BATURYN - OUR HISTORY
The historic name "Baturyn" comes from the name of the heroic, Ukrainian settlement that stood as a regional, capital city during the Cossack era of Hetman (military commander) Ivan Mazepa (c. late 1600s). "Baturyn" symbolized the soul of the Ukrainian nation in its quest for true independence.
This spirit and soul of "Baturyn" is what the founders of the BATURYN Concert Marching Band wished to instill in the hearts of its young members when the band was formed under the Ukrainian Youth Association of Canada (UYA), Toronto Branch, in the autumn of 1966.
In the beginning, 17 enthusiastic UYA members comprised the first core of the band. These members ranged in age from 15 to 19 years. Over time, the numbers in the band grew to over 60 active members who would meet weekly under the guidance of BATURYN’s first resident conductor Mr. Wasyl Kardash (1966 to 1985). Mr. Kardash also brought to the band renowned music arranger, Mr. Julian Hojdalo, who introduced the musicians to several pieces. The new repertoire was comprised of several Ukrainian and international pieces including: traditional, folk, religious hymns, marches and anthems. Eventually, Mr. Kardash also created a position of assistant conductor and recruited young musicians from the band, Miss Marika Sverbyvus and Mr. Roman Yasinskyj, to fill the role.
As a newly formed band, there were many difficulties to overcome. BATURYN did not own any instruments, so many had to be borrowed for every practice. However, the enthusiasm of the young musicians was very positive, and, along with the support of parents and the UYA executive, obstacles were soon overcome. In short time, the funds were raised to purchase a full set of instruments. These instruments were blessed at UYA Camp Weselka during the "Sviato Vesny" (Spring Opening) festivities in 1967.
The year 1967 also saw BATURYN perform for enthusiastic crowds at Montreal’s Expo ’67. This performance provided very important exposure for the band. The increase in performances over the next few years demanded that by 1970 the band, with donations from the community, purchased new uniforms featuring: sky blue waistcoats, white pants and distinctive caps (modeled after Hetman Mazepa’s uniform) and red ties.
In 1972, BATURYN traveled, along with its sibling ensembles - the "Dibrova" and "Prometheus" choirs, to Western Europe for several performances. Traveling with bishop Isidore Borecky, the band members had a very important audience in Rome, Italy with Pope Paul VI and beloved Josyf Cardinal Slipyj.
With each New Year, BATURYN added more concerts, parades and festivals to its busy schedule. Cities in Canada: Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, London, Windsor, etc., and cities in the U.S.A.: Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Hartford, Passaic, etc. regularly welcomed the band to add colour and spirit to their festivities.
The popularity of seeing and hearing BATURYN at one of their appearances grew tremendously. As a result, fans of BATURYN's music were satisfied when the band started preserving their unique musical performances with audio recordings. These recordings included the very well received double vinyl album of 1983 that included versions of the Ukrainian and Canadian national anthems, the UYA march "V Horu Prapory," the very popular "Poltava March," plus several other hymns and marches.
In 1984, BATURYN accepted a special invitation to appear at the blessing of the new Slovak Cathedral of the Transfiguration, in Markham, Ontario. This blessing was officiated by Pope John Paul II.
Mr. Ostap Brezden assumed the conductorship of BATURYN. As an accomplished music teacher, musician and composer/arranger, Mr. Brezden opened the ranks of the band to amateur musicians of all skill levels and all age groups. His presence brought new vigour and excitement to BATURYN and his skill in arranging traditional and contemporary music enhanced the band’s repertoire. Some of Mr. Brezden's most popular music arrangements were "Zirvalasya Hurtovyna," "Rozpryahajte Hlopchi Koni," & "March Weselka," plus his own arrangement of the Ukrainian national anthem "Shche Ne Vmerla Ukraina" and the very popular Christmas favourite, the unique arrangement of "Shchedryk (Carol of the Bells)." Mr. Brezden also brought on a young music teacher, Miss Petrusia Chornopysky, as his assistant conductor.
BATURYN could be regularly seen participating in many important celebrations, parades and festivals in the Ukrainian-Canadian community calendar. Exremely important to the band were the commemorations for the 1000th anniversary of Ukrainian Christianity in 1988. Throughout the year, BATURYN joyfully performed at several concerts and festivals that marked this extraordinary occasion.
