Our Cathedral Choir
by George Milan Radakovich
Organized in March of 1948
One may call it destiny or a legacy, but the thought of a choir began in the 1930's. George Milan Radakovich, founder and director, was inspired to dreams of directing a church choir by his family's participation for many years in the St. Sava church choir in Milwaukee.
His father, Milan Radakovich, was the church soloist, singing the liturgy with Proto Milan Mrvichin (father of Proto Vlado) while George and the late Proto Vlado Mrvichin Served as altar boys and read the Epistles. Proto Vlado and George grew up together kiddingly dreaming that some day Vlado would become a Priest, and that George would be his choir director. Ergo - the St. Steven's Cathedral Choir!
The St. Steven's Serbian Orthodox Cathedral choir was organized in March, 1948. With the assistance of the late Proto Vlado Mrvichin and Professor Savine from the University of Chicago (vacationing at that time in California), auditions were held in the recreation hall of the old St. Sava Church in Los Angeles. Rehearsals were held at the International Institute in Boyle Heights. Then, later, upon the completion of the current St. Steven's recreation facility, church services and choir responses were held in the North Hall until the Cathedral was completed. Religious and secular choral music was obtained from the private collection of Proto Vlado, George Milan Radakovich and from the library of the Serbian Singing Federation in Detroit. The learning process began, singing responses in Church Slavonic, Cyrillic, Latinitsa and English. The challenge and enthusiasm was high and no one could foretell at that time, the eventual success of the choir in creating and maintaining a high level of choral singing standards in both religious and fold music for almost 50 years.
With spiritual guidance provided by the Very Reverend Vladimir M. Mrvichin and later, with Proto Dennis Pavichevich, this dedicated group of faithful members has attained an enviable reputation for the presentation and interpretation of Serbian Slavonic music. As a pioneer choir on the West Coast, St. Steven's Cathedral Choir has been instrumental in many fund-raising campaigns to help build new churches, and has traveled extensively throughout the West to participate in the consecration ceremonies in Bisbee, Arizona, Butte, Montana, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Fresno and San Diego and Moraga. The Choir became a member of the Serbian Singing Federation of America in May, 1956. They were initiated into Federation by the Sloboda Choir of Chicago. This was the first time in the history of the Serbian Singing Federation that a choir traveled so far to initiate another. In June of 1962, the St. Steven's Choir repaid Sloboda by journeying to Chicago to appear in their 35th Annual Spring Concert, at which time they were acclaimed the finest Serbian Choir in the United States.
Although the choir features sacred music in its repertoire, it has participated in many civic and national observances presenting secular and fold tunes - American as well as Serbian. It has made guest appearances at the St. Sophia Greek Cathedral in Los Angeles - on special Christmas programs at Disneyland - on television from the Los Angeles Music Center on radio from CBS-KNX in Hollywood - also a special television appearance on "SKAG" - an NBC series with Karl Malden. The outstanding achievement of the Choir is their record album made in 1960, "The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom." This all-liturgical album represents the first effort by any Serbian organization in the United States or Canada, to record a liturgy. In presenting this album of authentic Serbian church material, it is hoped that it will help to preserve this type of music and inspire the listener toward a deeper spiritual understanding and appreciation of the Word of God through the music of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The album is in the religious choral library at Northwestern University.
As part of a Los Angeles City Birthday Celebration, the Choir preformed at the Hollywood Bowl and for the Los Angeles City Council. Requests for religious and fold concerts resulted in performances in Phoenix, Cupertino, Steubenville, Milwaukee, Lackawanna, Kansas City, and as an Honored Guest Choir in Detroit. Recently, the Choir recorded an audio cassette album of fold songs.
The current Choir Director is Rebakah Danks who joined Saint Steven's through the Pan-Orthodox young adult choir which was formed by Fr. Nicholas Ceko and Jonathan Braun.
- Adapted from An Ongoing Labor of Love
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