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Ukrainian Orthodox monks sing haunting Christmas carols


Language does not matter in the face of such transparent devotion.

Every year we try to add a few more Christmas tunes to our collection, filling it with the best we can find while avoiding some of the less-desirable holiday tunes. The list is getting pretty full of Catholic hymns, secular hits, and a cappella arrangements of “Carol of the Bells,” so this year, we searched sources outside the English-speaking world.

We fell in love with this string of Ukrainian Christmas carols the moment it began. We don’t understand a word of it, but the Orthodox monks of Svetogorska Monastery, Ukraine, mesh incredibly well, with their rumbling bass notes and crisp tenors. The soloist sings with such emotion that his voice grips you from his first note.

The second and third songs are sung in a more triumphant fashion, utilizing the full chorus singing in voice parts. Here the chorus really shines as these 14 monks fill the church with robust chords. The next one is a call and response that begins with exquisite two-part harmony, that is answered by the full chorus, singing with soft dynamics.

At around 12:30 in the video featured above, the monks begin a chant in full voice that stopped us in our tracks. The way their voices continue to grow and rise through the melody is breathtaking. The performance displays the intensity of the faith of each member of the choir and is bound to inspire all congregants present. 

Several hours of research yielded no confirmation as to the names of these Ukrainian Christmas carols and we almost didn’t run it, but the utter beauty of the music, along with the mysterious nature added by the language gap, was too good to overlook. If you know any of these tunes, please let us know their names and composers in the comments

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