South Florida Sees Its Very First Master Class for Singers

Written by Alex Milas


Palm Trees.

Choral singers??

Yes, indeed. Seventeen singers, all seeking to improve their liturgical choral skills, gathered together for a 3-1/2 day Master Class for Singers at the St. Matrona Cathedral in Dania Beach, FL. Under the guidance of Master Conductor Vladimir Gorbik, the students progressed from a random collective to an organized and synchronized group of vocalists in just a couple of days.

As with all PaTRAM Master Classes, the event began with a molebin in the Cathedral, served by Archimandrite Alexander Belya.


After traveling from Russia to teach this class, Maestro Gorbik had no idea what to expect. With the exception of the Lukianov family, he did not know any of the singers. He did not know their capacity nor their musical knowledge base.

He knew only that he had a group of singers, some from St. Matrona’s choir and some from other choirs.


This was a daunting task, even for a seasoned, experienced and knowledgeable professional, such as Maestro Gorbik. Still, Maestro Gorbik accepted the challenge and set about finding a way to take this collective of vocalists and shape them into a choir and impart on them his decades of expertise.




Due to the absence of the local Choirmaster there were some differences between how the local participants were used to singing and how Maestro Gorbik did it in Moscow. Typically, it would have been the norm for the visiting conductor to sing set pieces and the local Choirmaster to do the rest but, due to the absence, Maestro Gorbik was forced to do both full services.

With each difference there was reconciliation. With every cloudy direction the group found clarity. Together they grew. Together they connected. Together they became a single sound, rich and melodic. Sound in technicality. Beautiful in harmony. Prayerful in feeling.

Somehow one would never see that in the rehearsal hall/trapeznaya of the St. Matrona Cathedral where, as previously mentioned, things seemed disparate even though everyone knew what they were trying to achieve. It just didn’t seem to be totally what Maestro Gorbik wanted.


But the time finally came to sing in Church. Saturday, All-Night Vigil was the first assignment. The singers gathered in the Choir loft that evening. The singers seemed restless and Maestro Gorbik introspective. He impressed on his singers to do their best, heed his direction and, with God’s grace, all will be well.

A common misconception is that the All-Night Vigil is somehow easier to sing than the Divine Liturgy, the next morning’s assignment. “Not true”, said the Maestro. He went on to explain to the students why that is and that this would be their toughest challenge. Once completed, they’ll find the Divine Liturgy to be much less complicated.

Finally, the service began. His Grace, Bishop Theodosy of Seattle, was the Hierarch officiating the evening’s All-Night Vigil. Concelebrating with His Grace were Archimandrite Alexander Belya, the church’s abbot, and Father Sergius of Moldavia, deacons and altar boys. The Cathedral was somewhat sparcely populated at the start but eventually was well-attended by the local faithful.

When the time came, the choir began to sing the first notes of the service. Nice. Tentative, but nice. As the service continued, though, the choir grew stronger. Their voices more engaged. The sound began to echo through the church and a choir emerged that was nothing like what was heard in the rehearsal hall next door. It was beautiful.

After the Vigil, the choir seemed as much relieved as they were excited to have gotten through the service.


Still, Maestro Gorbik congratulated everyone and reminded them that there was still tomorrow’s Divine Liturgy, easier, but still a challenge. He also reminded everyone of the early choir call, prior to the Liturgy, where everyone needed to loosen up their voices and be ready for the Liturgy.


The next morning, again, a different choir came. Things seemed a bit scattered. The vocals didn’t seem to come together like the evening before. One could feel there was a feeling of trepidation among the singers. Maestro Gorbik did his best to calm things down and give the singers some focus and calm. No turning back now.




Back to the choir loft….the Bishop’s greeting began the service and again the choir began singing their first notes. Again, some tentativeness but quickly the sound began to form. More and more, as the service progressed, the singers felt more comfortable and the sound became stronger and more moving. And by the time the service ended, again, a choir totally different from that which populated the rehearsal hall earlier that morning, had arrived.


Bishop Theodosy made a point to say, in his sermon, that this class had brought the best of what they had to the celebration and deserved to be commended.


His Grace pointed out the importance of the work PaTRAM was doing and commended, by name, its founders (Alexei and Katherine Lukianov). Bishop Theodosy congratulated Maestro Gorbik for his efforts in shaping the choir and producing the wonderful sounds he heard during the past two services.

The remainder of the Choir joined Maestro Gorbik and the Lukianovs to sing the joyous hymn of “Many Years” (Mnogoye Leto) as the congregation joined with them and Bishop Theodosy gave his blessings.



