“It Is Truly Meet”: An Interview with PaTRAM’s Katherine Lukianov

In response to the newest CD from PaTRAM Institute™, “Blessed Art Thou among Women”, FanFareArchive.com interviewed our very own Katya Lukianov, Co-Founder and Artistic Director. FanFareArchive.com is a highly-respected online and hard-copy music magazine that specializes in reporting on classical music. They have published other interviews with PaTRAM™ personnel including Alexis Lukianov (Chairman), Vladimir Gorbik and Peter Jermihov (Conductors). FanFare has also published reviews of all PaTRAM™ CDs including our current one.

We urge you to read this excellent interview by James A. Altena, of FanFareArchive.com, published in their Nov/Dec 2020 (44:2) issue.

This interview is Copyright © 2020 by Fanfare Inc.

“It Is Truly Meet”: An Interview with PaTRAM’s Katherine Lukianov

BY JAMES A. ALTENA

Back in issue 42:3 (Jan/Feb 2019) I interviewed both Alexis Lukianov, the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of the PaTRAM (Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Music) Institute, and Russian conductor Vladimir Gorbik upon the release of the PaTRAM Institute Singers’ (hereafter PaIS) first CD, Teach Me Thy Statutes. That disc was nominated for a 2019 Grammy for Best Choral recording, and was selected “Record of the Year” for 2018 by MusicWeb International. That was followed in 43:2 by a joint interview with composer Kurt Sander and conductor Peter Jermihov upon the release of the premiere recording by the PaIS of Sander’s The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which earned a 2020 Grammy nomination for Best Choral Recording. Now, with the release of a third PaIS disc Blessed Art Thou Among Women, I have the privilege of interviewing Katherine (Katya) Lukianov, the Executive Director of the PaTRAM Academy, a program for training conductors and singers of Russian Orthodox liturgical repertoire.

Let me begin, as I did with your husband Alexis two years ago, by asking you to tell us something about yourself. You are not only a pianist and conductor, but also a mechanical engineer—a remarkable and interesting skill set combination. What aspects of your personal and professional background led to your deep involvement with the music of the Russian Orthodox Church?

First of all, thank you for your interest in PaTRAM. I grew up in a musical environment. My mother had a beautiful soprano voice and would perform in concerts, singing Russian folk songs accompanied by a 20-piece balalaika orchestra, in Michigan as well as adjoining states. She was also a conductor in our local Russian Orthodox church and I literally grew up in the choir loft. In retrospect, it is easy to see where my love for Russian Orthodox sacred music came from. I started playing piano at age seven and became a competitive pianist. I subsequently became a church conductor myself over 20 years ago. As for engineering, in middle school I developed a passion and proficiency in math and science, which ultimately led to me becoming a mechanical engineer and working at Boeing, bridging the design-to-manufacture of new airplane models. You are not the first person to comment on the dichotomy of music vs. science in my background. I have a deep passion for both. Engineering allowed me to develop my analytic mind. Interest in music, on the other hand, came from a deep love and passion in my heart for worship through beautiful and prayerful singing.

How did you and Alexis meet and become a couple? How do the two of you work together, both professionally and personally, in his business activities and in PaTRAM?

Alex and I met at age 13, in a Russian-American camp located in upstate New York. We were the best of friends for many years. It took a while for both of us to realize that perhaps it was a very good idea to marry your best friend! In terms of working together, Alex has several business ventures in the works. I do not work with him on business activities. PaTRAM is a different story. Alex handles the strategic side: future plans, determining concert and recording venues, organizing our choirs, event logistics, fundraising, etc. I work on the artistic side to develop themes and repertoire for our CDs. My focus is on the music. We both brainstorm the future of PaTRAM fairly regularly.

In the previous interview, Alexis gave us some basic background to the founding of PaTRAM, which I’d like for you to flesh out further. How did you first come to know about, and become acquainted with, Maestro Vladimir Gorbik, and consequently urge Alexis to meet with him in Russia in 2013? (Readers may be interested to know that I met Maestro Gorbik at orchestral concerts he conducted in New York in 2018 and 2019, and was also his guest for five days in Moscow in January 2019, during which he conducted and made a still to be released recording with his Russian orchestra.)

