Tuesday, 28 May 2013

New Doukhobor Song Book, with CDs

Traditional Selections compiled by The Calgary Doukhobor Cultural Society (CDCS), with 36 songs on 2 CDs. 2013. 84 pp. (letter-size pages) $25 + $10 postage. E-mail: tradselect@gmail.com, or phone Don Cheveldayoff at 403-288-0058. 160 published, 30 available as of today. Wire bound.

Though an admirable effort, the first edition reviewed is an amateur work-in-progress, with many flaws. The project appears to have been rushed for this year's Union of Youth Festival held in B.C. in May.

I know well from the projects that I rushed, that flaws are bound to appear. Future buyers should wait for an updated edition.

In 2011, a small group of active Doukhobors in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, decided to publish a songbook with traditional hymns, psalms, peace songs and folk songs. They explain their reason on page 2 in Introductions and Acknowledgments.

The CDCS felt that a songbook needed to be developed that would function primarily as a teaching tool to accommodate the diversity of our group in terms of language — Russian/English and other cultural considerations. We concluded that a songbook with Russian, English, transliterations and accompanying CDs would serve such a need as well as be a legacy to future generations — our children, grand-children and great-grand-children.

Hopefully, our effort to present accurate and clear lyrics, translations and comments has been fulfilled. We apologize if any errors or omission are identified.

The CDCS team selected 36 previously recorded songs and hymns on themes of peace, love and goodwill which were copied on to 2 CDs. The book is well planned and organized to explain each song to those who do not read Russian, and may not know the significance of these selections. Each song is presented on two facing pages in 4 columns — (1) Comments, (2) English translation, (3) Russian lyrics, and (4) an inconsistent transliteration or a somewhat phonetic pronunciation guide.

The book cover shows a rough sketch of downtown Calgary overlaid with the Canadian Doukhobor symbols for peace (dove), and the staff of life (khleb-sol : bread, salt, water). The cover shows an archaic spelling of 'Doukhobour', not the standard 'Doukhobor' now universally used today, but was spelled correctly inside the book. Several photographs of choirs and a map provide some useful context to the reader.

Sample pages 35 and 36
The Comments column explains the song context. For example, several of the songs were performed by Doukhobors and Friends of Peace at the World Peace Forum held in Vancouver, British Columbia in June 2006. With a little more research, the compilers could have added an important historical fact — the Forum continued to Victoria, BC and led to the creation of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI) in which Canadian Doukhobors are active today.

The selection of psalms and songs were good. I especially appreciated these 4 of the 36:
  • Pages 43-44 — Bставайте, Силы Новые (Arise Ye Youth, the Time Has Come), performed by the Blaine Lake Doukhobor Choir in the 1960s, is a nice Prygun hymn calling on the youth for a spiritual awakening.
  • Pages 73-74 — Однозучно Звенит Колокольчик (Monotonously Rings the Bell) is Peter Voykin's exceptional solo, with accompaniment, on the traditional Russian folksong about a lonely coachman.
  • Pages 63-64 — В Честь Победы (In Honour of Peace and Freedom) is an excellent performance of the traditional Doukhobor hymn by the Friends for Peace Choir at the World Peace Forum in 2006.
  • Pages 71-72 — 'Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream' is a classic Canadian folksong, written after World War II, about universal peace, sung by Tom Hawken in 1999 in Vancouver. This is one of a several non-Doukhobor numbers included.
Two glaring assumptions of the meaning of the Doukhobor Movement appear, as if they are fact, without question, comment or discussion.
  • Pages 31-32 — Do Doukhobors believe in Jesus Christ as portrayed in Biblical stories? Such as 'how Christ lifts us and leads us in our times of darkness and need', 'of Christ suffering on the cross', and the story of heaven above. (See: Myth No. 5, in my Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living (pp. 380-381)
  • Page 59 — Are Doukhobors Christians, as assumed in many of the hymns? Or are they universalists, of the Tolstoyan and Unitarian type? Ron Kalmakoff, singer, elegantly answers this on page 59 — 'The Kingdom of heaven is within'. That is, 'heaven' in not out there in space; it is here within us, reflected in our conscience and in our good behaviours.
The English translation is essential for the majority for whom this project was intended — descendants of Calgary Doukhobors who grew up hearing some of these songs, but no longer have much contact with their heritage community. Translation aids wider understanding.

The Russian lyrics are what my generation sung and memorized, but my main problem is with the inconsistent transliteration of the Russian. Using the sample pages 36-37 (shown above), compare a popular standard transliteration of Russian to that published.

US Library of Congress        As Published
Spite orly boevye,
Spite s pokoinoi dushoi;
Vy zasluzhili rodnye,
Pamiat' i vechnyi pokoi.
Speete arli boeviye,
Speete s pokoynoy dooshoy;
Ve zasloozheelee rodniye,
Pamyat ee vechniy pokoy.

