Ukrainian Popular Male Singer – Antin Derbish

What makes a singer famous? A male vocalist that sings classical music can become a true pop music artist.

Classical choral music requires a choir of singers, as well as, a solo male singer. Top music artists of the past, have often performed in choral groups. An adult choir, particularly when it has a fantastic male vocalist is a joy to watch and listen.

There are many popular songs to sing to from the past by a male singer that sang Ukrainian music. In particular, there is one about lost love. Let’s explore!


Read to Discover a Popular Ukrainian Male Singer


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The audio clip above is the popular Ukrainian hit of the 1950s and 1960s “Soar My Song of Longing” (Лети тужлива пісне / Lety luzhlyva pisne) by Bohdan Wesolowskyj (1915-1971), performed by the baritone male singer – Antin Derbish (1921-1991).

Discover more about the song below.


Who Was Antin Derbish?

Antin Derbish was a Canadian baritone singer of popular Ukrainian music:

  • born in Jaroslaw, Poland – the eldest of 10 children, on June 13, 1921;
  • 1940 – volunteers for military service;
  • 1946 – a prisoner-of-war in the Soviet zone of post WWII Europe;
  • 1949 – marries Daria Derbish, nee Zarycky (1921-2014) in Insbruck, Austria and together, they emigrate to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada;
  • active soloist and choir member in various choral groups in Canada;
  • records a variety of LPs with various artists;
  • 1990 – participates as a soloist in a tour of Ukraine with the Toronto based male choir “Burlaka
  • performs with his grandson Adrian Pankiw in a concert at Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada on November 7, 1991;
  • passed away on December 1, 1991.

Antin Derbish (1921-1991) – A Popular Ukrainian Singer
Antin Derbish (1921-1991) – A Popular Ukrainian Singer


In Which Choir and Choral Groups did Derbish Sing?

Antin Derbish sang as a soloist and choir member in various choirs and choral groups – first, in post WWII Europe and later, in Canada.

The first such musical endeavour was a choir created at the end of WWII, in 1945, at the Bauleitung DP Camp in Austria. The choir was named in memory of Alexander Koshetz (1875-1944), a Ukrainian choir conductor who had organized multiple tours of Europe before WWI. The choir conductor of the newly created choral group was Lev Turkevych (1901-1961), who became a life-long friend and mentor to Derbish.

According to the biographical memoirs (a new window will open) published by soprano Luba Lewyckyj (1912-2014), it was with the A. Koshetz Choir that Antin Derbish first performed the Christmas carol “Don’t Cry Rachel” (Не плач, Рахиле / Ne plach, Rakhyle) from the Divine Liturgy by Tadej Kupchynsky (1879-1939).

A. Koshetz Choir in Austria
A. Koshetz Choir in Austria

The second choral group that Derbish joined was Dumka, in 1946. This was at the Vorkloster DP camp in Bregenz, Austria. Lev Turkevych, the conductor for the Koshetz Choir in Bauleitung DP Camp, was invited to head this choir and many of the members transferred with him.

In time, the Dumka Choir was reorganized and named Vatra. The word vatra translated from Ukrainian mean “bonfire”. According to Luba Lewyckyj: “The choir was named ‘bonfire; to express the fire and passion that burned in the hearts of the choir members.” (Levytska, 1965, p.80)

In time, many of the Vatra Choir members and their conductor, Lev Turkevich, moved to Edmonton, Canada.

Vatra Choir in Austria
Vatra Choir in Austria

Antin Derbish initially immigrated to Edmonton, Canada (1949) where he joined the Vatra Choir. Shortly afterwards, Derbish moved with his family to Toronto, Canada. In Toronto, Antin Derbish sang as a choir member and choral group soloist with the:

  • Choir of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Holy Protection;
  • Prometheus Male Choir;
  • Burlaka Male Choir.

A. Derbish also worked at other jobs to support his family. After all, this juggling of various commitments is what many classical and popular singers have done in the past, and, will probably do in the future.

And yes, Antin Derbish did leave a recorded legacy.


What Did A. Derbish Record?

The late 1940s and early 1950s was a time when many post WWII immigrants were arriving in Canada. It was also in 1949, that Columbia Records introduced the LP (long-playing) record. Both of these events brought major changes to the music industry in Canada.

Antin Derbish arrived in Canada in 1949. The Canadian music industry was just beginning. As a result, some of the popular music artists that arrived in Canada, including A. Derbish were able to become a part of this evolving scene.

As the music industry evolved, Antin Derbish began to record. Beginning in 1951 and over the course of the next 30 years, Antin Derbish recorded several 78rpm singles, as well as, LP records:

The singles recorded by Antin Derbish include:

  • 1951 – 2 songs by Bohdan Wesolowskyj at the R.C.A. Victor Studio in Toronto, Canada (June 22, 1951), which were later re-released by Stinson Records, USA (1953) (Chy spravdi, Bulo ne tuzhyt);
  • 1952 – 4 songs by Bohdan Wesolowskyj on the Arka Records, Canada label, including the hit “Soar My Song of Longing” (Kozhnyj raz, Lety tuzhlyva pisne, Povernes, Divchyna jak tsukorok);
  • 1954 – 2 songs by Bohdan Wesolowskyj on the Arka Records, Canada label (Ty lubovju sobi ne zhartuj, Chy znajesh ty);
  • 1956 – 2 songs by Bohdan Wesolowskyj on the Arka Records, Canada label (Vyna vyna divchyno, Buvaly dni).

