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October 22nd, 2007

Joining Tatiana for Her Concerts in Bulgaria

Two of our chorus members, Priscilla and Paula, penned lovely write-ups of the recent Bulgaria trip — here are excerpts from both of them.

From Priscilla’s note
From Paula’s note

Tatiana with Divi Zheni and Orfeia in Sofia

Tatiana with Divi Zheni Members & Orfeia – Sofia Symphony Hall © 2007


From Priscilla’s note —

Dear Divi Zhenis & Friends,

My head and heart are swirling with the effects of so much beautiful music, sights and sounds of everyday Bulgaria, bottle after bottle of wine and rakiya…

Tatiana Sarbinska - Sofia Symphony Hall
Tatiana Sarbinska

© 2007

I wanted to write about the glorious performances by our beloved Tatiana. When the day came for the big concert in Sofia we singers from the states sat in the hall and listened to the sound checks. To hear the sound of Tania’s soaringly beautiful and bright voice in that hall just about brought me to my knees. If Tatiana was feeling poorly that night (she was just getting over a bad cold) it was certainly not evident as she gave a performance of her lifetime. It was especially moving to see Tania perform with her daughter, Petya.


Petya Todoroff and Tatiana Sarbinska - Sofia Symphony Hall
Petya Todoroff & Tatiana Sarbinska, daughter & mother duet!
© 2007

The program was demanding and cut a wide swath across the musical expressions of Bulgaria – from the very traditional to more popular arrangements. Tania demonstrated a great flexibility of style and technique both vocally and as a performer. She did four costume changes during the performance which involved running at break neck speed from the stage into a nearby storage room for the transformations! It was very exciting being back stage to see all this. The audience went wild for her. As Paula pointed out, the parade of admirers bringing flowers to the stage was unrivalled.


Tatiana embraced by friends and admirers
Tatiana receiving mountains of hugs and flowers from friends, family and admirers

© 2007

After hearing any number of Bulgarian singers from the stage and in workshops while we were there I was confirmed in my notion that there is not another voice like Tania’s. Like a clarion bell she sang from her heart for her people. It was really something to behold. So touching to see the love she engenders in singers young and old in Bulgaria. Do you know how lucky we Divi Zheni are?!


Everywhere we went people flocked around her. In her TV interview I think she even impressed Slavi (the Bulgarian David Letterman) who seemed sort of unimpressible to me!

So, this is an adjunct to Paula’s wonderful story…

Love to all,

– Priscilla


Whole Group Finale - Sofia Symphony Hall

Ivan, Petya, Tania, the Pirin Ensemble, Divi Zheni members, Orfeia, the folkloric orchestra, all performing the finale at the Symphony Hall in Sofia
© 2007

From Paula’s note —

Dearest Divi Zheni ladies and friends,

We are returned from our whirlwind tour of Bulgaria! We had a wonderful time, wishing you could all be there with us. As I awakened at 2 AM and could not sleep, I wanted to share a few highlights, which follow….

Eight Divi Zheni members were on the trip — Paula, Suzanne, Freedom, Julie, Vera, Liz, Priscilla, and Leilani. At the Sveta Sofia Hotel we met up with the eight members of Orfeia, Anne, Sarene, Jarkyn, Diane, Natalia, Netania, Elin and Courtney.

Tatiana greeted us at our first dinner. Among the things she said was: “Girls, this week is not for fun, this is for work!” and then she proceeded to hand us a 2-liter Fanta bottle filled with Todoroff Rakiya (from Tania’s son-in-law Ivan’s winery). The rakiya and wine did not stop flowing for the entire week….

The next two days were a frenzy of dashing around Sofia to accomplish our varied agendas, I wanted a pufti (the often silver belt buckle), and to visit the synagogue; Priscilla needed to meet her friend, (son of a famous Bulgarian revolutionary); Suzanne was looking for a good Bulgarian dictionary for Tom; Vera and Freedom needed the internet cafe to email their honeys, etc., etc.) while fitting in our rehearsals with Orfeia (the group from Washington), learning our words, etc., and of course some of us needing to find our cappuccino!

