Friday, July 29, 2005

Eastern churches
Daniel Kavka died yesterday, aged 80 (details)
Prof‘Prof’ was the cantor at Holy Ghost (Ruthenian) Byzantine Catholic Church* in Philadelphia (the city’s oldest Eastern-rite church of any kind) since 1947, the man who introduced me to the Russian tradition of church and folk music (as well as his own Ruthenian tradition) — and through that the language — and one of the most joyful people I’ve ever known. There is a story that he died once before, for a few minutes, but (obviously) came back. Glad I got a chance to catch up and have a drink with him at the church bar — what’s left of the old ‘Holy Ghost Club’ in the church hall — about seven years ago. That ended with an impromptu Slavic singing session with other old-timers there, including Michael Semanik**, also no longer with us.

He was originally from Pittston, in this part of the world, and had a seminary degree, from St Procopius in the Midwest back when the RC Benedictines trained Ruthenian priests in the States, in the good old days of the legitimate liturgical movement when its people were really interested in the Christian East and before the Ruthenians built their own seminary in Pittsburgh. Back then cantors (who often were called ‘Professor’) often got the same education that priests did.

If anybody deserved a papal knighthood he did.

Вечная память!

(Here is an answer to the question ‘Who are Ruthenians?’)

*This site takes for ever to load but if you stay with it you can hear Prof’s well-drilled choir (he had them rehearse every week in season, autumn to spring) sing ‘О всепетая Мати’, ‘O all-hymned Mother’.

**After the Iron Curtain collapsed he got to go to his parents’ old town, Svidník, Slovakia, where he met some cousins who unknown to him all those years had kept a connection to him as they had a photo of him from World War II in his US Army uniform!

St Michael’s Church, Prikra, Slovakia

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