Type of entity
Authorized form of name
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Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
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Dates of existence
The Olexander Koshetz Choir traces its origins to the annual summer Higher Education Courses (HEC) sponsored in Winnipeg from 1941 through 1962 by the Ukrainian National Federation (UNF). In addition to Ukrainian language, literature, culture and history classes, the courses offered instruction in the art of choral singing and conducting. Initially the music program was directed by the renowned New York-based Ukrainian choir conductor and arranger Olexander Koshetz (Oleksander Koshyts’; 1875-1944), who had served as conductor and choirmaster of the Kyiv Opera during the Great War and led the Ukrainian Republican Capella (Ukrainian National Choir), on very successful tours of Europe and the Americas between 1919 and 1926. After his death in Winnipeg, in September 1944, Koshetz was succeeded by his widow Tetiana Koshetz (-1966), a voice teacher, and his local colleague and assistant, the musicologist Dr. Paul Macenko (Pavlo Matsenko; 1897-1991). Each year the courses concluded with a choral concert in which all of the students, conducted by Koshetz and/or Macenko, participated.
In 1946, a number of HEC participants and alumni, led by Halia Cham and encouraged by Tetiana Koshetz and Dr. Macenko, established the Winnipeg Ukrainian National Youth Federation (UNYF) Choir. The first permanent Ukrainian youth choir in the city, it received moral and financial support from the UNF’s Winnipeg and St. Boniface branches, doubled as “a school of Ukrainian culture,” and initiated the practice of touring Ukrainian rural communities and performing at local festivals. When the choir’s founder and first conductor Halia Cham moved to Eastern Canada in 1948, Dr. Macenko and Mrs. Koshetz led the choir until 1951. At that point Walter Klymkiw (1926-2000), who had immigrated to Canada as a child with his parents, attended the 1944 HEC, graduated from the University of British Columbia, and recently entered the teaching profession, became the choir’s conductor and musical director. He would lead the choir (which became known as the Ukrainian National Federation Choir in 1964, and officially changed its name to the O. Koshetz Memorial Choir in 1967) for the rest of his life. In the process, he made it one of Western Canada’s finest amateur choirs, the most prominent and representative Ukrainian choir in the country, and an important cultural bridge between Ukrainian Canadians and the land of their ancestors during and after the Cold War.
Among the many highlights in the history of the Olexander Koshetz Choir during its first 30 years, the following events stand out: the Choir’s first trip to the United States and successful performance in Minneapolis (1955); back-to-back victories in the choral competition at the Manitoba Music Festival (1961 and 1962); an invitation to perform at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto (1962); the first of many performances on the CBC radio and television networks (1962 and 1963); selection as pre-centennial musical ambassadors to Eastern Canada with performances at Moncton NB, Halifax NS and Montréal PQ (1966); an appearance as guests of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) under Victor Feldbril at one of the orchestra’s Pop Concerts, the first of many engagements with the WSO (1966); performances at Expo ’67 in Montreal where Walter Klymkiw first met Ukraine’s Veriovka Choir, directed by Anatoliy Avdievsky (1967); a Winnipeg concert with guest soloist Andrij Dobriansky of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Company (1969); a concert marking Manitoba’s centennial at the new Centennial Concert Hall also featuring the Rusalka Dancers and Roxolana Ruslak of Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company (1970); a performance in the WSO's 'Great Cultural Heritage' series (1975); 'The Ukrainian Gala Concert and Ballet' also featuring the Rusalka Dancers, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the WSO followed by the Dmytro Bortniansky 150th anniversary concert with the WSO (1977); and participation in the first of several Associated Choirs of Winnipeg concerts (1978).
In 1978, after Anatoli Avdievsky spent a month in Winnipeg conducting workshops, the choir embarked on its first tour of Soviet Ukraine (Kyiv, Lviv, Ternopil) which brought the works of Koshetz to the attention of the Soviet Ukrainian elite at a time when they were officially ignored by the regime. 1978 also marked the beginning of a period of intense activity that would last for almost two decades. Highlights during this period included the choir’s ‘Tribute to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’ concert as well as participation in the ‘Chorus 1000’ performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ with the WSO (1980); a second tour of Soviet Ukraine (Lviv, Ternopil, Kyiv) featuring Broadway star and recording artist Ed Evanko as guest soloist (1982); the ‘Family Christmas Fantasy’ concert with the WSO (1984); a tour of Ukrainian colonies in South America with concerts in Buenos Aires, Posadas and Apostoles, Argentina, Encarnacion, Paraguay, and Curitiba and Prudentopolis, Brazil (1985); the ‘Millennium of Ukrainian Christianity' concert tour of western Europe with performances in Paris, Rouen, Liseux, Vangenbourg and Strasbourg, France, Antwerp and Genk, Belgium, and Munich, Germany (1987); the ‘Project 1000/Celebration of Note’ concert in Winnipeg which marked the millennium of Ukrainian Christianity, and featured the WSO (directed by Virko Baley), Yuri Mazurkevich (violin), Nina Matvienko (soprano), John Martens (tenor) and the world premiere of Evhen Stankovych’s ‘When the Fern Blooms’ (1988); the National Millennium Celebration Concert at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre (1988); a guest performance on CBC’s popular ‘Hymn Sing’ television broadcast (1990); the choir’s third tour of Soviet Ukraine (Kyiv, Lviv, Ternopil) which featured a much broader repertoire of national and religious music and also included concerts in nearby Prague, Czechoslovakia, and Warsaw, Poland (1990); the choir’s 45th anniversary concert, banquet and reunion (1991); the world premiere of Evhen Stankovych’s ‘Black Elegy’ in a nationally broadcast concert with the WSO during the Canada-wide CBC ‘Festival of New Music’ (1992); the choir’s fourth tour of Ukraine (Kyiv, Ternopil, Lviv, Ivan-Frankivsk, Vinnytsia, Uzhorod) with performances in nearby Rybnytsia and Rashkiv, Moldova (1993); concerts in Winnipeg and Montreal marking the 50th Anniversary of Olexander Koshetz's death (1994); the Taras Shevchenko concert in Edmonton AB (1995); and the choir’s 50th anniversary concert featuring guest conductors Anatoli Avdievsky and Laurence Ewashko, as well as the WSO conducted by Bramwell Tovey (1996).
