The creative activity of the People's Artist of the Soviet Union, laureate of the State Prize of the Republic Gennady Ivanovich Tsitovich is one of the brightest pages of the folklore and musical life of Belarus. He is known as the founder of the oldest, most original choir of the village of Bolshoe Podlesye, organizer and artistic director of the State Academic Folk Choir of the BSSR, folklorist-researcher, author of well-known works on topical issues of folklore, as well as the author-compiler of anthologies and collections of his own recordings of folk songs.
Gennady Ivanovich Tsitovich was a man in love with the art of his people. Life itself, complex and difficult, seemed to cast and forge this restless seeker, scientist, subtle, penetrating artist.
How did he begin his journey in art, what made him the way he was known and loved? When did his love for music begin to take shape? Perhaps it originated on long winter evenings, when wonderful folk songs were performed in the family, of which his grandmother was a great connoisseur and lover. Or perhaps it arose during the years of classes at the Vilna Seminary at the rehearsals of the choir. But most likely, Grigory Romanovich Shirma and his Vilna gymnasium choir, whose constant participant for several years was Gennady Tsitovich, were most likely to be “guilty” of this. He loved and knew many Belarusian folk songs before, and after meeting Shirma, his lectures on literature and folk music, this love became stronger, more conscious and purposeful.
After graduating from the Vilna seminary, Gennady Tsitovich did not continue his studies at the theological academy (the prospect of becoming a priest did not attract him), but, despite numerous obstacles and difficulties, he entered the Natural History and Mathematics Faculty of Vilna University. However, interest in music did not fade away. He participates in the performances of the vocal quartet organized by him, creates adaptations of folk songs for him.
And after some time, Gennady Tsitovich became the head of the university choir. The team took an active part in the concerts of the student club, and it was here that the young choirmaster met Tadeusz Sheligovsky, professor at the conservatory. In love with his work, able to quickly understand people, he immediately saw in Gennady Tsitovich a future musician and strongly advised him to enter the conservatory. So a biology student, without leaving the university, becomes at the same time a student at the conservatory.
The young man was fond of recordings of Belarusian folk songs for a long time. To this end, he made a number of fascinating folklore expeditions to the surrounding villages and villages, and when the repertoire of his native places was exhausted, he undertook folklore trips to the Vitebsk region along the Desna River. Thus, before entering the conservatory, Gennady already had a significant amount of collected material, the basis of which was Belarusian folk songs. But he not only collects, collects them, but also deeply studies them. He is interested in the principles of construction of a particular song, intonation and rhythm, the characteristic features of the calendar-ritual, love, ballad, domestic, recruiting, game and many other song genres.
All this made it possible for the young ethnographer to read a report already in his second year at the conservatory, and then to publish the article “Belarusian drag songs”. A year later, in September 1936, the article “Belarusian Folk Music” appeared in the Krakow weekly “Courier Literary and Scientific”, which caused a rather wide resonance, as it was devoted to a little-known branch of ethnography and introduced readers to the architectonics of Belarusian folk songs.
G. Tsitovich continues his folklore expeditions, constantly expanding their geography. He traveled all over Western Belarus, visited the most remote villages and farms. Where only did not meet the folklorist! Always friendly, cheerful and witty, he was a welcome guest in any home, masters of folk singing were always willing to share their art with him. Moving from one village to another, he saw how the Belarusian people strove to preserve their customs, language, songs. With great love, as the most treasured value, Tsitovich collected and recorded songs created by the population of Western Belarus.
In his ethnographic activities, Gennady Tsitovich was not limited to collecting only Belarusian folklore. He was interested in the problems of mutual enrichment of musical cultures of different nations. So, studying Bulgarian folk songs, he came to the conclusion that their structure has much in common with the Belarusian song. There was no doubt about the relationship between Belarusian folklore and Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and Lithuanian. Later, his observations and studies on the mutual influence of different cultures were reflected in the articles “Revolutionary folk art of Western Belarus (1919-1939)”, “On the issue of the relationship between Belarusians and Lithuanians in the field of song folklore”, “Ukrainian-Belarusian Relations in Folk Music.
