Choral Society named after Mykola Leontovych. History and Today

February 1, 1921, a large group of cultural figures, professors and students met at the Mykola Lysenko Kiev Musical and Drama Institute to mark 9 days after Mykola Leontovych‘s death under the Christian tradition. Quickly, but with great responsibility, they organized a concert of Leontovych’s pieces, delivered words of pity and sorrow.

After the concert, they arranged the Committee of Memory of Mykola Leontovych and decided to start their work with the first goal – finding out the circumstances of the murder of the artist. The Committee included:

  • Kyrylo Stetsenko (1882-1922) – prominent Ukrainian composer, founder of the Committee;
  • Yukhym Mykhailiv (1885-1935) – symbolist painter, poet, art critic, the first Committee chairman;
  • Oles Chapkivsky (1884-1938) – journalist-critic, art critic, secretary of the Committee;
  • Phylyp Kozytsky (1893-1960) – composer, teacher, deputy chairman of the Committee;
  • Klyment Kvitka (1880-1953) – scientist, folklorist;
  • Dmytro Revutsky (1881-1941) – folklorist, art critic, philologist, translator;
  • composers, most of whom were conductors:
  • Jacob Stepovy (1883-1921),
  • Mikhailo Verykivsky (1896-1962),
  • Borys Lyatoshynsky (1895-1968),
  • Grygory Veriovka (1895-1964),
  • Fedir Popadych (1877-1943),
  • Porfiry Demutsky (1860-1927),
  • Vasyl Verkhovynets (1880-1938),
  • Pavlo Haida;
  • the theoretical scientist, author of the newest theory of harmony, Boleslav Yavorsky (1877-1942);
  • the prominent Ukrainian poet, at that time the choral conductor, Pavlo Tychyna (1891-1967);
  • the brilliant pianist and renowned teacher, Felix Blumenfeld (1863-1931);
  • the choral conductor, the first head of the famous “Dumka”, Nestor Gorodovenko (1885-1964);
  • the novator of the theater sphere, Les Kurbas (1887-1937);
  • the famous actor and theater director, Ivan Sadovsky (1876-1948);
  • the famous bandurist, writer, actor and art critic, Hnat Hotkevich (1877–1938);
  • the poet, Valerian Polishchuk (1897-1942);
  • the painter, stage designer, actor, president of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts, Mykola Burachek (1871-1942);
  • Serhiy Yefremov (1876-1938) – the prominent Ukrainian scientist and literary critic, historian of Ukrainian literature;
  • Danylo Shcherbakivsky (1877-1927) – the art historian, museum worker;
  • Teachers of the Mykola Lysenko Music and Drama Institute:
  • Serhiy Durdukivsky (1880-1943) – conductor and singer,
  • Ivan Volyansky, Serhiy Telezhinsky, Vasylchenko, Yastrubetsky, Kharchenko.

The Committee also included the family of Mykola Leontovych as honorary members:

  • Dmytro Feofanovych – father,
  • Klavdia Ferapontivna – wife of him,
  • Victoria Leontovich and Elena Monchinskaya – his sisters.

The legal approval of the Committee continued for two months and was finished with appropriate authority in April 1921. The organizers of the Committee immediately sent a telegram to the father of the composer, outlining the main line of the activity of their association:

April 25, 1921, the Honorable Father Dmitry. The Presidency of the Committee of Memory of Mykola Leontovych informs you of the foundation of the Ukrainian Committee of Memory of the deceased, in order to honor his memory, publish his works and promote the development of Ukrainian musical culture,-  we express you the heartfelt empathy for the death of your son and together with you miss one of the best sons of the Ukrainian people, and invites you to participate and work at the Committee as a member. May the untimely death of Mykola Leontovych serves the cause of the revival and development of national culture”

Growth of the Committee

The Committee grew to 53 members very quickly. 45 of them were personal members and 8 were creative teams. Among the culture artists that came to the Committee were:

  • musicologist Adam Babiy,
  • conductor and violinist David Bertie,
  • theorist Anatoly Butsky,
  • choir conductors and collectors of folklore Mikhailo Haidai, Yaroslav Vitoshynsky and Omelyan Vitoshynsky,
  • pianists and pedagogues Konstantyn Mikhailov and Matviy Hozenpud,
  • art critics Mykola Kacherovsky, Yuriy Masyutin (Jurmas), Vasyl Petrushevsky,
  • choir conductors Konstantyn Pigrov, Mykyta Dotsenko, Kost Levytsky, Mykola Opryshko, Mykola Pokrovsky, Vasyl Popivsky, Olexandr Studzinsky, Eleonora Skrypchynska, Mykyta Kalistratenko,
  • singers Anatoly Dolyno-Sobotnytsky (Moscow), Olena Hanhel, Yurko Girenko, Viascheslav Merzliakov,
  • composers Borнs Yanovsky, Fedir Nadenenko, Yehoshua Sheinin,
  • painters Vasyly Krychevsky, Borys Roerich, Anatoly Petritsky.

