The back-to-school bustle has an extra layer of excitement this year at R.F. Morrison Elementary School.
Music teacher Rosemarie Todaschuk recently launched her fourth Ukrainian music CD with her sister Charlene, and the duo are spending their weekends in a whirlwind of tours.
Dedicated to the memory of their late father, Until We Meet Again features both contemporary and classic Ukrainian songs. The internationally-renowned musicians launched their latest album in August at the Ukraine-Kyiv Folklorama pavilion.
"Half the songs are written by composers of today in Ukraine. In the Ukrainian community, they’re very popular. People can feel the rhythms and want to get up and dance," said Todaschuk, who has also recorded a jazz album.
"The other half are traditional songs that are popular in the community as well. There are a couple of beautiful ballads. Even in the non-Ukrainian community, people would appreciate the music."
The sisters were always in harmony with their musical career, thanks to artistic development at an early age. As children, the pair pursued piano, violin and singing lessons, while also performing in a mandolin orchestra. At ages four and five, the Garden City girls began Ukrainian dancing and took classes at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.
But their first real break stemmed from singing in Mother’s Day concerts at their church. Gaining popularity, the pair were then invited to sing at a church opening in Ottawa. After that, they landed a gig in Chicago, followed by a performance at the bicentennial celebrations in Los Angeles.
In 1983, they recorded their first CD, Todaschuk Sisters, while studying fine arts at York University. Nearly a decade later, they released their second album, also called Todaschuk Sisters, to commemorate the centennial of Ukrainian settlement in Canada.
Then in 2002, they recorded The Spirit of Ukrainian Christmas in Montreal, where Charlene lives and works as a visual artist. Her husband, Andrij Czerny, has contributed his talents for musical arrangement to each album.
Throughout the decades, the musicians have gained international interest by touring North America and Ukraine. To promote their new album, they will perform this month at Ukrainian festivals in Montreal and Toronto.
For the Seven Oaks School Division teacher, family support is the key to their success.
"Our mother and father have been our biggest supporters from the very beginning, taking us to music and dance lessons as well as being at every one of our performances, locally and abroad," Todaschuk said.
"On our first album, we recorded a song written by an Italian composer C. A. Bixio, with lyrics translated into Ukrainian and English. This song brought our mother and every mother to tears when we would sing it. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many songs about fathers, so we felt blessed to dedicate this album to the memory of our father who recently passed away."
For their next local show, the Todaschuk Sisters will perform a Ukrainian Christmas concert at McNally Robinson (1120 Grant Ave.) in January.
Until then, fans can find their CDs at local Ukrainian stores and at McNally Robinson. They can also order albums online at www.RosemarieTodaschuk.com