In 1939, after the reunification of the territory of Belarus, the ethnographer's recordings acquired significant musical and practical value. They are approached by composers, leaders of amateur musical groups, they are included in their repertoire by famous performers. In love with folk choral singing, Gennady Tsitovich advises many amateur choirs, combining this work with the activities of the editor-in-chief of musical programs of the Baranovichi Regional Radio Committee.
Once he heard a performance of the Pyatnitsky Choir on the radio and began to dream of creating a Belarusian folk choir. An editorial trip led him to the village of Bolshoye Podlesye. There he listened to a small local choir who sang in a purely folk manner. Gennady Tsitovich realized that before him was a genuine spring of folk art and that it was here that interesting creative work awaited him. Since then, close and constant cooperation with this team began, which served for him as a kind of laboratory of folk art.
In 1940, the choir took part in the regional amateur art show and won first place. The high artistic level of performance was also confirmed at the republican review. The Podlessky choir team is selected to participate in the First Decade of Belarusian Art in Moscow, where it performs with great success.
A trip to Moscow gave Gennady Tsitovich the confidence that he was on the right track, that he was doing something he was not sorry to devote his whole life to. But a year later, the Great Patriotic War began, and only after its end, Gennady Ivanovich Tsitovich restores the creative image of the team, prepares new concert programs. In 1945, the team participates in regional and republican amateur art reviews and wins the right to demonstrate their art again in Moscow.
The famous Soviet composer M. Koval in the newspaper "Soviet Art" on September 7, 1945 wrote about the performance of the choir of the village of Bolshoe Podlesye: "... the women sang the lyrical song "Oh, rechanka, rechanka." They sang a song of extraordinary beauty quietly, as if afraid to spill its wonderful melody, they sang with that artistry that excites and causes tears of tenderness. The talented leader of the choir G. Tsitovich proved to what artistic level a collective farm choir can be raised.”
And here is what the famous Soviet choirmaster A.V. Sveshnikov wrote in the Pravda newspaper on September 8, 1945: “The choir of the Belarusian folk song of the village of Bolshoe Podlesye, Baranovichi Region (head G. Tsitovich) deserves special attention. This choir is a real pearl of folk art. The performance of the choir is full of inexplicable charm and warmth. The performing technique of the choir is very high, it has an ideal intonation, exceptionally expressive nuances.”
At the same time, G. I. Tsitovich resumes his folklore expeditions. New recordings of folk songs appear in his music notebooks. Among them were old, traditional songs and recently created ones. In 1945, in Pleschenitsy, he heard the song "Our Land" to a significantly revised and abridged text by K. Builo. Later, in the choral arrangement by A. Bogatyrev, this song became widely known and widely performed by both professional and amateur groups. In the same year, Gennady Ivanovich recorded the “Song of the great Zaslonava” in Begoml, and in the village of Yurovichi, Kalinkovichi district, a song that immediately gained great popularity. This is a peppy, optimistic "Uzyshow is a month long". In the Luninets region, he recorded "Pіskuyu Patyzanskaya", and the villages of Kozlovichi and Timkovichi gave him ditties "Pra kalgasnae zhytstse" and "Pra partisan". So, in a short time, the folklorist accumulated rich material, which he summarized in his scientific report “Belarusian Musical Practice Today”.
GI Tsitovich is not only a recognized authority in the field of ethnography. He is also a tireless, fiery promoter of Belarusian culture and a demanding artist. In 1952, he became the artistic director of the State Academic Choir of the BSSR organized by him. The organization of a new musical group was associated with great difficulties. The originality of the creative image of the Belarusian folk choir required a careful differentiated selection of performers when recruiting groups of the future collective: choral, dance, orchestral, as well as painstaking work on the formation of its repertoire, the basis of which, according to Gennady Ivanovich, was to be Belarusian folk song.
