Philharmonic members share message of hope through their Russian and Ukrainian roots & the universal language of music
Fort Wayne Philharmonic violinist & Associate Concertmaster, Yana Bourkova-Morunov, and pianist Alexander Klepach share a special friendship and deep musical passion through their Russian and Ukrainian roots.
For their reflections on the brewing situation in their motherlands and the special concerts they are preparing to perform that feature the music of Sergei Prokofiev, a Russian composer, born in Ukraine, WBOI’s Julia Meek talks with them about how this powerful connection provides hope for all in these troubled times.
Freimann Concert, Featuring Prokofiev’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in D major Op.94a
Wednesday, March 9th, 2022 at The History Center, Fort Wayne 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 12th at the Rhinehart Recital Hall, PFW 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
For tickets and more information visit the Fort Wayne Philharmonic website.
Julia Meek: Yana Bourkova-Morunov, Alexandrer Klepach, welcome.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Thank you.
Alexander Klepach: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.
Julia Meek: Now you two are good friends, your passions for music brought you together through our own Fort Wayne Philharmonic. Your motherlands are Russia and Ukraine respectively. Yana, you came here to finish your studies. Alexander, you had your studies finished and brought your family over here? What was it like starting out with musical passions there and then ending up together here in Fort Wayne?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Yes it was great to see Alexander and Olga, his late wife here and to make music together. And I still enjoy making music with Alexander.
So I think we just had a very deep established connection to begin with, when we met in first time. And so that was natural.
Julia Meek: A lot of that was because of our music connection.
Alexander Klepach: Yeah, because of education and background.
Julia Meek: And as you were growing up in Europe, in the end of a tough century of conflicts, the whole tension that had happened in the 20th century, how did it affect your lives?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: I had blue skies, I guess, in my youth, traveling all over Europe, and even to the United States, with my teacher and with my youth orchestra, and meeting all those people from all those different countries, making music with them, and never imagining, I guess another major military conflict.
Julia Meek: You were far enough after World War Two?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Yes, we were still in the shadows of World War Two growing up in, you know, St. Petersburg, Leningrad, which was under siege for 900 days, and we had tangible monuments we walked past every day to remind us of that, and basically to swear on never to have anything like that happen again.
Julia Meek: In your case, Alexander, you made a specific decision to come here for maybe some of the same reasons?
Alexander Klepach: Before decision was made, if Yana's days were blue skies, mine were blue skies and the sunshine. So at that time there was no tension. Obviously, the shadow of the war was still present in my life. I'm older. So that's why we were more affected by that. In general, everything was peaceful, and full of joy, and we did what we love to do, really not too many conflicts in this certain period of time was in existence. So we're lucky enough to be at that time in our country,
Julia Meek: As music students in Europe, what was the feeling? What was making music--as a job... as a passion...as a profession? What did that get you in your communities, maybe in your country, being musicians?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: A feeling of being connected? And the feeling of sharing something beautiful in common with all those people who may not share same language with you. Or same skin tone or what have you? Just this beautiful, beautiful unifying realm of music.
Alexander Klepach: Yeah, I would say in general, people in Europe, they're very musical, everything, accompanied every celebration has its own traditions, it is rooted deeply in the ages. So to be part of it with the ability to play an instrument, it is the greatest tool to reunite people together and be part of a civilization anywhere.
Julia Meek: That's fantastic. And I can understand how it really touched your lives and changed your lives back then. So by the time you got to Fort Wayne, what about Fort Wayne welcomed you especially culturally, as musicians.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Well, the people that supported the Philharmonic, and specifically the group called The Friends of the Philharmonic, they help by hosting out of town musicians. And that's how I kind of learned about the city. And that was very welcoming. And the musicians themselves and other audience members and just community members, everyone is very warm and welcoming.
Julia Meek: Was it the same for you, Alexander?
