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Mykola Leontovych’s 146th birth anniversary: honoring legacy of “Shchedryk”

#UWC news
December 14,2023 657
Mykola Leontovych’s 146th birth anniversary: honoring legacy of “Shchedryk”

December 13 marked the 146th anniversary of the renowned Ukrainian composer and public figure Mykola Leontovych. The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) stands united with Ukrainians worldwide in honoring the birth anniversary of this influential Ukrainian maestro. Leontovych celebrated as the originator of magnificent choral pieces inspired by folk traditions and the composer behind the internationally acclaimed Shchedryk, is remembered and commemorated by the UWC alongside Ukrainians in Ukraine and across the globe.

Mykola Leontovych significantly influenced the establishment and progress of Ukrainian musical art through his creative and social endeavors, elevating Ukrainian musical heritage onto the global cultural stage.

Born into a priest’s family in Podillia, a historical region in the central-western part of Ukraine, Leontovych received his initial musical education from his father, who played the cello, violin, and guitar and directed the seminarian choir. His mother instilled in him th love for Ukrainian folk songs. 

Born in 1887, Leontovych attended Nemyriv Gymnasium but shifted to Sharhorod Spiritual Elementary School due to financial constraints. He furthered his musical studies at the Podillia Spiritual Seminary, excelling in violin, piano, and wind instruments and adapting folk melodies. Inspired by Mykola Lysenko, a luminary in Ukrainian music arrangement, Leontovych pursued teaching in rural schools post-seminary. He autonomously honed his musical expertise during this period and formed a self-directed symphony orchestra.

In 1901, the first collection of songs from Podillia was published, followed by a second in 1903 dedicated to Lysenko. In 1904-1905, during summer vacations, Leontovych took exams for the position of choir director at the St. Petersburg Court Chapel. Later, he moved to the Donetsk region, becoming a singing and music teacher at a local railway school.

In addition to his professional activities, Leontovych became the voice of Ukrainians of that time. During the revolutionary events of 1905, he organized a workers’ choir that performed at rallies against the Russian autocracy. Leontovych’s public stance did not go unnoticed – the police began monitoring the artist, forcing him to return to Podillia, to the town of Tulchyn. There, he taught music at the eparchial women’s school and, at the age of 24, wrote the first version of Shchedryk. In 1916, with the choir of Kyiv University, he performed the final version of the composition, which later gained global success.

On the night of January 23, 1921, in the village of Markivka, Podillia Governorate, Mykola Leontovych was shot and killed with a shotgun. He did not live to see his global recognition for a few more months. It later became known that the Bolshevik underground organization orchestrated the murder of the Ukrainian genius.

Today, as the whole world knows the Ukrainian Shchedryk, we call on everyone to remember its author – the outstanding Ukrainian Mykola Leontovych – and cherish an understanding of the value of the free expression of the Ukrainian voice.

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