Since there were few arrangements of national songs for the Belarusian folk choir with its specific sound and requirements for choral arrangement, Gennady Ivanovich starts creating concert arrangements for his group. This is how the famous "Rechanka", "Oh, wound on Ivan" and others appear.
Choral arrangements by G. Tsitovich are valuable primarily because he implements in them the techniques of improvisational folk music homophony, natural-mode harmony and other features of folk music-making. G. Tsitovich was not limited only to arrangements of Belarusian national songs. On his creative account, processing of Russian, Ukrainian folk songs. He also provides great assistance to amateur composers, creating choral adaptations of their songs, including “Our Neman”, “Paydu Yasya Mily” by P. Shevko, “Nezdarovitsa” by P. Kosacha and others. The repertoire of the folk choir also includes original compositions by Gennady Ivanovich, written in the folk style: “Like that Zosia choked”, “Kalgasny waltz”, “Belarus of May” and others.
For the first time, the folk choir performed before a wide audience during the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. And soon in the District House of Officers there were concerts of the group with a special large program in two departments.
The musical community, Belarusian composers, critics unanimously noted that the group sings cleanly, sonorously, and has a peculiar performing style. So the folk choir got a start in life, its active creative activity began: tours around Belarus and other republics, performances at crowded song festivals, reviews, competitions, on the radio, numerous sponsored concerts.
But the most significant event in the creative life of a still young team was participation in concerts of the Second Decade of Belarusian Art and Literature in Moscow (1955). Numerous reviews in the central press spoke eloquently about the artistic level of the ten-day concerts of the State Folk Choir of the Byelorussian SSR, unanimously noting the purity of intonation, the wonderful performance of classical samples of the Belarusian folk song, and the colorful display of folk dances. So, the newspaper Pravda on February 21, 1955, in the essay “Singers, Musicians, Dancers of Belarus” wrote: “In Belarus, amateur choral activity is widely developed. The Belarusian State Folk Choir, created in 1952 under the artistic direction of G. Tsitovich, also left amateur performances. The choral, dance and orchestral groups, which make up the folk choir as a whole, are staffed by young people - participants in amateur art activities from the Mogilev region, Polissya, Gomel region and other regions of the republic. The youth brought with them a lot of vivacity and enthusiasm. At the same time, how much folk wisdom has been invested in the performance of simple, intelligible songs of the Belarusian people! You listen to wonderful lyrical, comic songs performed by the women's choir and involuntarily forget that they sound from the stage - it seems that their girls are singing somewhere in the field ... The art of this group is truly folk. A great merit in this is G. Tsitovich, a well-known Belarusian ethnographer and musicologist ... "
And here is what the composer M. Koval wrote about the performing style of the folk choir in the newspaper Sovetskaya Kultura on February 20, 1955: semantic interpretation without emotional "pressure", without sharp contrasts. The ten-day concert program showed the increased skill of this choir...”
In 1968, Gennady Ivanovich Tsitovich was awarded the high title of "People's Artist of the Soviet Union" for the high performing skills of the choir led by him, as well as for his active musical and educational activities.
Intensive concert activity, as well as a high level of artistic performance, stimulate the creation of new repertory works by Belarusian composers for this group. He is the first performer and interpreter of many songs by V. Olovnikov, I. Kuznetsov, Y. Semenyako and other composers.
It is difficult to overestimate the beneficial effect that the folk choir has on the development of the musical culture of our republic, and especially on the development of amateur art. Thanks to open concerts, radio and television broadcasts, and recordings, the band has acquired an unusually wide audience of listeners. And not only listeners, but also members of amateur folk choirs, who adopt the style of performance from their professional colleagues, a rich repertoire consisting of the best examples of traditional and modern folk songs and dances, works of Belarusian composers.
