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Testimonial Banquet For Helen Spanovich (5/26/15)

Helen Spanovich, celebrated choir director in the Greater Johnstown area for the past 75 years, retired with a testimonial banquet at Christ the Saviour Educational Center on Tuesday evening, May 26.

Cathedral parishioners as well as priests and faithful from many areas attended. The Very Rev. Protopresbyter Robert Buczak, Cathedral Dean, was toastmaster. Protopresbyter Frank P. Miloro, Chancellor, welcomed everyone and offered a toast. Michael Fetsko, Cathedral Financial Secretary, made a presentation. Beautiful roses were sent by Attorney Nicholas Timko, choir director of St. Nicholas Church in New York City.

A combined choir of more than 50 singers led by the new Cathedral choir directress Danielle Bartko sang the Mnoholitsvije. Choir director Andrew Talarovich from St. Nicholas Church in Homestead also directed the combined choir singing “O Lord Save Your People”, a favorite hymn of Helen’s. And finally Helen directed the choir in her usual spirited manner for the rendition of “Praise Ye the Name of the Lord”.

A highlight of the evening was the address of His Grace, Bishop Gregory. During his talk, he presented Helen with the coveted diocesan “Bohorodica Award”. Helen is only the 11th recipient of this prestigious award since its institution in 1982.

Helen’s musical career began when as an eleven year old she was a member of the Spanovich family orchestra. After she studied under private tutors, her choir
directing career began with an all-girls choir in the 1940’s. Over a span of 75 years, in addition to the Cathedral Choir and Seminary Chorus, she taught a-capella choirs in the Greater Johnstown area representing four jurisdictions: St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church Choir (Westmont); St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church Choir (Greensburg); St. George Serbian Orthodox Church Choir (Cambria City); St. Petka Serbian Orthodox Church Choir (Woodvale); St. John Orthodox Male Choir Conemaugh). At one time she taught seven different choirs each week, sometimes directing two rehearsals in one evening!

Helen has taught liturgical music and voice at Christ the Saviour Seminary since 1960, musically mentoring a total of 124 priests! She produced three seminary
recordings during that time, and she will continue her classes in the fall semester.

Helen has directed the Cathedral Choir for the visits of three Patriarchs, of them two Ecumenical Patriarchs of Constantinople. She has led the liturgical music for the
ordination and enthronement of two bishops, together with uncountable historical events that have taken place in the Cathedral since she began directing there in 1972. She has published two books of musical renditions of Carpatho-Russian Plain chant which she transposed into 4-part harmony, including the Lenten Pre-sanctified Liturgy, Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the Eight Tones, and the Feastday tropars and kondaks for the ecclesiastical year. When singing from her Cathedral choir books, hymn after hymn can be seen notated “H.S.” – these are her own transpositions.

Among other accomplishments she has also presented numerous concerts, and led combined choirs at major Diocesan and Pan-Orthodox events. In recognition of her dedication to provide quality sacred music for the Orthodox Church, His Eminence, the late Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese presented her with the Antiochian Silver Medal of Merit in 1985.

More recently, Helen is the recipient of the 2015 “Arts and Letters” Award given as a “Tribute to Women” by the Y.W.C.A. of the
Greater Johnstown area.

Mnohaja L’ita! Many Years!

Photos Courtesy of Nicholas Bocher
Helen is presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Nicholas Timko, the Director of St. Nicholas Church Choir in NYC.
All enjoyed a delicious meal, with a musical theme!
Mr. Michael Fetsko, Cathedral Financial Secretary makes a presentation to Helen on behalf of the Cathedral Parish.
Reader Andrew Talarovich, director of St. Nicholas Church Choir of Homestead, PA leads the combined choir in the singing of "O Lord Save Your People"
Helen Spanovich leads the combined choir in the singing of "Praise Ye The Name of the Lord."
Diocesan Chancellor, Protopresbyter Frank P. Miloro presents Helen with a Hramota on behalf of the Diocese.
Bishop Gregory presented the coveted Bohorodicen Award to Helen for her outstanding service to the Diocese.
Helen offered words of gratitude to those assembled.
Helen received a standing ovation.
Helen Spanovich is pictured with Danielle Bartko, the new Cathedral choir directress.
Helen Spanovich with Protopresbyter Frank and Pani Connie Miloro.
Helen Spanovich with Cathedral Dean Protopresbyter Robert and Pani Kathy Buczak.
Helen Spanovich with His Grace, Bishop Gregory
Helen was presented with a beautiful cake.
No party is complete with out a cake!
His Grace, Bishop Gregory offers the closing prayer.