Holly Taylor-Zuntz wears headphones and Susan Thompson with microphone
Holly Taylor-Zuntz wears headphones and Susan Thompson with microphone Photo: Nino Khundadze

About Voices of the Ancestors – The Podcast

Your hosts, Holly and Susan, take a gentle stroll with lovers of Georgian polyphonic songs (the one in the Caucasus mountains). Pausing with inspiring teachers to admire the view of the past and future of this deeply rooted aural tradition. In Georgia’s traditionally patriarchal society the podcast takes time to admire the perspective of folklore from a female viewpoint.

The hosts are based in the UK and Georgia, whilst the list of guests spreads across the globe, wherever folks have been smitten by the harmonies of Georgia. More about your hosts later.

პოდკასტ (ციფრული.აუდიო ფაილი ინტერნეტში) „წინაპართა ხმები”-ის ფარგლებში ჰოლი და სიუზანი ესაუბრებიან ქართული მრავალხმიანი სიმღერების ქალ შემსრულებლებს, როგორც საქართველოში, ისე მის ფარგლებს გარეთ. ისინი ერთად განიხილავენ სიმღერების მოგზაურობის ისტორიებსა და მასთან დაკავშირებულ ამბებს. პოდკასტის მასპინძლები დიდ ბრიტანეთში ცხოვრობენ, სტუმრები კი მსოფლიოს სხვადასხვა ქვეყნიდან არიან მოწვეული. ყოველი მხრიდან, სადაც ფოლკლორის მოყვარულებს ქართულ ჰარმონიებთან აქვთ შეხება

Headphones against a stone borjali
Headphones against a stone borjali. Photo: Nino Khundadze

About Your Hosts

Hi there! We are Holly Taylor-Zuntz and Susan Thompson, one an actor and one a charity professional – drawn together by a shared passion for singing Georgian multi-part folk songs (in Episode 7 you can hear how we met at a Maspindzeli choir rehearsal in London).

In the Prelude we have a playful, spontaneous, unscripted chat about our hopes for the project when it started last year. In the podcast we explore Georgian polyphonic songs, and the women who sing them. We ask each guest what ‘Voices of the Ancestors’ means to them. We have received great responses, both from experts within Georgia and listeners new to the genre.

Holly Taylor-Zuntz

Holly Taylor-Zuntz is a voice leader, song collector and multi-disciplinary artist from Oxford who has been living in Georgia and studying Georgian songs for the last five years.

Her practice involves embodied voice work, exploring how the voice resonates in different parts of one’s body, and how that resonance can create a fuller ensemble sound. Holly leads Oxford Kalta Choir – ‘Georgian Polyphony in women’s voices’.

She is a graduate of the European Theatre Arts (BA) Programme at Rose Bruford College, London’s International Drama School of Theatre & Performance. She trained in ensemble theatre and devising.

As Holly says in Episode 7“When I was training in Gardzienice in Poland, I was introduced to Georgian songs, and I was just completely blown away and fascinated. Later that year I went to Georgia and of course fell in love with the country and the folk songs.”

Susan Thompson

Susan is a Georgian polyphonic folk song enthusiast. Her moment of discovery was while singing with ‘Woven Chords’, a community choir in Stamford, UK. Joining Maspindzeli in 2004 and performing both in Georgia and the UK, Susan has travelled widely in Georgia. She presented at the International Symposia on Traditional Polyphony in Tbilisi and the Giorgi Garakanidze International Festival of Folklore and Spiritual Music in Batumi and Georgian Studies Day at University of Westminster.

In 2019 Maka Khardziani interviewed her for the Bulletin of the International Research Centre for Traditional Polyphony of the V. Sarajishvili Tbilisi State Conservatoire: Voices of the Ancestors – An English Woman’s Journey through Georgian Folk Songs and Singers Bulletin 27.

Susan Thompson, microphone in hand, at University of Westminster lectern.
Susan Thompson presenting at Georgian Studies Day, University of Westminster
photo credit Armand Wang

About Voices of the Ancestors – Presents

Learn about your hosts - seen on stage with ensemble Stumrebi and our hosts at the Willow Globe.

Stumrebi with Willow Globe Founders – Sue Best, Phil Bowen and Emily

Voices of the Ancestors presented JOURNEY OF GEORGIAN SONGS – Ensemble Stumrebi

9th July 2022 “It is always a great delight to attend the Willow Globe performances and I booked to see Journey of Georgian Songs because I knew nothing about this music. It was very different but in a good way, I am very pleased that I booked to see it. The singers were very accomplised and brought the new (to me) sounds and stories to life. So the evening was a very enjoyable experience.”

About Voices of the Ancestors – The Show

At the Giorgi Garakanidze Festival, Batumi 5.11.21

‘Voices of the Ancestors On Stage’ and ‘Amer-Imeri at the Blue Monastry’

With Georgian and English subtitles (select subtitle language in You Tube)

Voices of the Ancestors on stage at the Omnibus Theatre, London

Theatre Residency, Omnibus Theatre, Clapham, London, UK – July 2021

Learn more about you hosts - seen here with Magda Kevlishvili in a publicity poster for the Theatre Residency at Omnibus Theatre, Clapham, London
Magda Kevlishvili, Susan Thompson & Holly Taylor-Zuntz 

As the first series of the Podcast ‘Voices of the Ancestors’ drew to a close, we were thrilled to be sharing our ‘work in progress’ on the Omnibus Theatre stage with a bevy of talented theatre makers.

Performed by: Your hosts Holly Taylor-Zuntz & Susan Thompson, Ellen Jordan, Bernard Burns, Polly Hunt, Jenny Barrett.

Dramaturgical support by: Marie Mccarthy, Phoebe Wagner and Tiffer Hutchings.

Additional Videography of Edisher Garakanidze by Benjamin Pierce Higgins

The video of the show (above) was made by: Annalie Wilson at Snow Lion Media, http://snowlionmedia.com/ (please email for details voicesofancestors@gmail.com). You learn a little more about your hosts in the video. It starts with a 10 minute behind the scenes look at the creation process with director Holly Taylor-Zuntz, followed by the 20 minute ‘scratch’ show filmed live at the Omnibus Theatre, Clapham. The Songs: Akishi, Mze Shina, Alilo, Imeruli Makruli, Dzlier Stiroda, Naninei, Batonebo, Mamli Mukhasa, Tskals Napoti.

About Work in progress for festival - womans head with red headress

Creating for the Croydon Festival, London – 2020

Before the Pandemic, your hosts were working on a performance piece. It was performed at the Croydon Unfinished Things Festival, in 2020, before live theatre became a thing of dreams. Following the mantra – ‘What can we do?’ Voices of the Ancestors, the Podcast, was born. As @WillTribble kindly said ‘The Xmas edition (Episode 6) covers the life of Magda, who was the centre of their beautiful performance piece at the Croydon Unfinished Things Festival’. While Episode 7 with Joan Mills, it a great place to start listening. Her story covers the moment Georgian Folk Songs were first taught in Wales.

Voices of the Ancestors Podcast launched in October 2020 at Festivals in Georgia. For Series 1, the podcast published on the first Thursday of each month. Series 2 launched in September 2022 in Tbilisi and Batumi.