Tatiana Sarbinska – Artistic Director
Tatiana Sarbinska is one of the world’s leading experts on the performance of Balkan folk music. As one of the preeminent soloists of her generation, she toured and recorded extensively with the internationally acclaimed Pirin Ensemble. A gifted teacher, she has directed ensembles, music events, and workshops in the USA since 1991. She currently directs three ensembles in Boston and Washington DC — Divi Zheni, Zornitsa, and Orfeia, and has been awarded National Treasure status by the Bulgarian government, for her musical legacy, and for preserving the musical heritage of her home country. In 2004 Tatiana was the recipient of the Wammy (Washington Area Music Award) for World Music Vocalist.
Abigail Bordeaux – Voice
Abigail grew up playing the flute and singing in her church’s youth choir. She was introduced to Balkan music by Kim Fedchak DiMattia of Svitanya while studying Russian language and linguistics at Bryn Mawr College in the 1990s. From 1994 to 1999, she sang with the Bryn Mawr-based group Slaveja, of which she was a founding member. She has attended several Eastern European Folklife Center workshops, where she had the opportunity to learn Bulgarian vocal technique from Tzvetanka Varimezova and Donka Koleva and to try her hand at beginning kaval with Valeri Georgiev. When not singing, Abigail enjoys travel, knitting, reading non-fiction, and doing home improvements on her condo. She is a librarian at Harvard University.
Suzanne Costanza – Voice, Flute
Suzanne Costanza has been a member of Divi Zheni since its first year. She sings soprano and plays flute, attempting to mimic kaval. Suzanne also is a member with her husband of the International Music Club, a Boston-based band that plays for international folk dancing, in which she also sings, and plays flute, soprano recorder, occasionally hurdy gurdy, and even more occasionally, silly noise toys, the most important of which is a genuine duck call. Suzanne’s other major interests are gardening (always liked digging holes and watching worms) and botany, especially with very old, very dead plants (“…all dead, long gone, except for DNA remembrance….”).
Jane Culbert – Voice
Jane’s first experience with Balkan singing was in Christmas Revels with Dmitri Pokrovsky in 1990, and she has subsequently continued her learning through classes and lessons with Susan Robbins, Artistic Director of Libana. Her most recent Balkan singing experience in Christmas Revels 2007 convinced her that she wanted to explore this music more fully, and she is excited to be a member of the Divi Zheni and to have the privilege of working with Tatiana. When not learning words and music, Jane Culbert is a consultant to nonprofit organizations, primarily in the cultural sector.
Karen Edwards – Voice
Karen Edwards has been entranced by Bulgarian music ever since seeing Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares perform in 1989. After her college a cappella years, she delved deeper into international folk music with an emphasis on Bulgaria. She has sung with the Yale Slavic Chorus in New Haven and Mozaik in Berkeley, in addition to the informal weekly group Sedenka led by Bon Singer, former music director of Kitka. After four decades spent mostly in California, she pulled up her roots and moved to Boston to be with her now-husband Tom Roby, who has quite made up for her displacement by integrating her seamlessly into the wonderful folk dancing and folk singing communities here. The joys of dancing and singing provide a wonderful complement to her career as a college math professor.
Barbara Gottfried – Voice
Barbara Gottfried is a professor in the Women’s Studies Program at Boston University, and teaches courses in women in literature, mass media, and film. She has traveled extensively in the Balkans, including trips to Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. She has studied Balkan dance and singing at seminars in Ohrid, Macedonia with Goran Alacki and Ljupco Manevski [Tanec] and Bansko, Bulgaria with Tatiana Sarbinska, and the dance of Transylvania at a dance camp in Felsosofalva in the Transylvanian part of Romania [Szekelyfold]. She has been folk dancing since a fateful night in 1971, when she stumbled upon Israeli dancing in the MIT Student Center, and is currently a programmer for the Tuesday Night Revival, monthly advanced Balkan dancing in Arlington, MA.
Priscilla Howell – Voice
Priscilla has studied voice and the Art of Group Singing with Susan Robbins, Artistic Director of Libana. She has also studied Middle Eastern singing and dance, with special focus on Algerian Berber singing and dance with Amel Tafsout. She has performed sacred and secular songs with Northern Harmony, and has participated in an English Folk/Gypsy Song workshop with Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson at Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camp. Some of her other loves: Cajun waltz and two-step, cooking, her two musical and wondrous children, her drummer-boy husband and singing and singing and singing.
