All-Ukrainian choir festival “Zhayvir gathers friends”

All-Ukrainian choir festival “Zhayvir gathers friends”

I love my charming city which is one of the most beautiful cities in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. History of Lviv is as bright and amazing as the city itself, full of interesting events and famous figures. Prominent figures of Ukrainian culture such as Stanislav Lyudkevych, Vasyl Barvinsky, Mykola Kolessa, Anatoliy Kos-Anatolsky, Myroslav Skoryk lived and worked in Lviv, after all, a lot of famous Ukrainian art figures were connected with Lviv, for instance, Solomiya Krushelnytska, Bogdan Stupka, Les Kurbas, Ivan Trush, etc. Today Lviv is over 760 years old and it has a lot of stories to tell. Lviv was founded during the reign of Danylo Romanovych, and the first mention of the city dates back to 1256. It is named after his son – Prince Leo.

The city, which was founded on the intersection of profitable trade routes, soon flourished and developed, becoming one of the main trade centers of medieval Europe. Later, being under the rule of many European countries, including Poland, Austria, Germany and Russia, Lviv took after from each of its invaders some part of culture and knowledge, eventually becoming not only a pearl of architecture but also the capital of modern scientific, spiritual and artistic life. 

In 1998, due to a special combination of architectural and artistic traditions and a unique urban architectural landscape of the medieval part of the city, Lviv and the territory of the Cathedral of St. Jura was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (In 2015, Lviv became a city of UNESCO literature).

Later, in 1999, Lviv played the role of the “capital of Central and Eastern Europe”, welcoming nine heads of state at the same time during the VI Summit of Presidents of Central Europe. They themselves created the Presidential Garden by planting 9 apple trees on the territory of the Hrushevsky Museum.

Concert performance of the headliner of the 13th Festival “Zhayvir convenes friends”, 2018. Chamber choir “Kyiv” (Leadеr is Mykola Hobdych)

In April 2009, on the basis of expert research of the State Service for Tourism and Resorts and the Council for Tourism and Resorts, Lviv was awarded the status of the cultural capital of Ukraine.

Next to the famous National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater named after Solomiya Krushelnytska, which stands on the river Poltva (architect Zygmund Gorgolevsky and yes, there was a river in Lviv), the National Academic Drama Theater named after Maria Zankovetska, the National Philharmonic Palace and many miraculous churches (St. George, St. Andrew, the Garrison Church of St. Apostles Peter and Paul, the Dominican Cathedral, the Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, the Latin Cathedral, etc., a total of about 100 churches in the city); it is in our city where House of Organ and Chamber Music, often referred to as Organ hall, stands, as well as the church of St. Mary Magdalene (XVII century), which has the largest working organ in Ukraine. It is this hall that has been hospitably welcoming the participants of the All-Ukrainian Choir Festival “Zhayvir Gathers Friends” for 15 years in a row. This festival becomes one of Lviv’s signature cards every spring. 

“Why exactly this name?” you may ask. While studying at the Lviv Conservatory, singing in various choirs, and later with my choir, I repeatedly had the opportunity to participate in choral festivals in Lithuania, Latvia, Austria, Holland, which were memorable not only because of beautiful groups but also because of the scale of action and the way government agencies related to the event, turning the choir festival into a holiday for guests, participants and for citizens themselves. It was at that time, perhaps not yet consciously, that the desire arose to organize a similar event with an emphasis on Ukrainian music. In 2000, in Lviv, I created a children’s and youth choir “Zhayvir” (now the People’s Art Collective of Ukraine Chamber Choir “Zhayvir”). Of course, without “Zhayvir” I would not have been able to implement the idea of a festival, which the children liked and the parents supported. As in 2005, we had already had enough friendly contacts with other choirs, the idea of the festival was born, the name of which organically formed from the very content of the event “Zhayvir gathers friends”. At first, it was a collaborative celebration of music with other choirs within the city, later the region. However, soon the need to draw attention to the promotion of choral art became an urgent need, that’s why the festival focused on the promotion of choral music to encourage and unite band leaders and participants from all over Ukraine in quality self-expression in the city, rich in history, traditions, including choral ones, to present to ordinary listeners, participants from different regions of the state, tourists, music of any genre and style in live performances of choirs (age of participants 6-30 years). After all, choral music is a universal force that unites people of different ages, origins, status, beliefs and tastes. Choral music culture is one of our cultural traditions, which represents Ukraine in the world community (remember that it was thanks to the choir of Koshytsia that Leontovych’s work “Shchedryk” became popular all over the world, asserting the status of the state).

The first All-Ukrainian competition of young choral conductors named after Mykola Kolessa, 2019. (LNMA named after M. Lysenko)

But over time, analyzing the state of choral art, a large-scale goal emerged – to form a choral center of active, creative leaders of choirs who are not indifferent to the fate of choral culture in Ukraine. After all, it is no secret that choral art as a genre is, unfortunately, in danger of extinction (especially now, in quarantine).