Just in this one song there are 3 sounds shown for 'o' and 2 sounds for each of 4 other Russian letters. Russians can vary the sound of the vowel 'o' depending on its location in a word, and the regional dialect of Russian they speak. These varying phonetic sounds depend on the 'ear' of the person writing them.

The published book transliteration only uses a Southern Russian dialect 'h' sound for the Russian letter г (g).

It is noteworthy to look at the foremost Doukhobor linguist Dr. Alex P. Harshenin (1930-1977) and his work on 'English loanwords in the Doukhobor dialect'. In a letter to the editor of Iskra (January 4, 1974: 17-19), the UBC professor wrote: '.... In fact, Doukhoborism cannot be bound to any particular language, although everyone is aware that there is one language in which it finds its richest expression even to the present day, and that is in the broadcast sense "Russian." And it is the learning of Russian that will preserve the better aspects of the dialect, and consequently, of the entire culture as well.'

More recommendations:
  • Again, the most glaring is the phonetic transliteration. I found dozens of errors and stopped counting. The correct transliteration of Russian г is g (not h). Мир is Mir (not Meer). Though many Doukhobors may consider such transliteration as a display of their colloquial dialect, in my opinion it shows poor scholarship and undermines the seriousness of this volume. The compilers failed to consult a standard professional transliteration system as used by scholars throughout the world.
  • Redo the Bibliography (p. 84) with correct precision and accuracy, e.g. No. 6: 'Plakun Trava.' 1982. Koozma Tarasoff. p.26. Redo it as: Tarasoff, Koozma J. Plakun Trava: The Doukhobors. 1982. p. 26. e.g. No. 10. 'Spirit Wrestlers'. 2002. Koozma Tarasoff. p. 109. Redo it as: Tarasoff, Koozma J. Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living. 2002. p. 109. Use one style for all the references.
  • Recall all of the books sold (but let them keep the CDs), and send the customer a new corrected version.
In sum, the package of 36 selections for the CDs and accompanying volume is admirable. The format could be used for many more songs. However, this text is highly flawed and should be replaced as soon as possible with corrections and notations. Our children and the public deserve better.

From the Doukhobor Music website

Traditional Selections compiled by The Calgary Doukhobor Cultural Society (CDCS), with 36 songs on 2 CDs. 2013. 84 pp. (letter-size pages) $25 + $10 postage. E-mail: tradselect at gmail.com, or phone Don Cheveldayoff at 403-288-0058.

While some have chosen to offer a less-than-stellar review of this ensemble, we at DoukhoborMusic.ca whole-heartedly applaud the efforts in preserving the Doukhobor singing culture. Kudos to the Calgary Doukhobor Cultural Society!


  1. A good review Koozma, with many obvious points.
    Too often individuals take upon themselves an expertise which in fact does not exist. i have seen this many times, particularly with self proclaimed experts in writing history without sufficient research and knowledge, and now with the songs.
    Not to use a standard transliteration system, in this case is a grievous error, and only compounds the confusion and ignorance of the present, preserving it for future generations, rather than enlightening them.

  2. Gunter Schaarschmidt29 May 2013 at 08:56

    Koozma, I do not know why you object to the transcription system in the book. Transliteration and transcription are two different things, and I daresay that for singing purposes a transcription is far more useful than transliteration which is intended for libraries. And cyrillic "g" is transliterated as "g" but transcribed as "h" in Doukhobor Russian just as it should be. In my forthcoming paper at the annual CAS conference I am making a special point for distinguishing these two and proposing a new letter for Doukhobor Cyrillic just as Ukrainian did to distinguish their "g's" from "h's".
    I welcome the appearance of this song book because it will contribute not only to the preservation of Doukhobor culture but also aid in the revitalization of the few remnants of the Doukhobor language (Jim Popov's "Doukhoborese" in his valuable Iskra articles) - after all, language is the carrier of culture!

    1. Gunter, accurate correct contemporary Russian-to-English transliteration is needed to allow us to communicate on a level playing field. After that people are free to explore dialects, mangled words, old fashioned expressions and pronunciations and thus maintain an archaic traditional communication form while realizing that their form of communication is archaic. Indeed, 'language is the carrier of culture'; but so is philosophy and behaviour which form the bedrock of our culture.

