YOUR HELP REQUESTED: Remembering our choirs

Throughout the history of our church, there has sometimes been competition for “pride of place” between congregational singing of plain chant, and the singing of choirs (whether of harmonized chant, or of choral masterworks). The singing of our notable choirs has not only added beauty to our church in the past; it can also be used in the present to enhance and supplement our congregational singing, and show us how chant was understand or harmonized in the past. And where choirs can be re-founded or formed, they can provide opportunities to train singers in the liturgical services of our rite, and add social activities based in the parish community.

With that in mind, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute has been working with the Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh for some time to collect information and recordings from the principal choirs of the Byzantine Catholic Church. Now we are turning to you for assistance. We are particularly interested in the following choirs and their directors:

  • St. Mary’s Choir, Van Nuys, CA (John Evans)
  • St. John’s Choir, Bridgeport, CT (George Kacan)
  • Holy Trinity Choir, New Britain, CT
  • St. Gregory of Nyssa Choirs, Washington, DC
  • St. Michael’s Choir, Gary, IN (John Kahanick)
  • St. Mary’s Choir, Whiting, IN (Andrew Petrin)
  • Mid-West Byzantine Slavonic Choir
  • St. Nicholas Choir, Detroit, MI (Andrew Parvensky)
  • St. Elias Choir, Carteret, NJ
  • Ss. Peter and Paul Choir, Elizabeth, NJ
  • St. Mary’s Choir, Jersey City, NJ (Stephen Gerzanich, George Kmeck)
  • Holy Spirit Choir. Binghamton, NY (John Kaprol)
  • Ss. Peter and Paul Choir, Endicott, NY (John Lessler)
  • St. Mary’s Choir, New York, NY
  • Metropolitan New York Byzantine Choir (Gabriel Zihal)
  • St. Nicholas Choir, Barberton, OH (Rita Benya)
  • Holy Ghost Choir, Cleveland, OH (Nicholas Benyo)
  • St. Mary’s Choir, Cleveland, OH (Nicholas Kalvin)
  • St. Stephen’s Choir, Euclid, OH (Eugene Koval)
  • Parma Byzantine Diocesan Choir (Michael Stinich, Nicolette Boros)
  • Duchnovich Choir, Homestead, PA
  • St. John’s Choir, Lansford, PA
  • St. John’s Choir, Lyndora, PA (Margaret Meaders)
  • St. Michael’s Choir, Mont Clare, PA
  • St. John the Baptist Cathedral Choir, Munhall, PA (Michael Hrebin)
  • Holy Ghost Choir, Philadelphia, PA (Daniel Kavka)
  • Byzantine Catholic Seminary Choir, Pittsburgh, PA (Fr. Michael Staurovsky)
  • Holy Spirit Choir, Pittsburgh (Oakland), PA
  • Saint John the Baptist Choir, Pittsburgh (South Side), PA
  • St. John’s Choir, Scranton, PA
  • St. Mary’s Choir, Scranton, PA (Joachim Ratzin)
  • St. Michael’s Choir, Sheffield, PA (Fr. Silas Tretiak)
  • Byzantine Male Chorus of Pennsylvania (several different ones)
  • Cantor’s Male Chorus of the Scranton / Wilkes-Barre / Hazleton Deanery (Michael Demjan, John Kahanick)
  • St. John Damascene Choir (Fr. John Bobak)
  • Western Pennsylvania United Chorus (Michael Hrebin)

And if you have information about a choir not on this list, that’s fine too!  Our goal is assemble the following for each of our church’s choirs:

  1. Name and location(s)
  2. Directors and their tenure, with a biography of each if possible
  3. A history of the choir (beginnings, major events, and its current state or how it ended)
  4. Were recordings made?  Detailed play list for each, and a copy if one exists (we would like to have at least a brief recording showing each choir to its best advantage)
  5. Photo of the choir (dated if possible)
  6. Choir book if one exists, or a description of the music sung by the choir (sources)
  7. Did the choir have a “signature” piece, and if so, what was it?

This information for each choir will be assembled, put online, and used to complete a history of our church’s musical tradition. In some cases, the MCI can provide some basic historical information from diocesan newspapers to anyone willing to write a history of a particular choir.

If you can contribute to this project in any way, please contact Deacon Jeffrey Mierzejewski at plainchanter@gmail.com, or by calling (412) 735-1676. Watch the MCI website and Byzantine Catholic Seminary website for updates.

(Look here for a list of recordings already known to exist. In some cases, we plan to digitize older recordings, but would be happy to work with anyone who has already complete this work, or would like to cooperate in seeing it completed. The MCI can either make  the annotated recordings available online, or point a parish website or other source.)

7 thoughts on “YOUR HELP REQUESTED: Remembering our choirs”

  1. When I write about my dad (John Katchen) at St. Mary’s Nesquehoning, PA, I will include the choir information, too. I started singing with the choir at age 12. I have photos and the best of audio tape recordings I digitized and put up on my YouTube channel (jekatchen).

    1. Michael – I added both the St. Nicholas (Barberton) and Holy Ghost (Cleveland) choirs. I know the latter was active from 1945 to 1959, and did one set of recordings (on 78 RPM records, I think) in 1950; any chance you have a copy, or more information?

  2. During the years 1947 through 1965 (uncertain as to end date), my father Michael Artim was the Cantor and Choir Director of St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Jersey City, NJ. He was George Kmeck’s predecessor. I sang in the junior choir and my mother, Marion, sang in the senior choir along with Johnny Soga, Helen Chabin, the Holovaks, etc. Dad followed Steve Gerzanich as cantor.

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