Oleksandr Tarasenko Chairman of the Ukrainian Choral Society named after Mykola Leontovych National Uktainian Music Union Association
For me, this quarantine, as for all of us people who used to live from rehearsal to rehearsal (here I mention the genius one of Oleksandr Koshyts: “I ran to rehearsals, as to a date with a beloved girl …”), became at first such a period, when there was an opportunity to end the “hangings”, for which we never have time, but when they began to disappear, and the favorite rehearsals are still all gone, quarantine “discovered” deeper things, that we have to think about, and without false pathos, we really want to talk about.
More than three years have passed since I was elected as a Chairman of the Ukrainian Choral Society named after Mykola Leontovych. Since then, the activities of the Board of the Society have become better known for many people, thanks to extensive communication at our information resources, especially at Facebook page All-Ukrainian Choral Society named after M. Leontovych, Summer Choral Academy, Mykola Leontovych Pan-Ukrainian Choral Competition, as well as at the new website of the Choral Society https://choircommunity.com.ua/. Therefore, in order to avoid a “report on the work done” here, I will not talk about the projects we have implemented, but I will share with you the following.
For a long time now I have been thinking about a kind of choral “fainting”, which occurred somewhere near in the early “aughts” … The poor, but so happy for the choirs 90’s are gone, when new regional, mostly chamber, choirs were created in every regional center. Young choirmasters, who entered the conservatory during the Soviet period and graduated in the Independent Ukraine without feeling the watchful eye of the “controlling departments”, quickly forgot the university course of scientific communism, and with all their might, with warm hearts set about reviva the music, mostly sacred … There were still amateur choirs at factories and plants, but very soon they disappeared. Everything in the amateur field was falling apart before our eyes. Because companies stopped transporting their choristers to the government resorts for free, and because for years the repertoire, which was not reinforced with meaningful music, became irrelevant, because choirs and accompanists were reduced, and in most choirs, created “from under the stick”, there was no one who would love choral singing with all their heart, because the choirmasters “slapdashed” there … In short, all this amateur activity, having lived long and happily, died in one day as a whole group … The most eloquent example, and probably the last in this “starfall”, was the liquidation by the board of The South-Western Railway of its own Choir, which celebrated its 90th anniversary in December 2014 and disappeared forever … And the leader of this not poor enterprise was not stopped either by the fact that he did not create this choir, or by the fact that this famous choir was led at different times by such prominent Ukrainian conductors as Petro Honcharov and Oleh Tymoshenko…
Meanwhile, young chamber choirs “flooded” Ukraine! “Winter fetters were broken and torn” and so that by the mid-90s there was not a single regional city where municipal, philharmonic, or Episcopal choirs did not start their activity, attracting more and more attention at the artistic horizon of their region, Ukraine and Europe. I will not list these groups here, they are known to everyone. And most importantly – almost all of them exist and develop quite successfully, because they do not wait for someone to take them somewhere, and go alone, because they develop professionalism and current repertoire, and most singers in such choirs have found a “vent” there because conductors work creatively and professionally!
Why has this choral faint all over Ukraine come? Why have only a few notable choirs been formed since then? Why did it become “unpromising” for the graduates of our choral conducting departments to create their own amateur choir, or to become a part of the teaching staff of the music school by leading the choir of the conducting-choral department? The questions we ask ourselves and each of us has our own answers to them … However, it is possible, with a heavy sigh, to watch the extinction and losses, because our potential is limitless, the reserve is large and there is no such singing nation in the world … But it’s also possible to think and after consulting a little to cope with the “new historical conditions”. I do not undertake to answer all the questions in this short article, and I will not be able to do it myself. Instead, I suggest that all of us, active choirmasters, think about making the Mykola Leontovych Ukrainian Choral Society a platform for exchanging ideas and, at the same time, a creative space for uniting art efforts in creating choral projects in Ukraine. I am sure that it is important for everyone who is thinking about these issues to have such a platform for cooperation.