The Master Class then posed, together with the clergy for a group photo. 

All the faithful were invited to the trapeznaya, afterwards, where the Sisterhood of the St. Matrona Cathedral served up outstanding cuisine and toasts were the rule of the day. However, one stood out from the others, “a toast to Ivan Belya!” Reader Ivan, St. Matrona’s council’s business manager, was instrumental in helping arrange this class, engaged the Sisterhood’s help with meals and oversaw the cooperation of the Church with PaTRAM’s management. A well-deserved, thanks.

The day ended with goodbyes, thank yous, hugs and blessings but what will never end is the knowledge this group received from Maestro Gorbik and the satisfaction of what they’ve achieved. Thank God, it all worked out and the Master Class was a success.


Chicago Advanced Conducting Master Class – Observers and Students Share Their Opinions

Editor’s Note: all the statements that follow are unsolicited and the author is credited at the end of the statement.

His Eminence Metropolitan Philip of Poltava and the Chicago Master Class conductors

I thought very highly of the choir, it was beautiful to listen to and, simply put, it was very well done. It further helped with prayer and the overall Service. For me, the Liturgy came to life, and I felt emotionally connected to the service, especially when the choir was singing. In fact, when the choir was singing, it truly reiterated what it was I had felt during the Service—a sort of excitement and tranquility that is truly unique to come across. Your singing allowed the Service run smoothly and flawlessly and I thank you for that.

The choir holds an imperative role in the Divine Service. The singing is not simply a form of art that is beautiful to listen to; it is something greater. By “greater” I mean it also relaxes and enhances a spiritual connection between the parishioners and the worship experience. It helps set the mood of the entire church and allows for a better connection between us and God.

With regard to PaTRAM Institute, I am keenly aware of this organization’s unique ability to unite Orthodoxy and the Russian people both musically and culturally in America. I find that this organization has tackled a difficult yet uttermost necessary task in bringing people together. I have nothing but praise for PaTRAM and think exceedingly high of this effort. I wish all of its members the best of everything they set out to accomplish and pray that they succeed in all their goals and missions.

Very Rev. Viktor Trotskyy, Dean

Dormition Cathedral

Ferndale, MI

Fr. Andre Papkov & Dr. Nicholas Reeves lead the opening Molebin

I came to this Master Class expecting to improve on a number of fronts: preparation, technique, and expression. I did all three, but in a different fashion than expected. As the term “masterclass” implies, I expected something of a polishing up. What I got was an overhaul, and quickly. In the process, the biggest discovery was that I actually needed it.

Dr. Jermihov shows Allan Haggar a few tricks

Dr.Jermihov met each student where they were, placing consistent yet tailored demands on each. As well, Dr. Reeves provided needed and useful insight to the roots and composition of our music, making preparation for music making easier, yet more thorough. Dr. Jermihov broke my technique down to the most basic elements and rapidly built it back up.

Allan Haggar making it happen

While this was a humbling experience, it also built confidence. I feel better prepared to lead and make music. I also made some great new friends. Thank you!!


Allan Haggar, Masterclass Conductor

Chicago, IL


Alice Hughes receives technical advice



Letter to Dr. Peter:

I went into the workshop week prepared to submit to the process and to courageously take in new ideas and techniques, as I have done many times before at other workshops. You know, get a conducting “tune-up” and a few new ideas. (I do the same every year or so with a voice teacher in NYC.) But you, my friend, helped me to do much more than than a “tune-up”. I feel there was a transformation. Time, and the weeks ahead, will show whether or not, or what will stick long term, but I believe it has dramatically shifted my approach.

You are a terrific pedagogue and have a wonderful way of meeting each student where they are. That is a gift. Each and every student made progress forward. From my “huge heart”, THANK YOU. The days in Chicago will be remembered with fondness, daily change, and forward progress.

Alice Hughes making it happen

I moved out of my comfort zone, you guided …. magic happened.

My love in Christ,

Alice Hughes, Master Class Conductor

Santa Cruz, CA

Dr. Jermihov leads Observer Conductors in conducting fundamentals

Due to the fact that the student conductors and observers also participated as singers during the rehearsals and services, an extraordinary sense of collegiality existed among us, having shared the same musical journey from Wednesday evening’s first rehearsal to the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning.

