Ukrainian musicians at the White House, 21-22 December 2016, Washington, D. C.
Members of the Two Violins music band, who performed, accompanied by Natalia Lebedeva Trio at the White House in Washington, D. C. on Christmas Eve, know what miracles are possible in Christmas and New Year period. It was a real precedent given that it was the first time when Ukrainian musicians performed for thousands of Americans in a hall of the White House, moreover – the soloist of the band, Illia Bondarenko, has just turned only 15! And the worldwide known Christmas hit “Shchedryk” or “Carol of the Bells” impressed America one more time almost 100 years after the same had been done by the awesome chorus of Oleksandr Koshytsia.
The way to the White House had been long and not easy. While everything started in autumn 2014 when the Two Violins duo, accompanied by Natalia Lebedeva jazz trio, performed in the USA for the first time. It happened in the UN Headquarters in New York where the Two Violins presented the world their art charity project “Puzzles of Eternity”, devoted to a Ukrainian sculptor and unique master of 18th century Johan George Pinzel. The jazz arrangements of Johan Sebastian Bach music and “Shchedryk”, being created purposely for the project, were presented at the White House on 21 and 22 December. The author of them is one of the best jazz pianists and composers of Ukraine Natalia Lebedeva.
Just then Yurii Serheiev, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine, Permanent representative of Ukraine in the UN, offered the duo to take part at Christmas concerts at the White House so that the whole world could see that Ukraine has what to give and can do it on the highest level.
“We have written about one thousand letters and had meetings not less than this – personal, through the intermediary, different applications – aiming to reach people who make decisions. Enormously important part in this had been taken by staff members of Ukrainian Embassy in the USA and also Ukrainian Diaspora in Washington, D. C. and the USA. Until the end of November 2016, when we were on tour in Japan, our idea found itself at the administration of the White House Visitors Office, – Katrya Kot, the producer of the project, tells. – That was also when we got an official application from the White House and the final invitation from them overnight into December 8, 2016. We were invited to give two concerts two hour length each on 21 and 22 December of the current year which was to say in only two weeks! It was a fantastic chance!!! Though there were even more challenges, first of all to find funding. Then organization of the trip, rehearsals, a new cast, programs and variety of other organization related moments. As, if we are going to the White House, the concert must be the best what has ever happened on the stage of the White House!”
With such ambitious plans the band Two Violins arrived in Washington, D. C. And, as it occurred later, for a reason. There was a very special attitude to the band. First of all, the Ukrainian musicians were the only non American band at the New Year celebration “White House Open House Performance”. The second, they were the only who played two concerts at a time. The audience did not want to let the musicians leave the stage that is why their concert was prolonged for half of an hour and then for another half of an hour. All in all for two days of concerts the Two Violins band performed for more than 5000 American listeners. People approached, took photos, wrote down the name of the band, took photos next to a poster “Two Violins & Natalia Lebedeva Trio. Kyiv, Ukraine”, asked about concerts schedule and touring plans.
“It is a great happiness to perform at the White House!!! For a musician from Ukraine it is a great honor! As when we play on the stages like Carnegie Hall, or events like Prince Harry’s ball, and now at the White House, we are getting to be more than musicians, we are becoming the face of our country, – Illia Bondarenko, the fifteen year old soloist of the Two Violins, shares his impressions. – I am excited! It is all unreal beautiful and the audience is very cheerful and grateful”. Illia Bondarenko is originally from Donetsk. When he was five years old, together with his parents he moved to Kyiv to learn the violin playing under a Kyiv teacher Andrii Malakhov. And in 2014 the whole family joined them after a house of Illia’s grandparents happened to be in firing limits in the area of the Donetsk airport.
