Photo courtesy of Bernat Armangue of the Associated Press
Photo courtesy of Bernat Armangue of the Associated Press

Ukrainian War Requiem

From the beginning, Christians have considered it their sacred duty to take part in prayers and burial rites for the departed brothers and sisters of their community. For many of us, including the Axios Men's Ensemble, this community extends well beyond our current home, to that of the land of our ancestors, including family and friends in Ukraine. These rites express concerns for both the departed and the living. They intercede for the repose of the departed, for forgiveness of their sins, to provide an opportunity for the living to express their love to the departed person(s), and to grieve. They furthermore bring consolation, peace, and strength to those overcome with mourning and sorrow. 

 

Upon the commencement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, begun in 2014 and greatly escalated by means of a full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, the Axios Men's Ensemble has commissioned composer and two-time Grammy Award nominee Benedict Sheehan to compose a Requiem to honour the countless victims who have lost their lives in this tragic war. 

 

It is our hope that the beauty and transcendence of this music, based upon the texts of our memorial rites, will provide an opportunity to specifically reflect on and raise awareness of:

  1. The distinctness and identity of Ukraine and its people in their various religious, cultural, historical, and political expressions.
  2. The immeasurable loss of life, suffering and hardship of so many people. 
  3. The unjust and completely avoidable nature of this war. 

To create an exceptional recording and lasting tribute will require a combination of artistic excellence, genuine authenticity, and sincere passion. The ensemble will feature professional choristers from Pro Coro Canada, together with amateur and professional singers from across Canada, the United States, and Ukraine under the direction of award-winning Maestro Michael Zaugg. Such an ensemble will further afford a solid foundation from which to promote this noteworthy composition on both the national and international stage. To commission this work and assemble a world-class choir will require a significant amount of funding. We are relying on the generous support of people like you to help make this a reality. You can make your tax deductible contribution in a variety of ways. We are happy to make ourselves available to discuss this in whichever manner is most convenient and comfortable for you. 

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Benedict Sheehan: Composer

Two-time Grammy nominee and American Prize-winner Benedict Sheehan has been called "a choral conductor and composer to watch in the 21st century" (ConcertoNet) and "one of the most important voices in American Orthodox choral music" (Choral Journal). His compositions have been praised as "luminous and uplifting" (Choir and Organ), "evocative" (Gramophone), "hypnotically beautiful" (MusicWeb International), "fresh and vibrant" (Audiophile Audition), and "otherworldly" (Boston Musical Intelligencer). His award-winning compositions and recordings include his Eastern Orthodox liturgical works Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (2020) and Vespers (2021), as well as two acclaimed collaborations with Skylark Vocal Ensemble on Once Upon a Time (2020) and A Christmas Carol (2021), works for chorus and narrator. 

 

When we approached Benedict Sheehan about our idea to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives as a result of this war, he stated:"I have felt very strongly that I wanted to offer something in connection with what's happening in Ukraine-I have, with every other sane person in the world, watched Russia's naked brutality with horror and outrage-and this seems like just the right way to express my sympathy with the victims of the this conflict." 


Michael Zaugg: Conductor

Award-winning conductor, Swiss-native Michael Zaugg works with professional and amateur choral ensembles across Canada, the US, and Europe, including as Artistic Director of St. Lawrence Choir in Montreal from 2008 to 2013; of the Cantata Singers of Ottawa from 2005 to 2014; and as Chorus master of the Orchestre Symponique de Montreal (2006-2011). He has received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the Con Spirito Award in Alberta. Michael has been the Artistic Director and Conductor of Pro Coro since 2012. 

Pro Coro Canada

Pro Coro Canada is an Edmonton-based professional choir that has performed across Canada and is widely recognized as one of the country's finest. The choir has commissioned dozens of new works, the majority by Canadian composers. They are particularly proud of their appointment as Faculty in the Choral Arts program at the Banff Centre, and the choir believes in community partnerships. Over the past few years, they have collaborated with many choirs and mentored young choral artists through their Emerging Artist Program.

Axios Men's Ensemble

The Axios Men's Ensemble-is a male chorus founded in 2003 under the direction of Boris Derow. Its primary focus is to sing Eastern sacred music both in liturgical contexts and in concert settings for contemporary audiences, often collaborating with other ensembles and soloists. The choir has made a number of recordings. Most recently they have collaborated with Michael Zaugg and professional singers from across North America and Ukraine to produce The Resurrectional Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom by Fr. John Sembrat OSBM (2015) and Christ is Born: Hymns and Carols of the Nativity (2019). The choir has staged concerts across Canada and the United States. 

Photo courtesy of Nicole Tung of the New York Times
Photo courtesy of Nicole Tung of the New York Times