Teodossi Spassov & Tatiana Sarbinska - Sofia Symphony Hall
Theodossi Spassov & Tatiana Sarbinska

© 2007


Then Tuesday came…we left for the concert hall at 2PM with everything we would need for the performance and the reception. We arrived at the main symphony hall in Sofia…sound system was being set up. While we watched from the audience, sound checks began with the Pirin Ensemble, Tania and her musicians, Theodossi Spassov, (kaval player extraordinaire) and his ensemble …excitement was building. We gobbled down a quick sandwich at 5:30 PM and then it was time to get ready for the 7 PM show. Petya (T’s daughter) and Rumi (our amazing guide from our ’05 trip) ran in to tell us that the house was full!


Pirin Ensembler - Sofia Symphony Hall
Pirin Ensemble members© 2007

The Pirin ladies made an amazing transition…their costumes were even more beautiful than I imagined. And the ladies were very sweet and gracious to us!

The concert began with a few numbers by the Pirin Ensemble and then to great applause Tatiana began her famous “Katerino Mome“. We were announced: “Boston Y Vashington”, as we became known for the entire trip.


Suzanne and Paula
Suzanne & Paula performing their duet© 2007

We filed on stage to sing our opening number, “Brala Moma Ruzha Tsvete”. Suzanne and I started our line to an audience of ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE! No major mistakes, no threatening looks by Tania, we did it…and without any lyrics sheets in front of us! We did our first set and filed off to lots of applause! I was so excited I started crying!

Orfeia started our next set with two songs they had prepared, ending with “Mari Maro”. A show stopper every time with a most delightful soloist (that we all fell in love with) Jarkyn, originally from Kyrgizistan in Central Asia, an exotic beauty, sweet personality, gorgeous clear voice, and a great and humorous stage presence.


Tatiana and Orfeia
Tatiana with Natalia, Netania, Ellen & Courtney of Orfeia© 2007

We filed back on to end that set with an arrangement of “Amazing Grace” with Tatiana singing lead. I looked down to the audience and did a double take! What did I see?…Martha and Dick Forsythe were smiling up at us from the first row! What a surprise! The concert ended with us joining in between the Pirin ladies to sing our final number “Glasut Na Pirin” with Tatiana, Petya and Ivan Gotsev singing the solo.


Tatiana receiving flowers after her performance - Sofia Symphony Hall
Tatiana receiving flowers after her performance© 2007



This was followed by more bouquets of flowers for Tatiana than I could have ever imagined, including one from the President and one from the Prime Minister of Bulgaria….and then the finale with the audience joining in on the unofficial national anthem (as I have been told) “Hubava si Moja Goro.”

The concert was a huge success, followed by a reception sponsored by the Todoroff Winery….more wine…..


Receiving gifts of bread and fruit from audience members
Paula, Freedom, Priscilla and Jarkyn receiving gifts of bread and fruit from audience members in Sofia.© 2007

Highlights of the rest of the week included a performance with the full Pirin Ensemble (including the dancers!) in Blagoevgrad; a workshop with the retired ladies of the Pirin, (the singers that Tatiana started with….she was the baby of the group, I believe joining at age 17 …the love between them is still evident!); an unexpected invitation to be on the Bulgarian equivalent of the Jay Leno show, (called the “Slavi Show”); a night at Ivan And Petya’s new hotel and health spa, the Hotel Todoroff, most luxurious and beautifully designed (even the waitresses and receptionist had specially designed Bulgarian folk-inspired costumes)….many of us enjoyed massages, facials, saunas, wine baths! (all reasonably priced).

Our last stop was an overnight stay in the highest village in Bulgaria, Chepelare, a ski resort in the Rhodope Mountains, where Tatiana was invited to be on the jury that included her former teaching colleagues and professors of music from the Plovdiv Academy of Music and Art…we got to enjoy the final performance of the top ten winners of the competition for the new Bulgarian compositions and arrangements for chorus and folk orchestra,which included gedulki, kaval, tamburi, tupan, and cello and upright bass — (I think Ralph, Patrick, and Tom Pixton would be very interested in some of the orchestral compositions… I could envision them being played at the next Benefit Bash!)….and then we were invited to sing on stage, again to great appreciation by the audience.

It was a wonderful week filled with lots of positive energy, great camaraderie between us and with “Vashington” and great appreciation by Bulgarians that we were interested in their culture. The week also included a few bits of high drama featuring two unfortunate episodes of thievery!

Exhausted, hoping for sleep at some point and hoping to see you all singing or dancing soon!

– Paula


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