Ukrainian and Greek Orthodox church music

Ukrainian and Greek Orthodox church music. Ukrainian religious music was brought to Canada from Ukraine in the early 1890s with the first wave of immigration (the first Ukrainian Orthodox Church was erected in Gardenton, Man in 1899).

Ukrainian and Greek Orthodox church music

Ukrainian and Greek Orthodox church music. Ukrainian religious music was brought to Canada from Ukraine in the early 1890s with the first wave of immigration (the first Ukrainian Orthodox Church was erected in Gardenton, Man in 1899). Both the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Canada belong to the Eastern Church liturgical tradition that was brought to Ukraine from Byzantium.

Choirs are traditionally an integral aspect of liturgical singing; so are cantors who also sing certain parts of the liturgy. This, combined with the priest intoning in recitative fashion, makes the service a remarkable musical experience. In the absence of choirs, it is quite common for the whole congregation to sing and, at times, depending on the make up of the congregation, the singing is in two-, three-, or four-part harmony.

The prototype for Ukrainian Church music is the Znammeny chant, which appeared in the late-11th century and early-12th century in Kiev. Scholars are divided as to the origin of this chant. Ukrainian scholars theorize that it came to Ukraine via the Graeco-Syrian branch of the Byzantine tradition with a strong local melodic admixture. Paolo Macenko (d March 1991; a teacher of church music and church rites at St Andrew's College, University of Manitoba), in a short comparative essay on the melodic structure of the Znammeny chant found striking melodic similarities with many Ukrainian folk-songs still sung in 1991.

Znammeny chant evolved into the Kievan chant of the 16th century and served as the musical foundation for Ukrainian Church music for the next 400 years. In time, local variations of the Kievan chant evolved in various parts of Ukraine, eg, Kharkiv, Halychyna (Galicia), Transcarpathia. Nevertheless the variations were deeply rooted in the Kievan chant which emanated from the ancient Kievan Pechersky Monastery. The foremost composers in the 17th and 18th century Ukraine were Dyletskyj, Bortnianskyj, Berezovskyj, Vedel, and Turchaninov. This period is often thought of as the golden age of Ukrainian religious music. As Ukraine became enveloped by its neighbors, musical life became stagnant and it was not until the turn of the 20th century that musical life re-emerged with renewed vigour and produced a host of composers: Stetsenko, Koshetz, Jatsynevych, Honcharov, Leontovych, Kozytzkyj, as well as Liudkevych, Verbytsky, Hnatyshyn, and others from Western Ukraine. Much of their music is now regularly sung in Ukrainian churches in Canada along with the Kievan chant and its Western Ukrainian variant.

In Canada, Macenko, S. Yaremenko, J. Holovko and others have written music for the church. To commemorate the Millennium of Ukrainian Christianity in 1988, music was composed by George Fiala, (Millennium Liturgy, 1986), Zenoby Lawryshyn (Liturgy, 1988) and others.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada has done valuable work in the area of publishing liturgical and other church music. The Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has liturgies by Leontovych and Stetsenko; many compilations of various authors; comprehensive anthologies for the major liturgical cycles by W. Zavitnevych; Christmas, Easter and minor rituals by A. Hnojewyj (both compilers from the USA); as well as publications of chants and arrangements by Macenko. This is enriched by an extensive library at the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and St Andrew's College, University of Manitoba. The Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre of Winnipeg also has the private musical collection of Oleksander Koshetz that contains some rare publications of Ukrainian church music.

Not much scholarly work has been done in the area of Ukrainian religious music, although Macenko did some important research. He wrote two books (see Bibliography) and numerous other articles on the subject.

In addition to the musical activity taking place at the parish level, liturgical singing programs are offered at St Andrew's College (Seminary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada) in Winnipeg and at St Vladimir's College (minor Seminary for the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Canada) in Roblin, Man.

The choral tradition of Ukrainian Church music was flourishing in Canada in 1991, with strong church choirs in Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Windsor, and Hamilton as well as many smaller centres.

See also Religions and music for a directory of EMC articles related to this entry; and Ukraine.


Further Reading

  • Liturgical Voices of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church (Saskatoon 1925)

    Koshetz, Al. Genetic Relationship and Classification of Ukrainian Ritual Songs (Winnipeg 1945)

    Høeg, Carsten. 'The oldest Slavonic tradition of Byzantine music,' Proceedings of the British Academy, Jan 1953

    Echoes from the Past, letters of O. Koshetz to P. Macenko (Winnipeg 1954)

    Velimirovic, Milos M. Byzantine Elements in Early Slavic Chant: The Hirmologion (Copenhagen 1960)

    Macenko, Paolo. Liturgical Songs of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada (Winnipeg 1962)

    Trosky, Odarka S. The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church in Canada (Winnipeg 1968)

    Macenko, Paolo. Synopsis of the History of Ukrainian Church Music (Winnipeg 1973)

    Berthiaume-Zavada, Claudette. 'Au-delà de la tradition...rôle et fonction d'un chantre dans la survie d'une église à Montréal,' From Chantre to Djak: Cantorial Traditions in Canada, ed. Robert B. Klymasz (Hull 2000)

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