For the past few years, I’ve had the great privilege of serving as a moderator for the “I’m a Choir Director” Facebook group alongside Melanie Stapleton, Kyle Weary, and the group’s founder Kelly Smith Petro. Our 25,000 (and growing) members have navigated more than a few hot button issues, but what I love most about the group are the many opportunities it provides for collaboration.
Redemption Mass finally had its premiere thanks to sharing the score in response to a post by Beth Richey-Sullivan, a conductor whom I had never met! My meme game is super strong thanks to the many funny images and stories these colleagues share, and I’ve added tons of great repertoire to my bucket list.
Best yet, I’ve had many difficult questions answered after just a couple of clicks. Most recently, I asked for help pronouncing Shchedryk. “What is this magical word?” you might ask. I’ll tell you.
Shchedryk was originally a Ukrainian folk chant that Mykola Leontovych harmonized four different ways between 1901 and 1916. The fourth version stuck, and in this form, it was a song celebrating the arrival of swallow to sing about wealth in a new year. It would have been sung in the spring (thus the poppies above), according to my favorite archaic calendar: the Julian! :-)
Though the song fell out of favor after the Ukraine joined the Soviet Union, it received an American premiere before a sold-out Carnegie Hall in 1921. Peter J. Wilhousky (an American of Ukrainian descent) heard the tune and arranged it for the NBC Symphony Orchestra, where it became a huge hit! Wilhousky replaced the lyrics with his own, completely unrelated to the originals. Claiming that the melody sounded like bells, he wrote, “Hark! How the bells, sweet silver bells…” and the rest is history.
This fall, I had the bright idea of attempting the original Ukrainian with Curry College’s auditioned chamber chorale, Accelerando. There was only one problem. I have NO idea how to pronounce Ukrainian. Where to turn? Facebook, of course.
Enter my wonderful colleague and new friend, John Wernega. In addition to providing a transliteration, he shared a recording of his choir singing the tune and a video of himself pronouncing the words! With his permission, I’ve shared both in this post as a resource for future choir directors who may have the same question.
In the midst of cat videos, political rants, foreign bots, and infinite pictures of your dear aunt Sally, if you wonder why we continue to bother with social media, maybe this success will provide one good reason to keep it going.
Now to find out if Accelerando still has time and willpower to learn these words in the next month!