  3. Koozma, to me it is always depressing to read or hear of the new 'Doukhobor Way' of the past 50-70 years which is the need to criticize, preferrably publicly instead of words of encouragement to those who try to do something. Very frustrating, that those who are seldom, if ever, heard singing a Doukhobor hymn, all of a sudden become experts on the topic when someone else does something not according to their belief on liking. Your parents and mine, Koozma, sang these hymns for many, many years and sang them with a lot of belief in the Doukhobor way, no thought given whether some words had to be sounded with a 'g or an h' so why does this concern those who don't know the song in the first place. Final comment, the Saskatoon Doukhobor Society also printed a song book just prior to the release of the song book from Calgary, I hope these same critics who don't sing be much easier on Saskatoons project. To Calgary I want to congratulate you on your efforts, I hope this dosen't discourage you too much.

  4. Mitch, I am sorry that my review of the Calgary songbook may have caused you and others a feeling that it is designed 'to discourage' efforts of preserving Doukhobor traditions. This is not the intent. Rather the intent is to set things right once and for all — so that not only Doukhobors, but the wider public can communicate on the same page. Please be aware that we are not a sect which is insular, but we are a social movement with a concern for not only our brother and sisters, but also for the whole human family. Our intent is not to create work for linguists, but it is to provide a sustainable future for us that will be recognized worldwide as based on the best standards of transliteration that scholars can offer. Moreover, please remember that Doukhobors have had a long tradition of seeking the truth in the manner of Lev N. Tolstoy. This means doing our homework and not being afraid to periodically review errors that have cropped up in our midst. Out of this we can all look forward to a better future. Recall the words of a wisdom person: 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' And yes, the recent Saskatoon songbook deserves to be scrutinized the same as the Calgary songbook. Unfortunately, similar errors have cropped up in it because of the faulty transliteration methodology used in it.

  5. I propose a simple solution — explain column 4 (who, why, how) on a sheet of corrections.

    This songbook is not a major publication. The target audience is family members of the publishers, not academic scholars. Only 160 have been printed.

    The few errors can easily be addressed in a one page update sent to the 130 who bought it, and editing the next printing.

    I am Koozma's webmaster who formats and edits most all of his web content. Occasionally we discuss how to improve his work before posting. For this review, I questioned his stance, similar to Gunter's comment, but I did not change the message Koozma wanted to deliver. I tried to clearly show his reasoning by adding examples.

    Since there are now comments with opposing points of view, I felt I should add mine. I have not seen the actual songbook, so I asked Koozma to tell me if column 4 was defined. It was only described as a "transliteration," while the first 3 columns were defined and explained.

    Koozma was reacting to the word "transliteration." If column 4 was described as a "transcription" along with who did the transcription, how and why it is shown, the reason for column 4 would be clear.

    Before posting Koozma's review, I phoned Don Cheveldayoff to ask him about the book and column 4, and let him know that Koozma's review will be critical. Don told me that the phonetic text was edited-proofread by Eli Popoff and a local Russian professor, and that the songbook team felt they had done their best job. This story with names is missing from the published book.

    I also reviewed this simple solution with Koozma, who insists that a proper transcription should be included, beside a transliteration. This would create 5 columns, best published on legal-sized paper, side-ways (panorama), and would reduce the number of pages.

    I say: "Keep it simple." The 4-column format is okay if the previous buyers get a page of corrections, and the next edition is updated.

  6. Fred Makortoff, South Slocan, BC4 June 2013 at 19:04

    Gunter and Mich: you make good sense — I agree.

    I also read the review of the Calgary Songbook with some dismay. I do not wish to engage in a debate on your blog, but there are some things that need to be said.

    The Calgary Songbook was sponsored in part by the Council of Doukhobors in Canada — by Doukhobors for Doukhobors. This was never intended to be an academic or technical piece of work, nor did they expect it to be critically judged. I expected that Koozma would know this.

    I thought you as a scholar might have been intrigued by the way 21st Century, mostly urbanized, Doukhobors are adapting to the several people in their midst that are not of Russian heritage and language or have forgotten their Russian language. These modern Doukhobors are striving to preserve a part of their culture in a way that obviously works — especially in Calgary and Saskatchewan.

    Our phonetic spelling of Doukhobor songs is far better than the stilted US Library of Congress way.

    When a hymn is sung at the USCC, Russian words similarly transcribed into English are projected on a large screen for all to read. This method works well. Everyone can easily join the singing.

    Just this last Sunday, there was a ‘Gathering of Eagles’ — a conference at the Brilliant Cultural Centre protesting the proposed pipelines across BC.

    There was a very large choir in which several of our non-Doukhobor, non-Russian and Indigenous friends participated. Together, we all sang hymns in both English and Russian with full participation in both languages by all participants. Nobody questioned if this was academically or technically correct. It was easily, naturally and nicely done.

    You see Koozma, the harmony of like-minded souls and the reason why we were all together was much more important than the spelling. The phonetic lyrics were clearly understood by all.

    Granted, we need to be aware of correct spelling, and we should standardize our phonetic dialect.

