two parts that could be described as retrospective and prospective. The first part featured performers of the first festival — among them Eduard Drach, Telniuk Sisters, the groups Mertvy piven, Plach Yeremii, Komu Vnyz; Maria Burmaka, the groups Vii, VV, etc. The “prospective” part featured young groups and solo performers who vied for the Grand Prix and first places in the popular, modern dancing and acoustic, rock, and “other music” nominations. Traditionally, the young participants came from all regions of Ukraine: Kyiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Vinnytsia, Rivne, Ternopil, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv, Zaporizhia, Crimea, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Kamianets-Podilsky, Khmelnytsky, Lutsk, Kherson, Sumy, Zhytomyr, Poltava, Kirovohrad, and Uzhhorod. The competition lasted four days and the jury, including among others Anatolii Kalenychenko, head of the department of music studies at the National Academy’s Rylsky Institute of Art, Folk Studies and Ethnology, co-author of Ruta’s creative concept, member of the National Composers’ Union of Ukraine; Ruta’s executive director Myroslav Melnyk; Olha Melnyk, member of the reviewing board for culture at the Ministry of Culture, artistic director of the folk drama company Dai Bozhe. After long deliberations and debates (that were at times quite heated, according to some members of the jury), the Grand Prix was conferred on Kyiv’s folk-pop Soloma Group.
This year’s music program included performances by kobzars, craftsmen’s, book and music fairs, art exhibits, and a roundtable that was an attempt to assess the development of Ukraine’s music industry over the past 20 years. Among the key events was the launch of a disk that surprisingly featured chamber rather than pop music authored by Volodymyr Ivasiuk and performed by the chamber orchestra of Chernivtsi’s regional philharmonic society.
Of course, the competition was the biggest event. But for the young performers, the festival could have easily acquired a nostalgic atmosphere, with reminiscences by performers of Ruta ‘89, many of whom occupy important official posts.
The young performers served to link the festival’s undeniable historical meaning to its current trends, and most importantly, its prospects — precisely the purpose of its eventful launch in 1989. Ruta’s performers of the previous generation are known and respected by one and all in Ukraine, but the big question is What next? Ruta ‘09 posed this question and received an unequivocal answer.
Says music critic Yurko ZELENY: “While there is a growing number of performers, there are fewer truly interesting ones. Whereas previously ten out of twenty pop singers and groups caused ovations, now they can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Another disheartening fact is that today’s performers increasingly often think along the standard publicity lines, being heavily influenced by television and what lies on the surface. They are inspired by what they hear and perform accordingly. All want publicity, TV and flashing photo cameras, all want to see themselves on the television screens, all want to be stars, and only very few follow their hearts in their creativity.”