st-john-choir-1954St. John's Serbian Orthodox Choir

The St. John's Serbian Orthodox Choir was established in 1954. Learn more about its 60 year history. 

St. John Choir


By Robert-Bob Fowler—Choir Director

Saint John Baptist SOC was consecrated in 1954. This year never changes, and we will confidently celebrate our 60th anniversary later this year. The Serbian Orthodox choir of San Francisco, however, has been reorganized and renamed several times. Based on the history below, should choir anniversaries date from 1938, 1945, 1951, 1956, 1957, or 1965? Despite such formal changes, the choir has maintained a continuity and a  respected reputation from the beginning, which is far more important than its precise "age".

Below is a timeline summarizing important events in the choir's history,  compiled from a number of sources (which are listed further on). There must surely be some missing events and some errors - please let me know. Sadly, there is not enough room here to detail the full significance of many of these events, and the many people - singers, directors, officers, volunteers, benefactors—who carried the choir along through all those years.

One person, however, deserves special remembrance: Voy Cheyovich. Voy initially sang in the choir, then    directed it for 35 years (1964-1999), building the choir's reputation, its musical repertoire, and its music library. When choir attendance was low, he cantored the liturgical responses, and for a while even hired outside singers. After moving to Jackson, he continued to direct the choir for 11 more years, driving a round trip of 260 miles each Sunday without compensation. After retiring as director, he continued to keep an eye on us, and let us know when he approved (or disapproved!) of our direction, until he passed in 2007.

The history lists numerous occasions where the choir was invited to perform concerts or provide responses for liturgical ceremonies, usually for important anniversaries. In particular, at least five Serbian churches located in cities distant from San Francisco—Fresno, Phoenix, Arcadia, San Diego, Van Nuys—invited (and trusted!) the choir to sing at their consecration ceremonies, perhaps the most important liturgical event in the life of any church.

The timeline omits activities which the choir considers to be "normal". This includes singing at Sunday liturgies, holidays, weddings, funerals, memorials, slavas, and invitations to sing at certain events in the other Serbian churches in the San Francisco area. These "normal" events are by no means less important than the "important" events listed below—but in fact constitute our primary role in the church.

The choir welcomes new members. If you wish to join in our tradition, introduce yourself to the choir at the Sunday liturgy, which starts at 10:30 am, or call me at the phone number below. If you need extra musical help to get "caught up", come to the church earlier on Sunday; there is almost always someone there at 9:30 am.
If you prefer to study the music at home (some people do), ask to borrow a music book

