Bravo, PalkinFest!

The First Vyacheslav Palkin International Choral Festival (hereinafter – the Festival) was recently launched by the Kharkiv City Council to honor the memory of the outstanding choirmaster, founder of the Kharkiv Regional Philharmonic Academic Choir and the Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University Male’s Chapel.

Vyacheslav devoted his whole life to involving as many people as possible in choral singing and dreamed of bringing the choral art of his native land to the international level. Unfortunately, during his life the maestro did not have time to realize his grand idea, but thanks to his students-followers from November 30 to December 5, 2021 in Kharkiv the Choral Festival, which gathered dozens or even hundreds of choirmasters from all over Ukraine and abroad,  was born.

This week of choral art can be called CHORAL INTENSIVE, because the Festival hosted the First International Competition of Choral Conductors named after Vyacheslav Palkin (hereinafter – the Competition), three workshops, choral marathon of amateur choirs and concerts of students and professional choirs.

On November 30, the participants of the Competition met and were sorted. In the Great Hall of the Kharkiv Regional Philharmonic the grand opening of the Festival took part with the participation of:

Vyacheslav Palkin Academic Choir of the Kharkiv Regional Philharmonic (artistic director – winner of the Ukrainian competition of choral conductors Andriy Syrotenko),

The choir of students of the Kharkiv National University of Arts named after I. Kotlyarevsky (artistic director – Honored Artist of Ukraine Serhiy Prokopov),

The choir of the opera studio of the Kharkiv National University of Arts named after I. Kotlyarevsky (chief choirmaster – Honored Artist of Ukraine Natalia Belik-Zolotariova),

Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Kharkiv Regional Philharmonic (artistic director – People’s Artist of Ukraine Yuriy Yanko). And the leading soloists of Ukraine:

Soloist of the National Opera of Ukraine and the Kyiv Opera Theater, Honored Artist of Ukraine – Olha Fomichova (soprano),

Soloist of the Dnipropetrovsk Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, Honored Artist of Ukraine – Olha Us (mezzo-soprano),

Soloist of the Odessa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, Honored Artist of Ukraine – Oleh Zlakoman (tenor),

Soloist of the Odessa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, Honored Artist of Ukraine – Dmytro Pavliuk (bass).

Ukrainian and foreign classical music, pieces by contemporary composers and those in the maestro’s repertoire were performed on the stage. In this way, the conductors honored the memory of their outstanding teacher.

At the end of the Concert, the Finale of Beethoven’s Symphony G9 was performed by the combined choir, soloists and orchestra. People’s Artist of Ukraine Yuriy Yanko – is on the conductor’s music stand.

The Сompetition of choral conductors started on December 1. The idea of creating the competition was not spontaneous, but on the contrary – the competition of choral conductors was dedicated to the 85th anniversary of Vyacheslav Palkin’s birthday, to promote choral art and discover new names of young choirmasters.

Leading choirmasters were invited to the jury of the Competition:

Jury Chairman Maris Sirmais (Riga, Latvia) – Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the “Latvija” State Academic Choir;

Inessa Bodyako (Minsk, Belarus) – Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Choral Conducting and Artistic Director of the Student Choir of the Belarusian State Academy of Music;

Oleksandr Vatsek (Ukraine) – Honored Artist of Ukraine, conductor, choirmaster, vocal teacher. Choral Consul, elected by the International Olympic Choral Committee. Founder and leader of the choir “Oreya”, the multiple winner of international choir competitions.

Liana Chonishvili (Tbilisi, Georgia) – conductor of the Festival Choir of the Tbilisi State Conservatory. Professor, Head of the Department of Conducting by the Academic Choir of the Vano Sarajishvili Tbilisi State Conservatory.

Yuriy Yanko (Kharkiv, Ukraine) – People’s Artist of Ukraine, director and chief conductor of the Kharkiv Philharmonic.

The Competition was held in three rounds, and in all three rounds the Vyacheslav Palkin’s Academic Choir responded highly professionally, as attentively and flexibly as possible, to all the requirements of the contest choirmasters. And how their eyes shone! The choir’s artists seemed to be born again and again in front of each contestant so that he/she would have a successful performance. After each round, the jury members and contestants bowed to the singers and their leader Andriy Sirotenko, thanking them for the high level of choir skill.

