Songs of Our Families

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Bulgarian Voices of Seattle Women’s Choir launches the Songs of Our Families Bulgarian Heritage Project for their 2013-14 season. The Project includes four main components.

This Baba poster

DIGITAL SCRAPBOOK Each Bulgarian Voices singer will explore with her family songs they remember and the memories attached to those songs. She will create a ‘digital scrapbook’ of her research to share with the local community. The scrapbooks might include video and/or audio recordings, old family photos, mementos, recipes, art – anything that is meaningful as she delves deeper into family memories of songs. Equally important as the songs, are the meaningful experiences the singer and her family will have as sweet memories surface. These scrapbooks will not only be precious keepsakes for the families, but also provide inspiration and knowledge for children of Bulgarian families being raised in the West. The singers and others touched by the project will write blog posts to share their feelings and discoveries all along the way.

SONGS OF OUR FAMILIES CONCERT The Bulgarian Voices singers will teach the songs they learned from their families to the entire choir. Those songs will be presented in a public concert on May 10, 2014, at Carco Theater in Renton, Washington. “This Baba,” a documentary film, will be premiered at the concert.

“This Baba” is a 30- to 45-minute documentary film by Bogdan Darev about Bulgarian Voices singer Penka Encheva. The film weaves personal reminiscences and song together to share the fabric of this one grandmother’s life. Penka joined Bulgarian Voices in 2012. When the choir first heard her voice they were stunned. Here was a living treasure of Bulgarian song in their midst. The purity, simplicity and integrity with which she sings reflect a style and approach quickly disappearing with the older generation of singers. Penka had been an amateur singer in Bulgaria in the 1960’s. At the time, her late husband urged her to collect recordings she made with radio and television, but as a middle school teacher in Plovdiv and a mother, Penka’s life took her in another direction. Now only one recording remains.  Penka came to America in 2010 at age 67 to live with her daughter’s family and help care for her two beautiful grandsons. She thought her singing life was long over, but the Bulgarian Voices of Seattle choir brought it back to her.
Filmmaker Bogdan Darev fell in love with the movies in his early childhood in Bulgaria. Since then, he has discovered a passion for writing, music and Bulgarian folklore. His films facilitate a union between all the arts while celebrating the diversity, wonder and inherent beauty of the human spirit. Some of Bogdan’s clients include Seattle Opera, Bulgarian Cultural and Heritage Center of Seattle, and other non-profits.

Over the summer of 2013 Penka will be recorded in studio to capture some of the countless songs she carries. In early 2014, the entire choir will record songs they learned in their research with families.


Bulgarian Voices of Seattle Women’s Choir, formed in 2011, directed by Mary Sherhart, is a program within the Bulgarian Cultural and Heritage Center of Seattle. Its 30 members are all women born in Bulgaria. They range in age from 26 to 78. In addition to singing folk songs and choral arrangements based on folk songs, the women teach each other about customs and holiday rituals, and share their knowledge in the community through concerts and events. The choir members cherish weekly rehearsals that give them the opportunity to be together with other Bulgarian women, away from the stresses and strains of family, work and immigrant life.

The Bulgarian Cultural and Heritage Center of Seattle (BCHCS) is a nonprofit organization formed in 2011 to establish, organize, support, and promote events related to traditional and contemporary Bulgarian culture, to preserve Bulgarian heritage in the greater Seattle area; to engage, educate and outreach to the Bulgarian and greater Seattle community; and collaborate with other organizations to promote Bulgarian culture and heritage.


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