In the early 1990s, after more than 20 years of successful existence, a new uniform was designed for the members of BATURYN. The new design featured blazer type jackets, with belt, in royal blue colour and two pairs of different colour pants - matching blue and contrasting crème-white. The new caps retained the familiar Mazepa design in royal blue, thus matching the jackets.
Outfitted in their new uniforms, BATURYN traveled to their ancestral Ukraine to perform a concert tour in 1992. The band performed in Kyiv, Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kaniv, and several other cities, and was greeted by enthusiastic crowds in each locale. BATURYN members were also taken on tours of historic sites and experienced encounters with distant family members. This very satisfying tour generated a feeling of compassion and love for Ukraine amongst the band members.
With the hopes of creating potential recruits for the ranks of the full band, in 1997 Mr. Brezden helped create a music program in conjunction with the Ukrainian Youth Association, Etobicoke Branch, Saturday meetings. Regular members of BATURYN lent Mr. Brezden a hand teaching young UYA yunaky (scouts) the basics of music theory and appreciation.
Sadly, in February 2004, during band practice, Mr. Brezden collapsed and then passed away shortly afterward. He was 65 years of age. After this untimely and difficult period in the band’s history, Mr. Dennis Hrabowsky, a teacher, musician, audio engineer and long-time BATURYN member, assumed the position of band conductor. Almost immediately, the band started to prepare for their participation in the famous Calgary Stampede - fulfilling a dream instigated by Mr. Brezden. Mr. Hrabowsky also assumed the role of coordinator of the Saturday music program which his mentor, Mr. Brezden, started.
BATURYN became the first Ukrainian-Canadian ensemble to participate in the, over 100 year old, Calgary Stampede in July 2004. Travelling to Alberta with an entourage of over 50 band members, BATURYN spent several days partaking in many Stampede celebrations. The band performed in the main Stampede Parade, the Bowness Community Parade, the Spruce Meadows Equestrian Complex parade and concert, and the Dalhousie Station Caravan. For the appreciative Ukrainian community, BATURYN performed a concert at Calgary’s Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church. This trip truly revived the morale of band members and was extremely successful.
Under Mr. Hrabowsky's conductorship, BATURYN continued to thrive and grow as the band moved into it's fifth decade of existence. Yearly performances in various public parades, plus Ukrainian Festivals in both Toronto and Montreal, highlighted BATURYN's performance calendar.
The autumn of 2006 marked the 40th anniversary of the BATURYN Concert Marching Band. To help celebrate this occasion, a formal dinner banquet was organized and held at Toronto's Ukrainian Cultural Centre in February 2007. The evening featured slide and video presentations, reminiscent speeches by current and former band members, a performance by BATURYN and a 'zabava' dance. This very successful evening brought together band alumnus, family and friends spanning BATURYN's 40 years.
To help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ukrainian freedom-fighting hero Roman Shuhevytch (and the 65th anniversary of the organization he founded - UPA), BATURYN traveled to New York City, in October 2007, to perform in a concert at the historic Cooper Union Hall in The Village district of Manhattan.
After four years of dedicated work, Mr. Hrabowsky announced that he was stepping away from the position as BATURYN’s conductor in 2008 to pursue other musical adventures.
Petrusia Chornopysky, music educator and pianist, assumed position as conductor of BATURYN Concert Marching Band in March of 2008. As a former BATURYN Alumni, Petrusia is passionate about music and enjoys enriching the musical experiences of the BATURYN Band.
As of November 1, 2015 John Samijlo assumed the position of conductor of BATURYN Concert Marching Band after the departure of Petrusia.
Today BATURYN continues to perform regularly in the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, the Toronto St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Toronto Ukrainian Festival, the Montreal Ukrainian Festival, Ukrainian Independence Day festivities, and annual Ukrainian Youth Association functions in North America, including UYA Camp Weselka, Acton, Ontario and UYA Camp Ellenville, New York. BATURYN also performs every year in various public festivities and parades throughout Ontario and surrounding regions.
BATURYN has truly succeeded through the hard work and dedication of its volunteer members, comprised of individuals of all ages, plus the endless support of the Ukrainian-Canadian Community. Building on its strong pedigree, The BATURYN CONCERT MARCHING BAND looks proudly to the future and continues forward with its honourable legacy of celebrating Ukrainian culture and music!