What's the story behind Dunava?
The story behind Dunava is the story of the evolution of Balkan singing in the United States. I'm not sure who did it first, and whether the songs came independently or with the rising popularity of Balkan folkdances, but certainly one of the first influential groups was The Pennywhistlers, led by Ethel Raim in the 1960s. Since then, Balkan music and dance has steadily gained popularity in the US and women's choirs have sprung up in many major cities -- some amateur, some professional. Dunava was founded when Dina was considering joining Kitka in the Bay Area, but could not imagine leaving her home city of Seattle. Seattle had had many iterations of Balkan choirs in the past, but when the latest version disbanded, the opportunity was there to start fresh and introduce new singers to this music.
Are you from the Balkans?
No! Well, one of our singers is from Bulgaria, and we are so happy to have her. Aside from Tedy, we are all Americans. Hila was born in Israel, and Dina was born in Germany, but the international connection stops there.
How do you get your music?
Lots of ways! We hire professional singers for workshops and ask them to teach us new songs. We attend other classes (many of them at Balkan music camps in California and Oregon), and share repertoire with other singers and groups. Some songs we transcribe from recordings or YouTube. Sometimes our singers will travel to the Balkans and "collect" songs from groups and singers over there. There is certainly no shortage of beautiful songs from the Balkans!
What has been the most rewarding part of being in the ensemble?
Singing this music is immensely satisfying! We memorize all our songs, and there is nothing like standing on stage, looking and smiling at each other, while locking in to some complicated harmonies that are so otherworldly and so beautiful. Aside from bringing this music to life, we have great camaraderie in the group. Some of our best memories singing together include discovering that we all know Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsodie" from start to finish and that we share an affinity for many Broadway and Disney musicals. We very much enjoy each others' company and respect each others' musicianship.
How has having a Jimdo website benefited Dunava?
More than I can count! Believe it or not, but people actually search for Balkan choirs in Seattle on Google, and there we are. Numerous people have contacted me for auditions through the site, and we've found several performance opportunities. Similarly, when we are applying for a grant or festival application, we know our Web site can give anyone a good idea of who we are, what we do, and how to contact us.
For a list of Dunava's upcoming shows go to dunava.org.
Photos by Steve Borzilleri and Rik Katz | Video by Dunes Wijayratne.
Ana R. Alvarado
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