John-Michael Palahniuk views music as a proud pillar of his deeply-rooted Ukrainian heritage. He sees the Canadian Ukrainian culture slowly eroding, and is a man on a mission to cultivate songs that are always part of the Ukrainian heart.
As first tenor for the 28-voice Ukrainian Male Chorus, the St. Albert resident cuts an elegant figure in the tuxedoed ensemble. This coming Saturday, Dec. 1, the male voices gather at McDougall United Church to share what is dearest them.
A Festival Mosaic is part of a living treasure trove of folk culture blended with liturgical songs.
“This starts the Christmas season. Sometimes I think I want to continue the concerts to ensure the Christmas spirit keeps going. Not only Ukrainian, but other languages get lost over time. It’s important to maintain your culture,” says Palahniuk, now a veteran chorister of three years.
He explains that the choral tradition is an integral part of the vibrant and resilient Ukrainian tapestry.
“When our immigrants first came to Canada, one of the first things they did was build a church. Whether it was a regular Sunday mass or Easter or Christmas, singing was very prominent,” he said.
The Ukrainian Male Chorus has a tradition of performing concerts with local ensembles, and this year they will make music with the Br*ssterisk Brass Quintet, Heruvymy Ukrainian Female Quartet and Shumayela Youth Choir.
For the male chorus, conductor Orest Soltykevych has selected 10 carols with sacred overtones that are less familiar to the public.
One such work is Z namy Boh (Our God), a song Palahniuk explains is an adaptation of the chant which starts the Christmas liturgy.
“There’s a harmony of different sounds that come in and at the end it sounds like bells,” Palahniuk said.
Although most of the program is sung in Ukrainian, the choir joins forces with Shumayela, a choir for treble and changing voices, to sing Rise of a Shepherd.
The Heruvymy Ukrainian Female Quartet is an a cappella ensemble that will devote itself to Byzantine liturgical music, and the Br*ssterisk brass quintet provides some of the accompaniment.
“You’re going to see four diverse groups with a variety of sound,” Palahniuk said. “All four have an upbeat aura and will make people feel good. It’s colourful music and you don’t have to be Ukrainian to enjoy it.”
A Festive Mosaic
Ukrainian Male Chorus, Br*ssterisk Brass Quintet, Heruvymy Ukrainian Female Quartet, Shumayela Youth Choir
Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7 pm.
McDougall United Church
10025 – 101 St.
Tickets: $10 to $15. Call 780-499-0422 or e-mail UMCtickets@gmail.com