I had heard about Maestro Gorbik through respected friends involved with Russian Orthodox choral music. In 2013, Vlad Morosan (who runs Musica Russica) considered Maestro Gorbik to be the best current Russian Orthodox sacred choral conductor. My husband was planning a business trip to Moscow at the time and I began urging him to meet with Maestro. He originally resisted, asking me, “What on earth am I going to talk about with a maestro?” Although I did not have a preconceived plan, I felt very strongly that the meeting must take place and that something positive would come out of it. (Maestro Gorbik still refers to me as the heart of PaTRAM for this reason.) After my husband acquiesced, my dear friend Elizabeth Ledkovsky, who had contact with Maestro Gorbik, facilitated the meeting between him and my husband. The trip to Moscow was made during the beginning of Great Lent. For the Orthodox, this Lenten season has many unique services, with much of the associated music and text being of a deeply penitential nature. After attending a service and personally hearing the very prayerful singing at the Representation of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, where Maestro Gorbik conducts, my husband and he went out to dinner. That is how the concept of PaTRAM was born—a result of my husband’s brainstorm six-plus years ago!

Alexis mentioned that most of PaTRAM’s operations are funded by the Lukianov Family Foundation. Can you tell us something more about the Foundation, its purposes and activities?

The Lukianov Family Foundation was established for philanthropic purposes by my husband and me several years ago. Our foundation focuses primarily on two goals: supporting our church, and proliferation of the performing arts. In the case of PaTRAM, we achieve both goals by supporting the liturgical arts while helping to improve singing in our church and bringing greater attention to the beauty of Orthodox worship through music.

How did you come to shape PaTRAM’s educational programs? What were the obstacles and opportunities that presented themselves to you in the course of so doing that influence the various directions you have taken?

We began with a heavy focus on positively influencing the competency level of singers from parishes in the USA, which led to several successful singer programs at both OCA [Orthodox Church in America] and ROCOR [Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia] monasteries. We planned our events to coincide with meaningful events already taking place in the monasteries, which facilitated good attendance. In time, it became clear that it would be more impactful to also develop choir conductors, as opposed to just singers. This led to PaTRAM’s Conductor Master Classes and Academies. These classes and academies were developed with input from the three maestro conductors we work with—Vladimir Gorbik, Peter Jermihov, and Benedict Sheehan—and again were well-received programs.

Concurrently, we wanted to record music to showcase a very professional level of execution of prayerfully sung Russian Orthodox music. This led to our CDs, which struck a chord in the larger music community, with two Grammy nominations and critical acclaim. That was a very uplifting and humbling endorsement of our efforts!

I noted on PaTRAM’s website (patraminstitute.org) that, due to financial and logistical exigencies, the original online training courses offered directly by PaTRAM have been discontinued in favor of PaTRAM acting as a liaison to put students in contact with approved instructors for individualized one-on-one training. How has that shift worked out?

It was challenging to coordinate classes with a wide range of participants (Matushkas [wives of priests—Ed.], students, and singers who held other jobs) with different schedules and different needs. We also needed a minimum number in order to make the classes financially viable. As a result, we decided that the one-on-one training would be a better model (less expensive and with more direct revenue going to the teacher), and so we decided to facilitate the connection between student and teacher without being an intermediary.

Alexis also mentioned the use of Skype for conducting online courses. Have Zoom and other technologies been adopted as well, and if so, how are those being employed?

When we taught online classes with several students, we used an Adobe platform. With one-on-one lessons we leave the platform to the discretion of the teacher and student.

I likewise note that, regrettably but understandably, the annual in-person PaTRAM Institute Summer Academy at the ROCOR cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Howell, NJ had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What has been the impact of the pandemic and concomitant lockdown on PaTRAM, and also on the conduct of worship services and other activities at St. Alexander Nevsky?

We have been affected by the COVID pandemic in the same way as many others. In-person events have been cancelled to support the health and safety of all involved. We continue to keep a close eye on the pandemic level while still continuing to plan future events. We had planned to record our new CD of Rachmaninoff’s Vigil, sung by a large male choir, in Moscow this year but had to delay it until 2021.

The impact on St. Alexander Nevsky at the height of the lockdown was significant, as it was on many churches. Most services were performed by a skeleton crew, with those services being livestreamed. Personally, I felt the biggest negative effect was the limited attendance during the Great Lent season, which is a critical and spiritually edifying part of the annual church cycle. As mentioned previously, Great Lent is a time of great penitence, with fasting from certain foods, and increased prayer and church attendance, in preparation for the joyous resurrection of Jesus Christ on Pascha Sunday. I greatly missed the benefit of in-person church services this year due to COVID. Of course, this impacted our church (as well as all others) financially as well, which has presented its own challenges for more fundraising.

How would you describe your specific activities with the PaTRAM Institute? What—if indeed there is such a thing—is a typical workday like for you?

There are various projects I am working on from the musical side, from recordings to concerts to tours. I work on PaTRAM part-time, and my hours greatly vary with the projects at hand, which now also entail converting a local orthodox choir in Pompano Beach, FL to a professional level under the auspices of PaTRAM support. I largely work remotely anywhere from several hours per day to marathon days as the need demands.