Bob Fowler, Choir Director phone number 510-614-8704


1937 May - Archmandrite Georgije Kodjich holds first Holy Liturgy in San Francisco at 281 Castro Street [57b]
1945 Mar - Fr Kodjich dies, leaving the church his home/mission, which legally becomes St John SOC,
        under its first pastor Fr Dositei Obradorovich [79a]
1945 Jun - Fr Obradorovich organizes choirs at both St John SOC in San Francisco,
        and St George SOC in Oakland, both under music director Mildred Obradorovich [57b] [02a]
1951 - SF and Oakland choirs unite as "Kosovo Choir" under new music director Milan Vucich [57b]
1954 Sep - choir has two vice-presidents, one for SF, one for Oakland [54a]
1954 Sep - St John SOC building consecrated [54a]
1954 Dec - choir participates in St Sava SOC 60th Slava in Jackson CA [57b]
1955 Sep - choir participates in 1st Western Serbian National Defense Convention in Los Angeles [57b]
1956 Jun - Fr Milan Markovina required a separate Oakland choir and SSS Kosovo was dissolved [57b]
1956 Jun - the San Francisco choir immediately reorganized as "SSS Ljubomir Bosnjakovic" [58a]
1956 (Sep?) - choir participates in 2nd Serbian National Defense Convention in San Francisco [57b]
1956 Nov - choir participates as solo choir at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco [58a]
1956 Dec - choir participates in St George SOC 30th Slava in Oakland CA [57b]
(1956 Dec?) - choir participates in Northern CA Council of Churches televised Christmas program [58a]
1957 Feb - choir director is Theodore Gorbachev M.A. (1898-1986) [57a] [14b]
1957 Jun - choir sings at consecration of St Peter SOC in Fresno CA [57b]
1957 Aug - choir initiated  into SSFA (Serbian Singing Federation of America) [57b]
(1958?) - choir sings at St Steven SOC in Alhambra CA (their choir's 10th anniversary) [58a]
1958 Apr - choir participates in first All-Orthodox Concert in San Francisco area [58a]
1958 - new priest Fr Svetozar Juranovich [79a] [84e]
1962 - the "split" between Serbian churches in America begins [02a]
1962 - new music director Michael "Mickey" Jovich (1931-1998) [95a] [14b]
1964 May 8 - choir reorganized with new music director Vojislav "Voy" Cheyovich (1924-2007)
         and assistant choir director George Popovac [64a] [66a] [95a] [14c]
1964 Sep - new priest Fr Dusan Bunjevic [14c]
1964 - choir participates in consecration of St Nikolai SOC in Phoenix AZ [87a] [14c]
? - choir participates in special Christmas service at Holy Trinity Russian O.C. in San Francisco [66a]
1965 Sep - choir becomes a charter member of SOCA (Serbian Orthodox Choral Association) [66a]
1966? - choir participates in consecration of Christ the Saviour SOC in Arcadia CA [66a]
1968 Nov - choir hosts a visit & concert by Holy Trinity SOC choir of St Louis MO [68a]
1979 Sep - choir hosts a visit & concert by St Luke SOC choir of Washington DC at our 25th Slava [79a]
1981 Nov - choir participates in concert celebrating St George SOC of Oakland 55th Slava [82a]
1982 Aug - choir participates in Mother Angelina SOC Slava (consecration?) in San Diego CA [82a]
1983 Oct - choir participates in consecration of St Peter SOC in Van Nuys CA [84a]
1984 - choir makes LP phonograph recording of liturgical choir music [84c] [85a] [88a]
1984 - hired outside singers first appear in photo of choir on the LP cover [84d]
1988 - Voy and Diki Cheyovich retire to Jackson CA, 130 miles from St John SOC [89a] [14d]
         Voy continues to direct choir for 11 more years, driving 260 miles each Sunday
1989 Sep - choir participates in SOCA 25th anniversary festival in Cudahy WI [89a]
1994 May - choir participates as "honored guest" in SOCA Festival in Milwaukee WI,
        and later sings responses to Holy Liturgy at New Gracanica in Third Lake IL [94a]
1999 Nov - Voy Cheyovich formally retires after 35 years as music director,
        new music director is Branka Kovacevic Epps [14a]
1999 Dec - Fr Bunjevic formally retires, new priest is Fr Marko Matic [14a] [14c]
2002 Sep - choir hosts visit by St Sava SOC choir of San Gabriel CA [14a]
2003 Feb - hiring of outside singers ends [14a]
2004 May - choir publishes 420-page hardbound "Liturgical Music for Mixed Choir" [14a]
2004 Jun - choir hosts first SOCA Festival ever held in the Western United States [14a]
2004 Jun - new music director Marija Lazarevic Drezgic [14a]

SOURCES:54a - souvenir book - Consecration of St John Serbian Church building - 09/05/1954; 57a - concert program - 02/23/1957; 57b - souvenir program - St John SOC Choir initiated into SSFA - 08/17/1957; 58a - souvenir program - Aug 1958; 64a - manual notes listing potential choir members made in Nov 1964; 66a - Gracanica Herald of St John SOC - dedication of rectory building - 06/05/1966; 68a - souvenir program - concert in San Francisco by Holy Trinity SOC choir of St Louis MO - 11/30/1968; 79a - souvenir book - St John SOC 25th Slava - Nov 1979; 82a - Gracanica Herald - Jan 1982; 84a - Gracanica Herald - Jan 1984; 84b - Diocesan Observer - 02/15/1984; 84c - Gracanica Herald - Apr 1984; 84d - album cover from LP phonograph "A Sunday in San Francisco" (undated); 84e - souvenir book - St John SOC 30th Slava - Nov 1984; 87a - handwritten note from unknown source; 88a - souvenir program - 50th anniversary of St John SOC and St Sophia Sisterhood - 11/25/1988 (this is actually the anniversary of the congregation that eventually became St John SOC); 89a - souvenir program - SOCA 25th anniversary festival at St Nikola SOC in Cudahy WI - 09/02/1989; 94a - Diocesan Observer - article "St John Choir Honored Guest at SOCA Festival" - 1994; 95a - Serb World - article "Mickey Jovich and Music" - Nov 1995; 02a - handwritten notes from Doris "Diki" Cheyovich - 10/25/2002; 14a - historical notes kept by Bob Fowler during 1998-2014
14b - California death records - Apr 2014; 14c - remembrances of Fr Dusan Bunjevic - Apr 2014; 14d - internet real estate search - Apr 2014





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St. John the Baptist 
Serbian Orthodox Cathedral
900 Baker Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone:(415) 567-5869
Fax: (415) 567-5855




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