So how can this work, and how can it be achieved at all? First of all, we need to abandon our inherited understanding that such societies are an opportunity to receive an honorary title, or at least a piece of paper to facilitate the passage of someone somewhere! These “blessed” times are gone, when societies distributed scholarships to talented artists, helped financially, and even owned concert-costumes factories. Unfortunately, this will not happen again. Instead, such an awareness should come that surviving today, we must preserve all the good and valuable things acquired by unities in the past, and look ahead – to the west, where such powerful and harmonious music and public organizations as the International Federation for Choral Music IFCM, or European Choral Association – Europa Cantat. Based on their experience and cooperating with them, we can work on the development of choral business in Ukraine.
About a year ago, the Ukrainian Choral Society named after M. Leontovych became a member of the European Choral Association – Europa Cantat. Our desire, and most importantly – our great choral culture, the achievements of the best Ukrainian choirs in European competitions and almost a century since the founding of the Choral Society in Ukraine, contributed to our joining the family of European choirs and was received by them with great enthusiasm and hope! And now I say the most important thing: talking to colleagues from European choral associations, I realized for me, at that time, the banal things – that a combination of creative efforts, ideas, active search for ways to cooperate, exchange experiences, repertoire, help colleagues, creative competition without “hidden scenarios”, friendliness and the desire to move things forward together, the ability to unite and face the challenges of today, almost completely replace money! And if all this happens for some time successfully – then the large funds for the large choral projects appear, because the most expensive thing today – it’s ideas!
What do I suggest to start bettering the situation? Here are the first steps:
I. I urge experienced and young choral conductors, our musicologists and scientists to join the creation of the basic document of our activity – The Concept of development of the indigenous genre of Ukrainian culture – choral singing. I offer the following sections of the document:
- Historical significance of a choral singing (deep awareness of the origin of choral singing national traditions);
- Preservation and development of choral singing in modern conditions (strategies for spreading the tradition);
- Revival of amateur choral singing (ways to solve the problem);
- Psychological aspects of choral singing (singing in the choir as a multifunctional resource that has a positive impact on cultural, social, psychological, communicative aspects of public life);
- Goal and tasks for the choral community in Ukraine;
- Global trends (study of the experience of world choral institutions, compliance of domestic choral projects with world trends, etc.);
- Strategic guidelines for the development of domestic choral art (professional choral education, revival of the melodic tradition of the Ukrainian Church, general musical and aesthetic education at school, popularization of the genre in the media, forms of leisure in choirs, development of choral tourism (international festivals, competitions, choral games)).
Please send the ideas, opinions and suggestions to our e-mail address, which you will find on the Society’s website. We will be grateful to everyone who joins in the development of the document!
II. We need to see what we have in the choral “business”. I call it the Certification of choral Ukraine. Here I have to say a little more. This idea was born immediately after my election as chairman of the Society. I asked all the choirmasters I knew in the regions to help with this. Units responded… I understand perfectly well that this is difficult and that we are not “created for this”, I myself did not think that I would have to deal with it. But the task is strategically important! Well, somehow they know, for example in Norway, that 9.8 percent of the citizens of this country sing in choirs. Imagine – almost a tenth of the population! Once they gathered information that there are more than a thousand amateur choirs in Hungary! Someone did it and it was not one person! Therefore, I appeal to the Heads of regional branches of the Choral Society named after M. Leontovych, and where there are none yet – to the choral leaders of the regions, the Heads of the regional branches of the National Uktainian Music Union Association: help us with this!
We offer the following format of this project which requires:
1. To make the list of the regional choirs on their kinds and types:
- National (choirs with the status of National);
- Philharmonic (chamber, chapels, folk choirs, song and dance ensembles);
- Municipal (city and regional subordination);
- Student choirs:
a) Choir of the conductor-choir department (music school, art school, art educational, music-pedagogical school / college). Academic, folk, mixed, female, male.
b) Choir of the department (specialization) of choral conducting (Music Academy, University of Arts, University of Culture and Arts).
c) Choir of the Music and Pedagogical Faculty;
- Student amateur choirs.