Katya Lukianov making it happen

In fact, we were actively encouraged to provide verbal and written feedback each day, which deepened our relationships with each other as student conductors, as well as with the ensemble. When I finally stepped onto the podium during the Vigil to conduct the compositions I had been assigned, I was met with an overwhelming sense of support from my colleagues, and affirmation of the progress I had made as a conductor during the intense sessions. As a church conductor who had never before lead any ensemble other than a volunteer choir, the experience of a dynamic collaboration with the professional musicians in front of me was one of the most exhilarating and intensely satisfying moments of my life.

Jelena Vranic making it happen

The strong sense of collaboration and collegiality, however, was balanced and put into context by the watchful presence and masterful leadership of Dr. Peter Jermihov. During every moment of the 3 hours of podium time each conducting student received, he provided thoughtful analysis of the student’s strengths and flaws, and created a learning environment where we felt safe to explore new options and paths not always open in the amateur setting. I personally experienced this in two ways.

First, I was encouraged to relax and experience the choir’s innate musical energy, providing only the pulse of the music and shaping the direction of the sound with small, easy gestures.

Constantine Stade making it happen

At the same time, however, I was encouraged to experience the generosity of sound that is provoked by using the entire reach of my arm, breaking out the the constricted style I had confined myself to.

All in all, my experience during the masterclass was that of intense preparation and a very rich and rewarding music-making experience.

A far cry from being focused on delivering a performance “good enough” for a church service, we had launched out into the deep—truly living out the experience of uniting our Orthodox worship with the highest musical aspiration.

Constantine Stade, Master Class Conductor

St. Louis, MO

Serge Liberovsky receives technical advice

The Master Class was a great experience for me and I learned a lot. Dr. Peter’s personal touch really helped not to mention the generous amount of podium time. An excellent experience all around.

Serge Liberovsky, Master Class Conductor

Los Angeles, CA

Advanced Conducting Master Class, Chicago, IL



Alex Milas

Executive Director, PaTRAM Institute

Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Institute

E-mail Address:

Website URL:




PaTRAM Institute, Tiburon, California – December 26, 2016


Talented conductors expect simple and concrete things from a master class: lots of quality podium time and meaningful feedback. In a uniquely designed format, the Advanced Conducting Master Class – to be held from June 21st through June 25th, 2017offers just that with a professional chamber choir serving as the students’ practice instrument under the guidance of a dedicated teacher and mentor.

“We are thrilled to present this unique experiential program in Chicago. Dr. Peter Jermihov is counted among the finest Orthodox choir conductors in the world. Those attending his PaTRAM master class will be immersed, inspired and mentored in the fine art of choral conducting by an infinitely gifted maestro,” says Alexis V. Lukianov, Founder and Chairman of the PaTRAM Institute.

Maestro Jermihov is a student of the legendary Russian teacher—Il’ya Musin and continues the precepts of the Russian School of Conducting in his own conducting and teaching. He has guest-conducted such internationally acclaimed choirs and orchestras, as Cappella Romana, Gloriae Dei Cantores, Moscow & St. Petersburg State Academic Chamber Choirs, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Russian State Academic Symphony Orchestra, Shinsei Nihon Symphony Orchestra, and many others. He appears regularly as a guest-conductor, clinician, and master teacher in universities across America and is the Founder and Artistic Director of the St. Romanos Cappella with which he concertizes and records newly composed works for Orthodox worship and historical masterpieces from the Christian East and West. Maestro Jermihov has served as an Orthodox chanter and choir director in multiple jurisdictions since age 14.


— MORE –


December 26, 2016

Page 2


Dr. Jermihov reflects on his approach to the class: “Conducting is a form of musical leadership that requires ascetic discipline and perpetual self-examination. Together—teacher and student—we will look for answers, some simple and some long-term, and examine where music originates and how we can transmit it to others. This class will be all about the student!”

The format of the program will offer 8 active conductors, 4 women & 4 men, 3 hours of podium time and intensive individual instruction. In addition, 20 observer conductors will receive full access to all 24 sessions and instruction in score analysis and preparation. Members of both categories of participants will be given a chance to audition for the choir. The master class will be taught in English and Russian (as needed), and the repertoire will be sung in English and Church Slavonic. The program will culminate in a celebration of a full All-Night Vigil and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy officiated by Archbishop Peter of Chicago at the Pokrov Cathedral (ROCOR). Selected students will be given the opportunity to direct the choir at both Divine Services.

Take advantage of this unique learning opportunity and launch your conducting skills to a new level. Registration will be available on the website below in the near future.

