The Hutsuls have a legend about the troyista muzyka ensemble. "Three musicians - a violinist, a tsymbaly player and a piper - fell in love with a maiden. To choose her bridegroom, the maiden suggested that they take part in a contest, and she would marry the player whose music the people judged to be the best. Each musician played in turn his favorite melody, but as the three musicians played equally well, none of them could win the contest. Then the maiden asked them to compete again, this time playing the same melody, but again nobody scored a victory. There was only one thing left to do - to play the tune together. Their joint performance yielded such enchanting music that the people decided that it would be a sin to part them and so they continue to play together." In this way this music became known as "troyista muzyka," i.e. trio music. Ensembles of this type usually consist of three musicians: a violinist, a tsymbaly and a bubon player. In some ensembles the instruments can be varied with the inclusion of the basolia or sopilka instead of the bubon. The ensemble's instrumentation and also the style of music it plays differs from region to region.
Although it is known that bandura ensembles existed in the courts of Polish and Russian nobility in the 16-18th centuries the tradition of bandura ensemble playing did not survive into the 19th century. It was only in 1902 at the XIIth Archeological Congress in Kharkiv that the first documented performance of a bandura ensemble took place. This ensemble consisted mainly of blind kobzars and included several hurdy-gurdy players and a troyista muzyka ensemble. After this historic performance, interest in the bandura became widespread. In a short period non-blind intellectuals were learning to play the bandura and gradually ensembles were formed. One of the first, consisting of students from Kyiv University was led by Mykhailo Domontovych gave its first public performance in Kyiv in 1908. Bandura ensembles were soon established in cities outside of Ukraine, in Moscow and the Kuban'.
In 1918 the "Kyiv Kobzar Choir" was formed by Vasyl Yemetz. This ensemble later became the Kyiv Bandurist Chorus. In 1925 the Poltava Bandurist Chorus was formed. These two ensembles were later combined in 1935. The number of bandura ensembles reached almost epidemic proportions in the 1930's. By 1940 there were over 300 bandura ensembles with some five thousand bandurists. In 1939 for nine positions advertised by the Kyiv State Bandurist Chorus 1,110 applications were received. During WWII the Kyiv State Bandurist Chorus was disbanded and mobilized to fight on the front. In comparison Russian ethnographic ensembles continued to function touring the war zone and entertaining the troupes. During the German occupation the Kyiv Bandura Chorus was re-established as the Shevchenko Bandurist Chorus in Kyiv in 1942 under the direction of Hryhory Nazarenko and later Hryhory Kytasty. After a prolonged tour of Europe, they emigrated to the USA in 1950, where it settled in Detroit. The Shevchenko Bandura Chorus became known in the United Staes as the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus was closely associated with its conductor the late Hryhory Kytasty. From 1984-1996 the group has been directed by Volodymyr Kolesnyk. Currently its new conductor is Oleh Mahlay. In 1948 a new State Bandurist Chorus was also re-established in Kyiv under the direction of Olexander Minkivsky. Its current director is Mykola Hvozd. With post WWII migration to countries such as North America, South America and Australia, ensembles and Bandura Choruses have been established in most cities that have a Ukrainian population.
UKRAINIAN FOLK ORCHESTRAS
The idea of an orchestra of Ukrainian folk instruments was slow in developing in Ukraine. The first performance of such a group can be traced back to the XIIth Archeological Congress in Kharkiv, which under the direction of Hnat Khotkevych included not only banduras but hurdy-gurdies, violins a basolia and a tambourine. In 1922 Leonid Haydamaka, a student of Hnat Khotkevych organized a bandura ensemble in the Metalworkers Club in Kharkiv. This ensemble slowly introduced banduras of various sizes of the Kharkiv type.
Gradually other instruments were added such as the tsymbaly, the lira, sopilky, trembitas and the bagpipes. This orchestra, although of amateur status, became well known. It became the basis for another orchestra, formed in the 1930's in the Pioneers Palace. Various performances by the orchestra were given throughout Ukraine and other Soviet republics, and records were released in the thirties.