Image: Nica Zaharia released her wildly popular song, The Carol of the Quince in the Window, in Romania in 1984. Today it’s belted out at stadiums. 

Renowned Romanian/Australian folk singer Nica Zaharia has always taken special notice of things, and enjoyed putting these experiences to words and music since high school.

But for the successful artist, nothing has quite captured the public imagination like her image of a quince on a window sill to depict a cosy winter in Romania at Christmastime, in a song that’s now belted out at stadiums.

“Writing songs is a creative activity and there is something magical about it,” the UNE writing student says.

“‘Galbena Gutuie’ (‘The Carol of the Quince in the Window’) [released in 1984] is my most successful song.

“It has more than 300 covers on YouTube. It’s a winter song about a little child who looks at a quince which his mother placed on the windowsill, and he sees it like a lamp shining through the whole winter. In Romania, winters are very cold, and people used to put quinces on windowsills. Along the whole winter, those quinces spread a very pleasant perfume. Because it is very cold outside, people stay mostly inside, listen to the fire in the stove and to the blizzard outside, feeling safe, and during the long evenings, they tell stories, sing carols, and the perfume from the quinces is part of this atmosphere.

“I feel very happy when I hear it sung by children, by big professional voices, in churches and, mostly, by whole stadiums or concert halls. It’s fantastic to listen to a choir of thousands of people singing my song!”

Though she has been performing since kindergarten and writing songs for many years, Nica says UNE has helped her along her creative career path. 

“During my Bachelor of Music course at UNE, which I enrolled in in 2018, I learned how to orchestrate my songs and how to use the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), which helps me a lot. I had wonderful teachers for my creative units: Dr Paul Smith and Dr Donna Hewitt.

“My dream since I’ve been in high school was to study music at a higher level. After high school, in communist Romania, there was fierce competition for very few places at university, and I was not prepared enough.

“I was self-taught in music theory and I attended a course in vocal training, but I wanted to learn more. When my daughter started studying in Tasmania, the stars aligned for me.”

She followed her music degree with studies in media and communications.

“If I always was sure and confident regarding my talent in music, I needed validation for my talent in writing, and the UNE Bachelor of Media and Communications gave it to me,” she says.

“Doing Bachelor of Media and Communications course, I decided to write a memoir book, emphasising different events from my childhood. I was a very sensitive child, and many events had a very powerful impact on my soul.

“The Writing Creative Non-Fiction unit WRIT309 and the feedback from Dr Lili Pâquet made me feel confident that I can do it. Dr Ariella Van Luyn is another unit coordinator who made me feel confident.”

While the fame of her carol continues to build momentum in Romania – with a contemporary folk festival in Romania now named after her and her song (the Nica Zaharia Festival – Galbena Gutuie), she has also released an album in English (in 2021) honouring Australia, where she has lived since 2000.

“I chose the title ‘Greetings from Down Under’ to express my love, gratitude and respect for Australia. I am proud to be an Australian Citizen,” she says.

While the Carol of the Quince has become an iconic Christmas song in Romania, she even felt inspired to include a more Australian ‘carol’ on the album.

“I wrote ‘Aussie Christmas’ thinking how wonderful Christmas is during summer, as opposed to Christmas in winter!”

You can listen to Nica’s music here: