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The Forgotten Kingdom - Live Sand Animation |
The Forgotten Kingdom with Live Sand Animation
featuring USA Premiere of Sand Artist Kseniya Simonova (Winner, Ukraine's Got Talent)
Limited Dates in 2018

In the animated The Forgotten Kingdom, intertwining music, storytelling and captivating sand animation conjure voices lost to war and upheaval.

 Download Show Kit (PDF)  |  Learn More about Kseniya Simonova  | Learn more about associated Community Engagement Programs  (PDF)

The Forgotten Kingdom tells of the ending of an age, one whose passing begins with the traumas of the Great War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and whose definitive ending is ushered in by the rise of fascism and WWII. The tale is told through glimpses and impressions captured in a book of memories found by a daring refugee girl upon her return to her ruined village in 1944. The pages capture day-to-day life from the vantage point of those living through the breakdown of democracies. This includes many of those leading the charge to authoritarianism — and whose actions would eventually cover entire communities in a “shroud of oblivion” — who fervently believed that they were on a moral crusade, that history was on their side.

The Forgotten Kingdom springs from late 19th and early 20th century women’s songs from Sephardi communities in the former Ottoman Empire. All music is in the endangered Ladino language, a combination of archaic Spanish with Turkish and Greek. The narration is in English. The show weaves its tale impressionistically, through a series of vignettes with recurring characters and themes. The addition of Kseniya Simonova’s evocative sand animation stirs deep resonance as well as connections with contemporary struggles, dilemmas and debates.

The masterful sand art offers a beautiful metaphor both for the story and the show itself: creating something new from something old and elemental; something that, by its very nature, is constantly evolving.

Featured Audio

Summer Fly

Down By the Sally Gardens


The Blessing

About Kseniya Simonova (Sand Artist)

Performance artist in sand animation. Simonova is a graduate of the Artistic School of Yevpatoria, the Tavrida National V.I. Vernadsky University and the Ukrainian Academy of Printing. She lives and works in Yevpatoria, Ukraine.

Simonova developed her sand animation technique by sifting volcanic sand through her hands over a lightboard. During her performances she creates, obliterates and morphs her images to create a flowing narrative.

In 2009, Simonova was catapulted into international fame when she won Ukraine’s Got Talent. One of the pieces that she performed in the competition was a sand story about Germany’s destruction of the Ukraine during World War II, as experienced by a young coupleseparated by the war.

Simonova has performed over 200 sand stories for audiences in Ukraine, Russia, Norway, Japan, Poland, Austria, China, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Qatar, India, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Malta and others, including presidents, heads of states and royalty.

About Guy Mendilow Ensemble

“An international tour de force” (Bethlehem Morning Call) from the Middle East, South and North America, the Guy Mendilow Ensemble transports audiences to the long-ago-and-far-away...to hold a mirror for our own here-and-now. The world-class ensemble combines evocative storytelling with emotionally captivating music in shows that “explode with artistry, refinement, and excitement” (Hebrew Union College), conjuring voices lost to war and upheaval, whisking audiences to distant times and picturesque places and, ultimately, stirring highly resonant, deeply moving connections to contemporary struggles and dilemmas.

The National Endowment for the Arts recognized the Guy Mendilow Ensemble for the creation of artthat meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art and the strengthening of communities through the arts.

The Guy Mendilow Ensemble tours four shows: The Forgotten Kingdom ; Heart of the Holidays — A Global Celebration in Song ; Three Sides to Every Story ; and Around the World in Song family concerts. Distinguished educators, the ensemble specializes in community engagement including tailor-made residencies, choral/string collaborations and a breadth of interactive workshops. The Ensemble is an artist in residence with Celebrity Series of Boston’s Arts for All since 2014.

Alongside touring with the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, members are on the faculty of music schools like the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in India and tour/record with the likes of Bobby McFerrin, Yo Yo Ma, Snarky Puppy, the Assad Brothers, Christian McBride, the Video Game Orchestra, Amanda Palmer and Simon Shaheen. Formed in 2004, the Ensemble is based in Boston, MA and New York, NY, USA

Performance Review

We just had Maura O’Connell on June 11, 2011 at the McKinney Performing Arts Center and in our five year history of concerts, by far, Maura’s is one of the best I have yet to experience.
I have to admit I happened upon her at an Arts Midwest Conference showcase and after her first song, I knew I had to bring her to Texas. I made the right choice, and my audience agreed.
From her first note to her last, she had the audience on the edge of their seats. She is captivating and has the stage presence that pulls you into one of the most memorable events you have the privilege and honor to be a part of.
I can only see her getting bigger, but unlikely better, as I cannot imagine how she could even do that. Her wit, charm and ability to establish a connection with the audience made you feel that you were in a living room and a part of her family.

David Taylor, Director of McKinney Performing Arts Center

Album Review-Naked with Friends

"Naked With Friends"

Kindred spirits: De Dannan, Mary Black, Alison Krauss

Performing a cappella requires a leap of faith for most vocalists, but for Irish-born Maura O'Connell, it's as natural as breathing. She sounds right at home on her new CD, the Grammy-nominated "Naked With Friends," performing traditional ballads and contemporary songs, mostly in English and Gaelic. Of course, even in an unadorned setting, a stellar guest list doesn't hurt. Dolly Parton, Mary Black, Alison Krauss, Paul Brady and Tim O'Brien are among the singers who lend their voices to this soulful collection.

Well-known for her wise choice of material and gift for storytelling, O'Connell takes full advantage of her remarkably resonant alto here. Elvis Costello's antiwar theme "Shipbuilding" triggers one of her most emotionally compelling interpretations, with help from the Settles Connection choir, and her take on Joan Armatrading's "Weakness in Me" is similarly moving. Looking to her Celtic roots for inspiration, O'Connell also turns in a breathtakingly lovely rendition of "Maidín I M'Béarra." Parton's unmistakable voice adds silver harmonies to the opening cut, "The Bright Blue Rose," but the standout tracks include a duet with O'Brien ("The Blacksmith") and the performances enhanced by Krauss ("Some People's Lives") and O'Connell's sister Áine Derrane (Holly Near's "Hay Una Mujer Desapercida").
As bold as it is, "Naked With Friends" isn't really a departure for O'Connell; it's an intimate homecoming.

Read More

Mike Joyce

Album Review Naked with Friends

Naked With Friends Sugar Hill Records ****

All bets are off on Maura O’Connell’s aptly titled Naked With Friends . Jettisoning all instrumental scaffolding, O’Connell has returned to her real roots. Her eclectic songs shimmer in the heat of their own forging: a visceral version of Anach Cuain , with Paul Brady, eviscerates the baggage from one of the tradition’s so-called “big songs”. Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding is remade in the image of southern gospel, and Jimmy McCarthy’s The Bright Blue Rose is invigorated by harmonies Kate Rusby and Dolly Parton as delicate as a butterfly’s wing with. The rest is a similarly stellar roll call, but what matters most is O’Connell’s musical equivalent of a parachute jump without a safety cord. Bold in conception, brazenly uncompromising in execution.

Siobhan Long

Please check back soon for The Forgotten Kingdom - Live Sand Animation's tour schedule.