Advanced Conducting Master Class


  • END

Download the Press Release Here.

Second Annual Summer Master Class in Russia 2016

The Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra Podvorie Moscow has welcomed PaTRAM’s 2nd Annual Summer Master Class in Russia taking place Thursday, July 7th – Thursday July 14th, 2016! Our Master Class is set up to be one of our most culturally and musically immersive opportunities to-date.  Get a feel for the exhilarating spirit of this event by following our daily updates on the PaTRAM website.

As guests of the Podvorie, participants will work with Maestro Vladimir Gorbik in an intensive workshop on Slavonic sacred choral music. Accomplished singers, both male and female, from North America to Australia will join the legendary Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Podvorie choir in the singing of the Vigil and Hierarchal Divine Liturgy of Saints Peter & Paul. On Tuesday July 12th Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada will celebrate the Hierarchal Liturgy with the Moscow Podvorie’s Archimandrite Dionisi.

Participants will have the opportunity to visit Moscow, New Jerusalem Monastery, and Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad. On July 10th Archbishop Feognost, Rector of the Lavra, will celebrate the Divine Liturgy. The service will be sung antiphonal by the Lavra Choir under the direction of Father Gleb and our combined choir. This is truly a once in a lifetime experience for those of Orthodox faith to deepen their connection to the church and the historical culture within Russia.

Don’t miss out on our daily website photos and Facebook posts. Almost all of our participants were able to attend this class with PaTRAM scholarship grants, which cover full tuition. Help us continue this event by making a donation on our website. May God Bless your support!


Day 1: July 8th, 2016

Maestro Vladimir Alexandrovich Gorbik masterfully blends the voices of Russian Orthodox singers from around the globe.

Maestro Vladimir Alexandrovich Gorbik masterfully blends the voices of Russian Orthodox singers from around the globe.

Beautiful, sacred choral melodies resound in the Troitsa-Sergevo Lavra Podvorie.

Beautiful, sacred choral melodies resound in the Troitsa-Sergeevo Lavra Podvorie.

Russian-American singers of the PaTRAM Moscow Master Class join the renown Troytsa Sergeevo Lavra Podvorie choir to create inspirational and prayerful harmonies.

Russian-American singers of the PaTRAM Moscow Master Class join the renown Troitsa Sergeevo Lavra Podvorie choir to create inspirational and prayerful harmonies.

Moleben with the Podvorie's Archimandrite Dionisi.

Moleben with the Podvorie’s Archimandrite Dionisi.

Day 2: July 9th, 2016

Coming to a greater understanding of each word, each note, each prayer, each day!

Coming to a greater understanding of each word, each note, each prayer, each day!

Singing with INTENTION, and the intention is to glorify God from the depths of our souls.

Singing with INTENTION, and the intention is to glorify God from the depths of our souls.

Svyati Bozhe, Svyati Krepki, Svyati Bozsmertni, Pomilui nas!...rings out and floods the space with LIGHT!

Svyati Bozhe, Svyati Krepki, Svyati Bezsmertni, Pomilui nas!…rings out and floods the space with LIGHT!

Day 3: July 10th, 2016

The beautiful voices of our choirs resound as Vladyka Feognost serves the Moleben at the holy relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh.

The beautiful voices of our choirs resound as Vladyka Feognost officiates the Moleben at the holy relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh, Sergiev Posad.

Blue and gold cupolas of the Cathedral of the Dormition are the blessed background at the very special reception for the PaTRAM: Podvorie choirs with Vladyka Feognost.

Blue and gold cupolas of the Cathedral of the Dormition are the blessed background at the very special reception for the PaTRAM Podvorie choirs with Vladyka Feognost.

Today HISTORY WAS MADE at the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra as the PaTRAM:Podvorie male choir sang the Divine Liturgy in accord with the Lavra choir!

Today HISTORY WAS MADE at the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra as the PaTRAM Podvorie male choir sang the Divine Liturgy in accord with the Lavra choir!

Day 4: July 11th, 2016

Maestro VA. Gorbik spoke of LOVE today during rehearsal - a deep love for God and our fellow man. The choir expressed their love to all who attended the Vigil on the eve of the Saints Peter and Paul Feast Day.

Maestro VA. Gorbik spoke of LOVE today during rehearsal – a deep love for God and our fellow man. The choir expressed their love to all who attended the Vigil on the eve of the Saints Peter and Paul Feast Day.

The crescendos of the PaTRAM Podvorie choir awaken the soul; the pianissimo comforts us as we humbly stand before God in prayer.

