Founded in 1955 The Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church Choir is one of the most important organizations of the Serbian community in the greater Toronto area. This history of our choir has been written by Bora Dragasevic, our honorary lifelong President and a pillar within our choir’s community. We dedicate this section of our website to all of our members, both past and present, who have joined our chorus of voices in both song and spirit!
- Saint Sava Serbian Church Choir – Toronto 1955
After Kosta Joksimovic, choir presidents were: Bora Dragasevic and then Damjan Joksimovic. Later presidents were: Dragoslav Radosavljevic, Stevo Dobric, Micko Brajovic, Gojko Protic, Milena Protic, Bacho Kiurski, Braca Mikalacki, Milan Markovic, Mihajlo Lukic, Ljiljana Novakovic, Zivko Doncic, Vaso Kosevic, Nada Tijanic, Aleksandar Brkic, Nada Petrinjac, Bora Dragasevic , Cedna Gasic, Vasilj Petrovic and Jovan Lukic. Several choir presidents became presidents of the Church-School Congregation. On November 13, 1955, only nine months after its formation, the Saint Sava Choir began responding regularly to the Holy Liturgy in the Saint Sava Church on River Street in Toronto. That same year the choir hosted its first annual concert. Betty Labas-Kovac, the first director, successfully led the choir for almost 20 years. She was followed by: Marinko Pepa, Marija Topalovic, Zarko Perak, Bora Dragasevic, Milena Protic, Jovan Lukic, Marko Doncic, Nikola Manojlovic, and Janez Govednik.
THE CHOIR AND THE YOUTH
- Saint Sava Serbian Church Choir – Toronto 1963
In 1963 the Saint Sava Junior Choir evolved from the Church Sunday school with about 40 singers directed by Mirjana Dragasevic. The Junior Tamburica Orchestra, formed from the Junior Choir, had more than 20 musicians directed by Djordje Joksimovic and later by Bacho Kiurski. Founders of the original Oplenac Folklore Group were, in fact, the members of the Saint Sava Church Choir, and Dragoslav Radosavljevic was their choreographer for many years. The Saint Sava Church Hall on River Street, site of the annual Caravan festivities, was known as the Oplenac Pavilion named after the folklore group.
SERBIAN SINGING FEDERATION CHORAL FESTIVALS
- Saint Sava Serbian Church Choir – at the 64th Annual SSF Festival
As a member of the Serbian Singing Federation, the Saint Sava Choir participated in many SSF festivals and conventions. By November 1955, nine months after its formation, the Saint Sava Choir was actively involved in the First Serbian Singing Federation Choral Festival held in Canada in Niagara Falls. In 1975 the Saint Sava Choir hosted the 34th SSF Choral Festival with 12 participating choirs. At its inauguration into the membership of the Serbian Singing Federation the choir’s kumovi were members of the Petar Krstic Choir of Steubenville, Ohio. During the weekend of May 25 and 26, 2002 the Saint Sava Choir was the honoured guest choir at the 61st SSF Choral Festival in Schererville, Indiana. In keeping with tradition, the choir had the honour of responding to the Holy Liturgy in Schererville’s Saint George Church.
SERBIAN SINGING FEDERATION CONVENTIONS
Toronto’s Sutton Hotel was headquarters for the 1965 Serbian Singing Federation Convention with 58 delegates in attendance. The Holy Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Stevan Lastavica assisted by the Russian Bishop Vitalije. As a resolution of this convention, the Serbian Singing Federation established the Third District Choir comprised of: the Saint George Choir (Niagara Falls), Saint Nicholas Choir (Hamilton), Kosta Manojlovic Choir (Lackawanna, NY), and the Saint Sava Choir (Toronto). This combined choir of 120 voices sang at evening Vespers under the direction of Nada Milosevic, Petar Bila, Mira Stojsavljevic and Betti Labas-Kovac. The Third District Choir sang for a full 10 years with Bora Dragasevic as its President.
HOST AND GUEST
At the Saint Sava Choir’s second annual concert in 1956, the first guest choir was the Njegos Choir of Cleveland. Among the guest choirs were: Filip Visnjic (Pittsburgh), Kosta Manojlovic (Lackawanna), Saint George (Niagara Falls), Stevan Mokranjac (Hamilton), Holy Trinity (Youngstown), Ravanica (Detroit), Petar Krstic (Steubenville) Stevan Sijacki (Milwaukee), Sloboda (South Chicago), Branko Radicevic (North Chicago), Saint Nicholas (Hamilton), Dr. Laza Kostic (Midland), Gracanica (Windsor), Saint George (Kansas City), as well as the men’s choirs Tsar Lazar of Pittsburgh and Kosovo of Cleveland. Prior to the Church schism of 1963, the Saint Sava Choir had 50 singers, all of whom appeared on stage that year as guests in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. The choir traveled throughout the USA and Canada and was invited as honoured guest choir in Hamilton, Windsor, Montreal and Niagara Falls. In the late 1960s the Saint Sava Choir appeared as part of the Third District Choir at several Serbian Days in Niagara Falls.
THE RENEWED CHOIR
With the arrival of the 1990s wave of newcomers, the Saint Sava Choir welcomed many new singers. Following his arrival from Windsor in 1990 Nikola Manojlovic began directing the choir in Church. His involvement was warmly received. With his extensive knowledge of the Liturgy and religious choral singing, he has enriched the choir’s repertoire with the compositions of Stevan Mokranjac. At that time, choir concerts were directed first by Andrija Puzic and then by Janez Govednik. In 1996 Nikola Manojlovic was entrusted with full responsibility to direct the choir in Church and at concerts. The choir is proud to have 40 singers today.