All of the above singles were re-released by Carina Records, USA in 1956.

Popular Ukrainian Music Sung by Antin Derbish
Popular Ukrainian Music Sung by Antin Derbish

In time, Antin Derbish participated in projects with other artists to record LP records:

  • 1956 – An Album of Songs on the Rusalka Records, Canada label (Lysh tebe odnu, Podaj ruchenku, V kafe, Ty moa krascha pisnja);
  • 1962 – Yak Tebe Ne Lubyty and other songs - Ukrainian on the Rusalka Record, Canada label (Vyna vyna divchyno, Ty z lubovy ne zartuy, Buvaly dni, Tchy spravdi);
  • 1965 – The Willow on the Lyra Recording, Canada label (Verba, V albom, Nocturne, Namalij meni nich);
  • 1967 – The Star on the Pean Recording, Canada label (More radosti, Na bilu hrechku, Syniji ochi, V haju, Zhorzyna);
  • 1970 – Dreams on the Echo Recording, Canada label (Mriji, Drama, Kozhyj raz).

All of the above recorded songs are to the music of Bohdan Wesolowskyj (1915-1971).

Finally, in 1974, Antin Derbish recorded an LP of popular Ukrainian music – Snizhynka together with the Trio Trojanda (Тріо Троянда). His daughter, Luba Pankiw (nee: Derbish) was a member of the Trio. The album was produced by Harmony Records, Canada.


A Long Lost Love Song?

Most people associate a long lost love with a person. But, there are exceptions – for example, the post WWII émigré Ukrainian community around the world.

After WWII (1939-1945), many Ukrainians ended up in DP (displaced persons) camps in Western Europe. In the official records, these people were often labelled as Poles and / or Russians. These displaced Ukrainians were forced to flee their native land after the end of World War II when it became part of the USSR (1922-1991). As a result, becase they were involuntary emigrants, many of them had a keen sense of nostalgia for their homeland – Ukraine.

Original Ukrainian English Translation
Хоч і мені жить прийшлось в чужині, Fate has decreed that I must live abroad,
до вас я серцем вертаюсь, but, to you, my heart returns,
Рідні поля, де нам юність пройшла To the native land where we spent our youth
вам я цю пісню співаю: for you I sing this song:
Лети, тужлива пісне, Soar my song of longing
через море у даль… far across the sea….
Неси мою любов, Convey my love,
мою тугу і мій жаль… my yearning and my grief…
Лети у голубі простори I wish you good speed through the heavens
буйним вітрам навздогін, with strong winds in pursuit,
Неси понад Чорнеє Море And, please fly over the Black Sea
рідним степам мій уклін… and pass my respects to the steppes…
Лети, тужлива пісне, Soar my song of longing
через море у даль… far across the sea….

The above translation from Ukrainian into English was done for this website. The audio clip above was composed by Bohdan Wesolowskyj (1915-1971) in 1949. Wesolowskyj, together with his wife Olena Wesolowskyj (1917-2003), wrote the words shortly after the couple’s arrival in Canada.

This long lost love song for one’s native land was first performed by Antin Derbish in 1952. It was later recorded and became a hit song within the Ukrainian speaking community in Canada.

In an interview conducted by Ihor Ostash on February 28, 1999, Olena Wesolowskyj stated:

The first days of immigrant life are always hard. There is a longing for one’s native land, for one’s youth. All of this is present in this song. And that is why it became so popular.”
quoted from Ostash, Ihor. (2013). Bondi. Kyiv: “Duliby” Press, p.170


Many popular male singers tend to be tenors. But, Antin Derbish was a baritone. Nevertheless, he was a popular baritone.

As a child in the 1960s, I remember the family visits with the Derbish family. I remember how as children we would run up and down the stairs and corridors in their big rambling house in Toronto, Canada. But, more importantly, I remember that there was always music in the house. And, that after the traditional family dinner, vujko Antos (вуйко Антось / uncle Antin), would plugin the record player and put on records and sing and twirl me in dance.
Oksana A. Wynnyckyj-Yusypovych

Yes, Antin Derbish never achieved the fame and financial rewards that popular singers of his day did. After all, A.Derbish was an immigrant who had to:

  • learn a new language - English,
  • adjust to a new land – Canada,
  • support a growing family – 3 children: Luba, Roman and Lydia.

But, he brought people to tears – tears of joy, tears of love, tears of longing. And, for this – Antin Derbish, the popular singer, who performed Ukrainian songs as male vocalist in church choirs and choral groups, is remembered.

Text by: Oksana A. Wynnyckyj-Yusypovych


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Created: June 12, 2021