Winter often brings with it a feeling of sanctity. Snow erases the landscape, sealing off the year with otherworldly brightness and chill while groups of people the world over turn to seasonal spiritual celebrations. Musically, the songs that come along with such holidays tend to diverge dramatically between commercial pop and carols – and there is never any question that Bay Area choral group Kitka will always take the holier route as they reverently delve into the realms of sacred Eastern European and Caucasian music yet again.
Ahead of the ensemble‘s album Evening Star, which comes out on November 9 via Diaphonica, comes the video release of title track “Zvezda Večernica”, a song that reaches back into ancient Slavic mythology to celebrate the goddess known as the Evening Star, syncretically woven into the Nativity story as the Star of Bethlehem after the advent of Christianity.
“The music and lyrics are by the Bulgarian composer Stefan Dragostinov,” the group explains, “who wrote the piece for the legendary Bulgarian women’s choir, the Philip Koutev Ensemble. Tzvetanka Varimezova, Kitka’s dear friend and mentor in Bulgarian choral repertoire, and a former soloist with the Koutev Ensemble, shared this piece with us.”
As has been the case for the decades that Kitka has performed Bulgarian choral compositions as mainstays of its repertoire, the resemblance between Kitka’s work and the Bulgarian choirs that have long captivated global audiences is a striking one. The eight current members of Kitka know this style of music better than perhaps any group this far from the Pirin Mountains, and perform with impeccable vocal harmonies and an angelic strength, both of which make for almost unspeakably stellar holiday sounds.
“We love how this tune combines the vocal fireworks and elaborate ornamentation of traditional Western Bulgarian village singing with a contemporary compositional sensibility full of harmonic surprises,” the group concludes. “Zvezda Večernica” shines on all of these counts, an exultant combination of places, times, and traditions to welcome the winter.