The crescendos of the PaTRAM Podvorie choir awaken the soul; the pianissimo comforts us as we humbly stand before God in prayer.

Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada makes a special visit to Moscow to support the efforts of PaTRAM!

Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada makes a special visit to Moscow to support the efforts of PaTRAM!

Day 5: July 12th, 2016

A private, insider tour of Christ the Savior Cathedral with o. Leonid Kalinin, the Project Manager of the Cathedral!

A private, insider tour of Christ the Savior Cathedral with Father Leonid Kalinin, the Project Manager of the Cathedral!

The PaTRAM Podvorie voices filled the church with joyful prayer as Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada blessed the faithful.

The PaTRAM Podvorie voices filled the church with joyful prayer as Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada blessed the faithful during Peter and Paul Divine Liturgy.

The wonderful traditions of sacred choral music on lovingly preserved and shared by the PaTRAM Podvorie choir.

The wonderful traditions of sacred choral music on lovingly preserved and shared by the PaTRAM Podvorie choir.

Day 6: July 13th, 2016

Participants enjoyed their last full day in Russia by visiting New Jerusalem Monastery.

Participants enjoyed their last full day in Russia by visiting New Jerusalem Monastery.

A great blessing was bestowed upon our group as we venerated the holy relics of Saint Tatiana.

A great blessing was bestowed upon our group as we venerated the holy relics of Saint Tatiana.

29 altars grace this cathedral.

29 altars grace this cathedral.

Perfect ending to the week with a visit to the wonderful St. Savva Storozhevskiy Monastery in Zvenigorod.

Perfect ending to the week with a visit to the wonderful St. Savva Storozhevskiy Monastery in Zvenigorod.

Press Release: Second Annual Summer Master Class in Russia 2016

PaTRAM Institute is pleased to announce its Second Annual Master Class to be held July 7th – July 14th 2016 at the Moscow Representation Church of the Holy Trinity-St.Sergius Monastery(Lavra)in Moscow, Russia.

The goal of the Master Class is to offer Orthodox singers the unique opportunity to learn and sing in Moscow with renowned Maestro Vladimir Gorbik and his highly acclaimed Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery Representation Choir. Participants will enjoy daily intensive workshop sessions in Slavonic sacred choral music and optional guided excursions to Moscow’s holy sites and attractions, including the Sergiev Posad Lavra, Christ the Savior Cathedral, the Kremlin and New Jerusalem Monastery. The academic program will culminate in the singing of the All Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Download the Press Release

PaTRAM™ Master Class Moscow, Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra Podvorie, September 2015.

PaTRAM™ Master Class Moscow, Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra Podvorie, September 2015.

Archbishop Feognost To Celebrate Liturgy Accompanied by the PaTRAM Master Class Choir

PaTRAM Institute joyfully announces that Archbishop Feognost, Rector of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at the Lavra on July 10. Vladyka FeognostThe service will be sung antiphonal by the Lavra Choir under the direction of Father Gleb and a combined choir of American PaTRAM Moscow Master Class participants and the legendary Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Podvorie choir conducted by Vladimir Gorbik.

Vladyka Feognost will also serve a Molebin at the relics of Saint Sergius with the combined Master Class and Podvorie Choir. The Master Class will culminate on July 11th and 12th to sing with Maestro Gorbik’s choir for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul at the Moscow Podvorie.

Successful First Annual Memorial Day Young Singers’ Conference

St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Monastery in South Canaan, PA, hosted PaTRAM’s 1st Annual Young Singers’ Conference this past Memorial Day weekend. This course provided participants with the opportunity to learn more about the beautiful tradition of Orthodox choral singing. All in a hands-on, intensive classroom setting. The Conference was initiated as a 3-day music workshop, but it was so much more than a choral workshop. Being a part of this course, having the opportunity to sing with the Chamber Choir in a monastery setting at a hierarchal service, and venerate the Iveron Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos with St. Tikhon’s monks and pilgrims is not an opportunity everyone is blessed with, especially a youthful group such as our own.Peter

