Bilyj Holo/Village Voice Master Class

Date: July 22, 2014
Instructor:  Kassandra Prus, Toronto, Ontario – co-founder of the quartet “Mokosh” who focus on the polyphony of the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Named after an ancient East Slavic Mother Goddess, one of death and rebirth, “Mokosh” strives to re-energize ancient melodies with a modern touch by adding new instrumentation or harmonies, changing voice styles or tempo.
Pokrova: Hosted “Bilyj Holos/Village Voices” master class in Canada’s National Capital, Ottawa, Canada

Held July 22, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada, Pokrova Master Class Series welcomed guest instructor Kassandra Prus, to teach the art of singing in the ‘Bilyj Holos/Village Voice’ style. A professional dance instructor and co-founder of the Toronto-based quartet “Mokosh”, Kassandra Prus brings knowledge of the history and vocal technique of the village voice style.

The “bilyj holos” (literally white voice) is a hallmark singing style found in traditional, rural Ukrainian and Eastern European folk music. This highly sophisticated, difficult to master, technique consists of exploiting the chest register to sing with an open throat. The vocal range of “bilyj holos” is somewhat restrictive and in a lower tessitura – this being the range within which most notes of a person’s natural vocal range fall. The breathing technique used encourages a booming, un-phrased sound with no vibrato. Done properly, the technique stretches the range of the chest voice, thereby helping to smooth the natural break of the voice.

“Bilyj holos” was used by village folk tending to livestock in wide meadows and mountain valleys to communicate. This style of singing/calling was developed so that sound could travel long distances without straining the voice of a caller. The songs sung were often associated with the seasons, nature’s seasons and connected rituals, folklore, and fieldwork. Very often they were sung by women gathered together to work on some communal or neighbourly task such as sewing, basket weaving, cooking or processing feathers for pillows ad duvets.

In the mid to late 20th century, the most popular Ukrainian singers of this style included Nina Matvienko and Raissa Kyrychenko and the choir Veriovka.

Pokrova Network is proud to share the unique Ukrainian tradition of “bilyj holos” in Ottawa, Canada.