Alexander Klepach: Well, I would say Yes, it was practically identical. With addition that Fort Wayne is very great place to be because we have such a diverse population of the different nationalities from basically all over the world. As a matter of fact, I just made a good friend a couple of weeks ago from Denmark, which was amazing, because I would say I would not expect too many people from that part of Europe. And the reason why it was so quick and easy, because that person looks like Russian heritage and everybody thinking that person is Russian. And they started to ask me basically like this, and I said, No, it happened to the person from Denmark. And besides that, you know, we have immigrants from all over the world here. Specifically, again, our profession plays the vital role just to keep it together and actually be a glue-- like super glue to keep everyone friendly.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: I think so.
Alexander Klepach: So though it might have been many, many miles and many even worlds different from your homes in Europe, you felt comfortable. You felt like you belonged here, because you in fact did belong here? Do I belong here?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: I think you do.
Alexander Klepach: I'm working on it.
Julia Meek: (Chuckling) Well, we'll get back to you on that one day, I'm sure, Alexander.
Alexander Klepach: (Chuckling) I mean, obviously it is. I was here for over 24 years. So obviously, already part of this community and added up as much as I took from the community in the culture and things.
Julia Meek: That's wonderful to hear from you about this community. Now, in these last few weeks, we have heard from other voices reflecting on what it's like back home in Europe. So what's it like for you to live this far from your old home, especially when there's a brewing situation like this?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: It might sound selfish, on my part, or cowardly, but I feel very blessed to be far away from the conflict and in the safety and to be here in the United States.
Julia Meek: It sounds certainly not any of that. In fact, it's courageous that you can and will speak to us on what all this is feeling like right now. And Alexander, you have been here longer, you still do have connection there. What's it feel to you?
Alexander Klepach: Sure I do, to do this, I have relatives who's in the war zone right now, as we speak. Yeah, I, I would say it is very hard feeling because it tears you apart. But at the same time, in addition, to just feel safe, I would say would make me suffer most effective, you feel helpless, and you cannot do much. And it's almost any point when you feel angry, or even worse than that. But you know, it's like hitting the wall, you...you understand that this not should happen. And we trust it to the very last moment, it's never gonna happen, and nobody wants it. And all the sudden is going on. And no matter what the goal is, but the means before I think is think it just is worthleass is absolutely... War is not an answer, that's very simple. And in fact, Yana, you have relatives all over Europe, including a lot through Eastern Europe, and, and also friends here from all those countries. It has to hurt your heart.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: It tears it apart. I've been very depressed and just heartbroken.
Alexander Klepach: But you go on, because you must.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Yes I have small children, and I'm trying not to cry in front of them. But if they catch me, then I explain why. And that's part of unfortunately, what's happening.
Julia Meek: It's a brave part of what's happening. And we do admire both of you for your sheer perseverance and also for keeping a positive attitude with all of this. How do you keep in contact with your loved ones and friends and family in Europe?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Well, the internet is still working. And obviously all my friends that are in Western Europe they are... nothing has really changed in regards to communications with Russia, we shall see what happens. I know that Facebook got blocked. And I think some other sites,
Alexander Klepach: I just talked to my mother two days ago, just using the landline.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Yeah, I guess I guess that there are ways to communicate.
Julia Meek: So far so good. And we certainly keep our prayers for that to continue. And meanwhile, because music is a universal language to many and a calmative. How much does it help you adjust to your lives here, especially your worries for your homeland and your loved ones in the last months.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Well I only started really worrying I guess a couple of weeks ago. And music is, as you say, a universal language. And just I guess reading up on the lives of the composers and seeing why they wrote what they wrote and how and what their background was in life experience. That's been helpful.
Julia Meek: As you say yourself, you try not to cry. That's quite a feat right there. Does music turn it...
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: It, it channels the energy of helplessness into a feel something? I forget whose quote it was, but I think it's a beautiful quote, somebody said that music helps put parts of your soul in the right order.
Julia Meek: That is a wonderful quote. I wish..
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: ...I wish I remembered who said that.
Julia Meek: I wish more people knew it. That's all, because that is a beautiful sentiment. And does it help you, Alexander?
