Aubergines English/Ukrainian song sharing – FLOW Orchard, 2nd July 2023
writing by Chris Brierley of The Aubergines, Exeter Community Family Orchestra
A Ukrainian flag hanging in the branches of an almond tree at the Exwick Mill Field end of the Flow Community Orchard marked our gathering point.
And what a gathering!
Aubergines Family Orchestra regulars were joined by the wonderfully charismatic Ukrainian accordionist and singer Sasha, the trombonist Matt Harrison (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Associate from Cornwall) bolstering pulsating base lines and improvising mellifluous solos, and the irresistibly energetic and compelling trio of Ukrainian vocalists and dancers lead by our translator and dance teacher, Mariana.
As we went through our last minute preparations and got used to playing, singing and dancing outdoors, food for the picnic began to appear. Special thanks to the people who walked through the long grass of the orchard with large platters piled with Ukrainian specialities. Our picnic became a feast of shared food.
The circle widened as our audience arrived, including Tess Read, the deputy Lord Mayor of Exeter.
The performances were rich and varied, from the haunting Ukrainian folk song ‘Cherry Orchard’ to the gloriously upbeat and irreverent ‘Ty Zh Mene Pidmanula’ (with a superb theatrical performance from Sasha), from the exquisite close harmony of ‘Sweet Nightingale’ (performed by Thomasin and Hetty) to the rousing hornpipe ‘Roll the Old Chariot Along’.
Two other highlights amongst many were Aubergines member Matthew Dixon waltzing like a Ukrainian, and Ilya, a young Ukrainian Aubergines member, walking slowly anti-clockwise around our large circle leading the group at the start of ‘Green Grow the Rushes, O’.
Our much-loved leader and guide Emma Welton attempted to bring proceedings to a close at the end of the programme only to be told that we couldn’t possibly finish without a friendship dance. We joined hands and danced, again anti-clockwise, lead by Sasha and Mariana. Although we were many there was a gap in our circle. It felt to me like a gap left to remember absent friends and loved ones. There was a feeling of great poignancy alongside the great generosity and celebration.
Hopefully all we left in the orchard was a large circle of trampled grass, now fully recovered.