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Dumka Chorus marks its 90th anniversary

15 декабря, 00:00

To celebrate its 90th anniversary, the Dumka Chorus prepared a program featuring a cappella and vocal-symphonic pieces by classical composers (Mykola Leontovych, Artem Vedel, Kyrylo Stetsenko, and Olexander Koshyts) and contemporaries (Yevhen Stankovych, Valentyn Sylvestrov, and Lesia Dychko).

Dumka was joined at its soiree, held in the building of the National Philharmonic Society, by the musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine (soloists Olha Zasadna, Mykhailo Tyshchenko, Lilia Hrevtsova, and Serhii Mahera), as well as the archdeacon Nazarii Dadak. The conductor was Yevhen Savchuk, Dumka’s artistic director.

Now Dumka is called a brand, a model of the art of chorus singing, and the trend-setter in this area in Ukraine. The history of this legendary chorus goes back to the stormy year of 1919, when it was launched as the Ukrainian State Itinerant Chorus. Over the years it was headed by such masters as Nestor Horodovenko, Oleksandr Soroka, Mykhailo Krechko, and Pavlo Muravsky (who was actually present at the concert).

In the course of 90 years, Dumka has established strong traditions and found its own performing style. A special page in its history is linked with Yevhen Savchuk, a noted choirmaster and the artistic director of the chorus, whose name has been inseparable from Dumka.

Out of its immense repertoire, the performers had chosen for their anniversary program the works that make the soul brighter: God my Lord, I Trust in You by Artem Vedel, Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul and The Mercy of Peace Kyrylo Stetsenko, I Believe and In Your Kingdom by Mykola Leontovych, and other outstanding specimens of Ukrainian spiritual legacy. There were also works by contemporary Ukrainian composers — Our Lord by Valentyn Sylvestrov, Worthily by Yevhen Stankovych, and Red Guelder Rose by Lesia Dychko based on the texts of old Ukrainian songs dating back to the 15th through the 17th centuries.

When the last chord of the program had sounded, the audience gave a 15-minute standing ovation to the chorus. This was the concert of concerts! It was great that the leaders of the nation sent their greetings, high awards and commendations were handed, and flowers and ovations abounded. The sad thing is that the concert hall of the Philharmonic Society could not seat all the devotees.

The most precious gift to the chorus would be assistance in organizing a grand concert tour around Ukraine. We have talents but foreign audiences have more opportunities to enjoy their performances than we in Ukraine, which should not be this way. In the course of nine decades several generations of Ukrainians who value the high art of chorus singing have been raised. This anniversary concert is vivid proof that Dumka sets the standards here.

“If there was a need to describe in one word what makes Dumka and its artistic director unique, the most fitting description would be universalism,” says the art critic Yurii CHEKAN. “This chorus’ universalism inspires awe; it is revealed, above all, in the repertoire policy formulated by Yevhen Savchuk. There are at least two key areas here.

“The first one is a cappella music for choruses. In Dumka’s concert programs and numerous recordings, arrangements of folk songs, which are a traditional part of Ukrainian choruses’ repertoire, co-exist with the music of Western European Renaissance, just as works by Ukrainian composers (such as Berezovsky, Vedel, Bortniansky, Lysenko, Stetsenko, and Leontovych) with samples of Russian romanticism (spiritual pieces by Tchaikovsky, Arkhangelsky, and Rachmaninoff).

“The second key area for Dumka is vocal-symphonic music. The chorus’ universalism commands admiration here, too. It seems that there is no masterpiece of world music, produced over the centuries by different peoples, that would not be included in Dumka’s repertoire.”

The chorus skillfully interprets world-renowned masterpieces, offering unique Slavic versions of them. After achieving worldwide recognition and authoritative status, Dumka reached the top of the Olympus of chorus singing, which it has proved with each performance, recording, and concert in Italy, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, France, the USA, Spain, Canada, Belgium, Great Britain, and Latin America. The nomination for the 2004 Grammy award for the Best Chorus Performance is proof of the high professional level of the group. Its every performance is a feast of refined music, contribution to the spiritual treasure of humankind, and manifestation of Ukraine’s artistic genius.

“For me, Dumka is the model chorus of our country,” says Volodymyr SIRENKO, artistic director and conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. “These artists have raised the bar so high that they are appreciated across the world. They performed in different countries and on different continents, with the possible exception of Antarctica. The choristers have an immense repertoire — from spiritual and classical music to contemporary oratorio works, operas (Aida by Verdi), and scene cantatas (Carmina Burana by Carl Orff).

“Now we are preparing Verdi’s Requiem jointly with Dumka. I have listened to numerous recordings by various masters, … and I can say that they did not have a chorus of the same caliber as Dumka.

“Another joint premiere with Dumka will take place on December 15 in the Great Hall of the Conservatoire (NAMU) — we will perform Stravinsky’s Svadebka (Les Noces, or The Little Wedding). It has an incredibly difficult score; the composer played with the intonations and folk Russian rhythms so much that it took some hard work on our part to offer a worthy rendition of this interesting work, which involves, apart from a symphony orchestra and a chorus, four pianos, six drummers, and soloists — a grandiose opus.

“Our cooperation with Dumka goes back to 1991, when I was appointed chief conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of the Ukrainian Radio Broadcasting Company. Incidentally, my first tours abroad were also with Dumka; we performed in France. As you can see, we have a lasting friendship. I have known Dumka since the 1980s, and since then we have had many joint projects. I do not remember a single occasion when this chorus lowered its high standards. It is a great joy and happiness for me to perform together with Dumka.”

“Today the art of chorus singing in Ukraine is not at its best,” says Pavlo MURAVSKY, a patriarch of chorus singing, conductor, and educator. In 1964–1969, he was the artistic director of Dumka, and this year he has turned 95. “We need to work a lot and work more, especially in the a cappella style, the most difficult one, which, however, brings the highest acoustic level. … We have to learn to sing in cantilena, i.e., in a flowing style, … to achieve a beautiful, polyphonic sound.

“The chorus had its ups and downs, but it has indeed made a name for itself. For example, when Petro Honcharov, a precentor and chorusmaster who had an exceptional ear for music, worked with Dumka, he was able to achieve very clear sound. The best singing is one that is clear; it can be compared with pure water, clean air, and clean human soul.”

“Dumka’s anniversary is the apex of chorus signing. It is hard to find another chorus that could master such a vast repertoire,” emphasizes Anatolii AVDIEVSKY, artistic director of the Veriovka Chorus. “This is despite the fact that each choirmaster faces problems with harmony, vocal culture, contrast in signing, and repertoire. Today Dumka is justly called Ukraine’s best chorus. They have won many devotees for the art of chorus signing. I am happy that Dumka is performing very complicated works in a variety of genres. … May it share its art with people for years to come.”

“I am happy that I was present at this grand celebration,” says Ivan HAMKALO, conductor of the National Opera of Ukraine. “Just think about it: in a decade the chorus will mark its centenary anniversary! This chorus has gone through repressions, the war, evacuations, divisions, but it has survived. Moreover, it offers the precious gift of meeting high art with its every performance. The artists have adopted the best things from their directors (Horodovenko, Soroka, Muravsky, Krechko, and Savchuk). I believe that this soiree is a feast of Ukrainian national culture. Dumka is our history, present, and future; it is our pride and joy!”

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