In 1992 the O. Koshetz Choir was awarded independent Ukraine’s prestigious Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian State Prize, becoming the first individual/organization from the Ukrainian diaspora to be so honoured. The choir and Walter Klymkiw were praised for propagating Ukraine’s musical heritage and for bridging the divide that had existed between Canada and Ukraine in the past. During the late 1990s, Klymkiw’s declining health obliged him to slowly curtail his activities with the choir. In 1999 the choir honoured his many years of service with a special tribute concert at which Anatoli Avdievsky, Laurence Ewashko and Henry Engbrecht spoke. In recent years the choir has been conducted by Walter Zulak (1998-1999), Roman Worobec and Corinne Villebrun (1999 – 2001), Tetyana Rodionova (2002-2006) and Miroslava Paches (2007-present).
Performing highlights since 1996 have included a concert of choral works by Mykola Leontovych and Paul Macenko featuring the University of Manitoba Singers and the Hoosli Male Folk Ensemble (1997); a performance at the International Society for Music Educators gathering in Edmonton (2000); participation in the ‘Bridges of Manitoba’ concert with the WSO (2003); participation in the Manitoba Choral Association’s ‘Diversity Sings!’ and ‘Manitoba Sings!’ festivals (2005 and 2010); a concert marking the 25th anniversary of the Centre for Ukrainian Canadian Studies at the University of Manitoba (2006); the choir’s 60th anniversary concert conducted by Laurence Ewashko and featuring a number of guest soloists including Andriana Chuchman and Irena Welhasch-Baerg (2006); the ‘Spring Celebration’ concert (2010); the choir’s 65th anniversary gala concert (2011); the ‘Celebrations of Winter’ concert (2012); the ‘Call of the Bells’ concert (2013); and participation in the annual ‘Festival of Ukrainian Carols’.
Functions, occupations and activities
Discography of the Olexander Koshetz Choir:
1 Boh Predvichnyi. Season’s Greetings. Winnipeg’s O. Koshetz Choir. Conducted by Walter Klymkiw. Winnipeg: V Records LTD. 197?.
2 Kontsert ukrians’koi muzyky – Khor im. Oleksandra Koshytsia/A Concert of Ukrainian Music – Olexander Koshetz Choir. Winnipeg: O. K. Records., 197?.
3 Khvalite Hospoda - Sacred Works of Olexander Koshetz. Winnipeg: V Records Limited, 198? Recorded by Neil Klassen.
4 Ukrainian Classics – Olexander Koshetz Choir. Winnipeg: V Records Ltd., 1978.
5 Ukrainian Christmas Carols / Ukrains’ki koliady i shchedrivky. From O. Koshetz Choir, Conducted by Walter Klymkiw. Minneapolis: Minn.: Sentinel Record Corp. 1982. Recorded by Century 21 Studios, Winnipeg.
6 Ukrainian Christmas Carols. The Olexander Koshetz Choir. Montreal: Yevshan Communications, 1983. Recorded by Century 21 Studios, Winnipeg.
7 Khai Voskresne Boh/ Let Christ Arise. Montreal: Yevshan Communications, Inc., 1985 Recorded by Century 21 Studios, Winnipeg.
8 Canada’s O. Koshetz Choir – Ukrainian Choral Music / Kanads’kyi Khor im. O. Koshyts’a. Winnipeg: O. Koshetz Choir, 1987. Recorded by Century 21 Studios, Winnipeg.
9 From Ukraine With Love. Winnipeg: Olexander Koshetz Choir, 1987. Recorded at Century 21 Studios.
10 Sv. Liturhiia. Oleksander Koshyts’/ The Divine Liturgy – Oleksander Koshetz. Winnipeg: O. Koshetz Choir, 1988. Recorded by Central Mennonite Communications. Manufactured and distributed by Yevshan Communications, Inc., Montreal.
11 A Festival of Ukrainian Choral Music. Winnipeg: Olexander Koshetz Choir, 1997 [?] Recorded at Mennonite Brethren Communications & at the First Mennonite and Bethel Mennonite Churches. Recorded and mixed by Stephen Harder and Clive Perry.
12 Mykola Leontovych – Liturgical Music / Mykola Leontovych – Liturhiini Spivy. Winnipeg: Olexander Koshetz Choir, 1999. Recorded at Sunshine Studios Winnipeg. Walter Klymkiw, producer; Danny Schur, engineer; Waylyn Wityshyn, digital editor.
13 THE Olexander Koshetz Choir Presents – a tribute to Walter Klymkiw. Winnipeg: Olexander Koshetz Choir, 2003 [?]
14 O. Koshetz Choir Collections Vol. 1: Khai Voskresne Boh/ Let Christ Arise (1985) & Ukrainian Christmas Carols / Ukrains’ki koliady i shchedrivky (1982). Winnipeg: Olexander Koshetz Choir, 2007 [= #7 and #5 above]
15 O. Koshetz Choir Collections Vol. 2: Ukrainian Christmas Carols/ Ukrains’ki koliady (1983) & Ukrainian Classics (1978). Winnipeg: Olexander Koshetz Choir, 2007 [= #6 and #4 above]