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“Flowers and Songs from a Ukraine Garden” charity concert

May 21, 2023 , 3:00 pm 4:30 pm

The Maine Balkan Choir has rehearsed Ukrainian folk songs since January 2023 and will now present a charity concert in Portland on Sunday May 21st at 3 PM. All proceeds will be donated to Save the Children Ukraine Fund, serving children. There is no set admission fee for this event; instead attendees will be asked to contribute what they can afford. The Balkan Choir sings in Ukrainian. The tunes are in minor keys with haunting melodies. Love Songs and lullabies.

Maine Balkan Choir Emerges From “Pandemic Hibernation” to Perform Ukrainian Folk Songs

Event date: May 21st

Contact: Joe Niemczura

(808) 352 1714

[email protected]

A teenage Ukrainian refugee whose family settled in Bar Harbor is among 50 or so people from around the state who will sing Ukrainian folk songs for a Maine Balkan Choir concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 21 at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church at 133 Pleasant Street in Portland.

The concert, with the theme of “Songs and Flowers from a Ukrainian Garden,” will raise funds for the international humanitarian nonprofit organization Save the Children, which has been helping children and their families in Ukraine since 2014.

But organizer Joe Niemczura, who co-founded the Maine Balkan Choir 25 years ago, hopes that the concert will raise people’s spirits, too. The Thorndike resident, whose family originally came from Poland, said that he couldn’t look away last year when he saw news footage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although his work as a registered nurse has taken him to many challenging environments around the world, including a children’s burn unit in Nepal, the images of war and destruction shook him.

“I’ve been utterly shocked by the news, and I’m not easily shocked,” Niemczura said.

He wanted to help, but wasn’t sure how. He figured that he could make a donation to a charity—but ultimately decided to do something a lot more ambitious. Niemczura wanted to bring the Maine Balkan Choir out of a long “pandemic hibernation” to teach Mainers a little about Ukrainian music and culture and inspire them with the beauty of the country’s rich folk music tradition.

In December, he got in touch with Anne Tatgenhorst, a longtime member of the choir, and they decided to put out a call for singers. At first they were not going to have a presence in the Portland area because it was too far away. Then, as if by magic, Sarah Hipkens, who had been a member of the venerable Yale Slavic Chorus and directed that group her senior year, offered to take on the director role for the Portland group.

Since January, singers have been rehearsing in Belfast, Ellsworth, and Portland, learning how to pronounce Ukrainian words and practicing the stirring, melodic folk songs that tell stories of welcome, family, love, war, loss, and more.

“What the Balkan Choir has always done has been to present the music as authentically as it can be presented,” Niemczura said.

He was excited that the Ukrainian teen, who has won singing contests in her homeland, is part of the group, along with several alumni of the Yale Slavic Chorus.

The singers will be accompanied by the Huddled Masses Orchestra, which Niemczura founded in 1994. Instruments include the trumpet, accordion, and baritone horn.



May 21, 2023
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Event Category:


Joe Niemczura
View Organizer Website
133 Pleasant St
Portland, ME 04101 United States
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