- Academic amateur choirs (mixed (choirs, chamber choirs), male, female), with the title “Folk”;
- Folk amateur choirs (mixed, female, male), having the title “Folk”;
- Children’s choirs with the title “Model”;
- Metropolitans, Bishops’ Choirs;
- Church choirs with significant creative achievements (Laureates of competitions, participants of International festivals, etc.);
- Vocal ensembles – academic and folk, professional and amateur up to 10 performers (mixed, male, female).
2. Send letters to the conductors of these choirs with a request to prepare and send you the following documents:
1) Creative biography of the choir (up to 1 page A4);
2) Creative biography of the choir conductor (up to 1 page A4);
3) Photo of the choir in a large expansion;
4) Artistic photo of the conductor;
5) List of repertoire by genres (sacred music, secular, arrangements of folk songs, large forms);
6) One high-quality audio or video file of an entire choral piece;
7) E-mail address of the team, official website or official page at the social network;
8) Translate documents 1,2,5 in English and sign the audio / video file in English.
Having collected and checked everything, we ask the Heads of the region departments to send information to the address of the Choral Society in Kyiv. Then we place everything at our web-page. And even further: here on the Europa Cantat web-page there is a section with the addresses of the Internet resources of choral societies of Europe. So – this is the most powerful database, which is successfully used by European and world festivals, competitions and concert agencies to invite choirs around the world. The address of our web-page is already there, so we thus get a potential opportunity to be involved in the global choral movement! Only no one knows yet about the fact that we are in this world … Information about our choirs can and should be published in the form of a printed guide “Choirs of Ukraine and their conductors.” Once again, dear colleagues, I urge you to cooperate in this crucial project for all of us! And as soon as we understand its strategic significance – things will move from the deadlock!
III. And at the very end. One of our most important tasks is to complete the development of the Society in the regions of Ukraine. Today we have excellent cooperation with the regional branches of the Ukrainian Choral Society named after Mykola Leontovych in such regions as Vinnytsia (Olga Baboshina), Volyn (Vasyl Moisiyuk), Donetsk (Oleksandra Khoruzhenko), Dnipropetrovsk (Vitaliy Karas), Zhytomyr (Lilia Zelenianska), Zaporizhia (Oksana Brattseva), Ivano-Frankivsk (Oksana Shcherbiy), Odesa (Halyna Shpak), Ternopil (Anatoliy Oronovsky), Kharkiv (Serhiy Prokopov), Khmelnytsky (Igor Tsmur), Chernivtsi (Nadiya Seleznyova), Chernihiv (Ivan Bogdanov), Kyiv (Petro Andriychuk), in the city of Kryvyi Rih (Tetyana Mesropova). In other areas, we still have to find dedicated people. I know that there are such people and we invite them to cooperate.
For the finale. We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the Ukrainian Choral Society named after Mykola Leontovych. On February 1, 1921, a large group of cultural figures, professors and students gathered at the Mykola Lysenko Kyiv Music and Drama Institute to celebrate 9 days after Mykola Leontovych’s death, according to Christian tradition. It was then that the decision was made to establish a Committee of the Mykola Leontovych’s memory. The successor of the committee activity today is the National Uktainian Music Union Association “Ukrainian Choral Society named after Mykola Leontovych”. At the last meeting of the Board of the Society, 03.02.2020, it was decided to hold the Solemn Academy of the Society on February 1-2, 2021. I dream that we all meet and talk there, present our projects, consult and approve documents that will determine the strategy of our development, elect our governing departments as a whole community, boldly, but also responsibly, look into the future of our work! We have another eight month of hard work before the Anniversary. It’s time to get out of the faint!