The mission of PaTRAM is
to cultivate and promote the beauty and spiritual depth of Russian Orthodox liturgical arts in general and choral singing in particular, in both the English and Slavonic Languages. PaTRAM seeks to utilize rigorous educational programs, distinctive performance events, and the latest technological tools to realize this mission and founding principle.
Our intent is to positively improve the prayerful sound and quality of Orthodox church singing through
- training a new generation of master conductors
- growing the ranks of professionally trained singers in church choirs
- significantly increasing the musical collaboration among members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), and the faculty of the Moscow Representation Church of the Holy Trinity–Saint Sergius Lavra.
A Tradition of Orthodox Church Singing
Orthodox Christian liturgical worship cannot take place without singing. In the Russian Church, a glorious tradition of church singing dates back at least a thousand years. Even in the smallest towns and villages of Russia the standard “staff” of a church included an ordained priest and a tonsured psalm chanter whose responsibility was to organize and lead the choir and teach the children.
Through the centuries, skilled interpreters, professionally trained musicians fulfilling a unique calling—Bortniansky, Arkhangelsky, Orlov, Danilin, Chesnokov and others—led choirs that have united the hearts and spirits of generations of Orthodox worshipers in prayer. Even in the difficult circumstances of the emigration (diaspora), men such as Jaroff, Hilko, Afonsky, Ledkovsky, Evetz, and Konstantinov continued to labor in the vocation as professional choirmasters.
The Situation Today
As the faithful of many nations have honored Christ’s commandment to “Go into all the world and make disciples of all Nations,” the Orthodox Faith has spread throughout the North American continent. Today new mission parishes are being planted all over North America, gathering scattered descendants of immigrants and attracting numerous new converts. A half-dozen seminaries train clergy. The number of monasteries has grown from just a handful a few decades ago to many dozens. Through the beauty of the Liturgy—liturgical prayer and singing—heard increasingly in an understandable language, people are discovering the fullness and depth of Orthodox worship in spirit and in truth.
Many of our churches have come to lack the critical element of beautiful and prayerful singing that helps draw people to the “right worship”
Yet, sadly, the standard and execution of the singing have been steadily declining throughout North America and many of our churches have come to lack the critical element of beautiful and prayerful singing that helps draw people to the “right worship” (orthodoxia or pravoslavie) of the Holy Trinity. While a small number of Orthodox parishes continue to have on their staff a trained and competent choir director, it is more common for parishes to be challenged merely to find a qualified leader of church singing. Thus, many Orthodox church-goers today struggle through services marked by lackluster choral performances, often more mechanical than prayerful, rarely experiencing in their worship the full beauty of the Eastern Orthodox musical tradition.
The art of musically leading Orthodox worship in a competent, inspired way is complex and subtle, requiring talents and skills in a variety of musical styles, knowledge of liturgics and repertoire, music theory, choral conducting technique, as well as pedagogical and personal leadership skills. In a large parish with a full cycle of services, it is essentially a full-time job. And yet, there are few places in the world where a talented, dedicated Orthodox person can obtain the training necessary to fulfill these tasks on a professional level of excellence that is worthy of service in God’s Holy Temple.
Addressing the Void
Efforts to address the void – in the form of annual or periodic jurisdictional and diocesan conferences to unite and instruct singers – have been noble and well meaning. Yet, in and of themselves, they have not been able to address the persistent need for multi-tiered and ongoing programs to train and improve the qualifications of church choir directors and singers.
Our mission will be to offer a deeper opportunity to raise the professional level of North American church choirs through programs that span multiple levels of accreditation, utilizing master classes and multi-media platforms, including on-line training.
PaTRAM intends to positively change this situation in a manner that does not displace the jurisdictional and diocesan efforts to recruit and assemble singers and conductors, but rather builds upon and supplements them. Our mission will be to offer a deeper opportunity to raise the professional level of North American church choirs through programs that span multiple levels of accreditation, utilizing master classes and multi-media platforms, including on-line training.
PaTRAM will accomplish its mission through education and training offered by the foremost conductors and instructors in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The program is headed by Vladimir Gorbik, choirmaster of the Moscow Representation Church of the Holy Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra, arguably the preeminent church choirmaster of this generation. He is eminently qualified to usher in the return of traditional and professional-level singing to North America. Maestro Gorbik’s leadership, along with that of well-known American Orthodox conductors and church musicians, including Peter Fekula, Peter Jermihov, Nicholas Kotar, Vladimir Morosan, Nicholas Reeves, and Benedict Sheehan, among many others, coupled with leadership from the Orthodox business, legal, and religious communities, including the chairman of PaTRAM’s Board of Directors and founder Alexis Lukianov, a prominent CEO and entrepreneur, places this effort on a serious academic and financial footing, worthy of support by anyone concerned with the growth and excellence of liturgical singing in North America.
The success of PaTRAM will depend on the input and collaboration of many talented individuals who share our perspective: that the role of the choir in Orthodox worship, as an integral part of the services, must enhance the prayer of both parishioners and clergy.
We pray that God, through the intercessions of St Tikhon, will bless PaTRAM and all those who join us. You can help us by keeping our efforts in your prayers; by spreading the word about PaTRAM to all those interested in the growth and improvement of Orthodox liturgical singing in North America; and by supporting our programs with your contributions. To add your name to our mailing list, please subscribe below. We invite you to join us in this unique and exciting new venture!