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Alexander Koshetz (12 September 1875 – 21 September 1944) was a Ukrainian choral conductor, arranger, composer, ethnographer, writer, musicologist, and lecturer. He helped popularize Ukrainian music around the world. His name is sometimes transliterated as Oleksandr Koshyts (Ukrainian: Олександр Кошиць).
At one time, a performance of Koshetz's Ukrainian National Chorus held the world record for audience attendance, excluding sporting events. His performance also popularized Mykola Leontovych's "Shchedryk" in his concert, which Peter Wilhousky later translated into the popular "Carol of the Bells".
Early life and career
Koshetz was born in the village of Romashky in Kiev Guberniya. He graduated from the Kiev Theological Academy in 1901, then studied in the Lysenko School of Music and Drama, 1908–1910. He taught choral music at Kiev's Imperial Conservatory of Music, conducted the Sadovsky Theatre Orchestra, served as conductor and choirmaster of the Kiev Opera.
He also collected Ukrainian folk songs from central Ukrainian areas (notably around Kiev itself) as well as from the modern Russian area of Kuban, where he specially set out to see whether musical traditions of the Dnieper Cossacks are still present in their descendants, the Kuban Cossacks, who resettled there following the dissolution of the Zaporozhian Sich. In the latter case he too managed to collect a number of songs.
Ukrainian Republic Capella and emigration
After World War I, Koshetz was the co-founder and conductor of the Ukrainian Republic Capella (later renamed Ukrainian National Chorus). The choir toured Europe and the Americas in 1919–1924 and 1926–27, in support of the international Ukrainian community.
In 1917 Koshetz married a former student and singer in his choirs Tetyana Koshetz (1892–1966) who was later to become a vocalist in the Ukrainian National Chorus, voice teacher, and after 1944 curator of the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre in Winnipeg.
He moved to New York City in 1922 where he collected liturgical music, arranged and popularized Ukrainian folk music. Koshetz also documented the choir's travels in the memoir With Song, Around the World (З піснею через світ).
From 1941 Koshetz spent the summer months teaching in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where he died in 1944 at age 69.
The O. Koshetz Choir in Winnipeg is named in his memory.
A unique concert titled the Unknown Koshetz was produced at the University of Manitoba on 26 March 2006. The concert featured the Olexander Koshetz Choir of Winnipeg performing Koshetz "choral orchestrations" of music of Hawaii, Scotland, Afro-Americana, and First Nations, sung in both English and Ukrainian translations.
On his 130th birthday, a commemorative concert was held in Uspenskyi Cathedral of Kiev Pechersk Lavra by the best graduates of the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy under patronage of President Yuschenko and under blessing of Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The personal archives of Alexander and Tetyana Koshetz remain at the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Although Koshetz was mostly known as a conductor, he also did his share of composing and arranging music. In the 1920s, after the creation of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Koshetz composed his liturgy, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, as well as ten Ukrainian religious chants. Later in emigration, he composed much more religious music.
- Koshyts, Oleksandr article in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Last updated 2009.
- Олександр Антонович Кошиць Article about Oleksandr Koshyts by Roman Koval (Ukrainian)[dead link]
- КИЕВ. Украинская Православная Церковь почтила память выдающегося духовного композитора с мировым именем Александра Кошица at arhiv.orthodoxy.org.ua
- Олександр Кошиць Article on Koshyts by Mstyslav Yurchenko (Ukrainian)
- Koshetz, Oleksander (1952–1974) З піснею через світ: подорож української республиканської капелі (Z pisneiu cherez svit: podorozh ukrains’koi respublikans’koi kapeli), 3 volumes. Winnipeg, Культура і освіта (Kul’tura i osvita).
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