Shchedryk Returns to Carnegie Hall for Centennial Performance

I sing, therefore I am.

“A 1919 review of the Ukrainian Republic Choir in the Genevan journal La Patrie Suisse mused that the Ukrainian National Republic established its independence through the motto, ‘I sing, therefore I am.’  Ukraine continues to sing and continues to be.”  —Notes from Ukraine (carolofthebells100.org)

How often does an art reviewer from a neutral country declare that a choir’s performance inspired a nation’s victory in their war for independence?  That choir performed for the first time in America in Carnegie Hall in 1922, during that war, which ultimately ended in Russia consuming Ukraine into the Soviet Union, though Ukraine had made itself an independent nation, and despite Soviet domination remained a republic to this day.  (Ask the UN who were the first signatories to its charter in 1945.  One of them was the Soviet Republic of Ukraine, a nation by UN’s definition.  Ukraine was the first republic to break away from the Soviet Union, causing the collapse of that Union.  It absolutely could not survive without Ukraine.)  One hundred years later, on December 4, 2022, Ukraine returned to Carnegie Hall to bring again the power of music during war.

“CULTURE UNDER THREAT” says the website of Notes from Ukraine (carolofthebells100.org), and then, that culture again exerts its centuries-old power to overcome the threat.  The website continues, with this inspiring statement:

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022, has purposefully sought to destroy Ukrainian culture as part of its aims. Cultural sites have repeatedly been the target of attacks including works by painter Maria Prymachenko at the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum, the historic home and museum of Ukrainian poet and philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda in the Kharkiv region, and the Theater of Music and Drama in Mariupol.

Just as in 1922, the Ukrainian National Republic used the soft power of music to preserve and promote Ukraine’s independence, Ukrainian artists today are once again turning to culture to communicate with the world. A 1919 review of the Ukrainian Republic Choir in the Genevan journal La Patrie Suisse mused that the Ukrainian National Republic established its independence through the motto, “I sing, therefore I am.” Ukraine continues to sing and continues to be.

I continue supporting Ukraine by raising awareness of her people and their culture, letting them speak for themselves in this venue.  It is by knowing them, by being consciously aware of who they are and what Ukraine is, that we may better grasp the reality of our responsibility for standing with her, or going down with her as a democracy, as a free and self-governing people, things under great threat in the United States.

On May 22, 2022, I posted Щедрик – Shchedryk, On the Generosity of Spring, with Music, a report, and something of a concert of the ancient pre-Christian Ukrainian folk song Shchedryk and its modern derivatives, first in the 19th Century Ukrainian revised folk lyrics about a sparrow heralding the New Year and the generosity of spring (the new year of the old pagan culture), and then in the 20th Century Carol of the Bells lyrics, one of the most beloved holiday songs in the world, played everywhere, in endless versions from native to classical to rock.

The song is one of Ukraine’s many timeless cultural manifestations aloft in the soul of a world at peace or in war, a world still worthy of hope, despite our desperate and seemingly hopeless condition (which is how it usually feels to me lately).  This music changes the condition of the heart that way.  I’m grateful for that.  We can all benefit by turning to art for hope, and Ukraine has it in ongoing bountiful and inspiring supply.

One might say, “We listen, therefore we are.”

I applaud Carnegie Hall and all the sponsors and supporters of the concert, Notes From Ukraine, bringing this enduring Ukrainian music back on December 4, 2022 for the 100th anniversary of the 1922 first Carnegie Hall performance by the Ukrainian Republic Capella on its first world tour.

I appreciate National Public Radio for its report on the event, a far more thorough radio news treatment of the culturally important topic of Shchedryk than I have heard from any U.S. public radio or public TV report.  Carnegie Hall does not get ignored.

In 1919, the Ukrainian Republic Capella, the national choir of the newly independent Ukrainian National Republic, embarked on a cultural diplomacy mission to spread awareness of a newly independent Ukrainian nation around the world. Under the auspices of the head of the republic, Symon Petliura, and his Ministries for Education and Foreign Affairs, the choir toured Europe and North America. Directed by renowned composer and conductor Oleksandr Koshyts, the Ukrainian Republic Capella shared Ukraine’s unique choral tradition by way of promoting the country’s sovereignty and distinctiveness from “the Russian world.”

The first stop on the North American tour, the choir sang on the stage of New York City’s Carnegie Hall on October 5, 1922. This momentous performance would mark the first time North American audiences heard Mykola Leontovych’s “Shchedryk”, a New Year’s song that would become the beloved Christmas classic, “Carol of the Bells.” The choir subsequently performed throughout the United States, but it was Carnegie Hall where the mesmerizing melody first reached American audiences.  – Notes from Ukraine website 

Here is the NPR report audio track.  It is worth a listen.  The actual concert starts below.

“Shchedryk Children’s Choir, along with several choruses and soloists, took to the famed stage on Sunday [December 4, 2022] to perform a slew of Ukrainian carols.” – NPR

⚡️The famous Ukrainian carol ‘Shchedryk,’ also known as ‘Carol of the Bells,’ was performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Dec. 4.  The carol had its first performance at Carnegie hall 100 years ago, in 1922.  The concert included the Shchedryk Children’s Choir from Kyiv. pic.twitter.com/N0i3bwXOvQ
The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) December 5, 2022

Here is the 2.5-hour Carnegie performance on Vimeo.  Apparently it is not available on YouTube at this time.


