Без упину, без утоми
В бурі, в громі.
З-під зимової кори
Міцно вирвавсь Дніпр старий!
Ламле, кришить в купи снігу,
В гори льоду!.. Дніпр реве –
То він бореться й живе,
Бо прийшла весна…
Хто ж могутній забороне
Встати й нам од сна?
(Г. Чупринка «Льодолом»)
In modern, both social and artistic realities, the words of Hryhoriy Chuprynka in the unique musical reading of M. Leontovych acquire a special meaning and sound. For almost two quarantine years, choral art, which includes both educational and performing components, is in the forced state of “sleepy kingdom”. And if it is easier for solo artists to plan concert performances, it is much more difficult for those branches of musical art that have a large number of performers on stage. As one famous doctor joked, the choral art is currently the most dangerous profession. But despite all the obstacles, adapting to the new conditions, this quarantine “sleepy kingdom” is gradually “melting and sinking” due to courage and devotion to their work, metaphorically speaking – of “choir icebreakers”. And we are talking not only about the leaders, conductors of choirs, but also about the performers themselves. In the difficult conditions of lockdowns and quarantines, these creative communities try to rehearse, hold online and offline concerts, make stock records and even hold competitions.
One of such artistic phenomena is the IX Ukrainian Choral Competition named after M. Leontovych, held by the Ukrainian Choral Society, which is also named after the composer. As in previous years, the main competitive selection took place on the basis of regional centers of the choral society of M. Leontovych, covering all parts of our country from Galicia and Podillya to Slobozhanshchina and the Black Sea coast. Twenty one choirs were selected for the final part of the competition, fifteen of which won the title of laureates. The jury of the finals of the IX Ukrainian Choral Competition named after Mykola Leontovych includes leading artists, true masters of their art, whose names do not require additional regalia: conductors-choirmasters Halyna Horbatenko, Halyna Shpak, Oleksandr Tarasenko, composer Hanna Havrylets and the permanent chairman of the jury – Eugene Savchuk.
It is very symbolic that this year’s competition coincided with the celebration of the 100-anniversary of the Ukrainian Choral Society of Leontovych. As a hundred years ago, our art is going through difficult times, forced to overcome various challenges of the era. However, thanks to the great efforts of all choral enthusiasts, we still manage to stay afloat and even achieve significant results.
It is difficult to disagree with the statement of the jury members that the greatest joy at this year’s competition was the most numerous nomination – children’s choirs. This fact, obviously, gives hope that Ukrainian choral art has a great future. So in the category of children’s choirs:
The third prize was awarded to the “Zhuravlyk” National Children’s and Youth Choir of the Kamyanets-Podilsky City Children’s Choir School and the City House of Culture (conductor Ivan Netecha). The second prize was awarded to three choirs: the Choir of the Irshava Children’s School of Arts “Gloria” (conductor Olena Jonash); “Zorinka” National Choir of the Izidor Doskoch Children’s Choir School, Ternopil (director Angela Doskoch); National group choir “Spring Voices” of the Kharkiv Regional Palace of Children and Youth Art (conductor Oleksiy Fartushka). The first prize was shared by: Children’s Choir “Lastivka” of the House of Children and Youth Art of Kyiv Holosiivskyi district (conductor Oksana Ursatiy) and Exemplary Children’s Choir “Zabava” of Art School №3 Odessa (conductor Svitlana Smirnova).
In the nomination of equal voices the 3rd prize was won by the National Amateur Academic Female Choir “Melody”, Ivano-Frankivsk (conductor Svitlana Shcherbiy). The second prize is awarded to the “Soprano” Female Choir of the Choral Conducting Department of the Institute of Arts of Rivne State Humanitarian University (conductor Oksana Demyanyuk). The winner of the first prize is the Chamber Girls’ Choir of the Kyiv State Music Lyceum named after Mykola Lysenko, Kyiv (conductor Yulia Puchko-Kolesnyk).
The nomination of chamber choirs in the final was presented by three teams, among which, the third prize was awarded to the Chamber Choir “Cantabile” of the municipal institution “Kamensky Professional Music College named after Myroslav Skoryk” Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council (conductor Ievgenia Derevyagina), and the second prize was awarded “Aeternum” Choir, Odessa (conductor Kateryna Ovcharuk) and “Credo” Church Chamber Choir, Lutsk (regent Kateryna Tokalo). The first prize was not awarded.
The first prize did not find its owner in the category of mixed choirs either. The esteemed jury decided to share the second prize between the choir of the Municipal Higher Educational Institution “Dnipropetrovsk Academy of Music named after Mykhailo Glinka” of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council (conductor Yulia Chekhlata) and the Academic Student Choir of the Ivano-Frankivsk Professional College named after Denis Sichinsky (conductor Alina Mindyuk).
And finally, the undisputed winner of the Grand Prix of the IX Ukrainian Choral Competition named after M. Leontovych became the National Female Academic Choir named after Svitlana Fominykh of the Nikolaev Professional College of Culture and Arts (conductor Tetiana Ostrovska). The performance of this choir always impresses the listeners first of all with the richness of vocal timbres, the use of the whole spectrum of their palette to convey the form and content of each work.
From year to year we do not cease to be amazed and admired by selfless work and devotion to the favorite profession (there is no doubt) of each of these choirs and their conductors. The sincere eyes of the singers, full of incredible feelings and artistic enthusiasm, will remain in the memory for a long time. It should also be noted that each team is distinguished by its unique choral color. It is also interesting to observe how the choirs interpret the same competition piece in their own way, searching for and even creating interesting accents.
The arrangement of M. Leontovych’s children’s folk song “Oi, lys do lysytsi”, which in the process of performance acquired the features of a theatrical production, became so multifaceted from the point of view of choir interpretations. And here again we involuntarily return to the category of children’s choirs. Here I would like to note the good sound production and ensemble coherence of almost all participants in this category, although in some places there was intonation instability. As for the genre and style palette, it was presented as widely as possible: traditional arrangements of folk songs, interesting arrangements of pop songs, samples of world classics with accompaniment, modern Ukrainian and international choral music.
Of course, the use of various percussion instruments, glasses, noise effects, elements of choreography and drama significantly complement the visual appearance, enrich the sound and generally make an interesting picture of a static art form. However, I would like to emphasize that this should not be abused, as there is a danger of hiding imperfections in the sound of the choir behind these external additions.
The nomination of equal choirs was presented by very worthy, but only female groups. We hope that by the next, jubilee X Leontovych’s competition, specific Ukrainian male choral singing will be revived!
A feature of this year’s festival of choral music was the so-called Leontovych-reading: the audience had the opportunity to listen to reviews by leading Ukrainian art critics Valentyna Kuzyk and Yuri Chekan. Valentyna’s speech was dedicated to the history of the Ukrainian Choral Society named after M. Leontovych, the spheres of activity were described in detail and outstanding participants were mentioned. Yuri focused on the very phenomenon of music society, drew interesting parallels with similar European communities in the context of different eras, emphasizing their importance at different levels of cultural activity of society.
The results of the IX Ukrainian Choral Competition named after M. Leontovych showed that Ukrainian choral singing should not be intimidated by quarantines or lockdowns. Let’s be healthy and inspired! Until the meeting at the X anniversary Ukrainian competition named after M. Leontovych!
PhD of Art History, Honored Artist of Ukraine