“We want to express special gratitude to all brave and sincere people who help to realize so important projects for promotion of Ukraine abroad so that people could know us as a civilized, talented and modern country with deep roots and rich contemporary culture. First of all, now-deceased Bohdan Hawrylyshyn to who we devoted both of the concerts at the White House. To this fantastic Man and Ukrainian of the World!!! I’d mention all and each by name! Though, the most of names unfortunately will remain unmentioned. I want to give special thanks to Oleh Bakhmatiuk and America Center for European Ukraine, Morgan Williams and USUBC, Volodymyr Lavrenchuk and Raiffeisen Bank Aval, the community of Ivano-Frahkivsk in Washington and Arlington town community, St. Yurii’s Church in New York, its rector father Emillian and fathers of the church, Ukrainian Museum in New York, Foundation “Vidrodjenia” and Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Foundation. The special thanks to the Embassy of Ukraine in the USA. To Oleksiy Kogan who was the first to see a jazz sparkle in the violinists. And also to wonderful musicians – Natalia Lebedeva, Kostiantyn Ionenko, Roman Yakovchuk, Tomoko Akaboshi and to a dear, brave and crazy Two Violins team. With these people you can move mountains and work wonders!” – tells Katrya Kot.
Information about Two Violins
The duo Two Violins was founded in 2010 in Kyiv by the violin teacher Andrii Malakhov and a producer of the duo Halyna Chyburovska, and became absolutely experimental. As from the very beginning of cooperation, the very young, being 8 year old at the time, violinists started to play music in different styles, preparing impressive concert programs in cooperation with adult professional musicians.
The violinist met during a tour of the teacher’s class in Italy and Poland. The eight year old soloist Illia Bondarenko played the violin and Tetiana Zhmendak played the flute. But after having met the teacher and Illia, Tetiana decided to change the flute onto the violin. And in two years became Illia’s partner in the Two Violins duo. Since then they were united by a miracle story of success and a unique way in music.
When they were 13, the Two Violins duo performed on the stage of the famous Carnegie Hall in New York (September 2015) as a part of YPHIL – Youth International Philharmonic Orchestra. Illia and Tetiana were the only Ukrainians in the international orchestra and its youngest participants as age of other musicians was 18-35 years.
In 2016 they became the only musical project that represented Ukraine the day before the referendum in The Netherlands, giving performances for indigenous community and also Ukrainians of the Kingdom. 5 concerts in five cities!
In 2015 Two Violins realized an absolutely unique music tour, showing three different musical programs with different cast of musicians, in three countries of the EU: participation in one of the most prestigious professional contests of baroque music in Austria – International H.I.F. Biber Competition; two first awards in the contest of jazz music “Jazz Fantanas” in Lithuania; a performance with an orchestra in a contest “Young Talents and Orchestra” in cities of Italy with classical program.
In 2015 Two Violins and Natalia Lebedeva Trio gathered the biggest audience in the history of the top-10 jazz festivals in Europe, Alfa Jazz Festival, – 2500 people audience at the city center.
In 2014 Two Violins became the face of a grand international project “Puzzles of Eternity” that was presented in the UN (New York) and London with participation of the First Lady of Ukraine Maryna Poroshenko. The aim of the project is to restore the Museum of Pinzel in Lviv, popularization and preservation of priceless Johan George Pinzel’s sculptures (18th century).
At the end of 2014 the Two Violins duo performed at the Charity ball of Prince Harry (London) where the musicians gathered 1,5 million pounds for military fatalities all around the world.
The young violinists took part in several the most prestigious contests and festivals of Europe (purposely for them organizers of the events changed rules and contracts as the violinists are underage).
Two Violins play music in 6 different styles which is a real precedent in the history of music.
The soloist, Illia Bondarenko, is actively developing as a composer. His variations called “Meditation on Violence”, written in 2013, were performed at a meeting of UN diplomats with the Pope which was devoted to questions of global peace, in New York, 2015.
At the end of 2016 some changes took place in the duo, and its participants chose different ways in music. The soloist of the band, Illia Bondarenko, is continuing the experimental way, based on years long history of the duo, and widening his genre and stylistic possibilities as a performer, composer and musician. Tetiana Zhmendak is continuing her creative music career separately from the duo.
In the new format the duo performed in Japan and the USA. In Japan, Illia Bondarenko gave 6 concerts with three different programs in a matter of 5 days! Including the important charity performances as the concert, devoted to the catastrophes in Fukusima and Chornobyl, “The day of Ukraine” festival in Japan and the Memorial Day of Holodomor victims.
The soloist of the Two Violins duo, Illia Bondarenko, performed at the White House in Washington, D. C. together with Natalia Lebedeva Jazz Trio, including the following members: Kostiantyn Ionenko – bass and Roman Yakovchuk – drums, and an American violinist of Japanese descent Tomoko Akaboshi.
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Two Violins website: www.two-violins.co.uk