Since 1974, after the transfer of duties of the artistic director of the State Folk Choir of the BSSR to the talented choirmaster M.P. Drinevsky, G.I. Tsitovich devotes a lot of time to cultural, educational, research work: he takes part in plenums and congresses of the Union of Composers, international symposiums and conferences on folklore, leads seminars for amateur composers, and advises the scientific work of young musicologists. He works a lot on radio and television: he creates several cycles of essay-concerts under the general title “Belarusian Folk Music”.
Over the years of his folklore-collecting activity, G.I. Tsitovich recorded more than three thousand of the best examples of folk music sonic creativity and could compose an "Anthology" exclusively from them. However, he studied more than five thousand printed folklore records and over three thousand from the handwritten collections of Belarusian ethnographers, choosing from this huge amount of material the most valuable in artistic terms. The main criterion in compiling the "Anthology" was the artistic qualities of not only the melody, but also the poetic text of the songs, the desire to reveal as fully as possible the whole variety of known genres of musical folklore, to show songs from all over Belarus. The musical material of the "Anthology" consists of two sections: "Songs of the pre-Soviet period" and "Songs of the Soviet era".
The preface traces and theoretically substantiates the sequence of development processes of folk musical art, the gradual transition from the old traditional to the modern folk song, the expansion of its range, rhythmic and melodic evolution.
In the comments to the Anthology, the author not only classifies the material into sections and tells when, by whom, where and from whom this or that song was recorded, but also indicates its variants, in which collections it was published earlier, by which composers and in which works it was used as melodic material. Of course, this section of the book is extremely useful and necessary for musicologists, researchers of the history of Belarusian national music.
As a folklorist, G. Tsitovich is interested in the problems of the development of folk choral polyphony. The works “On two-voice singing”, the collection of songs of the Podlessky choir “Belarusian two-voice songs”, the collection “Songs of happiness”, which collected two-, three-voice songs of the Soviet era, were devoted to this topic.
The most important contribution to the development of the national musical culture is G. Tsitovich's book "On the Belarusian song folklore", which most fully reflects the direction of the author's scientific and practical activities. The range of problems covered in the articles of this book is wide and diverse. At the same time, they are characterized by organic internal unity, which is due to the very approach of the researcher to the material and the systematic disclosure of topics. The essays also clearly show the creative features of the author: great love for Belarusian folklore and excellent knowledge of it, breadth, consistency of scientific conclusions. According to ethno-musicologist Z. Ya. Mozheiko, the book can rightly be considered an “encyclopedia of Belarusian folk music”.
G.I.Tsitovich also has a priority in the field of research of folk musical creativity, in which the social and cultural life of the Belarusian people is clearly reflected. He is the author of essays, articles, which are characterized by deep social analysis, bold generalizations based on a thorough knowledge of factual material.
In 1978, G. I. Tsitovich was awarded the State Prize of the BSSR for the creation of the Anthology of Belarusian Folk Songs and the book On Belarusian Song Folklore.
The creative successes of GI Tsitovich are largely due to his erudition, deep and comprehensive knowledge of the life of the people, sincere, cordial friendship with the creators and performers of folk music. He considers the best rest to be trips to amateur folk choirs, often in Ozershchina, Korelichi, Morochi and other villages. But most often it happens in the Great Podlesie.
Many years have passed since the talented artistic director created the Podleska Folk Choir and raised its singing culture to the level of high art. In the autumn of 1979, the 40th anniversary of the Podleska Folk Choir was solemnly celebrated at the collective farm club. G.I. Tsitovich prepared for the anniversary and again the choristers under his leadership sang a song about their native village:
«Between the wide fields
On the edge of Polissya
Blooms in gardens
And on February 16, 1980, at a general meeting of collective farmers of the Podlessky collective farm named after Lenin, a resolution was unanimously adopted “On conferring the honorary title“ Honored Collective Farmer ”to Gennady Ivanovich Tsitovich for many years of active work in collective farm production.” So he was the first among Belarusian musicians to receive this title and was proud of it.