Shchedryk Children’s Choir of Kyiv performs at the 2019 Summa Cum Laude International Youth Choir Festival.

Kyiv children’s choir’s world tour was canceled amid war. This conductor is finding other ways to share their music.

Shchedryk Children’s Choir from Kyiv was poised to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year with a world tour. Then, Russia invaded Ukraine, canceling all plans. Conductor Saul Zaks is now on a mission to make sure the world hears the choir’s "magical" sounds.  

The World

Shchedryk Children’s Choir of Kyiv, Ukraine, performs at the 2019 Summa Cum Laude International Youth Choir Festival.

Photo by Enrique Manzano, courtesy of Saul Zaks

Shchedryk Children’s Choir from Kyiv, one of Ukraine’s most-recognized youth musical ensembles, was poised to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year with new recordings and a world tour. 

Then, on Feb. 24, Russia invaded Ukraine. 

The choir had to halt all rehearsals and celebratory plans as children and their families scattered across Ukraine. Some fled the country, while others sheltered in their homes.

Related: Far from the sidelines of the Boston Marathon, Ukrainian runners keep up their training

But the choir has still managed to find ways to share their music with the world, thanks, in part, to the efforts of Danish Argentinian Israeli conductor Saul Zaks. 

As the artistic director of the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival, in Vienna, Zaks first heard the Kyiv choir during the festival's 2019 Youth Choir competition. They won first place. 

Related: Ukraine’s LGBTQ community finds refuge in Berlin

“I remember when I was judging them in the competition, I just couldn't move…It's such a special sound … like it comes from another constellation. ‘Fantastic’ is too little to say. It's almost magical."

Saul Zaks, artistic director, Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival, Vienna, Austria
Shchedryk Children’s Choir from Kyiv, is one of Ukraine’s most recognized youth musical ensembles.

Shchedryk Children’s Choir from Kyiv is one of Ukraine’s most-recognized youth musical ensembles. 

Credit:

Photo by Enrique Manzano, courtesy of Saul Zaks 

“I remember when I was judging them in the competition, I just couldn't move,” Zaks said. “It's such a special sound … like it comes from another constellation. ‘Fantastic’ is too little to say. It's almost magical.”

When the invasion began, Zaks first attempted to evacuate members of the children’s choir out of Kyiv and into Denmark, arranging transportation and lodging. But the effort proved impossible. 

Related: Ukraine is now urging people to evacuate the Donbas. This Ukrainain American pastor is risking his life to help.

Tanya Kalyta, head of the Cultural Diplomacy International Institute, which represents the choir internationally, came to Zaks with another idea: Help shine a spotlight on the singers — all between the ages of 11 and 16 — by getting the choir’s songs out into the world. 

The children’s choir has so far only managed to record two songs, both lullabies, from St. Andrew’s Church in Kyiv.

Shchedryk Children’s Choir from Kyiv, won first place at the Summa Cum Laude Youth Music Festival.

Shchedryk Children’s Choir from Kyiv, Ukraine, won first place at the Summa Cum Laude Youth Music Festival. 

Credit:

Photo by Enrique Manzano, courtesy of Saul Zaks 

Zaks immediately got to work on the new mission, contacting international choirs and children’s organizations to spread the word and find ways to share the music. 

In collaboration with Choir of the Earth, Zaks has put out a request to global children's choirs to perform a traditional folk song from the Shchedryk Children’s Choir repertoire called “Rocking the Sun to Sleep." 

Zaks also said that Bel Canto Youth Chorus of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem would like to help publish the scores of the songs performed by Shchedryk Children’s Choir. 

He says he hopes that somehow, the choir's music might reach Russian audiences, too.

“I believe that deep, deep into their souls, they will connect with this sound and they will say, ‘We have to stop.’ Because we have to find out as humans what we are doing. I mean, what is this all about? I mean, what are we doing?