Under the direction of our faculty Dr. Peter Jermihov, Dr. Irina Raizanova, and Katya Lukianova students worked together in faith and harmony to become one unified choir. This Memorial weekend marked the monastery’s 112th pilgrimage. We debuted at the all night vigil and Memorial Day hierarchal liturgy under His Beatitude, Tikhon, Metropolitan of all America and Canada, His Eminence, the Most Reverend Benjamin, Archbishop of San Francisco, the Diocese of the West, His Eminence, the Most Reverend Michael, Seminary Rector and Archbishop of New York and the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, and His Grace, the Right Reverend Thomas, Bishop of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic Diocese of the Antiochian Archdiocese. PaTRAM’s workshop allowed students to soak up important musical knowledge while appreciating the power of Orthodoxy with words from Archimandrite Sergius, St. Tikhon’s Monastery Igumen, and lectures on “The Purpose of Singing in Divine Worship” by Fr. John Whiteford, St. Jonah Orthodox Church, Spring, Texas and “What is Prayerful Singing, and What Does It Sound Like?” by Dr. Peter Jermihov.



As a non-profit organization we plan to expand our course offerings well into the future through our official mission, “to facilitate the North American practice and cultivation of Russian Orthodox liturgical choral singing in both English and Slavonic on the highest levels of spiritual depth and professionalism.” We have many more events and opportunities for growth, learning and renewing musical faith ahead. God willing, our Labor Day conference will be held at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. This particular course, Young Singers’ Conference, is another first-rate program aimed at providing outstanding training to every Orthodox church musician for ages 15-40, regardless of their resources. We offer limited full tuition scholarships and still have a few available. Apply today by contacting Sanya Lukianov ( If accepted, PaTRAM covers your course training and materials, lodging, meals, weekend transportation, and weekend excursion! Participants only need to cover the transportation to get to the event. This offer is unlike any other opportunity in church music continuing education! Scholarship application requirements differ for each event but typically consist of a letter of recommendation from your parish priest, a letter of recommendation from your choir director (or fellow church musician) and/or an application essay.

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 is an integral part of the services which 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 contribution.

Listen to “The Purpose of Singing in Divine Worship” by Fr. John Whiteford




Article: “To Russia With Song” by Thomas R. Vozella

As 2015 came to an end, Thomas Vozella, one of PaTRAM’s participants in the First Annual Moscow Master Class, shared his experience on the ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) website. Within the article, Vozella spoke about the similarity between American Churches with liturgical worship traditions and Orthodox traditions, “beautiful houses of worship, exquisite liturgy and pageantry, outstanding psalms, hymns and spiritual songs by various composers. Instruments are not used in Orthodox Liturgy. Services are unaccompanied. It is music crated to the glory and worship of God.” We are thankful that Vozella allowed us to share his article and personal experience as being “transformational, both musically and spiritually.”

Read the full article here.


Vladimir Gorbik conducting 35 Americans and the Moscow Representation Church (Metochion) of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery Choir during Divine Liturgy

Russian News: Moscow Workshop Participant Speaks with


On September 27 we posted an interview with Benedict Sheehan, choirmaster at St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary in Pennsylvania, in which he shared his thoughts on the state of Church music in America and about the various projects with which he is involved. One of those projects is the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute (PaTRAM) which is dedicated to promoting high-quality Church singing, through private instructions and also through Master Classes throughout America. September 2—6 the institute offered its first Master Class in Russia, at the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra Podvoriye in Moscow, where Institute co-founder Maestro Vladimir Gorbik, of whom Benedict spoke, is choirmaster. Singers from America, Canada, and Russia came together for an intensive workshop in Slavonic choral music, as well as several pilgrimage-outings, under the direction of Maestro Gorbik.

We spoke with Isaac Crabtree of St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church in House Springs, MO, one of the thirty-five participants in the Master Class, about the experience. His thoughts and reflections are a testament to the work of PaTRAM and give us insight into the depth of the Orthodox choral tradition, and what can be accomplished both technically and spiritually when we give our best effort and our first fruits to the Lord.

* * *

Give us a run-down of the daily schedule of the conference.

This was a four-day Master Class, Wednesday—Saturday, that also included several planned excursions to holy places. Our final practice was on Saturday afternoon and we sang the Vigil at the Podvoriye Saturday evening, and the Divine Liturgy on Sunday. Each day was scheduled differently, but all were a combination of rehearsals or divine services and either planned or informal excursions.

For those who know Maestro Gorbik, he can have a reputation of being pretty strict and tough. What was it like working with him? Was it very different from working in a Church choir in America?
I am very pleased to answer this question, because I too had heard of his reputation. Maestro Gorbik told us at the outset that our class was like a journey up a steep mountain. His goal was to lead us up the mountainside, to that beautiful view. Only he among us gathered had seen how beautiful the view is at the top of this mountain, and only he knew the best way to get there. It was necessary, then, to follow him and accept his help when we fell down or got lost. This help, at times, took the form of mild corrections. Should we expect that someone who has dedicated his life to the millennium-long sacred tradition of Russian chant to have a casual attitude toward how we sing?