Alexander Klepach: It does. And I'm thinking the way it does is because the music became our profession, you know, our way of thinking, our life built around it. So anything that would happen, good or bad, it's always channeled, like Yana says, through our emotions. Which we using to deliver the message all the time because playing music is... it's not just playing music, we must communicate with an audience, we need to deliver the message, you have to know what you want to say. If it's not convincing enough people sense it immediately in a second that it's not interesting and important. So your message should be strong, and it should be delivered. And obviously, just the shape of how we think the shape, how we projecting our thoughts and our emotions. This I think is part of the profession. That's what changes everything around us.
Julia Meek: So the discipline itself has that built in, call or draw to get your head in a different place, so it can go forward.
Alexander Klepach: Yeah.
Julia Meek: That's very, very interesting. And speaking of music, the two of you are sharing a very special performance this week. It's Prokofiev's Sonata in D major Opus 94, A, the A represents the fact that although it was written very well for flute and piano, it was shortly thereafter transcribed into a beautiful piece for violin and piano. These are your instruments of expertise. And we really cannot wait to hear this concert. Now, the timing on this piece is a coincidence. It was actually delayed from performance by COVID?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Yes, correct. They were supposed to play this in 2020. And then COVID happened and all that, and we weren't sure what was going to happen. And then it was scheduled for pretty much the same Freimann Chamber series week in the spring. And here we are, in this moment in history, a Russian and a Ukrainian playing a piece by a Russian composer born in Ukraine.
Alexander Klepach: They came to me and said that we're still playing this piece. And when it was scheduled, finally rescheduled, we didn't know about that much of the problems is going to hit Ukraine and Russia. So we're thinking that it changes everything, in terms of the interpretation and the way we're going to deliver the music. But the music is still great. And we're feelng happy that we will be able to help people to understand through music something which we cannot express in words.
Julia Meek: It's an absolutely amazing circumstance. And for all of those that don't believe in coincidences, well, we' ll say that it must be some higher power. But most importantly, the two of you with your backgrounds and your friendships and your foregrounds, if you will, because of what you're doing here now and what all is happening in the whole world. How does it make you feel to be able to share something as strong and beautiful as this piece of music in this very week?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: It feels like a great honor. And also responsibility to bring this as a reminder of our common humanity and shared love for music...for life. And also honoring the difficult times that composers, the composer Prokofiev, he lived through. He wrote the Sonata during the war, World War Two, and my take on it is that it's his memories of his childhood in Ukraine in Sontsovka.
Julia Meek: That's powerful. Anyway you look at it.
Alexander Klepach: There's some thematic material actually, you can trace it. There's Ukrainian influence, obviously. And it's, it's just gorgeous. The way it is, everything in the entire piece. it's very optimistic and bright. It's just has so much hope and warmth. It's just one of the highest expressions of humanity can possibly find, delivered through...through music.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: I think this was Prokofiev's song of hope during the war.
Julia Meek: Well, then it's aptly timed to be happening right here right now and offer a new hope and a new encouragement in this very day.
Alexander Klepach: Indeed. What is this saying? Music is full of life, yeah... full of life. Yeah, it is, that's what it is.
Julia Meek: Great point. Great point. And actually, what has the local reaction to well, everything about this crisis done to your own anxieties and frustrations that you mentioned all need bolstering and right now-- that, that hope that you're speaking of is for everybody.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: I have seen people trying to be helpers, people coming together to collect aid for refugees and people offering their support to the victims. Also, I have seen some kind of ignorance in regards to Soviet composers and particularly Russian composers during the Soviet Union. The Philharmonic is scheduled to play just Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, which was his big piece of defiance against the Soviet government. And I heard someone say that we should cancel that. I was really taken aback by that. And I hope that people can read up on the history of that piece and what terrible circumstances Shostakovich lived through, and then Shostakovich's timing is also coincidents. In fact, at least two other orchestras. One of my former works is in fact, last week played Shostakovich 5. This was all scheduled years in advance.