From Committee to Society

Yukhym Mykhailiv was the first chairman of the Society.

In early January 1922, the Committee’s secretary, Oles Chapkivsky, was sent to Kharkiv, the capital of Ukraine of that time, with a request to support the activities of a group of artists and collectives of the republic. At that time, the government had widely declared its assertion in the country of Lenin’s national policy, which helped to solve the problems of the Leontovych Memory Committee.

In support of their petitions, the artists performed in Kyiv a wide action to commemorate the composer’s year anniversary of death, held a public general meeting, issued a postcard-portrait of the artist painted by Borys Roerich, renamed the Gymnasium Street to Mykola Leontovich Street (near St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral), performed about 60 concerts. The main requiem concert was held at the Kyiv Opera Theater (conductors Mykhailo Verykivsky and Nestor Horodovenko). The concert of the Leontovych Choir Studio took place at the Pechersky Club conducted by Pavlo Tychyna.

February 26, 1922, in Kharkiv, the College of the Chief Political Education Board approved the Regulations on the Committee, renamed it to the Mykola Leontovych Music Society, provided a financial subsidy.

April 1, 1922, a new name and regulations were officially accepted at the 50-member general meeting (almost the entire Society), the board was re-elected and the first two commissions were set up – the Music and Museum. The Society was headed by Yukhym Mykhailiv (Chairman), Oles Chapkivsky (Secretary), Pylyp Kozytsky (Deputy Chairman).

Activities of the Society

Activists of the society Yukhym Mykhailiv, Mykhailo Verykivsky, Pylyp Kozytsky (right in the first line) among the famous figures of Ukrainian culture. December 1923.

In 1923, the publication of the Society’s magazine “Music” became the great event, edited by Mykola Hrinchenko (since 1922 he became a resident of Kyiv in very tragic circumstances).

Levko Revutsky actively participated in the activities of the Society, who was invited to work at the Mykola Lysenko Music and Drama Institute in the fall of 1924, so he moved to Kyiv.

The wide orientation of the Society is evidenced by the fact that in 1926 the Association of Contemporary Music (ACM), founded by composers Borys Lyatoshinsky, Lev Revutsky, Mykhailo Verykivsky, Fedir Nadenenko, Mykola Radziyevsky, and others, began to work on its basis.

Another important area of ​​the Society’s work was the continued support of art connections with cultural figures of Western Ukraine. It followed from the fact that the artists of Central Ukraine thought of themselves as an organic unity with those who remained across the border, believing that the uniting of the Ukrainian people in January 1919 was a momentous act for the future of the nation.

From 1923 until January 1928 (until the last month of the Society’s existence) “Galician Musical Evenings” took place in Kyiv (also single ones in Kharkiv and Odesa), where pieces by Stanyslav Lyudkevych, Vasyl Barvinsky, Ostap Nizhankivsky, Filaret Kolessa, Denys Sichynsky, Henryk Topolnytsky performed; evenings of Ivan Franko’s memory took place, meetings with Filaret Kolessa and Vasyl Barvinsky are held. Through them, scores and books printed by the Society’s forces are being sent to the West.

Joint events, conferences, folklore expeditions, congresses of kobzars and lyrers were planned. Most of the plans failed due to purely political circumstances, when the Society could not influence.

During its heyday, the Mykola Leontovich Society united more than 200 members and had branches in Kharkiv, Odesa, Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia, Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv, Cherkasy and other cities.

In the spring of 1927 the Society registered 1014 music organizations in the Republic; villages choirs – 347, workers choirs – 211, school choirs – 367, orchestras of workers and villages – 82, professional choirs – as “Dumka”, RUH, DUH – 7. It is noticeable that the majority of choral groups, including the bandurists’ chapel, took the name of Leontovych or Lysenko, which testified to the authority of these artists in the masses.

There were some organizational changes in the leadership of the Society: in 1925 it was headed by Mykhailo Verykivsky, Mykola Grinchenko was elected as Secretary. Pylyp Kozytskiy managed the Kharkiv branch while he had moved. The Kyiv Branch was headed by Hrihoriy Veryovka, Mykola Grinchenko, Lev Revutsky.

