The spring of 2016 can be considered one of the most inspired and imaginative in the world of Ukrainian Canadian cultural endeavor. Not one, but three uniquely different artistic works premiered across the country, all of them made possible through grants from Shevchenko Foundation. In supporting the creation and performance of new works the Shevchenko Foundation is truly advancing Ukrainian arts for the enrichment of Canada.
On March 18, 2016 the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra debuted the Golden Harvest/Zoloti zhnyva/La moisson dorée Oratorio. Composed by respected Toronto composer Larysa Kuzmenko, with libretto by Talia Zajac, the trilingual Oratorio was performed to a full house by soloists Andriana Chuchman and Michael Nyby, with the Mennonite Festival Chorus and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Alexander Mickelthwaite. The Golden Harvest Oratorio was commissioned by Laurence Ewashko in honour of the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada. It chronicles the journey of one family, symbolic of all Ukrainian pioneers, who made the difficult decision to leave behind all that was familiar and dear in order to build a new life in Canada. Their hardships and achievements reflect the universal experience of all immigrants coming to Canada: their journey, their struggle, and finally their settlement in their new land. The work culminated in a celebration of the golden harvest Ukrainians brought to Canada – a harvest of precious wheat and uncountable cultural wealth. The Golden Harvest Oratorio has confidently entered the lexicon of Canadian music, with announced performances by Canadian orchestras and ensembles across the country in 2017.
In June, 2015 an ensemble of 50 singers, representing 10 choirs from 3 countries (Canada, USA, and Ukraine) came together in Edmonton under the artistic directorship of Michael Zaugg, Principal Conductor with Pro Coro Canada, to record a new Resurrectional Divine Liturgy, composed by Fr. John Sembrat, OSBM of Vegreville, AB. The importance of this magnificent new work in the Ukrainian sacred music repertoire most certainly lies in its relation to spiritual devotion, the Ukrainian religious musical tradition, and also in its singularity as a liturgical work composed outside Ukraine. It has been hailed as “..holding a leading place in church music performance, will receive well-deserved accolades from the scholarly musical milieu, and will give pleasure to singers and listeners alike” (Prof. M. Yurchenko, Kyiv). Upon completion of the recording, in late March, 2016 the choral ensemble toured Regina, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton, with performances of Fr. Sembrat’s Resurrectional Divine Liturgy and other Sacred Music.
Inspired by the words of Ukraine’s beloved poet Taras Shevchenko, the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers of Edmonton produced an ambitious folk ballet, Kobzar, which premiered on April 9, 2016 at Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. With its 47-member cast, newly-commissioned music by Y. Shevchenko, and choreography by V. Lytvynov, the production of Kobzar pays tribute to the monumental legacy and timeless influence of T. Shevchenko, with the uplifting allegorical tale of a people overcoming dark forces with courage and hope to fulfill their destiny. “ Kobzar’s journey to the stage has been a long but wonderful process, one filled with reflection, insight, and challenge. It represents the creative efforts of many inspired artists, all fueled by the same sincere desire – to empower the voice of Ukrainian dance, a voice that I believe can effectively speak to the ever changing dynamic of our culture” (John Pichlyk, Creative Director of Edmonton’s Ukrainian Shumka Dancers).