In the first round, 18 participants who were pre-selected for video works (recordings of rehearsals and concerts) competed very creatively. The geography of the contestants is quite wide: Ukraine (Kharkiv, Kyiv, Sumy, Odesa, Lviv), Latvia, China. Almost all participants in the Competition are practicians. The vast majority are senior students and graduate students. The competition included pieces for a mixed choir from the choral cycle based on V. Saussure’s poem “Choral Watercolors” (“Khorovi akvareli”) by Kharkiv composer Taras Kravtsov. Each contestant worked for 15 minutes on the stage. The main task was to present his/her interpretation of the work, technical accuracy and freedom for its implementation.

9 participants were selected to the second round. The time schedule increased to 20 minutes. Coincidentally, most of the contestants chose the works of K. Penderetsky, as well as E. Stankovich and F. Martin to work in the second round. The obligatory requirement for the contestants was the concert conducting of the Ukrainian folk song arranged by M. Leontovych “Dudaryk” without rehearsals. The choice of this piece can be seen as some symbolism: Palkin’s students affectionately called him “grandfather”. And also today “Dudaryk” is very relevant, because it sounds into the subtext of the disappearance of Ukrainian song, as a traditional performance in everyday life and on national holidays. But thanks to such festivals, Ukrainian song and Ukrainian culture remain popular both in Ukraine and abroad!

A special feature of the Festival was that it gathered many choirmasters from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kryvyi Rih, Severodonetsk, Dnipro, Odesa, Sumy. Some came to separate master classes and performances, and there are some who lived almost all week in the concert halls of the Kharkiv Philharmonic. No wonder this event can be called a choral intensive, because after listening to the events, you seem to be studying for a master’s degree again: conducting techniques, mothodes, sound techniques, symphonic conducting, choreography course, history of choral performance in Kharkiv, speeches by famous musicians, creative communication, discussions behind the scenes, knowing leading choirmasters and composers, new ideas, new impressions.

The Festival was attended by the heads of regional branches and members of the Ukrainian Choral Society named after Mykola Leontovych of the National Music Union of Ukraine and the chairman of the Society, Oleksandr Tarasenko.

At the end of the second round, a commission consisting of members of the Ukrainian Choral Society named after M.Leontovych selected a candidate for the award for the best interpretation of “Dudaryk”. The winner of the award became Oleksiy Shamrytskyi, Kyiv choirmaster, manager and artistic director of the “Sofia” Choir. The diploma, a new edition of M. Leontovych’s Choral Pieces and a money prize were presented by the chairman Oleksandr Tarasenko.

Four contestants took part in the third round: Bohdan Prytula (Kyiv), Nazariy Tarasenko (Kyiv), Kristaps Solovyovs (Latvia) and Artem Oleksienko (Kyiv). Rehearsal schedule was 30 minutes. The day before the finalists again drew lots. The pieces proposed by the organizing committee were completely different in character, style, texture. The audience not only watched the process, but also cheered for EVERY finalist, the orchestra and the choir, which sang for the fourth day. The soloists sang very clearly and insightfully. Unfortunately, young conductors did not always take into account their presence when working on mastering the form and orchestral sound production.

Third Round Program:

  1. Schubert “Messe in G major” № 1,2;
  2. Dychko cantata “Chervona Kalyna” part 1, 2;
  3. Rossini’s “Little Solemn Mass” № 1.7;
  4. Shchetynsky “Requiem” № 1,2.

In the evening of the same day, a concert of the finalists with choir and orchestra took place. The jury was already sitting in the center of the hall and evaluating the concert performance, as if the audience was sitting and listening to the concert. At the end of the competition auditions, intrigue reigned, because the results of the competition would be announced two days later – on the last day of PalkinFest. During this time, the whole choir had the opportunity to discuss, analyze each finalist, and discuss who the winner would be…

Discussing the competition, the choir audience came to the conclusion that the Kyiv School of Choi Conducting is currently the strongest in Ukraine. No wonder three of its representatives made it to the finals!

