Fr. Taras Koberynko, a tenor from Ukraine, sings in the Resurrectional Liturgy Project which has just released its recording of music for the Divine Liturgy written by Fr. John Sembrat.


Fr. Taras Koberynko, a tenor from Ukraine, sings in the Resurrectional Liturgy Project which has just released its recording of music for the Divine Liturgy written by Fr. John Sembrat.

April 4, 2016

Father Taras Koberynko has been singing all his life.

"Ukrainians sing all the time," said Koberynko. "For Ukrainians, to sing is the song of the soul."

In the Byzantine tradition everything is sung - from the entire Divine Liturgy to small services such as Baptisms.

Audiences across Western Canada are now being exposed to this tradition through the Resurrectional Liturgy Project, a high-level choral venture which has brought Koberynko of the Boyan Ensemble of Kyiv, and more than 50 other singers and soloists from across Canada and Ukraine together in an all-male choir.

The tenor priest, appointed by Pope Francis this jubilee year as one of 1,000 Missionaries of Mercy, also sings in mixed choirs and has toured Great Britain with Ukraine's top professional male choir.

Singing sacred Ukrainian music with the ad hoc ensemble of a variety of different singers - from amateur to professional, Ukrainian and Canadian - has been an interesting experience, he said.

"Liturgy gives us the opportunity of worshiping, praising all together, all united," said Koberynko, through a translator. "As a choir, we are all very different, but in our unity, we constitute a single whole."

The ambitious project aims to promote the original Resurrectional Divine Liturgy composed by Vegreville-based Father John Sembrat on a national and international stage, using a reputable, artistically-sound choral ensemble.

From a musical point of view, Koberynko, who sings the priest's dialogue in Sembrat's Divine Liturgy, said the Vegreville priest's liturgy is well composed for a men's choir.

"There's a specific male timbre of the voices, it's very special," he said. As a tenor, he appreciates that there are a lot of high notes, and for the basses, there are many lows.

"This liturgy conveys a beautiful paschal atmosphere," he added. "Definitely an atmosphere of joy."

The composition of liturgical music by a priest is unique in Ukrainian history, said Koberynko. The composer Verbytsky, also a priest, and his composition of the national hymn was another rare exception.

Sembrat, a Basilian priest, took 14 years to compose the four-part liturgy, an Easter setting of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

The music fuses Ukrainian culture with inspiration from classical composers such as Beethoven, Bach, Haydn and Mozart.

Conducted by European-trained Michael Zaugg, artistic director of Pro Coro Canada, the all-male ensemble recorded the Easter liturgy last June in Edmonton. The recording was released in March, in time for the ensemble's concert tour.

The Western Canada tour included stops in Regina, Winnipeg and Saskatoon before concluding with an April 2 concert at St. Joseph's Basilica in Edmonton.


As well as increasing knowledge and awareness of the traditional liturgy, the project aims to develop choristers for the future.

Project chairman Damein Zakordonski said it is nearly unheard of to have almost 30 professional male singers in one group.

"The music itself is expansive and triumphal," said Zakordonski. "The sheer amount of voices is quite thrilling, really; you get goose bumps."

An added benefit of the project is the exposure to good sacred music as a possible stepping stone for people who are not Catholic to enter a church, he added.


"In one sense, the Church hasn't put too much effort on the artistic realm as a good vehicle for evangelization," he said. "We think this choir has the power to evangelize people in different ways."

Being a part of the choir has been "thrilling" for everyone involved, said Zakordonski.

"One guy in the choir had Type 3 colon cancer. He sat there and said after singing, he could have died happy."

Letter to the Editor - 05/16/16