As a teacher, what do you consider to be the most important information, techniques, and values that you attempt to communicate to your students, and what are your chief pedagogical methods for so doing?

Personally, I rarely teach, other than to develop my own choir now at St. Luke’s Orthodox Church. My job is to establish standards for what we strive to relay in every educational endeavor, which is how to accomplish prayerful singing. Overall, this involves tone quality, diction, and singing together as an ensemble, with good and appropriate dynamics.

We offer musicianship as well as singing techniques to our students during our classes. This is critical to helping to move the students forward. The additional specific elements we do teach are established by coordination between myself, the faculty, and the conductors, based on common gaps they encounter in their work with many various singers and choirs. I am happy to say, we have been blessed to have outstanding faculty at all of our events—true experts in Orthodox sacred choral music and singing!

Since PaTRAM is still a fairly young operation, this next question may be a bit premature, but I’ll ask it anyway. What concrete impact has PaTRAM had to date in its stated goal of elevating the quality of choir singing in Russian Orthodox parishes in the USA? Do you have any sort of objective metrics for assessing that impact beyond the testimony of parish choir directors, clergy, and parishioners around the country?

I would say that up to this point we have relied on the testimony of participants in our programs. We polished the questions in our feedback questionnaire to identify the pros and cons of our programs, and adjusted them accordingly. Most of the feedback has been very positive.

We recently sponsored a young conductor to receive a series of conducting lessons with Benedict Sheehan. PaTRAM will be showcasing his very positive experience online in the near future. In addition, I have taken on conducting the choir at our local parish. We plan to also document the tangible progress in this process.

My next question may be counterintuitive, but again I’ll ask it. Have you folks ever run into any opposition to your training efforts—e.g., insistence that standards of choir singing in a particular parish are already good enough, or that your program has the effect of excluding from choirs enthusiastic and devout parishioners who can’t meet your standards? If so, how do you work with such situations?

As is to be expected, we have found various reactions to our training efforts. Some parishes already offer basic training, so they strive to implement their own programs to meet their own standards. Some attend other programs, such as the Synodal School of Liturgical Music, held at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. But those who have chosen to attend our programs have gone so far as to say it was the best experience they have ever had!

Concerning the second part of your question, the interesting thing about Maestro Gorbik is that he started his choir with approximately 75 percent non-professional singers. Over time he brought them up to a professional level. So, teaching singers how to sing prayerfully at a high level is the foundation of PaTRAM.

Let’s turn attention to the PaTRAM Institute Singers’ new release, Blessed Art Thou Among Women, devoted to hymnody and service music glorifying the Theotokos (literally, “God-Bearer”), the Virgin Mary. Why was this focus chosen, as opposed to one on, say, the Trinity, or the Incarnation or Resurrection of Christ?

One of my favorite feasts is the Dormition of the Mother of God. Also, as a mother, I ask the Virgin Mary to pray for me to be a better wife and mother, and to watch over my children with her prayers. In fact, I once had a miraculous answer to one of my petitions to her. So, it was very easy to gravitate towards using the Theotokos as a theme for our CD due to my love for her.

How would you explain the role that veneration of the Theotokos plays in Orthodox worship and devotions, especially in liturgical music? How is that distinct from its Roman Catholic counterpart?

I would say that the liturgical emphasis on the Theotokos is much greater than I have seen in my limited exposure to Catholicism. The Theotokos, or Mother of God, plays a very important role in the Orthodox faith and is venerated in song during every liturgy and several times throughout the course of all vigils. As a result of her prominent role in Orthodoxy, there is a huge and diversified repertoire of Russian Orthodox chants and music written to honor her. In fact, our entire church calendar starts and ends around two of her major feasts—The Nativity of the Theotokos in September and her Dormition in August (the annual Church calendar begins on September 1).

There are also multiple representations of her in icons, often relating to her motherhood portrayed tenderly embracing her Son, so Orthodox mothers in particular are often drawn to venerating her, that is to asking for her intercessory prayers. One of the very popular hymns on our recent CD, We Have No Other Hope Than Thee, underscores how important the Theotokos is as an intercessor for the Russian people.

What were your criteria for selecting the particular works featured on this recording, out of a great many settings that might have been chosen?

Naturally, there are various levels of complexity in music written for church services. Some pieces are simpler (but still beautiful) chants. Others are complex musical works. For this CD, a variety of pieces was chosen to showcase the different styles of Russian Orthodox music that developed over many years, incorporating composers ranging from the late 1600s to the 20th century. Some of the pieces are commonly used in liturgical services, some have rarely been heard, others are considered concert pieces and are not typically sung in church services. A few of the pieces are the same prayers, set to music by different composers who lived at different times. We wanted to bring the depth and beauty of varying musical styles within Russian Orthodoxy to the listener’s awareness.