Taking this opportunity, I appeal to government officials, patrons in the fullest sense of this word: without your support, choral culture in Ukraine, which is one of the treasures of the state, along with our land, language, song, Easter eggs, embroidery, may disappear forever. After all, state policy is not aimed to support culture. I would be grateful to be heard!

Тhe final chord of the first day of the 14th All-Ukrainian Festival-Competition “Zhayvir convenes friends”, 2019. Сombined choir of the first competition day. Groups of participants of the younger age category perform the spiritual anthem of Ukraine “God the Great One” and the anthem of the festival “Zhayvir Fest”

The main goal of the project is to revive and popularize the genre of choral music; to form public opinion on the comprehensive promotion of choral art in Ukraine; to involve children and youth in studying, understanding, respecting and popularizing the heritage of choral art, including Ukrainian choral heritage (Stanislav Lyudkevych, Anatol Vakhnyanyn, Mykhailo Verbytsky, Anatol Kos-Anatolsky, Oleksandr Koshyts – the festival was dedicated to the works of each of the listed composers in different years, as well as to the works of modern composers: Anna Gavrylets, Bohdana Frolyak, Lesya Dychko, Bohdana Filts, Myroslav Manulyak, etc.) and foreign composers, choral conductors, public figures of choral culture; to support creatively gifted youth; to exchange professional experience in the field of conducting skills and work with choirs, music pedagogy and performance. It was within the project that the idea of the Mykola Kolessa Young Conductors Competition was born. After all, it was he who lived and worked in Lviv. Mykola Kolessa was the rector, professor of the Lviv Conservatory in different years, worked as the conductor of the Lviv Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, artistic director and chief conductor of the Trembita choir (it was Mykola Kolessa who invited Pavel Muravsky to join the ensemble). Having received an excellent musical education in Austria and the Czech Republic, he synthesized his foreign experience with Ukrainian culture, created a conducting school (the textbook “Fundamentals of Conducting Techniques” is still, so to speak, a bestseller for young conductors). After all, one of Mykola Kolessa’s students was Stepan Turchak (the Turchak International Conducting Competition takes place in Kyiv). Therefore, the name of Mykola Kolessa should be duly honored. The best memory of a person lives in his work. With the kind consent and support of the family and grandson of Yarema Kolessa, the All-Ukrainian competition of young conductors named after Mykola Kolessa can be launched annually: 1st year – choral conductors, 2nd – opera and symphony. I believe that the competition will be supported by state cultural institutions.

The jury of the 14th All-Ukrainian Festival-Competition of Choral Art “Zhayvir convenes friends”, 2019. Lviv House of Organ Music. From right to left is Derevyanko Bohdan, Choal Conductor, Musicologist. Honored Artist of Ukraine, Professor of the Department of Choral and Opera Symphonic Conducting of LNMA named after M. Lysenko. Tkach Yuliya (Kyiv). Choral Conductor, Honored Artist of Ukraine, Candidate of Art History, Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the P. Maiboroda Academic Choir of Ukrainian Radio, Laureate of the Mykola Lysenko Prize (2019), Associate Professor of Choral Conducting of NMAU named after P. Chaikovsky. Tsyklinsky Igor (the city of Drohobych). Choral Conductor, Honored Worker of Culture of Ukraine, Honored Artist of Ukraine, teacher-methodologist of choral conducting of Drohobych Music School named after V. Barvinsky. Volontyr Volodymyr (the city of Mukachevo). Choral Conductor, composer, Honored Artist of Ukraine, winner of the V. Kosenko and D. Zador Prizes. Founder, director and artistic director of the Mukachevo Choral School for Boys and Youth. Associate Professor of Singing Choral Conducting and Music Theoretical Disciplines of Mukachevo State.

On the 15th year of its existence, the festival planned to transform into “Choral Festival in Lviv”, which is very close to the realization of my student dream: to return the city of Lviv the status of choral capital of Ukraine and unite different ages of performers in love with the choir genre. (Quarantine 2020 slightly adjusted the plan!)

The uniqueness of the project “Choral Festival in Lviv” lies in the diversity of activities, such as:

  • XV All-Ukrainian annual festival-competition of choral art “Zhayvir gathers friends” (read more on the festival page)
  • All-Ukrainian Competition of Young Conductors named after Mykola Kolessa (read more on the festival page);
  • solo performances of the best choirs-participants (or winners of previous competitions) of the festival in order to promote the choral genre;
  • performance of the invited headline popular choir;
  • open workshops in vocal: academic and folk for professionals and ordinary listeners, who are potential members of choirs;
  • music therapy workshop;
  • workshops on the system of V. Kuflyuk “Education of absolute hearing”
  • Summer choral song workshop, which gives the opportunity to communicate with leaders, members of various choirs, to study works and relax. The result of such a workshop, of course, is the performance of a large united choir of workshop participants.
Сompetitive performance. The second category. Vocal ensemble “Serpanok” (10 year school of music). Leader is Olga Mrychko, accompanist is Inna Kolomiets (laureates of the first degree).