I can’t talk about it.  Nothing I say will honor it as deserved, except: listen.  Watch.  As you see their faces, hear the magic of angelic music, feel yourself swept out of yourself for a while, sometimes surprisingly sharply ripped out, try not to think too many times about what is happening back home as they sing for us.  Try not to consider too many times the bombs and missiles falling on their homes, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, ancient architecture and art.  Try not to remember all we have heard about women being raped, reportedly from the age of four to the eighties.  Try not to think too much about bullets ripping through the heads of innocent non-combatants kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs, often tortured beyond anything you or I can comprehend one human doing to another, all the way to dismemberment.  Avoid the sight of the massive ditch burials, the limbs, hands, feet and faces sticking out of the soil as they are gradually uncovered, bagged, and carried away, in some instances scores of bags laid in rows until they could be transported.  Don’t look too much at the people doing this work of salvaging the remnants of their fellow citizens, including doing it for Russian soldiers left behind by their army in shallow graves.  Stop paying attention to the unreal horrors that the singers’ and bandurists’ friends and family back home continue to suffer as we watch them sing.  Singing to be.  Avoid too much immersion in consciousness of their lives as you see their faces emit angelic sounds.  It could shred you.

On second thought, be fucking shredded.  See the reality of it all.  Go there in your mind and just you try, to that tiny extent we can, to imagine what it is like over there.  It is not over there if you try.  It is here, in us, in our embrace of the music at Carnegie Hall, and with them as they return home to practice in basements with flashlights as bombs fall around them, in the cold.

If you are silly enough not to watch it all, at least watch the end, beginning at 2:12 for a haunting close to a long song.  At 2:17, there is a five-minute standing ovation until the audience started chanting, “Shchedryk!  Shchedryk!  Shchedryk!  Shchedryk!”  That brought on the end of applause and the beginning of the finale, sung by all of the choirs, groups, soloists and bandurists together.  I did not get a count, but their number swamped the stage, children and adults.  You don’t get Shchedrykated like that just anywhere.  The audience roared some of the performers to tears.  They declared, as do I:

Слава Україні! Героям слава!
Slava Ukraini!
Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!

We are all Ukrainians now.  Not that we are not all also Sudanese and Somali and Syrian and among the FOUR HUNDRED MILLION Chinese in lockdown.  For now, I am mostly Ukrainian, because if we let them lose the war, Ukraine will be no more.  Putin wants them to end as a nation, as a culture, as a people, banishing the Ukrainian Church, the Ukraine language, Ukraine customs.  They would sing never again forever at Carnegie Hall.  Then comes down the Western World as we know it, beginning with Putin and other tyrants striking democracy with all their might.  They may not win, but it will be hell for a long time for our descendents.  Hell like in Ukraine, where Russia is teaching its comrades around the world how to invoke hell.

Glory to Ukraine, indeed, thus glory to you, embracing your Ukraine brothers and sisters, as one of them.  Sing their songs.


Ukraine’s National Anthem Translated to English, sung by a variety of Ukrainians, culturally diverse, people with family origins in many countries, all confirming, “We are all Ukrainian now.”  They do it as a sing-along.  How convenient for you!  Lyrics below.  In the text under the YouTube video, they suggest you sing with them, “so that we can feel your support.”

Of the great number of videos posted in this blog, this may be my favorite.  The one after it is a close contender for first place.


Glorious spirit of Ukraine shines and lives forever.
Blessed by Fortune brotherhood will stand up together.
Like the dew before the sun enemies will fade,
We will further rule and prosper in our promised land.

We will lay our soul and body for the cherished freedom.
Cossack blood will raise the nation of the joyous people.

For the liberty the folk strives ardently from San to Don,
And will let no alien power in our common home.
Aged Dnieper and Black Sea arm in arm rejoice,
And Ukraine will see daylight and live by Fortune’s choice.

We will lay our soul and body for the cherished freedom.
Cossack blood will raise the nation of the joyous people.

Passion and hard-working hands prove bright future true.
Song of freedom, loud and clear, guides us all way through.
Over mountains and steppes it flows, over ages told.
Valorous Ukraine stands strong in a thriving world.

We will lay our soul and body for the cherished freedom.
Cossack blood will raise the nation of the joyous people.

P.S.
Our translation of the Ukrainian Anthem into Russian is here: https://youtu.be/3K4EOWD22oI



You may not be able to sing along with this.  But you can chant, “Shchedryk, Shchedryk, Shchedryk,” as did the audience in Carnegie Hall three days ago.


Sung in Ukrainian and English:


Shchedryk, shchedryk, shchedrivochka
Here flew the swallow from afar
Started to sing lively and loud
Asking the master to come out
Come here, oh come, master – it’s time
In the sheepfold wonders to find
Your lovely sheep have given birth
To little lambs of great worth
All of your wares are very fine
Coin you will have in a big pile
All of your wares are very fine
Coin you will have in a big pile
You have a wife
Fair as a dove
If not the coin, then the chaff
You have a wife fair as a dove

By now, if you’ve followed my Ukraine series, you can translate this:

Слава Україні! Героям слава!