Stevan Sijacki Choir
In the Orthodox Faith, our singing in church is meant to be an icon of worship. We sing our prayers. The Orthodox Church’s tradition is to offer up prayers to God in uttered heightened speech called sacred singing. It is important to understand that liturgical music is not something added to prayer. Rather, it is the way we pray in church when we assemble together as God’s People.
What is singing in Church supposed to do? A sacred song is not unlike a holy Icon; except that the holy Icon is seen and the sacred song is heard, the functions are the same. This painting of words and sounds has as its purpose the bringing of the community into the presence and the awareness of sacred mystery.
President: Alex Litrun
1st Vice President: Luke Petrovich
2nd Vice President: Sam Showers
Treasurer: Donna Marinkovich
Secretary: Stephanie Showers
Financial Secretary: Nicole Skinner
The Stevan Sijacki Choir was founded during the Great Depression at the “Old Dome” on 3rd and National. In 1936, the former Aleksa Shantich Choir was reorganized and renamed to honor the Serbian composer Stevan Sijacki. Under the direction of Father George Petrovich, church director Michael Petrovich, and first president Leo Marich, the choir became members of the Serbian Singing Federation (SSF) in 1937, sponsored by our kumovi choir Branko Radichevich of Chicago, Illinois.
Following Father George Petrovich’s departure in 1943, Steve Jursek became director. During World War II, the choir became an all-female chorus directed by Gladys Borkovich Monafo from 1942 to 1945. The 1950’s gradually brought a return of men to the Stevan Sijacki ranks, which in turn led to an expansion of the choral activities. The choir began learning secular folk music, in addition to the primary focus of liturgical responses. The Sijacki’s hosted the first of many SSF Choral Festivals in 1952, and also participated in the consecration of our beautiful new cathedral on Oklahoma Avenue in 1958.
So began a 75-year existence loaded with singing and serving our cathedral, parish, SSF, and community. We have continued our active involvement in the SSF, hosting numerous choral festivals, conventions, workshops and of course, concerts. We have hosted numerous “Hootenanka” (a variety show put on by the Sijacki members), special events, and participated in events hosted by all church organizations. We have also participated in historic one-time events, including singing at the Governor Warren P. Knowles 1965 Inaugural Ball in Milwaukee, and performing for Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, during his visit to Milwaukee in 1984. Possibly our best known special event occurred when our nation turned 200 in 1976. Choir saw a record number of members participate in the bicentennial celebration in Milwaukee and Chicago. Together with the Sloboda Choir of South Chicago, we performed Ljubomir Bosnjakovich’s cantata “Albanska Golgota” accompanied by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in Milwaukee, and the Chicago Civic Orchestra in Chicago. This massive undertaking was made possible through the inspired motivation of Proto Milan Markovina with the cooperation of Sijacki director Adolf Musiol, and Sloboda director Adam Popovich. The Stevan Sijacki Choir remains primarily a church choir, as we have been from our inception, singing liturgical responses every Sunday during the Church Slavonic liturgy. Over the years, service to our church has grown to include: singing for Liturgy of the Presantified Gifts on Friday nights during Great Lent; participation at Badnja Vece; Christmas and Easter matins; Sunday of Orthodoxy; weddings; parastos; funerals; Vidovdan; and numerous special services and church events.
We remain committed to continuing the secular music tradition as well. To that end, the Sijackis have traveled extensively as guest choirs in Serbian parishes throughout the United States and Canada: Cleveland; Duluth; Pittsburgh; Washington DC; Chicago; Kansas City; San Francisco; Lackawanna; Monroeville; Stubenville; Detroit; Hamilton; Windsor; Phoenix; Omaha; Los Angeles; Toronto; South Chicago/Lansing; Joliet; Shererville; Merrillville; South Bend. We have had the honor to host choirs from just about every parish on the continent with an active SSF member choir. We have performed at almost every SSF Festival, and continue our active role as members of the Federation. We have also hosted several SSF Festivals, most recently in 2019. Many individual Sijacki members have held or currently hold SSF board positions. Additionally, we Christmas carol each year at local nursing homes, and have performed at the Holiday Folk Fair and numerous other local functions.
Over the years, we have been blessed with many fine directors: Father George Petrovich, Michael Petrovich, Steve Jursek, Gladys Monafo, Dorothy Gehlen, Dorothy Foster, Clyde Parnell, Father Kachmarske of the Ukranian Orthodox Church, Truly Segal, E. Kanaske, Professor Victor Bakunoff, Stan Kraczak, Father Sava Vujkov, Conductor Adolf Musiol, Mark Van Hecke, Dr. Stevan R. Zivic, Scott DeKok, Milena Gulan Walker, and currently, Ben Bedroske. We have also been blessed by generous and loving choir kumovi, first Simo (Mimo) and Dorothy Bursach, and later Leo and Bessie Maric. We thank all of them dearly for the part they played in the choir’s esteemed history.