Dnipro had its start as the Dnipro Male Chorus, which was founded by the late Roman Soltykewych and a group of fellow devotees of Ukrainian choral music in the fall of 1953. In 1971, the choir became a mixed chorus. In 1975, with the addition of an orchestra and dance troupe, the mixed choir became the Ukrainian Dnipro Ensemble of Edmonton. This remains its legal name, although the ensemble’s orchestra and dancers disbanded in 1985. Today, the choir is popularly known as the Ukrainian Dnipro Choir of Edmonton or simply Dnipro.
Over its 60-year history, Dnipro has welcomed more than 400 members, staged hundreds of concerts, participated in numerous music festivals and competitions, performed on radio and television, produced 11 recordings and impressed critics and audiences across Canada, the United States and the South Pacific.
Founder and Artistic Director, 1953–1976
Roman Soltykewych was born in the Lemko region of Ukraine in 1909. He completed his early music training in Peremyshl’ and went on to study choral conducting with composer-conductor Mykola Kolessa in Lviv, Ukraine. He founded and conducted various church, student and mixed choirs from the 1930s through the war years, and following World War II, he was active in organizing choirs in Ukrainian refugee settlements in Austria and France.
Soltykewych emigrated to Canada in 1951. In the fall of 1953, he and nine fellow organizers founded the Dnipro Male Chorus to foster, promote and perpetuate the finest elements of Ukrainian choral music. In February 1954, the newly formed chorus made its debut with two concerts of koliady (Christmas carols) and shchedrivky (New Year’s carols).
Roman Soltykewych was Dnipro’s conductor from the choir’s founding until his untimely death in 1976. Under his leadership, Dnipro became a cohesive, well-disciplined ensemble that rapidly gained recognition in Alberta music circles. Soltykewych made an important and distinctive contribution to the development and retention of the Ukrainian choral tradition in Canada. In 1973, he received the Alberta Achievement Award in recognition of outstanding service to culture and the arts. His deep devotion to Ukrainian choral music was an inspiration to all who worked with him.
Artistic Director, 1976–2011
Maria Dytyniak was born in Ukraine, where she began her musical training. She continued her education in Austria and in Canada, and in 1958, obtained her teacher certificate at the Royal Conservatory of Music. She has been a member of the Alberta Registered Music Teachers’ Association for close to 60 years. She is the author of Ukrainian Composers: A Bio-bibliographic Guide, a cofounder of the Ukrainian Music Society of Alberta and the founder and artistic director of the now-retired female ensemble Merezhi.
As the conductor and artistic director of Dnipro, Maria Dytyniak led the choir to new heights of musical excellence. Under her direction, the choir performed across Canada and internationally and produced a number of recordings. Her inspirational leadership was in full evidence at Dnipro’s performances of the Ukrainian operas Kupalo and Zaporozhets Beyond the Danube and the oratorio The Neophytes.
In 1975 the City of Edmonton presented Maria Dytyniak with the Certificate of Merit for her contribution to the field of Women in the Arts. In 1989, the Ukrainian Professional and Business Club of Edmonton awarded her an honorary life membership for her cultural endeavours. In 1998, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council honoured Mrs. Dytyniak with a Hetman Award, and in 2004, she received the national Ukrainian Canadian Congress’s prestigious Shevchenko Medal for her outstanding contribution to the arts.
Guest Conductor and Artistic Collaborator, 1978–1997
Wolodymyr Kolesnyk was born in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, in 1928. From 1969 to 1973, he headed a troupe of 900 as the conductor and artistic director of the Kyiv State Opera and Ballet Theatre.
Dnipro’s 19-year collaboration with Maestro Wolodymyr Kolesnyk dates to 1978, when the choir performed with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in the Heritage Series of Concerts organized by the late Roman Ostashewsky. Other highlights included Anatol Vakhnianyn’s opera Kupalo (1981), Serge Eremenko’s Conquerors of the Prairie (1982), Petro Hulak-Artemovsky’s Zaporozhets Beyond the Danube (1983), Marian Kouzan’s The Neophytes (1988) and Valery Kikta’s Sacred Dnipro (1993 and 1996).
Dnipro continued to work closely with Maestro Kolesnyk until his death in 1997. The choir’s current artistic director and assistant conductor learned their art under the direction and mentorship of Maestro Kolesnyk.