I think all of us understood that his corrections and admonitions were given to motivate us and perhaps also to humble us. After all, without humility and a willingness to struggle, real progress is impossible, in singing or in anything else. A few times, after some particularly difficult work or after some correction, he would tell us that he loved us. I think he said this every day of rehearsal. He didn’t say it in some silly or meaningless way, but in a truly spiritual way that also made us love and respect him. He demonstrated by his example that being truly kind, truly humble, truly loving, is not at all the same as being superficially “nice.” His strictness was a loving, fatherly strictness. His corrections were never humiliating, but motivated us to greater levels of musicianship. There was so much spiritual wisdom to his approach.

This conference was open to people of any level of musical ability. Was it a great struggle to bring such a diverse group together cohesively? How was this accomplished?

You’ve chosen the right person to answer this question. I found myself, a complete amateur, to be in the company of some truly excellent Orthodox American musicians, including the young and amazing tenor Adrian Fekula, already an accomplished ecclesiastical choir director himself in New York, from a family of distinguished musicians; Alexi Lukianov and Kelley Cossey, bassos profundo who took our sound into another dimension; Alexandra Pavuk, an incredible singer, composer and a music major; and my own choir director Constantine Stade, a music B.A., a quite experienced singer, and an authority in North America for the installation and ringing of bells in the Russian Orthodox tradition. Thankfully, though, I was not the only amateur. This was a class for everyone.

We arrived as individual musicians and were transformed through these classes into a choir. What can do this? I think the music itself gave me the answer. As the male choir was rehearsing Archimandrite Matfei’s Сподоби Господи (“Vouchsafe, O Lord”) the power of the music left this indelible impression on my soul: Тебе подобает хвала, Тебе подобает пение, Тебе слава подобает … climbing up to this amazing crescendo and heavenly chord. Truly, to Thee is due praise, to Thee is due a song, to Thee glory is due! Maestro Gorbik’s class showed me that there is a heavenly glory you can taste in sacred music when one executes it properly, and it becomes transformative. I think as we all began to experience this for ourselves the easier it became to sing and pray as one, or perhaps our unity led to the experience, or both.

He is also known for emphasizing the connection, which he argues is necessary, between musical excellence and a real, lived spiritual life. Was this something that you felt coming across from him?

Unequivocally I did. Maestro Gorbik taught us this both by his words and his example. I felt like so much of what I learned was not merely about how to sing, but how to pray.His classes were captivating. The rehearsal time seemed to fly by every day. Several times he stopped us, not in order to discuss our singing but to teach us something about the inner spiritual realities of the sacred music.

For instance, once he mentioned to us a legend that says that vocal music was taught to the world by Abel, while instrumental music was given to the world by Cain. Whether literally true or not, I was struck by it because it is clearly saying something about music as an offering to God. We know that Abel’s offering was accepted, while Cain’s was not found to be worthy of God. I really got the impression that Maestro Gorbik saw the sacred music as an offering, a sacrifice—far more than a mere performance.

How has your understanding of Church music and singing in Church changed or developed through this experience?

I used to believe that, while Church singing should be done clearly and prayerfully, too much attention to the aesthetic aspect of the performance made it somehow less spiritual. I no longer believe this. The class showed me that with music, as with everything we do, what matters is the heart’s intention. Church music is another kind of iconography. Just as an iconographer strives to represent the exceeding radiance and superlative spiritual beauty of the Lord and His Most Pure Mother in the images he paints, we should always be striving to offer the very best to Christ in our singing. The widow in the Temple gave only two mites, but it was everything she had. Like her, we singers ought to give everything we have. This intention transfigures our labors to improve the execution and beauty of the music into something very spiritual. I really think that both Maestro Gorbik and the efforts of the other singers shook me out of my complacency and challenged me to become much more serious and intentional about how I sing.

Do you feel the group accomplished the goals initially set for the conference?

The goals, as I understood them, were to train a group of American musicians in the several pieces chosen, so that we actually sounded not only like a professional choir, but like a professional Russian Orthodox choir. I am in no position myself to judge this, but Maestro Gorbik told us afterwards that the monastery was very pleased with us. Others of the faithful in attendance also expressed their great appreciation. Maestro Gorbik himself also congratulated us on a job well done. This was enough for me.