    Koozma, you have stated that Doukhobors are a social movement, not a sect. You state this as an absolute fact. Please be aware that this is only your opinion, and is felt by some people to be a rude statement coming from a learned scholar.

    I understand that for a person viewing the world through the lens of a social scientist, it would be difficult to see that we are more than a social movement. We are a spiritual sect that does social movement actions from time to time. We are SPIRIT-Wrestlers not Social-Wrestlers or Political-Wrestlers.

    The success of the conference last Sunday is directly attributed to the powerful spiritual expressions by all participants — Doukhobors, BC First Nations people (including the BC Grand Chief), and Indigenous people from Peru who offered sacred ceremony and powerful prayers.

    There is an old saying: ‘When a pickpocket meets a Saint, all he sees is his pockets.’

    As an academic, you are judging a valuable piece of work helping to preserve and make accessible some of our culture and spirit. For a person that sings and experiences the special feelings during singing, and who wishes to get the sound right, the Calgary songbook is a very special piece of work. To some one that does not know the special feeling during singing, the Calgary songbook would be viewed critically through a very different lens and thus may be perceived as not having as much value.

    To the Calgary songbook folks: BRAVO! You did a great job and ... Thank you!

    Leave it as is. I am certainly not sending my copies back!!

    1. Calgary Doukhobor Cultural Society5 June 2013 at 14:10

      We wish to correct some information posted by Andrei Conovaloff stemming from a phone conversation between Andrei and Don Cheveldayoff on May 26. Eli Popoff only assisted us with the translation of several songs from Russian into English as appesrs in our book. Also, there was no local Russian professor involved.
      We thank Gunter ,Mitch and Fred who have taken the time to express explicit disagreement with Koozma's critique and have provided much appreciated positive feedback regarding our book.

      Calgary Doukhobor Cultural Society

    2. Andrei Conovaloff13 June 2013 at 03:42

      RE: Gathering of Eagles

      KRUNA Events, Activities and Announcements

  7. It seems, even in 2013, there are still huge divisions over our culture- perhaps those who view it at a complex evolving social movement, those who view it as traditions and culture and a way of life and survival, and then those who dont give any thought to it, (which would most likely be the larger majority)

    Twenty years ago in the community, Im sure there would still be arguments and divisions between sons of freedom, the uscc community , and other issues of that concern that dont seem important now, and arn't because they are mostly "defunct"

    We should focus on the overall accomplishment of this piece, not just from a scholary perspective, and I believe in terms of language, we should use our heritage tongue to the utmost-it offers alot more insight and depth into a group of people, but thats a whole other discussion.

    Point is, everyone can debate about the "little things" but at the same time, in a group where cultural activities are shrinking, a well put effort should be congratulated by this group, and the effect it will have on their, and our Doukhobor community

    1. Our 'heritage tongue' is Russian. Not the dialect. The big thing is our accomplishments -- namely, the ethic of nonkilling, cooperation and love. But the Gesthalt phenomena (of a piece affecting the whole) does matter. A piece of the Doukhobor Movement is reflected in the performance of the whole.
      Indeed, we need to congratulate the Calgary Doukhobors for their initiative -- and I have done that in my article. However, as any good school teacher knows, shoddy work should not be tolerated. We all need to strive for the best that we can do. That is how we improve our DNA, and therefore provide survival value for the future.

  8. I believe this discussion should be brought to the attention of a present (2019) suggestion that the essence of Doukhobor spiritual beliefs/faith should be examined through an on-line (?) closed group discussion (described in the facebook "Doukhobors in Canada" site recently as a type of "Bible study group") The fact that the psalms are already now translated and printed in a newly published book by Natasha Jmaief provides further impetus to consider having Doukhobor descendants share their personal spiritual interpretations among our "insular!!" community has value.
    I definitely disagree with the premise that the original psalms as codified by Bonch-Bruevich need "correction", for, a brief examination of the script will indicate that the Russian used by Bonch-Bruevich is not so much based on a Doukhobor dialect but, often on the inclusion of archaic (?) Russian and Church Slavonic. Therefore, given the inevitable transition into the English language cultural milieu of Canadian Doukhobor descendants, I too uphold the comments by Fred Makortoff in this blog describing the effective lyrical (singing) use of both English and Russian words in chosen hymns and songs (pesni)! In fact both my father, Timothy Samorodin, and myself have made contributions to offering English lyrical (singing) translations from the Doukhobor hymnody (?)-song book! I conclude by saying that in the development of the Doukhobor dialect, which (I hope) linguists will support me in, the Russian language (standard?) is not the "heritage" language, because, given Doukhobor history, the influences of the geographical localization of Doukhobor settlements over the course of our history must have (and did) influence the development of the dialect not only vocabulary-wise, but also grammatically, although that is not unique to Doukhobors in the Russian Empire with its many enclaves of dialectical speech!