On December 20, 2022, members of Dnipro Choir’s Executive presented Dr. Roman Petryshyn, a Director of the Canada Ukraine Foundation, with a cheque in the amount of $13,300. L – R: Roman Konowalec, Choir Treasurer; Dr. Roman Petryshyn, CUF Director; Irena Szmihelsky, Dnipro Artistic Director; Walter Di Tommaso, Choir President.
On February 24, 2022, life suddenly changed for every Ukrainian. There was a lot of panic, uncertainty, and confusion as to what had just happened. That day Russia started its aggression against Ukraine and the democratic world. But this initial confusion didn’t convert into chaos! Rather, it brought a unity of Ukrainian people who fought back and defended their land and their democratic principles. As we witness an unthinkable war, we are simultaneously witnessing Ukraine’s strength and resilience to the aggressor. The world is reacting and showing incredible support. The Ukrainian Dnipro Choir of Edmonton, predominantly comprised of choristers with strong ties to Ukraine, has joined the imperative movement of support and hope for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.
On Saturday, October 29, 2022, the Ukrainian Dnipro Choir of Edmonton presented a concert: Contra Spem Spero at West End Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton to raise funds in support of humanitarian aid in Ukraine. Greeted enthusiastically by a full house, the concert was a great success both, artistically and financially. A cheque in the amount of $13,300 that reflected all proceeds from ticket sales and additional donations received was presented to board member of the Canada Ukraine Foundation (CUF), Dr. Roman Petryshyn on December 20, 2022.
“The Latin words Contra Spem Spero (Hope Against All Hope) were articulated in a poem over 130 years ago by Lesia Ukrainka (1871-1913), the prolific poet, dramatist, folklorist, feminist, political and cultural activist. They resound her determination and emphatic resiliency to give into despair. Today, we identify Lesia Ukrainka’s indomitable spirit as profoundly meaningful, purposeful and inspirational just as it was during the span of her lifetime. For this reason, our concert program resounded her emphatic pride, determination, resilience and hope,” explained artistic director, Irena Szmihelsky.
The concert program of music selections, interlaced with reader reflections and clarifications, opened with a choral prayer, Bless my Soul, O Lord (mus. Kyrylo Stetsenko). Lesia Ukrainka’s metaphorical texts about spring and hope were heard in I Stood and Listened to Spring (mus. Yuri Shamo), and Do Not Wither, Lovely Flower (mus. Yevhen Kozak). The women’s choir skillfully performed Spring Again-Hope Again (lyr. Lesia Ukrainka, mus. Yuri Shamo) and Taras Shevchenko’s, I Watch the Dawn (mus. Vasyl Prokopenko) under the baton of assistant conductor, Gloria Zaharia.
The Ukrainian Dnipro Choir of Edmonton presents a concert Contra Spem Spero at West End Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton
The following two selections, Serenade based on lyrics by Lesia Ukrainka’s mother, Olena Pchilka, (mus. Franz Schubert) and folk melody In the Moonlight, I Await My Love (arr. P. Androsiuk), were masterfully performed by mezzo soprano Solomiia Holiak and accompanied by collaborative pianist Irena Tarnawsky.
Contemporary a cappella SATB songs, The Dark Bird (arr. B. Lystopad) with soloist Gloria Zaharia and The Hazel Tree Rustled (mus. Myroslaw Skoryk arr. Mykola Hobdych) featuring soli Roman Konowalec, Olga Federkewych and Natalie Ozipko, on violin, followed.
Emphatically performed, an emotional wave was felt in the concert venue during My Beloved Ukraine (lyr. and mus. Taras Petrynenko) featuring soloist, Peter Tarnawsky.
Mykola Lysenko, a close family friend, inspired Lesia Ukrainka significantly. Quartetto Con Brio String Quartet, an Edmonton-based group together for over 20 years, performed The String Quartet in D minor (mus. Mykola Lysenko) exquisitely. The musicians donated their talent and skill for the fundraising cause.
My Trustworthy Steed (lyr. B. Ponomarenko, mus. Iryna Melnychenko) and The Carpathian Mountains Beckon Us (lyr. W. Dankevych, mus. D. Tsyhankiv) were performed by the Dnipro Men’s Choir.
Rejoined onstage by the ladies, the choir sang the anthem of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen, proclaimed as such at the beginning of WWI, The Red Kalyna in the Meadow (mel. Stepan Charnetskyi, arr. Stanislav Liudkevych). The image of a red kalyna represents Ukraine. The expression, “We will raise the Kalyna” is a transformed idea of patriotic feelings and the indomitable spirit bringing rise to freedom, honor and independence for Ukraine.
Immediately following this performance, the Consul General of Ukraine in Edmonton, Oleksandr Danyleiko, was invited to the stage and expressed his heartfelt feelings about the war in Ukraine. He thanked Dnipro choir for celebrating the remarkable talent of Lesia Ukrainka and for organizing this concert as a fundraiser for Ukraine.
The concert program concluded with a set of sacred music. Lesia Ukrainka was deeply inspired by the Bible. She claimed she could not part with the Book and drew from historical Biblical passages which symbolically resembled the history of her own nation. The choir presented: A Ukrainian Prayer (mus. John Rutter), Be still and Know That I Am God (mus. Roman Hurko), Hail Mary (mus. Roman Hurko), and The Beatitudes (mus. Mykola Leontovych) with soloist Peter Tarnawsky. Composer John Rutter graciously donated the performance rights of his song to redirect funds in support of Ukraine.
The audience rose to their feet as they shouted out, “bravo!” in a long-standing wave of applause. Lesia Ukrainka would have been honored with Dnipro’s performance!
I include three quotes from individuals who attended our concert.
“The concert was great; excellent variety, great soloists, nice mix of repertoire, good balance of short speeches, string quartet, nice religious pieces. All were very well-performed and executed!”
“I really liked the performance by Dnipro choir! I got great pleasure from it as I felt a wave of emotions listening to the music. It was a very professional, thoughtful and complete performance. Thank you very much.”
“Thank you for an excellent, creative evening. The sincerity and talent of the members of the Ukrainian Dnipro Ensemble of Edmonton were evident. You gave us unforgettable moments of joy as you communicated the world of art to us. Words of gratitude to you for giving of your talent completely and unselfishly because you go on that stage at the call of your hearts. You give a part of your souls to the audience. You are returning to your native home, to your native land, to Ukraine with your songs. Undoubtedly, your work deserves the best words of thanks and respect!! Glory to Ukraine! Glory to her heroes!
Rena Hanchuk, MA, B.Ed
Dnipro Choir has a rich choral history spanning close to 70 years. Over the years the choir has featured diverse concert programs which have included newly commissioned works as well as repertoire from a rich repository of Ukrainian choral music of all genres. Among its many accomplishments, Dnipro has performed across Canada, the USA, Philippines, Australia as well as in Ukraine in 2018. For more information or to contact Dnipro visit:
Facebook: Ukrainian Dnipro Ensemble of Edmonton
Email: [email protected]
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