Church music

Church music. Religious music existed in Ukraine before the official adoption of Christianity, in the form of plainsong (obychnyi spiv) or musica practica. With the conversion to Christianity in 988 (see Christianization of Ukraine), the Byzantine chant was imported together with Byzantine ritual (partially through the mediation of Bulgaria). The distinguishing feature of Ukrainian church music was its exclusively vocal nature. The original liturgical chants were sung in unison and based on one line of melody. In time the tonal classification became based on the octet system vosmyholossia, which was a division of the church chants into eight melodic types or formulas.

Through the ages this system assimilated Ukrainian folksong themes (see Folk songs), and the melodies were restructured and adapted to Ukrainian forms and styles. An original Ukrainian church music first emerged in the 11th century at the Kyivan Cave Monastery, where the so-called Kyivan Cave Monastery chant was evolved from a merging of the old Kyivan chant and the old znamennyi chant. Conforming to church practice, a method of musical notation called the znamennyi notation was developed, consisting of symbols (neumes) written without the staff. In the 12th and 13th centuries the znamennyi notation was also used to record three-part chants. From the mid-16th to the end of the 17th century a contrapuntal or polyphonic singing (vocal music with simultaneous but melodically independent parts or voices) was developed in Ukraine. This development was accommodated by a new and more precise system of notation employing the staff, called the Kyivan notation. Polyphonic music was cultivated primarily by church brotherhood choirs. The choral concerto in one movement, composed for non-liturgical texts, became a very popular form. The composers of polyphonic music were, among others, Mykola Dyletsky (the author of a handbook on the theory of music written in 1677) and Andrii Rachynsky. Several outstanding Ukrainian composers of liturgical music, including Maksym Berezovsky, Artem Vedel, and Dmytro Bortniansky, emerged during the latter half of the 18th century. The predominant form of their compositions was the cyclical choral concerto. Important editions of the liturgical chants ‘Irmoloi’ (Lviv 1707 [see Hirmologion]) and Bohohlasnyk (Pochaiv 1790) have been preserved from the 18th century. A separate branch of sacred music includes kanty (chants) and psalms, religious songs that have become saturated with elements of Ukrainian folk music. These pieces are generally composed for three parts. Church music was further developed primarily by Galician composers, including Mykhailo Verbytsky, Ivan A. Lavrivsky, and Sydir Vorobkevych. Twentieth-century composers of sacred music are Kyrylo Stetsenko, Oleksander Koshyts, Mykola Leontovych, Mykhailo Haivoronsky, and others. (See also Choral music.)

Kudryk, B. Ohliad istoriï ukraïns’koï tserkovnoï muzyky (Lviv 1937)
Matsenko, P. Narysy do istoriï ukraïns’koï tserkovnoï muzyky (Winnipeg 1968)
Konspekt istoriï ukraïns’koï tserkovnoï muzyky (Winnipeg 1973)
Antonowycz, M. The Chants from Ukrainian Heirmologia (Bilthoven 1974)
Antonowycz, M. Ukrainische geistliche Musik (Munich 1990)

Wasyl Wytwycky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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