Kate Jellinghaus – Voice, Kaval
Kate discovered Bulgarian folk music in 1994, when living in Bulgaria and teaching through the Soros Foundation. She was blessed to meet amazing teachers — she began singing folk songs and playing the kavalin Sliven with dyado Stoyan Chobanov, former director of the Folk Music School in Kotel. Together with him, she organized a student folk group at the Sliven Language School (the first one!). She then moved to Sofia to study painting and meanwhile studied music with bai Nikola Ganchev, the virtuoso kaval player, who became a dear friend. In 2004 she helped initiate the founding of the Fund for Traditional Performance Artistry in Bulgaria, a group working to promote and preserve the traditional arts.
Rositsa Kancheva – Voice
I was born and have lived almost all my life in Bulgaria and have always been amazed by our national folklore songs and dancing. I sang in my middle school’s choir and then I was part of a folklore dancing group where I danced couple of years. Since then I have always wanted to sing and dance as this is not only a part of our culture and national treasure but this is part of who I am and always wanted to be. The last two years I have been part of the music industry in Bulgaria as I was working for a company that was protecting the performing artists’ and producers’ rights. I never had the chance to sing again until I moved to Boston, USA and met these wonderful women in Divi Zheni! I’m deeply impressed by the way they sing and understand Balkan traditions and heritage and I’m lucky to be part of them!
Liz Levin – Voice
I have been participating in international dance since 1976 and had never sung at all when Tatiana started Divi Zheni in 2000. Singing and performing with Divi Zheni has deepened my love of Balkan rhythms and song as well as my love of traveling to Bulgaria. I am deeply grateful to Tatiana for insisting that, yes, I really can sing!
Amy Bressler Nee – Voice
International folk dancing was Amy’s main social activity in high school, and Balkan dances always were among her favorites. In college, it was a treat for Amy to sing songs like those dances as a member of the Yale Slavic Chorus. After moving to Massachusetts, she enjoyed a brief stint in the Cambridge Slavic Chorus as well. Years later, she relishes the chance to sing Bulgarian music again. Amy joined Divi Zheni in 2013. Lawyer by day, folkie by night, Amy feels that Tatiana Sarbinska’s boundless expertise and spirit and the wonderful community of the chorus are gifts beyond measure.
Cathie O’Neill – Voice
Cathie discovered folk dancing and international folk music in 1980, where she met her husband, Brad, married in Denmark in 1984, and lived for four years in Germany. After raising two children, Cathie became a volunteer for the Folk Arts Center of New England. In 2006, she joined the International Music Club led by Ray Rosenstock and Barbara Pixton. In the winter of 2007, Cathie had the opportunity to take a singing lesson with Tatiana Sarbinska and fell in love with Bulgarian music. She was thrilled when invited to join Divi Zheni. Being a member of the group for the past 3 years has given Cathie the opportunity to study with Tatiana, sing beautiful Bulgarian music and enjoy the company and friendship of a talented group of women. When not dancing and singing, Cathie is an assistant teacher, working with special needs students in Grades 6,7 and 8.
Anne Rogal – Voice
Anne Rogal attended Yale University in the early days when they had just begun to accept women. She discovered and joined the Yale Slavic Chorus in 1973, finding that the powerful singing style, the beautiful arrangements and the community of strong musical women really helped her through the challenges of that undergraduate experience. 40 years later she hosted in her home for a week 10 young women, current “Yale Slavs,” who were doing a Boston concert tour. One night Anne attended their shared concert program with Divi Zheni. After smiling through the whole program, she decided to once again bring Bulgarian singing back into her life. She joined Divi Zheni that night.
Paula Rosenstock – Voice, Tupan, Dumbek
In my teens I sang Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, etc. songs, guitar in hand, in the privacy of my room. When I first discovered international folk dancing in 1971 at UMass Amherst, I fell in love with the music of Eastern Europe, especially Bulgaria. One of my first choral experiences was in the Freiburger Bachchor, as an exchange student in Freiburg, Germany. Years later, I rediscovered my love of choral singing while performing early music with Maestro Ray Rosenstock directing the Keene State College Collegium. I have since then sung with classical choirs and folk music groups, including the Folk Arts Center‘s International Music Club. My dad, a professional classical percussionist, taught me my first beat pattern, the one in Ravel’s “Bolero”; and I have been tapping my fingers incessantly ever since. He would be so amazed that I am now the percussionist for Divi Zheni! I will be forever grateful to Tatiana Sarbinska for helping me find my voice and am proud to be a founding member of Divi Zheni.
