ST. PAUL – On March 18, the St. Paul Regional High School Fine Arts Theatre transformed into a vibrant celebration of Ukrainian music and dance. The occasion was a performance called ‘The Soul of Ukraine.’
The concert, presented by St. Paul and District Ukrainian Cultural Society, featured performances from the Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton, Volya Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, and Lloyanne Yaremko-Galas.
Galas opened the concert with a traditional folk song celebrating Ukrainian spirit and aspirations for independence and freedom, according to Amil Shapka, one of the organizers of the event.
Throughout the night, the Volya Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, a non-profit organization established in 1989, also performed three different dances each with its own intricate choreography. They donned three sets of traditional Ukrainian garments representing the history and diversity of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton also filled the theatre with their rich harmonies, captivating the audience. The choir had a selection of songs, with some dating back to the 17th century, said Shapka. Songs were also representative of Ukraine’s history and past experiences.
All the performances have a story of their own, acknowledged Shapka.
The fundraising concert raised between $8,000 to $9,000, and donations are still trickling in.
“It was admission by donation and people were certainly very generous,” said Shapka, adding, “We’re really thrilled with that [and] we can do a lot of good with that.”
The money raised will go toward a number of organizations aiding citizens in Ukraine, including an international humanitarian non-profit organization called the Tip Of The Spear - Land Mine Removal. Among the non-profit's goals is training civilians in how to remove landmines. The group also donates landmine removal devices and equipment.
“Then most of the money is going to local defense groups [in Ukraine],” said Shapka.
He thanked everyone who came out, the performers who travelled to St. Paul, and the volunteers.
“We’ve got a fairly strong Ukrainian community here... [and] St. Paul’s history as a community of good people who are volunteering is on full display every weekend in this town,” including during the event, said Shapka.
“We’re so thrilled because [the event] was kind of an uncommon event,” he said. “It came straight from the heart to the heart and that was really evident... and I think people really appreciate that.”
He added, “Whether you were Ukrainian or not, you could feel the spirit and the soul of Ukraine through the music and that’s why we called the evening the Soul of Ukraine.”