It is nice to note the growth of the quality level of the festival-competition participants, the diversity of the repertoire from the Baroque to the present because children’s choirs of different age groups can take part in the festival (6-9 years; 10-15 years; 16-18 years; student youth men, women and mixed choirs), as well as professional choirs (choirs of music academies).

Based on generalized statistics of previous years during the annual festival-competition of choral art “Zhayvir gathers friends”, starting from 2005 (8 choirs from Lviv region participated) to the present (annually about 30-38 choirs from different parts of Ukraine participate: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Zaporizhia, Odesa, Chernihiv, Sambir, Chernihiv, Yuzhnoukrainsk, etc.), there are more than 1000 participants. Therefore, during 14 years more than 14,000 participants from Ukraine took part in the festival-competition “Zhayvir gathers friends”. In addition, the first All-Ukrainian  Mykola Kolessa competition of young conductors in 2019 was attended by 32 participants from different regions of Ukraine, 5 of which became winners. Such quantitative indicators provide an opportunity to talk about the artistic choral community of choir leaders, ranging from children of 6-9-16 years of age to professional choirs (19-25 years), such as the choir of students of the Odessa National Music Academy named after Nezhdanova (Winner of the Grand Prix-2019) and the Municipal Chamber Choir “Kyiv” (headliner of ZhayvirFest-2018). This is a choral family that is united by purpose and love for choral art, Ukrainian traditions, a unification of generations.

Competitive performance. The third category. Student mixed choir of the Educational and Scientific Institute of Arts of DVNZ of “Vasyl Stefanyk National Precarpathian National University”. (Ivano-Frankivsk city). (Laureates of the 4th degree). Leader is Zhanna Zvarychuk, accompanist is Maryna Rudyk.

Also, a socially effective factor of the project is free admission to all events for participants and listeners, which allows socio-economically vulnerable categories (retirees, schoolchildren, students, children from orphanages and boarding schools) to attend a large number of events throughout the day. After all, the purpose of the festival is also to attract the average listener and cherish his love of choral music. In the future, I see the project as an international one. I call to everyone for partnership and financial support. It is through the project that the axiom can be demonstrated once again: Ukraine is a European country with deep singing traditions. The voice identifies the person. When many voices merge into a harmonious sound, isn’t this a unique example of the ability to communicate? Choir is a mirror of the society in which we live; it is a force that nurtures the spirit of the nation. The need for the influence of academic choral music on the formation and education of the individual is traced in the replacement of external effects on the internal nurture and content. And this is a fact that does not need proof.

Solemn procession through the city. Choirs participants of the 14th All-Ukrainian Festival-Competition “Zhayvir Convenes Friends”, 2019

I kindly invite everyone to participate in the festival! I will be glad to welcome new members to the choir family of the festival “Zhayvir gathers friends”. Now it is important to preserve the choral art as such. Once Mykola Lysenko called choir the most perfect musical instrument. “Choir is a prototype of an ideal society based on a single desire and harmonious breathing, a society in which it is important to hear everyone, to listen to each other, a society in which individuality is not suppressed, but fully revealed,” said Georgy Struve, who, by the way, worked with children and wrote for children. It is worth making these words a credo to every choirmaster, especially nowadays.

Winners of the Grand Prix of the 14th All-Ukrainian Festival-Competition “Zhayvir Convenes Friends”, 2019. Student Choir of the Odessa National Music Academy named after А. Nezhdanova. Leader is Galina Shpak.

John Chrysostom noted that “nothing lifts the soul, nothing wings it, nothing moves it away from the earth, frees it from the shackles of the body,  guides in philosophy nor helps it achieve complete contempt for mundane subjects, as a harmonious melody and rhythmic divine singing”.

I thank the chairman of the All-Ukrainian Mykola Leontovych Choral Society Mr. Oleksandr Tarasenko for the opportunity to be in the choral community.

Author of the article: organizer and director of the All-Ukrainian Choir Festival “Zhayvir Gathers Friends” and the All-Ukrainian Competition of Young Conductors named after Mykola Kolessa, expert of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, founder and artistic director, conductor of the People’s Art Ensemble of Ukraine children’s and youth chamber choir “Zhayvir” Lviv Children’s Music School №1 named after A. Kos-Anatolsky; Excellence in Education of Ukraine, Natalia Chmyr-Kozyar.

The use of materials from the site is allowed only with a link (hyperlink) to “All-Ukrainian Choral Society named after M. Leontovych“.