SVECHA (Candle)

Sung by Nadezhda Mironova in Moscow, Russia in 2019. After receiving a degree in in Choir Conducting from the Gnessin Academy in Moscow, Nadezhda spent 8 years as the Chief Chorus Master and Northern Folklore researcher with the The State Academic Northern Russian Folk Choir, in Arkhangelsk, Russia. She told me that she loves the “old songs because they have ancestral wisdom and depth, they are filled with natural images. This is very lacking for modern man. Music is the cosmos for me, and it heals the soul.” You can hear her love and reverence for the traditional songs of the North- the "land of her grandmothers”-and her commitment to teaching not just the songs, but the technique of how to sing in the old style. In addition to her work with traditional singing groups, she also has an ethno-jazz band called Art Tradition that creates modern interpretations of these ancient songs.

The song Svecha is a wedding song from the Pinega River Valley, one that would be sung as a bride prepared for her wedding. Many of the Northern wedding songs are sorrowful. I asked one of the women from the Northern Choir why so many of the wedding songs described weeping on such a happy occasion. She explained there are three transitions in this world. One where you move from un-being to being, when you are born, one from being to un-being, when you die, and one from childhood to adulthood, when you marry. Those transitions are painful so you cry. Another interesting note, in the lyrics below you’ll see the line “Anyushka, LIGHT, Ivanovna”, the word light also means respect in this context.

This Song Quilt is a transcription of how Nadezhda sang Svecha. I quilted it with images found in traditional northern weaving, the elk-horned Mother of the World riding a Sun Chariot, symbols of fertility and harvest, and of the life giving power of sun to the living and to the dead. I used a metallic gold thread to honor the gold work embroidery tradition used for formal dresses in the North. I used an Indigo backing fabric, as the north frequently employed Indigo dye techniques in their clothing.

Translation by Olga and Lusi Klimenko


A modern take on the ancient song.

Nadezhda Mironova - vocal Alexey Kruglov - sax Marcus Bona - guitar Vadim Pravilov - bass Michael Sokolov - drums Andrey Fomenko - gusli Tim Dorofeev - arrangement Marcus Bona - video editing IIya Lomakin - operator

Traditional northern weaving designs, The Sun Chariot, the Mother of Worlds, and symbols of the harvest.

Mind blowing gold work embroidery on a formal dress from a Northern Province.

Mind blowing gold work embroidery on a formal dress from a Northern Province.

Nadezhda Mironova with her folk ensemble.

Nadezhda with Balalaika and an indigo dye frock.

Detail of quilting and indigo backing.