The peak of the recognition of the Society’s activity was two events in 1927. At that time, the members of the Society (in spite of all reproaches in the nationalist orientation) were entrusted to organize the Ukrainian exposition at the International Exhibition in Frankfurt am Main. 391 exhibits were presented there (musical instruments, musical editions, models of opera productions, programs and posters), Ukrainian singers performed, Pylyp Kozytskiy made a speech.

But the most important achievement and recognition of the art potential of the composer forces of the Society were shown with the results of the Ukrainian music competition:

  • the first prize was won by Lev Revutsky for Symphony No. 2 and Boris Lyatoshynsky for the Overture on four Ukrainian themes;
  • the second prize – Vasyl Zolotaryov for the Overture on Ukrainian themes and Overture-fantasy;
  • third prize – Pylyp Kozytskiy for choral diptych “Strange Fleet” and Leonid Lisovsky for the Cantata “Glory to Ukraine”.

Stopping of activity

At the beginning of 1926, a group of composers from the Kharkiv branch made an open accusation of the Society in pursuing the Ukrainian nationalist line and deviating from the tasks of revolutionary proletarian art. They created the Association of Revolutionary Composers of Ukraine – ARCU, which, unlike the Association of Contemporary Music, had to, in their opinion, completely replace the Society.

October 3, 1926, the Presidium of the Society was transferred to Kharkiv, to the “watchful eye” of the People’s Commissar. During that year the magazine “Music” was not published because of its “a dice of hostile ideas” (only a single pieces of the “Musical Newspaper”). And in February 1928, crushing criticising the activities of the Society at the governmental level, it was simply liquidated and formed to VUTORM, the Ukrainian Society of Revolutionary Musicians, since “Leontovych’s name was declared irrelevant to the Soviet Era”.

The Society today

Today the Mykola Leontovych Choral Society is an Association of the National Ukrainian Music Union (NUMU). For the last 25 years Yevgen Savchuk has been the Chairman of the Society, as a prominent Ukrainian choirmaster, artistic director and chief conductor of the National Chapel of DUMKA, People’s Artist of Ukraine, Professor, Academician, Laureate of the National Prize named after T. Shevchenko, Hero of Ukraine.

The Society initiates the Ukrainian Competition named after Mykola Leonotovych, the Ukrainian Competition of Choir Conductors, and the Choir Competition named after Kyrylo Stetsenko, a number of other competitions and festivals.

Since December 2016 the Choral Society named after Mykola Leontovych has been headed by Oleksandr Tarasenko, the choirmaster of the National Opera of Ukraine, Merited Master of the Arts of Ukraine, Associate Professor of the Choir Conducting Department at the NMAU named after P. Tchaikovsky.

New projects of the Society were started with the initiative of the Chairman and with the active support of the Board, namely:

At the end of June every year, the Summer Choral Academy is held for students-choirmasters in the largest cities of Ukraine.

The goal of the project: to initiate the creation of additional art space of opportunities for young musicians. Performing premieres of new Ukrainian and world music directed by the prominent artists. Revival of forgotten layers of art culture of Ukraine, development of performing skills of choral groups. Advocacy and promoting the creativity of the best Ukrainian composers all over the world, improving the training and education of young Ukrainian choir artists. Encouragement of more intensive joint activity of Ukrainian choir schools.

Three sessions of the Summer Choral Academy took place in Odessa (25.06 – 02.07.2017), in Lviv (24.06-01.07.2018) and Kharkiv (22.06-29.06.2019).

Artemiy Vedel’s Choir Music Festival was held to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birthday (November 2017, Kyiv).

Revival of the Ukrainian Choir Competition named after M. Leontovych (November-December 2018, Kyiv).

Together with the publishing house “Music Ukraine” the complete collection of works by Mykola Leontovich (September 2019, Kyiv) was published.

All-Ukrainian Choral Society named by M. Leontovych in 2018 became a member of the European Choir Association EUROPA CANTAT.

November 2019 – The Choral Society of Ukraine was been recognized as an official recruiter for the World Youth Choir.

Members of the Coordinating Council of the Choral Society. M. Leontovich. December 2016.

Current research

Although the Soviet encyclopedias, publishing in Ukraine, contained the articles about the Mykola Leontovych’s Music Society, the information provided there was too lame, without a list of literature (apparently, they hadn’t it). And only in independent Ukraine the substantial publications about the Society appeared. There are, foremost, the work of musicologist, Candidate of Art Criticism Valentyna Kuzyk.