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. content is not displayed due to your current cookie settings. Click on the cookie policy (functional and marketing) to agree to the cookie policy and view the content. You can find out more about this in the privacy policy.

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. 

Yuliia Zasimova

 Yuliia is a graduate of the National Music Academy of Ukraine in Kyiv and Luhansk Music College. She has performed for the National Opera of Ukraine and extensively throughout Ukraine.


This season Yuliia is set to appear in the title role in Le Rossignol at Adelaide Festival Australia, as Yvette/Georgette in a new production of La Rondine by Christof Loy at Zürich Opera and as First Lady in Die Zauberflöte at Bayerische Staatsoper. Upcoming engagements include her debuts as Servilia in La clemenza di Tito, Olga in Fedora and Gilda in Rigoletto.


In 2022 the Ukrainian soprano Yuliia became the 1st Prize winner of Juan Pons Singing Competition and 3rd Prize winner of 11th International Stanislaw Moniuszko vocal competition. Other recent successes include the 3rd Prize at the International competition of vocalists named after Bulbul in Azerbaijan and Special prizes at The Klaudia Taev Competition in Estonia and The Opera Crown Competition in Georgia. Stage appearances of the recent seasons include her debut at Teatro Regio di Torino as a Soloist in Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, her return to Zurich Opera as Anna in Nabucco and a gala concert at Teatre des Born, Spain.

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. 

Volodymyr Bondar

He is an opera and professional chamber singer renowned for his bass voice.


He began his formal studies in 2000 at Revutsky Chernihiv Music College, studying folk instruments, specifically the bandura and later graduated in 2004 from the vocal department. Volodymyr then pursued further education at the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine, graduating in 2012.

Volodymyr’s professional experience includes working with notable ensembles such as the Academic Song and Dance Ensemble for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine from 2008 to 2011, and the National Academic Radio Choir of Ukraine from 2011 to 2012. He also sang in the Kyiv Music Mission choir for two years, touring extensively in Canada and the United States.


From September 2013 to July 2022, Volodymyr showcased his talents at the National Opera of Ukraine in Kyiv, singing in 25 operas productions and participating in international tours to Japan, Italy, and numerous European countries.

Pavlo Fondera

Pavlo is a Ukrainian musician, singer, choirmaster, librettist, poet and playwright. He was born in Zhytomyr, Ukraine where he graduated from Zhytomyr Musical College. He holds degrees from Kyiv National University of Culture and Arts specializing in choir conducting and  vocal performance.  Pavlo performed both as a choir member and as a soloist with the Credo Chamber Choir, the Kalyn’s Ukrainian Academic Ensemble, the Kyiv Municipal Academic Opera Theatre, the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Choir, and the Revutsky Municipal Male Ensemble of Kyiv. He has performed with many of those choirs on tours in Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the United States and Canada.

Pavlo currently resides in Toronto, Canada. He is the choirmaster and conductor for Canadian Bandurist Capella (Toronto), the artistic director and conductor for the Crescendo Chamber Choir, various CYM ensembles, and the acting music director and choir conductor at the Holy Protection of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Pavlo is a frequent guest soloist and works as a voice and piano instructor.

Maksym Kazakov

Maksym was born in Chernihiv, Ukraine. In 2007 he finished musical college in Chernihiv with honours, specializing as a choir conductor. In 2012 he graduated from the National Music Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine, with a Masters Degree in choral conducting. Shortly thereafter, he began working with the Khreschatyk Academic Choir. During this time he also sang with other ensembles such as the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (KSOC), Polytechnic Choir, Kyiv Chamber Choir “Credo”, and the Boryspil Choir. This provided him an opportunity to sing together on stage with well known groups as National Academic Choral Capella “Dumka”, Veryovka Ukrainian Folk Choir, and the Lyatoshynsky Ensemble. He has visited toured Norway, Germany, Poland, Greece, Georgia, and Estonia. In  2014-2016, he toured Canada and the United States with KSOC. In 2017 he made Canada his home and starting singing with Vesnivka, Canadian Bandurist Capella, Prometheus Male Choir, and Christ the Savior Church Choir. In 2019  as a soloist he took part of Vesnivka’s tour of Canada, Poland, and Ukraine. Later the year he began singing at Saint Volodymyr’s Sobor in Toronto. In the following year, he started work as a choir conductor at Holy Protection of the Mother of God in Toronto. In 2021 he moved to Regina, Saskatchewan where he continues to work as the musical director at the Descent of the Holy Spirit Ukrainian Orthodox Church and conducts the “Gloria” Church Choir.