Julia Meek: Does the fact that o ne can continue with really well known substantial Russian music at times like this and situations and circumstances like this-...should that give us hope that we can be together listening to all of this together at this time,
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: I think it should give us hope.
Alexander Klepach: Another thing it helps to keep in mind is that there is no such a real thing as Russian music. What we know the most, many composers, they have different nationalities, they have fathers and mothers from different parts of the world. Just some of them born in Russia, not necessarily make them Russians immediately, in the form, people trying to think,
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: And they started in different parts of the world.
Alexander Klepach: Absolutely.
Julia Meek: It's enlightenment then, that we're talking about really...it's universal. And, obviously, your spirits and your outlooks somehow remain positive and amazing. Even so this has to be overwhelming. Where do you turn when things really seem hopeless?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Well, we turn to music and to stories of people being kind and being helpful and compassionate.
Alexander Klepach: I talk to my kids, it's helping a lot. They have different perspective, very optimistic. (Are they here in the United States? Yeah, my daughter's in Indianapolis, she's biochemist working for related company, and I'm living with my son who's 10 years younger. He's graduating from high school and looking for colleges. So kids helping and at any time of sadness and grief and turmoils, I'm just going deep into my memories and try to remember great times which we live before, which is warming your soul. And building your hopes for the future.
Julia Meek: Is that your basic go to besides music, Alexander?
Alexander Klepach: Yeah, music, music...I cannot separate it. That's not even try to mention because it is part of everyday existence. I mean, if I'm walking or I'm sleeping, my brain constantly plays something, I do harmonizations of the tunes. It's...I cannot stop that process and nothing needed to be mentioned to do it.
Julia Meek: What about you Yana?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Well, children keep you in the moment. And I have three of them. They're all young, under the age of 10.
Julia Meek: Then you're certainly in the moment a lot aren't you?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: (Chuckles) So I am in the moment a lot and they're wonderful.
Julia Meek : What else?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Well, my church community and prayer.
Julia Meek: Good. All together.
Alexander Klepach: Yes. Same. Same. Thank you for reminding. Yes. It's not only music, not only things you do every day, and you're looking for your kids as a source of inspiration, maybe some optimistic approach to problems. But yeah, we do pray. (Chuckles) To pray... is one person I met recently said "You know, when you die, going to God is very fast paced was the way that there's something shooting behind you. This happened to be prayers of the people which were flying to God faster than you, your soul. So I hope that if we pray, hopefully, our prayers get interested there might be hope to get positive response in the visible future. Indupitably, it's not only the last resort to sit down and pray, but it is really changing not only our emotional state, I believe that it helps. So somebody thinks it's too naive. I don't think so. We don't know too much to be very categorical about many things that we simply don't know. If he didn't even learn how to live together, what are we talking about?
Julia Meek: Good points. And we certainly hope you're right. And I know you have a lot of music to make and a lot of practicing to do. So my last question, from your hearts. What one thing would you most like our listeners to understand about this whole sadness?
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: That the ordinary people don't want any of this and that we are all human beings.
Julia Meek: Alexander?
Alexander Klepach: I think it is much more complicated. But in general, I would like to put it into one sentence. I'm pretty sure more than 99% of the population of entire planet earth never would take a war as an option to do things which nobody wants to go through. Because there is no reason for destruction. There is no reason for losing lives in entire generation to be wiped out.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: And not to mention trauma to the survivors.
Alexander Klepach: So I cannot understand why we have to pay the price for something what is priceless to begin with, and there is no means in why the humans should exist to resolve any problems, any brutal way if we all designed it was okay to equal, to live in peace together it's beyond my comprehension.
Julia Meek: Yana Bourkova-Morunov and Alexander Klepach our associate concert master/violinist and pianist, respectively for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Yana, Alexander, your story, your music and your spirits are remarkable. Thank you so much for sharing with us today. Many blessings.
Yana Bourkova-Morunov: Same to you thank you.
Alexander Klepach: Thank you very much