As you said, the group was also taken on several excursions to churches and monasteries. Tell us about that. What impression did these holy places leave on you?

It was an experience of Holy Russia. On one day we visited the Kremlin, with its sacred temples where the Tsars were coronated and buried. It was such a gift to pray for my children before the relics of the child-martyr St. Dmitri. One cannot see the very place in Uspensky Sobor where the Vladimir Icon of the most holy Mother of God used to be, where the Orthodox Tsars were anointed with holy chrism, and remain unmoved.

On Friday evening several of us went to Vigil at Sretensky Monastery. This was the fulfillment of another dream of mine. I have read Everyday Saints three times, and have bought several copies for my friends. To be in the place associated with Archimandrite Tikhon was such a blessing. It was heaven on earth to hear such a beautiful and prayerful choir and to pray at this service with my American friends.

On Saturday we were given a private tour of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior by none other than the Archpriest Leonid (Kalinin) who was in charge of its reconstruction. We were able to first attend Divine Liturgy in the lower church of the Transfiguration, and then to go into the main temple to venerate sacred relics such as the head of St. John Chrysostom, the heavenly patron of my own parish in Missouri. Archpriest Leonid told us about the meaning of Christ the Savior Cathedral, about how it represented the victory of the Church (and consequently, of Russia) over atheism. This was why the Bolsheviks destroyed it, and why it was so important that it be rebuilt during the spiritual resurrection of Russia. He told us about that bitterly cold feast of the Nativity when the Patriarch said the blessing on the hallowed ground for the temple’s reconstruction, and how a heavenly fire descended and rested upon that place.

PaTRAM saved the best of the excursions for last. On Sunday after Divine Liturgy at the Podvoriye church we took a bus to Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. We were there on the very day of the Mother of God’s appearance to St. Sergius and his disciple. We were in the very place that this happened. The monks had removed the glass covering from the relics of St. Sergius and I venerated the shroud covering the holy face of the father of Russian monasticism, and the Russian Church’s foremost ascetic, intercessor, and wonderworker.

I remember that in preparation for this trip I read the account of the appearance of the most holy Mother of God with the Apostles Peter and John to St. Sergius and his disciple. As he felt Her approaching, he told his disciple, “Come child, and we shall have a wondrous visit.” It felt like the saint was saying that to each of us—that his prayers brought us to Moscow to experience the spiritual power of Orthodoxy in that place. Returning through the Lavra’s gates, something prompted me to go to one of the icons of the holy parents of St. Sergius, and beg them to let me return to this place one day with my family.

Do you feel that your own spiritual life has developed by this experience?

I almost answered such a personal question with a laconic “Yes,” and moved on to the next one! That didn’t feel right to do in an interview for my favorite Orthodox website.

I’ll just tell you that I feel like one of the emissaries that St. Vladimir sent to the Greeks in the tenth century, and can say with them, “We knew not whether we were in Heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men … for we cannot forget that beauty.” Nothing can ever be the same for me.

What is the most memorable part of the trip for you?

I’ve already recounted some of them, so I’ll add just one last one: an epiphany during the Divine Liturgy. As I listened to us all singing Divine Liturgy with Vladimir Gorbik, on the feast of All Saints of Moscow, at the Podvoriye of Trinity-Sergius Lavra, surrounded by the holy fathers and the faithful, standing at the kliros before the icon of the holy Royal Passion-bearers, I remembered Maestro Gorbik’s mountain analogy from the beginning of our class. It occurred to me then that only as we reached the summit of this mountain was it revealed to be none other than Mount Tabor: Lord, it is good for us to be here.

Jesse Dominick spoke with Isaac Crabtree

04 / 10 / 2015

Orthodox Arts Journal – Moscow 2015 Workshop Review

Andrew Gould, architectural designer at New World Byzantine, and founder of New World Byzantine Studios and the Orthodox Arts Journal, participated in PaTRAM’s recent choral workshop in Moscow. He shared his reflections on the program in an article for Orthodox Arts Journal. Read the full article HERE.


Participants of our Moscow 2015 workshop during rehearsal at the Podvorye.


Russian News: Report on PaTRAM Moscow Master Class

Why did Americans travel to Moscow to learn more about Slavonic singing in the Russian Orthodox church?



Voice of America – Report of PaTRAM 2015 Moscow Master Class

This Voice of America report highlights our recent workshop’s expression of unity between Americans and Russians through sharing the Orthodox Christian faith. (Report in English.)