The Lemkovyna Choir was founded in Fall 1969 in the village of Rudno (now part of the city of L'viv) by Lemkos born in Poland who had been settled in L'viv and the villages of Rudno and Zymna Voda. Among the organizers were the groups' longtime starosta (elder), Pavlo Jurkovskij (a retiree, born in Skwierzyn/Skvirtne, Gorlice county); the composer Roman Sobolevskij, and singers Stefanija Hurej and Stefanija Kuzjak. The group's conductor and artistic director since 1974 is Ivan Kushnir (born in Bonarivka, Krosno county), who began working with the group soon after graduating from the Conductor's Department of the L'viv State Music Conservatory.161 Its early days were difficult, as the group had to rehearse in homes. Thanks in part to the work of Kushnir, the group has become very successful and has won awards including a diploma at the Soviet Union's First Nationwide Festival of Amateur Creative Workers' artists.162
The group today has over 70 members, most of whom are of Lemko descent, and includes a 16-piece orchestra of violins, cymbaly (hammer dulcimer), clarinet, cello, flute, musical glasses, and bandura.163 The choir has a repertoire of over 70 Lemko songs, and also performs liturgical music, music written by Ukrainian composers to the words of Ukrainian poets Taras Shevchenko and Ivan Franko, Ukrainian songs from the shores of the Dnieper, and songs from the Carpathian Bojko, Hutsul, and Transcarpathian regions. The choir also performs songs of Russian, Belarusian, Latvian, Georgian, and Polish origin. Its concerts include reading of sketches, verse and stories in the Lemko language, and a dance group has recently formed to complement the choir.164
In 1989 the ensemble made its first tour abroad, a three day trip to Poland. They came at the invitation of Volodymyr Nazar, chairman of USKT. They were greeted in Gorlice by members of the Lemkovyna choir of Biljanka. A first-hand account of the experience was given by Terezija Kyshchak (born in Rostajne, Jaslo county), a teacher of Ukrainian language and a member of the group since its founding:
That same day we staged a concert. The hall was packed to capacity. There were even some Lemkos who came to see use from the western regions of the country, in particular from Legnica. We were told later that our concert tour was advertised in advance, and on Sunday the priests of the Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches informed their flocks about our performances. Every number of our concert program was received with an ovation. There were many flowers. We felt especially moved when a little boy, the son of poet Petro Trochanovskij, appeared on the state and, facing the audience, on behalf of those present, thanked our Lemkovyna group for the concert.
The Lemko families from Gorlice and the Biljanka and Losje villages invited our group members to spend the night at their places. This enabled us to establish personal contacts and aquatint ourselves with the mode of life of our fellow-countrymen. Besides, we had a chance to exchange our presents.
I was a guest of Zenovija Cherhonjak. She lives with her daughter, son-in-law and little granddaughter. Till late at night we sat at the table and talked. Our hosts were in possession of several early creations by a gifted Lemko woodcarver, Mychajlo Orysyk.
The choir members attended services in the local churches on Sunday, where they sang traditional koljady (Christmas carols) and the Mnohaja lita (the church prayer "Many years" for blessing, health and happiness). Afterward, the group visited the Museum of Lemko Culture in Zyndranova, where they were received by local Lemko activists Fedor Goch and Mychal Don'skij.165
In a recent concert, Lemkovyna played to an overflow crowd in the hall of the L'viv Veterinary Academy on Sunday June 20, 1993. The professor and music critic Jaroslav Mychal'chyshyn gave his opinion on the concert: "[the combination of] the choir's folk dress, the faces of the singers, and the execution of the songs have some kind of special effect on me....[especially to hear] the choir's enthusiasm, this is an experience that can't be repeated. When you watch the stage, your heart rejoices."166 A photo of this performance is found in Appendix X.
Lemko culture has become widely known in Western Ukrainian society, especially through the medium of folk songs. Lemko folk songs are played on Ukrainian radio, heard in concerts, and released on record albums.167 The songs are performed by leading vocalists, professional groups, vocal capellas, and amateur performing groups. Some of Ukraine's most renowned scholars and composers, including the famous Lemko composer Ivan Majchyk of L'viv, have studied and arranged Lemko folk songs.168
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