Kappella Kyries stages North American premiere of Vedel’s Sacred Concerto with Orchestra

    Dr. Melanie Turgeon conducts. Photo by Erik Visser

    NP-UN Western Bureau.

    Edmonton’s Ukrainian community was treated to the heavenly sounds of Kappella Kyries Slavic Chamber Choir revived two classical baroque pieces that had laid dormant for over two centuries, during their “I Entreated Thy Favour…” concert held at the West End Christian Reformed Church, June 7.

    This included the North American premiere of Artem Vedel’s Sacred Concerto with Orchestra: “Помолихся лицу Твоему всем сердцем моим” (in Church Slavonic).

    The Vedel concerto was given to Kappella Kyries by the Ukrainian Music Society of Alberta. It is assumed to have been written in the 1790s, because this was an extremely prolific time for Vedel’ (1767 – 1808) particularly with respect to his contribution to the genre of the choir concerto. Despite being composed more than 200 years ago, this concerto was only discovered in Ukraine just over a decade ago. It was premiered in 2009 and has since been performed a few additional times, but never outside the borders of Ukraine, explained Kappella Kyries Artistic Director Dr. Melanie Turgeon, in the program notes.

    To encounter a sacred choir concerto with orchestra is very unique. Only in recent weeks was it made known to Kappella Kyries that Vedel’ did not write the orchestration. It was added by Ukrainian contemporary composer Lesia Dychko and musicologist Yevhen Makhnovets.

    Because Vedel’s concerto was completely unknown to the local audience, Dr. Turgeon decided to pair it with another Baroque composition that is extremely famous: Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria (RV 589). Like the Vedel’ concerto, Vivaldi’s Gloria was rediscovered much later; namely, in the 1920s, after being composed around 1715.

    Both pieces were performed with a guest orchestra performing at baroque pitch using period instruments. For strings this required the use of a convex Baroque bow, gut strings, and the absence of a chin or shoulder rest. For keyboard, two different plucked instruments were used — a harpsichord as well as a virginal. The orchestra is complete with a Baroque oboe and a valve less Baroque trumpet.

    Along with Vedel’s Concerto, the program also featured works by his two noted Ukrainian Baroque contemporaries “Як славен” (How Glorious) by Dmytro Bortniansky (1751 – 1825) and “Радуйтеся, праведнiï” (Rejoice, O You Just) by (Maksym Berezovsky (1745 – 1777). Two modern-day works rounded out the official program — “Отче наш” (Our Father) Movement 2 from the Requiem for the Victims of Chornobyl by Roman Hurko (born in Toronto in 1962) and “Бoгoрoдице Дiвo” (Hail Mary) by Myron Feroriv (1907 – 1996).

    Under Dr. Turgeon’s expert direction, the choir and orchestra combined for a majestic sound that enthralled the audience which showed its appreciation with a rousing ovation. This led to the encore which featured a joyful performance of the African-American spiritual Great Day.

    Kappella Kyrie was founded in 2010 as an ensemble devoted to Slavic sacred music. The music of the Eastern Churches is rich, and Kappella Kyrie desires to share this treasured music with a broader public. However, this ensemble does not restrict itself to performing only this genre of music. They explore a variety of repertoire, with a consistent consciousness to uphold Slavic music.

    Kappella Kyrie has enjoyed performing several concerts to date. This choir has also served the community in many ways: singing Divine Liturgy at the Marian Centre, caroling at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, and participating at City Hall in the annual memorial service commemorating the famine in Ukraine (Holodomor), among other engagements.

    Dr. Turgeon began studying conducting at the age of 16, under the tutelage of Wolodymyr Kolesnyk, former conductor of Kyiv State Opera and Ballet Theatre. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Honours Music Degree and a Master of Music Degree in Choral Conducting, both from the University of Alberta, as well as a Doctor of the Musical Arts Degree in Choral Music from the University of Illinois.

    Dr. Turgeon is Associate Professor of Music and Choral Conductor at The King’s University in Edmonton, where she conducts The King’s Chamber Choir, Concert Choir, and Community Chorus. In addition to her role at King’s, she has conducted various choirs and ensembles in Alberta and Illinois, she has presented research at several academic institutions and conferences both nationally and internationally, plus she is active as a clinician. Dr. Turgeon is a member of the Eparchial Liturgical Commission, where she is responsible for the music incorporated into various publications for the Ukrainian Catholic Church. She has organized and taught workshops for educating cantors in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and has also created several resources and publications for this purpose. Since 2002, she has served as the Music Director and Cantor at St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Edmonton.

    Kappella Kyrie gets a standing ovation