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Ukraine: The land of choral music


It lies in the heart of Europe and has been in the field of tension between European power relations and... for centuries Choral music has also been of great importance in Ukraine. In the Orthodox Church in particular, an impressive, strong choral tradition has developed, which is probably deeply rooted in the consciousness of the population. Choral singing is still very important in Ukraine, and until recently excellent vocal ensembles regularly traveled to Western Europe, impressively testifying to this strong tradition. The biographies of Ukrainian choral composers are often similar. Their sphere of activity extends from East Germany to Russia, where they were often trained in cultural centers such as St. Petersburg. Orthodox chants can therefore be found in many churches from East Germany to Russia. I was quite surprised when years ago I helped organize a service with the chamber choir of the high school in Usedom and realized that the service there was also very much based on the Orthodox Church and that an Eastern influence was clearly noticeable. Cultural borders are often less sharp than national borders would have us believe. The piece "Prayer for Ukraine" by Mykola Lysenko is often sung at the end of a service in Ukraine and is therefore known nationwide. The composer of the song studied biology in Kyiv and later music in Leipzig and St. Petersburg. He came from a well-to-do family and had a strong connection to his homeland. Due to his proximity to Ukrainian culture, he had to put up with inconveniences more than a hundred years ago. Even then, this national pride was frowned upon in Russia. During the Russian Revolution he even ended up in prison for a short time and shortly afterwards founded his own school in Kyiv. His memorial stands right in front of the Kyiv Opera House, where the streets are now deserted and devastated. Similar to Ukraine, Switzerland also has a conflict-ridden, bloody history. For a long time it was also the scene of struggles between major European powers and at the same time had a strong, independent need for autonomy that had grown over time. Today's modern Switzerland was actually created according to a concept by Napoleon and was fortunately strengthened in its autonomy by the victorious powers at the Vienna Congress in the 19th century. This was the cornerstone of an extremely positive development that was finally sealed with the Federal Constitution around 150 years ago.

An important factor in this dynamic was Switzerland's declared neutrality from the outset. It was the guarantee that major powers no longer felt threatened by Switzerland or made it a bone of contention. Even the Ukraine in the heart of Europe obviously cannot join a major military alliance without serious conflicts. Now where is the congress that can enable Ukraine to develop independently, independently, as happened in the case of Switzerland? Is this a dream or a possible chance? The Western world is puzzled as to why Russia chose the radical path of war. A certain corona-related isolation and at the same time cold diplomatic relations have probably contributed significantly to the current devastating development. In this respect, the diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games in Beijing after two years of radio silence due to the corona virus must be regarded as a missed opportunity to increasingly cultivate personal exchanges between countries all over the world. That would certainly have corresponded to the Olympic idea. Now the spiral of escalation has begun to turn. The culprits are quickly found, but so far that doesn't really seem to help. Rather, urgently needed diplomatic relations should be resumed in order to avoid further escalations. Many people are shocked by the war in Ukraine and watch more or less helplessly as the vicious circle continues to spin. Non-violent solutions are always possible, but once a certain level of escalation has been reached, it is difficult to break out of the vicious circle. The outcome of the story is extremely uncertain at the moment and this is mainly to the chagrin of a wonderful, hopeful country in the heart of Europe with a wonderful, almost limitless choral tradition.

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