Fr. Taras Koberynko

Father Taras is a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, born in Drohobych, Ukraine. He graduated from the V. Barvinsky School of Music in Drohobych as a choral conductor and pursued further studies in choral conducting at the Lviv Conservatory. He later received his theological education at the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland.


Fr. Taras is a long-time member of the Lehenda Chamber Choir from Drohobych and has been a sought after soloist and chorister for many well-known ensembles from across Ukraine, including the Vydubychi Chamber Choir, the Kyiv Chamber Choir, and the Revutsky Male Choir. As a priest he has participated in many liturgical recordings including works by Canadian composers Roman Hurko and Fr. John Sembrat OSBM. 


Besides his skill as a professional choral singer and conductor, he is a theologian and teacher of moral theology at the Drohobych Theological Seminary of the Blessed Holy Martyrs Sts. Severyn, Yakima, and Vitaly. He is the current pastor of the Ascension of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ in Drohobych.


Fr. Taras is a long-time friend of the Axios Men’s Ensemble and we are excited to work with him again on this important project. 




Vasyl Pudchenko

Vasyl Pudchenko was born in Isayki, Boguslav near Kyiv, Ukraine. Raised and surrounded by Ukrainian folk music, his passion for music blossomed early on.


After studying vocal performance at the National Academy in Kyiv, Vasyl began a career as a soloist and chorister. His achieved the Laureate of the International Competition "Art of the 20th Century" in Vorzel, Ukraine in 2005.  He has performed for many years with esteemed ensembles such as the National Opera of Ukraine, the Revutsky Male Choir, and the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In 2022 and 2023, Vasyl participated in joint projects with maestro Ricardo Muti as a chorister. He also participated as part of the choir of the European Choral Academy of Görlitz, for to the performance of A. Schnittke’s Faust, where he was able to demonstrate his versatility and skill.


Vasyl has performed a number of times with the Axios Men’s Ensemble as a soloist and chorister. We are pleased to welcome him back! 

Serhii Zadorozhnyi

Serhii a Ukrainian choral conductor born in Vinnytsia, has made significant strides in the field of music, both academically and professionally. His musical journey commenced at the Mykola Leontovych Vinnytsia College, where he obtained an Associate's Degree in Choir Conducting. Serhii's pursuit of excellence then led him to the Petro Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine, where he furthered his education, earning both a Bachelor's and a Master's Degree in Choir Conducting, alongside qualifications as a vocal teacher.

Following his academic studies in Ukraine, Serhii sought to expand his expertise and is currently enrolled in a Master's program at the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music, in Riga, Latvia This move not only signifies his commitment to continuous learning but also marks a new chapter in his career, bridging Ukrainian and Latvian musical cultures.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Serhii has established himself as a vital member of the State Choir "Latvia", where he continues to contribute as both a choir member and a soloist. This role allows him to participate in various prestigious performances and projects, showcasing his talent and dedication to choral music.

Furthermore, Serhii's entrepreneurial spirit and leadership are evident in his founding of ÆldMusic, an ensemble dedicated to the performance of ancient music. This initiative highlights his passion for music and his desire to explore and revive historical musical traditions.

Serhii Zadorozhnyi's journey from Vinnytsia to the international stages, through rigorous academic training and professional engagements, reflects his deep commitment to the art of music. His ongoing work with the State Choir "Latvia" and involvement in innovative projects like ÆldMusic demonstrate his versatility and dedication to contributing to the cultural dialogue between Ukraine and Latvia.

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