Ukrainian Folk Songs in New York
People of all professions lift their voices in the Ukrainian Dumka choir in New York City
That’s because his daily profession is running his own medical practice. That said, although he’s worked for 50 years as a dermatologist, he’s been singing Ukrainian songs for his whole life.
“God gave me a good voice and I love to sing. I have the opportunity to invite many Americans to listen to us perform so that they can see that Ukrainians honor their traditions – both folk and classical music,” Liteplo said.
Liteplo joined the choir when he was 14-years-old.
“I`ve been with the choir for 57 years. I’m the second Ukrainian who was born here in the states who came to the choir. The fist was my brother, he started singing a year before me,” Liteplo said.
The Dumka Choir meets every Friday in New York City and every Wednesday in Boundbrook, New Jersey. Rehearsals usually last three hours. The choir members start off warming up their voices and then move on to complex cantatas. There are many Ukrainian immigrants in the music ensemble. Among them is Maria Gebura, who’s been singing in the choir for just a few months. She’d moved to the U.S. as a child. She may miss Ukraine, but she doesn’t miss a single class.
“It was hard at the beginning. They are much better than me. But I hope that I will learn from them and will sing no worse. Ukrainian songs remind me of Ukraine, of my family, of what I am,” Gebura said.
The Dumka Choir was founded by Ukrainian immigrants nearly 70 years ago. In the beginning, it was exclusively male. Starting in 1959 female voices were included. The first conductor was Leontiy Krushelnitsky.
Choir member Vasyl Grechunskyi has had the opportunity to see a lot of that history. He’s been singing in it for 27 seasons. Many of those who come to concerts have a hard time believing that they’re amateur singers, he said.
“They simply cannot believe that in such migrant conditions and on such a creative basis, the Ukrainian diaspora can present a team at such a high level. We try to sing cantatas. To preserve traditions, we sing Ukrainian classic songs as well as works by composers who created their masterpieces while being migrants,” Grechunskyi said.
The Dumka Choir has released several albums of classic songs, as well as church singing and Ukrainian folk songs. They’ve also devoted several recordings to traditional Christmas carols.
Over its long history, the choir’s performed in London, England; Munich, Germany; Strasbourg, Austria, and many other cities. Choir members say that they dream of returning to Ukraine, where they last performed in the early 90s in Kyiv and Lviv.