Kyiv United Youth Choir Celebrates 10 Years
Congratulations to The Kyiv United Youth Choir and Orchestra (KOMX) on their 10th anniversary!
Special thanks to MIWC's Serhiy Bilokin and Vitaliy Bolgar on their hard work with this group, which celebrated its milestone January 26, 2014.
The origins of KOMX date back to 2001, when Bilokin arrived in Kyiv, Ukraine to study at the Christian Music Academy. That spring, he, along with Tetyana Ibrahimova, helped organize a youth choir at the Central Baptist Church in the city.
That was the start of Bilokin’s now-rich Kyiv ministry.
Two years later, he met with MIWC Associate Oleksandr Kreshchuk to ask if it would be possible to join the various Kyiv church youth choirs together. Bilokin proposed the combined choir would allow for closer ministry and fellowship, more complicated musical works and an opportunity to expand the ministry.
Bilokin said Kreshchuk listened to him carefully and said he had been thinking about this for a long time, but that they didn’t have the personnel to do it.
Drawing upon Isaiah 6, Bilokin answered, “Here I am. Send me.”
Here I am. Send me.
Together with friend Misha Tsipan, a teacher and the Kyiv music ministry leader, the two invited all of the Kyiv church youth choir directors together to discuss the idea in more depth.
The directors embraced the idea and were soon on board, adopting the following group objectives:
1. To unite for the purpose of worshiping God
2. To increase the visibility and popularity of youth choral singing in the churches
3. To perform a more difficult repertoire
4. To participate in evangelistic ministry in Ukraine's various provinces and also in foreign missions if needed
Tsipan and Bilokin were recommended to be the directors of the group––Tsipan, because of his role as the overseer of the music ministry for the churches of the city of Kyiv and the Kyiv province, and Bilokin, because he generated the idea.
KOMX leaders decided to hold the first event on Easter 2003. Preparations started immediately.
Kreshchuk helped them get the first rehearsal going, according to Bilokin, by introducing them and then leaving to go home.
Kreschuk said only this before he left: “It’s your time to grow.”
And that, Bilokin said, “is why he’s such a wonderful teacher!”
At its first rehearsal, KOMX boasted 130 musicians – a huge number for such an endeavor. Members came from five of the main Kyiv churches, later to be joined by singers from smaller churches where there were not yet choir ministries. The group prepared seven choral anthems for its inaugural service that Easter that Bilokin remembers sounded “absolutely incredible!”
Within a year, Tsipan left for missionary work in Russia and Kreshchuk recommended Vitaliy Bolgar, who was ministering in a small church in the Kyiv area, join in the leadership of KOMX.
Bilokin said it was incredible to see how God prepared each of them in unique ways, “in his own turn, in his own place, at his own time, in the way that each man needed.”
“That was God’s strategy for the preparation of our leadership team,” he said.
Bilokin and Bolgar work together still, joined at times by Kreshchuk, and at other times by guest conductors and colleagues such as MIWC President Steve Benham, MIWC board member Tim Sawyer, MIWC associate James Janzen and Music Mission Kiev founder Roger McMurrin.
Because the time known as youth is limited, the choir’s membership is always temporary and in flux. As new people arrive, others move on, move away or marry. Since its inception, the choir has seen 700 people pass through its ranks.
“We can see that God has changed all of us in this time,” Bilokin said, “and that we have also been able to learn from each other.”
After singing in KOMX, many members from smaller churches felt strengthened and inspired to encourage others in their home churches to become involved in the music ministry. With that encouragement, even the small local church choirs began to grow. Bilokin calls it a true miracle.
Today, people from 16 different choirs from Kyiv and the Kyiv region sing in KOMX, including those from nearby smaller cities Irpin, Brovary and Obukhov.
Bilokin said they are nearing the point where KOMX will need to consider dividing the choir into municipal and regional groups, making use of their increased number of conductors.
Over its 10 years, KOMX has visited all 24 provincial capitals of Ukraine and many other smaller cities. When the MIWC ministry expanded to the Baltics in 2004, smaller ensembles from KOMX participated in international mission trips, first to Estonia, and as invitations were received, later to Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus. For international trips, KOMX calls itself the Gloria Choir, from the phrase Soli Deo Gloria, which means, "To God Alone Be Glory." Soli Deo Gloria was also the inscription that Bach used on his music.
“This is always a testimony to the fact the our young people sing only to praise our God!” Bilokin said.
Bilokin said over the past ten years, “the genre of choral music is not dying away, but instead is in a stage of new development.”
One advantage of a group like KOMX is its diverse repertoire, which can include a cappella music, songs with various instrumental groups from small ensembles to full symphony orchestras, and orchestras containing modern electric instruments.
KOMX has displayed a strong presence at various Ukrainian Baptist Union events, as it is continuously invited to take part in congresses, festivals, conferences, outreach and main ministries.
Bilokin said, “The choir has become a symbol of the unity between believers and an encouragement and inspiration in ministry, clearly demonstrating the not-always visible elements of being able to bring a diverse group of people together for a common purpose.”
In his opinion, “The chorus, like nothing else, embodies teamwork, and the image of the church as a whole, as a living organism that grows, sometimes suffers, and then again develops, each in his place and time… The renewing of the membership of the chorus is like the cells in our body, which are also constantly renewed. But each has a function. We have seen that those who sang in the chorus gained valuable experience in this ministry for many years of life ahead and now may not sing in the choir, but in their ministry show the same principles of spiritual teamwork.”