The organization and cultural activities of the
progressive Ukrainian community in Edmonton started at the very beginning of the
last century. A Taras Shevchenko Reading Room existed as early as 1901,
organized by the first few Ukrainian settlers to the area.
Cultural activities resulted in the organization of the Association for Self-Education in 1915. First dramatic presentations were popular and membership grew quickly.
At the outset, the Edmonton branch rented the hall of the Presbyterian Educational Institute for its activities and rehearsals, but quickly outgrew it and performances were moved to local theatres.
In 1920, the Ukrainian Labour Temple Association was formed, and in 1922 it bought the Presbyterian Educational Institute on 106A Avenue and 96th Street as its new hall and expanded the facility to meet its activity needs.
The new Ukrainian Labour Temple Association continued the work of the earlier choral-drama circles, established a theatrical library of plays for both adult and children's groups and gave regular performances. It established choirs and organized orchestral groups starting with mandolins. In 1927, the Edmonton Branch took its first early steps in Ukrainian folk dance, soon adding gymnastics and a band program.
During the 1930's, plays and concerts were staged almost weekly. In the summers, performing groups presented concerts in many of the more than 40 farming communities in Alberta, which had organized their own branches and built their own halls in the late 1920's and early 1930's. The performers rode in farm wagons over rutted roads, slept in private homes and on the floors of Ukrainian Labour Farmer Temples.
Ukrainian national festivals were fully planned for Saskatoon and Edmonton in July 1940, but World War II intervened and activities of the ULFTA were stifled by the Canadian government of the day.
In 1946, a National Festival of Ukrainian Song, Music and Dance of the newly incorporated Association of United Ukrainian Canadians took place on July 26-28 in the Edmonton Gardens Arena. It was a three-day event with 1000 performers from the four western provinces before a combined audience of 15,000. A first in the history of Ukrainian settlement in Canada was the arrival of a five-person delegation from Ukraine, including vocalists Ivan Patorzhynysky and Zoya Haidai who delighted the audiences.
In 1952, the present Ukrainian Centre, on 110th Avenue and 97th Street was built, and our cultural forces expanded and grew. 1959 saw Edmonton's Kamenyar Dancers and the AUUC School of Ukrainian Folk Dance and Music appear in the Canada-wide Weekend Magazine. This provided a significant impetus for the growth of performing art groups in our organization.
In 1961 the Shevchenko Festival paid tribute to the 100th anniversary of the death of the revered Ukrainian poet, as well as marking the 70th anniversary of Ukrainian Immigration to Canada. Concerts were held across Canada, with the Edmonton Concert at the Jubilee Auditorium before an audience of 3,000. Edmonton Branch at this time had two fine dance ensembles: "Kamenyar" and the "Lileya" groups, a drama group, Mixed Choir, String Orchestra and a Senior Dance Group. Celebrations were held with combined forces of Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge at various other centers.
1966 marked the 75th Anniversary of Ukrainian Settlement in Canada. A very special guest, Wasyi Pylypiw, the son of the first Ukrainian immigrant to Canada, honoured the Jubilee performance.
Canada's 100th birthday in 1967 was celebrated by a number of events, including a concert at Victoria Composite High School, a great festival with 300 performers at the Jubilee Auditorium, and the Kamenyar Dancers appearing at Expo '67.
The cultural activities of the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians in Edmonton branched out considerably during the 1970's. Over 300 people participated in choirs, dance groups and a string orchestra. Concerts were presented at the Ukrainian Centre, the Jubilee Auditorium, in high school auditoriums and in various towns and farm communities throughout Alberta. Our drama groups gave outstanding productions in 1974 and 1975 with the staging of "The Pencil" by Ivan Franko, "the Signature" by Vasyi Stefanyk and "Adam's Sons" based on the classic Zemlya (Land) by Olga Kobylyanska. In 1971"Festival '80" celebrated eight decades of Ukrainian Immigration to Canada.
In 1985 the highlight of our performances was the premiere of the musical dramatic choreographic production of the "Hutsul Wedding".
Three wonderful National Festivals commemorated a 100 years of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, in 1991. In Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto. 80 years of the AUUC were celebrated in 1998 with a joint performance of Calgary & Edmonton at our Edmonton Jubilee Auditorium.
The Edmonton Branch was proud to host the AUUC National Millennium Festival in 2000 with participation of performers from across Canada and with special guest artist Luba Goy, in celebration of our entry into the new Millennium. We thus also highlighted the part our organization, from the early pioneers to their descendants of today, has played in the last century.
The activities at the Edmonton Cultural Centre have always maintained a high standard of excellence and continue to do so today. At present the Edmonton AUUC cultural groups consist of the Trembita Folk Choir, the Trembita Folk Dancers, and the Trembita School of Ukrainian Performing Arts. We are happy to be carrying on the vision of our forefathers and promoting our cultural heritage by our participation in this wonderful Festival celebrating the Centennial of our two provinces.