Kyrylo Stetsenko

Kyrylo Hryhorovych Stetsenko (Кирило Григорович Стеценко) (May 12, 1882April 29, 1922) was a prolific Ukrainian composer, conductor, critic, and teacher. He was also an Orthodox Priest and the Minister of Education of the shortlived Ukrainian People's Republic.


Early life and Education

Kyrylo Stetsenko was born in Kvitkiv, in the land of Cherkashchyna, in Ukraine. His father was a painter of icons and his maternal uncle was an Orthodox priest. At age 10, Kyrylo was taken by his uncle to Kyiv to study art where he enrolled at the Saint Sophia Church School and later at the Seminary. In school Kyrylo studied Dmytro Bortniansky, Maksym Berezovsky, Artem Vedel, and others and had the opportunity of meeting Mykola Lysenko. He also participated in several ethnomusicological expeditions. He completed his studies in 1903 and decided not to become a priest, but began working as a music teacher, music critic, church conductor and composer.

Russian Empire

The composer's life was constantly affected by political events. Stetsenko was complicit in the publication of his own choral arrangement of the Ukrainian national anthem without Russian censor approval in 1911. The printer (A. Chokolov) took the blame fully on himself and would not implicate Stetsenko and as a result was sentenced to death. The Russian authorities however could not prove Stetsenko's complicity, and he was exiled from Kyiv but he managed to return to the city only to leave one year later due to political and economic pressures. In 1911, urged by his uncle, Stetsenko decided to become an Orthodox priest. Financial security, however, came at a price. The composer was required to serve in an obscure village in south-western Ukraine, far from the cultural life of Kyiv. There, in his self-imposed exile, Stetsenko weathered the political storm of World War I.

After 1917 Revolution

Kyrylo Stetsenko immediately returned to Kyiv as soon as the Russian Revolution of 1917 began. When the Ukrainian National Republic was declared, Stetsenko was made head of the Music Section in the Ministry of Education. He created two national choirs. One choir led by composer Oleksandr Koshyts toured Europe and North America to promote Ukraine as an independent nation. The other choir, led by Stetsenko, toured in Ukraine to promote national unity. When the Bolsheviks took over Ukraine in 1920, the Koshyts choir was stranded abroad while Stetsenko's choir was disbanded by the new Communist government. Kyrylo Stetsenko again abandoned Kyiv to work as a village priest south of the city and in 1921 he was one of the founders of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. As political repressions were renewed against Ukrainians famine and disease began to spread later affecting Kyrylo Stetsenko in the spring of 1922 who died of typhus while tending to the sick during an outbreak of the disease.


In his works and activity, Stetsenko continued the nationalistic focus of Ukrainian music, that was started by Mykola Lysenko. In his works solos are important (he made over 30) to the words by Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko, Lesya Ukrainka, Oleksandr Oles and others. Kyrylo Stetsenko wrote 42 art songs, over 100 sacred and secular choral pieces, including two liturgies and a requiem, and music to a dozen stage works. His Art Songs have been recorded by renowned British Bass Baritone Pavlo Hunka.

List of major works

  • Choral works
    • church pieces (2 liturgies, 1 pankhyda)
    • cantatas
    • choruses a cappella and with piano accompaniment
    • arrangements of Ukrainian folk songs.
  • Plays
    • Proposing to a Potter's daughter by Hryhory Kvitka-Osnovianenko
    • What Thyrsus rustled about by Spyrydon Cherkasenko
    • Buval'shchyna by A. Velysovskyi
  • Operas (incomplete)
  • Theatre works
  • Children's operas
    • Ivasyk-Telesyk
    • The Fox, the Cat, and the Rooster
  • Numerous children's songs.


His grandson of the same name is a violinist and composer in Ukraine.

External links

His daughter, Dora Kuzmenko, escaped capture by the Soviets during WWII. She lived in a Displaced Persons camp in Austria for a number of years, from where she immigrated to the USA. She passed away in Syracuse NY in the 1960's. Dora had been an opera singer in her native Ukraine.

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