According to various past histories, the first attempt to organize a choir in Steelton was made in 1905 through the efforts of Dmitar Kajganich and Dusan Kojicic. It was believed to be the first Serbian choir in the United States and Canada. The beginning was difficult, and it was reorganized formally in July 1906 with Djuro Milosavljevich, Vojinom Kutjevac, and Petrom Kosovanom as the driving forces.
Mr. Milosvaljevich, who was the church canter and later ordained a priest, assumed the duties of choir director. The choir, named for Branko Radicevich, the great Serbian poet, ceased to function in 1912 for various reasons. Subsequently, it was revived but never very active. After many years, through the initiative of Stevo Bakich, Stevo Suzic, and Svetozar Nenadovich, action was taken to reactivate the choir.
In 1933, the choir was organized under the name of Serbian-American Civic and Education Club with Stevo Bakich serving as the first president. Membership was composed of active singers and their supporters. When Prohibition was repealed, the Club decided to obtain a license for dispensing malt beverages. As the interest of the non-singers slowly turned to becoming a social club, the active singing members felt that they should be a separate organization. As it was customary in those days to dramatize Serbian plays at almost all their functions, the singers organized the Serbian Social and Dramatic Club.
The choir then engaged the services of Vlado Konstantinovich of New York City to serve as its first choir director. In early 1935, Mr. Konstantinovich found it necessary to resign the position. Stephen Cordas, a life-long member of the St. Nicholas parish, became the director and continued in that capacity until his retirement in November 1988. Ms. Nadine Klipa, also a life-long member of the parish, was appointed director in December 1988.
When the Serbian Singing Federation of America was organized by Vlajko Lugonja, he visited Steelton and encouraged the choir to join the Federation. The Federation is an organization composed of all Serbian choirs in America and Canada. Upon joining the Federation, each choir received the name of a famous Serbian composer, author, or poet. In 1934, the choir joined the Federation and was given the name of Djuro Yaksich, a poet. After a few years, it selected the name of Josif Marinkovich, a composer. To this day, the choir is known as the Serbian Singing Society Josif Marinkovich.
In 1938, as a member of the Serbian Singing Federation, the choir competed in its first singing festival. For the next nine years or so, the festivals remained competitive. However, after it was confirmed that some choirs in the Federation were using talents outside their respective church choirs in order to win, the festivals ceased to be competitive and merely became a concert-type affair.
Some of the past guest appearances of the choir include Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh, the Yugoslav Embassy in Washington, D. C. (prior to World War II), St. Sava Cathedral in New York City, and the Milwaukee Cathedral in Wisconsin. The choir also shared liturgical responses with the Russian Metropolitan Male Chorus of New York and presented a concert at the Gettysburg College Seminary in Gettysburg, PA. In addition, the choir has made reciprocating guest appearances with neighboring choirs such as Johnstown, Midland, Wilmerding, Aliquippa, Pittsburgh, and Lackawanna.
One of the great moments in choir history occurred in September 1985, during the testimonial weekend held for Stephen Cordas recognizing his 50 years as director. For this occasion, all former choir members were invited to participate in the weekend and to sing responses with the present choir during the liturgy. On September 29, 1985, history was made when the choir was professionally recorded and produced their very first tape.
In 2006, a tape of the choir's 1956 Christmas radio program was reproduced and digitally remastered to a CD format. The tape was presented to the choir by the late Bob Yanich who, as a local radio personality, arranged for and narrated this memorable program of Christmas music performed by the choir. The program, taped in our church on South Second Street, was aired on WHGB, Harrisburg, PA, on January 6, 1956 and repeated in 1957 and 1958. This very special piece of our musical history is now preserved so that it can be enjoyed for future generations.
In addition to their musical contributions, the choir has supported the church with financial contributions and by donating the baptismal font, the church bells, and the stained-glass (rosette) circular window located at the top front of the church and situated in the choir loft.
The present choir membership is comprised of about 40 very talented and dedicated singers. It is our hope that the choir will prosper for years to come and will continue the tradition of singing our beautiful liturgical and folk music. It is a privilege and an honor to belong to an organization which so faithfully serves the church.