VIVO choir will be taking voice with their homeland foremost in mind at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London (Picture: VIVO)
As they prepare to spend Ukraine’s Christmas Day apart from their families, a choir will be united in voice with those enduring bombardment and hardship in their homeland.
VIVO’s time-suspending vocals have heightened resonance this festive season as they keep in mind those caught in the full-scale Russian invasion.
The quartet is based at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London, which has become a pillar of efforts to support refugees in the city.
They are hoping to lift people’s spirits when they sing at the church’s Holy Liturgy on Saturday, January 7, Ukraine’s Christmas Day.
For Myroslava Lytvynenko, the quartet’s alto, news reports have brought daily reminders of the wartime conditions her parents and sister are living in as Russian forces bombard the country’s critical infrastructure while the freezing winter weather sets in.
But the acapella group, which will be a mainstay at the place of refuge and worship over Christmas, brings her a sense of solace and togetherness.
Myroslava, 43, has taken holiday to visit her family in and around the western gateway city of Lviv and is due to return next week.
Uniting in voice (from left) are Volodymyr Paslavskyi, Iryna Leskiv, Myroslava Lytvynenko and Denys Baryshovets (Picture: VIVO)
‘It’s been quite a tough time for all Ukrainians through the war,’ she says.
‘The situation for all of us is devastating and heartbreaking, so we are helping people to get through this hard, difficult time by singing at fundraising concerts and festivals.
‘Every time I watch the news in the UK I just can’t stop the tears.
‘But now I am here the people are just so cheerful and joyful and they are very, very brave.
‘They are always calm and they will go out of their way to help anyone else, no matter if it is just a random stranger.
‘When I heard an air raid siren for the first time it brought tears to my eyes but then I see how brave the people are and how they are doing their best in dangerous conditions.
‘It reminds me to stay positive and to hope for the future.’
The VIVO choir will spend Ukraine’s Christmas Day singing at the community’s cathedral in London (Picture: SWNS)
Myroslava arrived in the UK before the full-scale invasion was launched.
She joined VIVO in 2019 when the members met at another Ukrainian church in west London.
They chose the name because it means bright and lively in Spanish.
The childminder is part of a talented ensemble also including soprano Iryna Leskiv, tenor Volodymyr Paslavskyi and Denys Baryshovets who is bass and musical director.
After visiting her sister in Lviv and parents who live nearby, she will rejoin her fellow musicians at the church for Ukraine’s Christmas Day, which follows the Julian calendar.
The VIVO choir will be singing carols at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London over Christmas (Picture: VIVO)
Musical director Denys Baryshovets will join VIVO to sing at the Holy Liturgy on Ukraine’s Christmas Day, which falls in the new year (Picture: VIVO)
‘We love singing because it is a form of praying and it gives us a sense of relief,’ she says. ‘I pray to God to stop all of this, and I feel better when I sing, but it is going on and on and the reality of war just comes back again.
‘We still want to celebrate Christmas as a lovely time of year, so we will show people our culture, who we are and try our best to lift people’s spirits.
‘We will be at the cathedral on Christmas Day to sing the Holy Liturgy and in the two days afterwards we will be there singing carols.
‘We hope that the choir will bring some comfort for us and others and we will try our very best to sing some really joyful songs and carols.’
The VIVO Ukrainian choir together with Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski outside the cathedral in London (Picture: SWNS)
Like many Ukrainian musicians, the war has brought a renewed focus on works originating from composers in their homeland.
They also perform folk songs from the country and are keen to expand their repertoire and collaborate with other groups and choirs.
Their season has included a major fundraising event at the cathedral in Mayfair, entitled The Cry, Requiem for a Lost Child, and they performed at a major concert in Milton Keynes on December 15.
Their programme of performances takes place around their day jobs and supports the work of the Welcome Centre at the church, which acts as a single point of contact for newly-arrived Ukrainians.
‘Our dream is to improve our vocal abilities and our reach through social media and websites so we are looking to collaborations to increase our experience with different choirs and groups,’ Myroslava says.
‘We sang with a lovely English choir, Sansara, and performed A Quiet Night — Tyhoyi Nochi, by the young Ukrainian composer Natalia Tsupryk.
VIVO and Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski have been supporting efforts to welcome Ukrainian refugees into London (Credits: SWNS)
‘We are always looking out for new groups, teams and choirs we can sing with. The war is awful and we all talk about the pain but we have to think about and plan for the future.
‘We know that anything can happen, but we also know that Ukrainians are not going to quit.’
Iryna Leskiv is part of a quartet that will try to bring some light and hope into people’s lives at the cathedral in Mayfair (Picture: VIVO)
Volodymyr Paslavskyi and his fellow musicians are looking to the future despite the war being wrought on their homeland (Picture: VIVO)
Led by Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, the cathedral’s wider life includes the work of the centre, which was set up by the church in partnership with the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain.
In November, Metro.co.uk told how Bishop Nowakowski had visited Irpin and Bucha, synonymous with alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces. He warned that the impact of the war will have a ‘generational’ impact on millions of Ukrainian children.
Since then, the targeting of the civilian infrastructure and energy grid has caused long outages of power and water across the country.
The Welcome Centre has continued to be a focal point for efforts to support Ukrainians in the UK, including through offering advice and help and a secret Santa campaign for children in London.
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