«Shchedryk has been the crown point of our repertoire in all countries for 5 and a half years»
Conductor of the Ukrainian Republican Chapel
Conductor of the Ukrainian Republican Chapel
How the world famous «Shchedryk» first hit abroad? Who produced the artistic intervention of «Ukrainian Spring» in the world? Why «Shchedryk» – it is not only an artistic, but also a political history of Ukraine?
In 1919-1924, the famous «Shchedryk» by Mykola Leontovych made an international lobbying trip to 17 countries of Western Europe, North and South America, opening Ukraine to the world. This happened thanks to foreign tours of the Ukrainian Republican Chapel (Ukrainian National Choir) under the auspices of the prominent Ukrainian conductor Oleksandr Koshyts.
Oleksandr Koshyts among his choirs
The chapel was created in January 1919 on the initiative of Chief Ataman, Head of the Directorate of Forces of the Ukrainian National Republic, Symon Petliura («in love with art commander-in-chief», as the European press will call him) and was sent abroad to counter Russian propaganda and promote Ukrainian independence in Europe. The concerts were to take place primarily in Paris, where the Peace Conference was held with the participation of the heads of European states, and where the fate of Ukrainian independence was decided. Instead, during the two years of European touring, the Ukrainian Republican Chapel under the auspices of Olexandr Koshyts has performed in 44 leading cultural cities and capitals in 10 countries of Western Europe (Czechoslovakia, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Germany, Poland, Spain) in addition to Paris giving over 200 concerts in 74 of the most prestigious concert halls. The chapel concerts were attended by queens, presidents, ministers, academics, professors, as Olexandr Koshyts reported in his letters to the head of the Ukrainian state Symon Petliura.: «In our concerts, we reach out to all circles of society, from Kings and Presidents to workers and children». During this time, more than 600 publications were published in the European press, and hundreds of letters from leading artists and politicians from Europe were received with complimentary feedbacks about Ukraine and Ukrainian culture.
It was during these state tours of Olexandr Koshyts Chapel when «Shchedryk» by Mykola Leontovych gained international recognition, becoming a hit in the world repertoire of Ukrainians.
Ukrainian Republican Chapel, Prague, 1919.
The conductor himself testified in his memoirs about it: «Shchedryk has been the crown point of our repertoire in all countries for 5 and a half years».
«This Ukrainian hashish is the sweetest of poisons», – claimed the German professorship at the Berlin premieres of «Shchedryk». «One of the most wonderful songs in the program is «Shchedryk», the London magazine «The Punch» wrote. «Leontovych is Homer in music», published the Warsaw press. «Ukraine’s cultural maturity should become the legitimization of its political independence for the world», summed up Vienna.
Foreign tours of the Ukrainian choir were performed with the assistance of the Ministry of Education and Arts and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Ukrainian National Republic, becoming the first project of cultural diplomacy in the history of modern Ukraine. Ukrainian ambassadors organized rauts and diplomatic receptions in honor of the singers. Abroad, the choristers performed as civil servants of the Main Department of Arts and National Culture of the UNR, and the choir was an official state institution under the authority of then Ministry of Culture.
After finish of the European tour, the Ukrainian choir moved to the USA and on October 5, 1922 gave a premiere concert in New York’s most prestigious concert hall Carnegie Hall. It was on this day that the American premiere «Shchedryk» took place. From 1922 to 1924 Ukrainian singers performed with more than 400 concerts in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Cuba.
Ukrainian National Choir near Teatro Coliseo in Buenos Aires
During June-September 1923, Ukrainians gave more than 40 concerts.
From 1919 to 1924 the Koshyts Choir, as the cultural ambassador of Ukraine, gave more than 600 concerts in the 200 most prestigious concert halls of 200 cities in 17 countries of Western Europe, North and South America (Czechoslovakia, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, Poland, Spain; USA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Cuba). During this time, more than 1300 reviews in 12 languages of the world about Ukraine and Ukrainian art appeared in the world press and hundreds of letters from foreign artists and politicians with support of Ukrainian cultural and political subjection were sent to the choir.
Cultural transformation of the Ukrainian «Shchedryk» to the American Christmas carol «Carol of the Bells» will happen in 10 years. March 30, 1936, at the Madison Square Garden in New York, a student choir under the auspices of American conductor of Ukrainian origin Peter Wilkhovsky presented at the Congress of the USA Music Teachers (15,000 audience) Leontovych’s arrangement – with English text. In the chirping of the spring swallow, Wilkhovsky will hear the ringing of Christmas bells. So the American version of the world-famous «Shchedryk» will enter the international arena– the carol «Carol of the Bells».
Аuthor: Tina Peresunkо – аuthor and curator of the project “World Triumph of Shchedryk – 100 Years of Ukrainian Cultural Diplomacy”
600 publications in the press
74 concert halls
700 publications in the press
150 concert halls