Anna Stevens – Voice
What serendipity! Just as I realized it was time to pursue an early dream of learning Balkan singing, I found Divi Zheni! Thanks to Tatiana’s dynamic teaching, the members’ welcoming ways and the music’s stunning harmonics, I am thrilled to be singing with the group! My roots: from age 3-12, I started each day singing with my whole school, and danced each spring for May Day, at The School in Rose Valley. Heaven! At 15, I travelled in the Balkans with a friend’s family. Riding old steam locomotives from Zagreb to Athens, we stumbled across traditional folk singers & dancers at open air markets & dusty rural train stations…I was hooked! After that, it was all-you-can-find folk dancing, including a stint with the Korios international folk dance troupe. Settling in Gloucester and raising two kids with husband, Andy, I began choral singing 15 years ago. I’ve sung with Chorus North Shore, the La la la Singers, Boston Revels, the Mystic Chorale and, most recently, Sorellanza, a women’s a cappella chorus directed by Patti Pike, which I helped found in 2005. Renewed folk dancing around Boston tops off my bountiful plate!
Debra Strick – Voice
I first heard Bulgarian singing on the radio in the 1960’s and had no idea what it was. Like a search for the “lost chord” it took me years to track down the otherworldly sound. It wasn’t until I met Tatiana Sarbinska at Balkan Music Night in Concord that I finally found an opportunity to fully participate in making this unique traditional sound. For me, the most intimate connection with music happens when I’m preparing with others for performance. So, in the 1970’s I was a member of the Moadon Teatron in Tel Aviv and entertained the troops during the Yom Kippur War. During graduate school, I worked as a guitar teacher and performer in blues, folk, and bluegrass styles, including opening for blues legends Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. Later I studied with Anabel Graetz and performed with the Cambridge Slavic Chorus under Anne Warner. I love classical choral singing as well, with performance highlights including Verdi’s Requiem at Philharmonic Hall with the Brooklyn Philharmonia, and Mahler’s Third Symphony with the Philadelphia Symphony at Saratoga under maestro Charles Dutoit. And now it is my great honor and pleasure to learn from Tatiana and to sing with all the wonderful Divi Zhenis!
Julie Sussman – Voice
Julie Sussman sang in her high-school chorus and, decades later, in three women’s groups in the Los Angeles area: the Caltech Women’s Glee Club (including a concert with Peter Schickele), the Arroyo Singers, and Zhena (Balkan music!). Zhena whetted her appetite for Balkan singing, but there were no opportunities back home in Boston until Divi Zheni was formed; and what an opportunity — for a complete amateur to learn from a world-class performer and master teacher! A folk dancer since junior high school, Julie also dabbles at piano and harpsichord. In “real life” she has been a computer programmer and has written or edited computer-science textbooks and instructors’ manuals. She is also the author of I Can Read That! A Traveler’s Introduction to Chinese Characters.
Elaine Winic – Voice, Flute
Elaine joined Divi Zheni late in 2001 when her friends in the group told her about how much fun they were having, singing with Tatiana Sarbinska. She had been folk dancing for many years, and singing the songs of Bulgaria seemed to be a perfect next step. In other musical areas, she has played the flute with the Harvard Summer Pops Band for over 30 years! And she currently studies classical piano with Alys Terrien-Queen. Other non-musical pursuits include keeping the payroll running at work, and knitting into the wee hours at night.
Mari Young – Voice
Having sung in choirs all her life it was only a natural progression for Mari to merge her love of singing and her love of Bulgarian music into one with Divi Zheni. A member since day one, Mari has taken this singing bliss even further by singing in the alto section after a lifetime of being a soprano! (and is loving it!) Mari has even traveled to Bulgaria to visit this enchanting music in its natural environment. Mari is involved with International Folk dancing, folk music, NEFFA, the Croatian singing group Pajdashi, and her wonderful husband and 3 really fun children!