It should be noted that after the auditions, the jury members talked to the contestants of all rounds, shared their impressions and comments on the skills of the contestants. Such communication is extremely important for young choir conductors, as the members of the jury could speak objectively without fear of offending or pointing out shortcomings in the work. On the contrary, valuable advice and wishes were given for the further development of the conducting youth. Such openness of jury members is not often observed at competitions in Ukraine, although it is the norm in Europe.

On December 4, the Organ Hall of the Kharkiv Philharmonic Hall hosted a master class by the chairman of the jury of the 1st Vyacheslav Palkin International Competition, chief conductor and artistic director of the “Latvija” State Academic Choir Maris Sirmais. The master class lasted almost two hours while the members and the choir were ready to listen and work much more, because the  audience fell in love with the conductor from the first auftakt, filling every sentence with meaning, feeling the choir perfectly and conjuring with sound. Maris Sirmais is a chemical compound of extraordinary professionalism and charisma, a sincere smile and a big heart.

After the master class, the whole choir moved to the Palace of Students of the National Law Academy of Ukraine named after Yaroslav Mudryi, where everyone could listen to amateur choirs from Kharkiv and abroad live and on-line. Olha Chernyshova completed the choral marathon together with “Sergeant Pepper’s Choir of Lonely Hearts” (conductor – Anna Minakova) together with everyone who wanted to take the stage. All who were on stage seemed to be on another planet. Olha arbitrarily divided everyone into four voice parts and, setting the choristers tone and rhythmic pattern, began to improvise with them. Everyone could take part in the improvisation, both in the choir and solo. It was gratifying that not all the singers were musicians, but they played quite confidently and intonationally clean. This is a good way to make fans fall in love with choral art, as well as a very interesting technique for mastering the two voices techniques in children’s choirs.

December 5 – the final of the PalkinFest. Another master class of the conductor, Honored Artist of Ukraine, artistic director and conductor of the Academic Choir “Oreya” of the Zhytomyr Regional Philharmonic named after Svyatoslav Richter – Oleksandr Vatsek – was held in the Great Hall of the HOF. The audience had the opportunity to see how the maestro works with singers on sound production, how he carves human timbres, when the choir sounds like a symphony orchestra, so the soprano sings freely in the third octave, as he achieves pianissimo. The audience was lucky to feel this painstaking meticulous and relentless work, sitting in the hall, and was able to touch the magic of working with the choir by Oleksandr Vatsek.

At the end of the festival, the audience finally waited for the winners to be announced and memorable prizes to be awarded.


Daria Kozyk (Kharkiv) received the prize “For the best performing interpretation of Taras Kravtsov’s choral style” from the Kharkiv National University of Arts named after I.Kotlyarevsky.

Dmytro Tkachov (Kharkiv) received a special prize from the Vyacheslav Palkin’s Academic Choir of the Kharkiv Regional Philharmonic.

The winners of the Third Prize:

Bohdan Prytula (Kyiv) and

Kristaps Solovyovs (Latvia)

Laureate of the Second Prize – Artem Oleksienko (Kyiv)

The winner of the First Prize – Nazariy Tarasenko (Kyiv).

The festival finished with a performance by the Academic Choir “Oreya” under the conducting of Oleksandr Vatsek. It is very difficult to describe the feelings received during the concert. I didn’t want to leave the hall, I didn’t believe that the festival was over, emotions overwhelmed my soul… The concert seemed to put three dots in the biography of the Vyacheslav Palkin’s Kharkiv International Choral Festival.

Thanks to the sincere desire and pure idea of ​​Vyacheslav Palkin’s students to honor the memory of the maestro, the International Choral Festival with a bright future was held in Kharkiv. Andriy Syrotenko said: “Vyacheslav is a man-destiny. He created our destiny…” Thanks to this Festival, Vyacheslav Palkin will continue to create destinies for young choirmasters!

Chairman of the Sumy branch Ukrainian Choral Society named after Mykola Leontovych NVMS OKSANA Dolenkova

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