Village Harmony

Bulgaria – July 8 – 22, 2019 (14 days) – $1700 adults / $1375 youth

Date: July 8 - 22, 2019
Venue: Hotel Valentino 2, Dobrinishte, Pirin Region, Bulgaria
Leaders: Petrana Kucheva, Lysander Jaffe, Emil Ivanov, Ivaylo Kouchev, Bulgarka Junior Quartet
Price: $1700/adults, $1375/youth

We deliberately try to make this and our other international camps more affordable for high school & college student participation by offering a youth discount.

Village Harmony’s sixth camp in Bulgaria will be led by singer Petrana Koucheva, VH alumnus and dynamic teacher Lysander Jaffe, and Pepa’s brilliant instrumentalist husband, Ivaylo Kouchev.

Emphasis in the two-week long study-performance workshop will be given to studying Bulgarian song ornamentation and learning songs and folk dances from various regions of the country, both during the rehearsal week and with musicians we meet along our tour route. Instrumentalists among the group will be able to study traditional Bulgarian instruments and play to accompany dance songs in the group’s concert program.

The first week of the trip we will take over the  attractive Hotel Valentino in the village of Dobrinishte in the southern Pirin region. Dobrinishte is a historically and culturally rich Bulgarian town with amazing old houses and museums, mineral spas and pools, and mountain trails, and we will be able to enjoy gondola trips up Bez Bog, mineral baths and dining on traditional Bulgarian fare.

During this initial week and during the ensuing tour we will meet and study with a number of professional and traditional singers, including the Bulgarka Quartet and the Abagar Quartet, based in Shumen.

From Dobrinishte in the Pirin region we will travel to the Black Sea and back, performing and attending festivals and folkloric events along the way.

We’ll stop in Breznitsa (near Gotse Delchev) in Blagoevgrad to learn songs in the Pomac tradition. From there we will make our way through Thrace to the Black Sea, staying near Burgas.

As we near the end of our two weeks we will visit Pazardjik—where Pepa, Ivaylo and Emil grew up—to perform with folk singers and dancers in a local festival before ending our stay in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital city.


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Petrana Kucheva

Pepa-KuchevaPetrana (Pepa) Kucheva grew up in a family of singers in Thrace, Bulgaria. In her time in the US, she has toured and performed extensively, including concert appearances at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and at the United Nations. She founded and directed the singing group Pesnopojka in New York City, and has taught Balkan music at the Balkan Music and Dance workshops on both coasts and throughout the United Sttes. Pepa has four recordings to her name and has won many honors in her native Bulgaria for her performances and activities in teaching traditional music. In 1999 the Slavic Heritage Council of America awarded her a special Certificate of Recognition in gratitude for her outstanding contributions to the Slavic community of Greater New York. In 2013 Pepa collaborated with the Packard Library of Congress making video recordings for audio and visual conservation. Pepa continues to tirelessly work for the preservation of Bulgarian traditional music through teaching, mentoring and conducting, and organizing workshops and seminars. Pepa has taught off and on with Village Harmony since 1999. This will be the fifth trip to Bulgaria that Pepa has organized for us.

Lysander Jaffe

imagesLYSANDER JAFFE, originally from Conway, MA, is a versatile musician based in Boston. He is a brilliant violinist and violist, adept at both classical and folk styles.  He has traveled extensively to Georgia, Turkey, Kosovo and  and Bulgaria, studying and documenting traditional music. As a vocalist, Lysander has a wonderful command of the ornamented styles of Georgian, Albanian and Corsican singing.  He is a veteran  of many years of Village Harmony and has participated in the several recent Northern Harmony tours.



Emil Ivanov

Emil Ivanov is choreographer of the Pazardzhik Ensemble in western Bulgaria. He taught our first Village Harmony Bulgaria camp session an award-winning dance set for its 2000 performance at the prestigious Koprivshtitsa Festival. His infinite patience and endless humor make him a perennially popular and well-beloved dance instructor. As he has for Village Harmony’s previous Bulgaria sessions, Emil will be doing a lot of our on-the-ground arrangements for this Bulgaria camp.

Ivaylo Kouchev

Pepa’s musician husband Ivaylo Kouchev grew up in the city of Pleven in Northern  Bulgaria. He learned to play kaval (the Bulgarian end-blown flute) when he was 13 years old. He attended the prestigious Shiroka Lǔka National Folk Music School as a high school student. After further professional training at the Academy of Folk Music and Dance in Plovdiv, Ivaylo was hired as an instructor of both kaval and tǔpan (the Bulgarian bass drum) at Shiroka Lǔka.

After moving to New York City Ivaylo continued to teach. He was also in demand as a performer when Bulgarian folk groups came to the US to tour. Ivaylo has appeared on Broadway shows several times, and has been a featured performer and countless music events and dance festivals around the US.

He and Pepa recorded Bulgarian Traditional Folk Music at the Packard LIbrary of Congress for Audio and Visual Conservation in Virginia. In 2013 Ivaylo was recognized as an Apprenticeship Master Artist as a maker of traditional tǔpans by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Bulgarka Junior Quartet

Bulgarka Junior QuartetThe four female singers of the Bulgarka Junior Quartet— formed in 1989 as the ‘next generation’ incarnation of the internationally-famous Trio Bulgarka—in the western city of Plovdiv—hail from different Bulgarian folklore region with specific and rich vocal heritage. Each of the singers was brought up singing traditional folk music in their families before they began their professional careers. The ensemble’s repertoire includes both traditional Bulgarian folk songs and arranged Bulgarian folk music by some of the most notable contemporary composers


Hotel Valentino 2, Dobrinishte, Pirin Region, Bulgaria

DobrinishteThe Hotel Valentino 2 is a gem in the breathtaking Rhodope mountains in Bulgaria. The hotel is in the picturesque village of Dobrinishte in the Pirin Mountains six kilometers from Bansko. Dobrinishte has been famous for its mineral springs since ancient times.  Surrounded by the three mountain ranges—Rila, Pirin and Rhodope—Dobrinishte is a popular summer and winter resort surrounded by unspoiled natural beauty and replete with historic architecture and friendly inhabitants.