Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble, 2014


Photo: Peter Ellenby

June 20-22, 2014
I will remember everything (World Premiere)
Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble

Eric Banks, composer

text by “Russia’s Sappho” Sophia Parnok (1885-1933)

June 20th – 8pm St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church
June 22nd – 7pm St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church
June 21st – Garden of Memory Festival/Chapel of the Chimes

Tickets: $20-$40

June 20 link-

June 22 link –

“KITKA’s songs are hauntingly beautiful, simple, yet otherworldly. The rich sound these women produce resonates as if energized by the universe itself, as if it were calling all live beings and still matter into togetherness and unity.” — Ching Chang, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE


Sophia Parnok photo courtesy of the private archive of Professor Diana L. Burgin

“Russia’s Sappho” Sophia Parnok (1885-1933) was the only openly lesbian author during the Silver Age of Russian letters. The Bay Area’s powerhouse women’s vocal ensemble, Kitka, gives voice to Parnok’s long-censored love poems in sumptuous and intimate musical settings by award-winning composer Eric Banks.

Parnok was born in Taganrog to a Jewish intellectual family. During her short lifetime, she published five volumes of poetry, a substantial body of literary criticism, and authored the libretti of several operas, one of which became a major hit at The Bolshoi Theater. Nevertheless few readers have heard of her.

At the beginning of WWI, Parnok met Marina Tsvetaeva, one of Russia’s most beloved poets, and the two became involved in a passionate love affair. Parnok also had relationships with a number of other remarkable and trailblazing women, including an actress, a mathematician, and a physicist. Banks’ sonic portrait of Parnok tells her story through the poems she wrote to the women she loved.

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Kitka is an American women’s vocal arts ensemble inspired by traditional songs and vocal techniques from Eastern Europe. The Oakland-based octet has earned international recognition for its distinctive sound, exploring a vast palette of ancient yet contemporary- sounding vocal effects. The ensemble’s earthy to ethereal timbres evoke an astonishing range of subtle to extreme inner states, instincts, and emotions. Kitka’s commitment to presenting traditional song as a living and evolving expressive art form has led to adventurous collaborations with some of the world’s most exciting indigenous musicians and contemporary composers ranging from Le Mystères des Voix Bulgares to Meredith Monk. Currently celebrating its 34th season, Kitka began as a grassroots group of amateur singers from diverse ethnic and musical backgrounds who shared a passion for the stunning dissonances, asymmetric rhythms, intricate ornamentation, and resonant strength of traditional Eastern European women’s vocal music. Since its informal beginnings, the group has evolved into an award-winning touring ensemble known for its artistry, versatility, and mastery of the demanding techniques of regional vocal styling, as well as for its innovative explorations in new music for women’s voices. Kitka’s wide-ranging performance, teaching, and recording activities have exposed millions to the haunting beauty of their unique repertoire.



Photo: Melissa Smith Lewis

Composer, conductor, translator, linguist, vocalist, and ethnomusicologist –Eric Banks has garnered international acclaim for his creative direction, and his unwavering commitment to new music for voices. Eric earned his BA in Composition (1990) at Yale University, and his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Music Theory and Choral Studies at the University of Washington. In 1997, Banks was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm. In 1992, Banks founded the chamber chorus, The Esoterics. Now in its 21st season, Seattle’s most innovative chorus has drawn international praise for performing rarely-heard compositions of contemporary music, for infusing elements of the literary, theatrical, and visual arts into the typical concert experience, and for performing settings of poetry, philosophy, and spiritual writings from around the world. To date, The Esoterics have performed over 400 concerts, commissioned and premiered over 200 new choral works in dozens of languages, and released 16 critically acclaimed CDs. In recognition for their innovation, The Esoterics have been honored 4 times with the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for the Adventurous Programming.

In his music, Eric is drawn to ideas that are ‘esoteric’ in origin, and chooses to express and elucidate concepts that are undiscovered, under-represented, or not easily decipherable by a wider audience. Banks has harnessed his passions for foreign poetry, classical civilization, comparative religion, social justice, and natural science– to create choral works that reach far beyond the scope of the established concert canon. Eric has been awarded grants from the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation, 4Culture, Seattle City Artists, Artist Trust and Washington State Arts Commission, ASCAPlus, San Francisco Arts Commission, New Music USA and the NEA. In 2010, Eric was granted the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award from Chorus America and the American Composers Forum to compose “This delicate universe”, a cantata based on climate-change statistics, for the ensemble Conspirare. He currently holds commissions from the Boston Children’s Chorus, Cantori New York, Clerestory, Kitka, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Seattle Opera, the Singapore Youth Ensemble, and Voces Nordicæ.