The story of this folk song is reminiscent of a river, flowing and changing as it journeys to new locations.
We first heard “Plyve Kacha Po Tysyni” in 1987 on a ” Melodiya” recording. The Transcarpathian Folk Choir, under the direction of Mikola Popenko, recorded “The Duck Swims Down The Tissina” as an a capella solo performance.
We were attracted to the soulful melody and haunting lyrics, and at our rehearsals in the basement of our church in Montreal, we moulded the song to fit our ensemble.
First, we added three part harmony. Then, we added a wordless refrain; a simple vocalization that we hoped would touch the hearts of listeners, and help them understand the pain of a mother lamenting the loss of her beloved son. The musical arrangement was simple, basically reflecting the mood of the lyrics and supporting the raw beauty of the melody itself.
We recorded this song on our album and cassette recording named “Cheremshyna” (volume 3) in 1988, and it was also included on our CD “The Best of Cheremshyna” in 1990.
This beautiful song received a very positive response, and in 1990, it was featured in our performances at concerts celebrating “100 Years of Ukrainian Settlement in Canada”, in recognition of the fact that many mothers were forever separated from their children, who had gone in search of a better life in a faraway land.
When Ihor Bilozir and the well-known “Vatra Ensemble” from Ukraine visited Montreal in 1989, we had the good fortune of spending an evening with them. The first question he asked us was, ” Where did you find that song about the duck swimming on the river?” Clearly, the song had touched his heart and at their concert we heard Oksana Bilozir sing a similar version of this song, which included our wordless refrain. As Ihor explained, “the essence of a folk song is the way it develops over time, as people add to it and change it, making it their own.” Oksana Bilozir recorded this song with Victor Morozov in 1989.
We have heard several other versions of this song over the years, but one that is especially significant is the one performed by ” Pikardijska Tertsia “, a very accomplished male a capella ensemble from Ukraine, whose recording of this song became identified with the Revolution of 2013 and “The Heavenly Hundred”. It honours those who sacrificed their lives on the Maidan in Kyiv during “The Revolution of Dignity” defending democracy, human rights and the freedom of the Ukrainian people.
And so this song journeyed from Ukraine to Canada, back to Ukraine, and then around the whole world. We are fascinated with how the song changed along the way, and feel humbled that so many artists around the world adopted the wordless refrain which we added to this beautiful song.
“Plyve Kacha Po Tysyni” is as haunting today as it was when we recorded it on our album,”Cheremshyna” (volume 3), in 1988.