Have you ever had an occasion where a choir member was not responsive (for whatever reason) to a particular selection? If so, how have you addressed and resolved that issue?

Perhaps we have been blessed, but no, I have not encountered this. Of course, everyone has a personal taste in music, but when the choir comes together, we all know we have a common mission, and everyone strives to execute to his or her peak ability.

How has your work dovetailed with that of Peter Jermihov, the conductor in this recording? Have you and he ever found that each of you wanted something different in some aspect of the choir’s singing, and if so how has that been worked out?

I have the utmost respect for Maestro Peter Jermihov as a maestro and musician. He feels the music deep in his soul, and conducts with such talent and expertise! On the occasions when we have had differing opinions, we have always worked through them to find a meaningful compromise.

Another—hopefully temporary—casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic is postponement from 2020 to 2021 of a planned concert tour and associated recording by the PaIS featuring that summit of Russian Orthodox sacred music, the All-Night Vigil (Vespers) of Rachmaninoff. While I look forward to all this eagerly, the question inevitably arises: Given that there are already a plethora of fine recordings of this work, including the highly acclaimed recent one by Peter Jermihov with Gloriae Cantores Dei, what unique contribution does PaTRAM hope to offer here that justifies adding yet another version to the catalog?

I agree with the high acclaim for Jermihov’s recording with Gloriae Cantores Dei. In fact, my husband and I were part of the PaTRAM choir for that recording and PaTRAM was one of the sponsors of the recording.

We will record Rachmaninoff’s Vigil with an all-male choir, which is a unique contribution in and of itself, with somewhat unique arrangements. This masterpiece will be conducted by Maestro Gorbik, who himself is Russian and steeped in Russian choral music. He did such a beautiful job on our first CD, Teach Me Thy Statutes, which was nominated for a Grammy. We are confident that he and the choir, which we expect to be over 50 voices strong, will do a stellar job once again.

Another PaTRAM event, still listed for February 2021, is the world premiere in Moscow of Russian Cross with acclaimed Russian stage and film star Yevgeni Mironov. What more can you tell us about this planned event?

We are in the middle of planning an international concert in Moscow on February 8, 2021. This will be a joint production and world premiere of Russki Krest (Russian Cross) with critically acclaimed movie star Yevgeni Mironov of Russia. This concert will consist of Mr. Mironov reading the poem “Russki Krest,” written by Nikolai Melnikov, with our PaTRAM choir singing interspersed hymns that support the poem. It’s a very deep and moving work. We will perform at Zaradiye, a brand-new, state-of-the-art hall, that is just outside of the Kremlin. All proceeds from the concert will go to support Life in Motion, a not-for-profit organization that provides prosthetic limbs to Russian children.

This leads me to reprise a question I asked in my interview with Alexis. Have increased political tensions between the USA and Russia (in addition to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic) created obstacles for the realization of this project, such as difficulty in obtaining visas?

We have never had difficulties obtaining visas for our singers and staff in the past. No one has ever been denied entry into Russia. However, due to the pandemic, the Russian Consulate has been closed for months. Therefore, visa applications are not being accepted, and visas are not being granted. It remains unclear when the Russian Consulate will open and begin accepting visa applications once again.

What other plans do you and PaTRAM have on the drawing board, once the pandemic finally passes?

Besides planning to record the CD of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil with our male choir and the Russki Krest world premiere, we are also planning a series of concerts and singing of orthodox services in 2021. These will likely take place in Serbia as well as in Romania and Bulgaria in mid-2021. Additionally, we are cultivating our plans in 2022 and 2023 for additional recordings and concert tours.

What do you see the focus of PaTRAM being in the next few years?

As mentioned, we have stepped back from providing online education, but will continue to help to facilitate it. There are many other organizations that offer similar educational programs, and we would rather channel our resources into concerts and professional development to help proliferate the beauty of Russian Orthodox music.

We are planning an album dedicated to the music of Archimandrite Matfei (1938–2009), an hieromonk and legendary choirmaster from Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra Monastery, who is credited with maintaining Russian choral traditions from pre-revolutionary times through decades of persecution to the present day. That liturgical tradition has had a large impact on Orthodox music and is now widespread throughout Russia and the rest of the world. We hope to record at the Dormition Cathedral at the Lavra—the same place where Fr. Matfei conducted and worshipped.

Another highly influential component in the development of Russian Orthodox liturgical music was the Moscow Synodal School. Before the 1917 Revolution it was the musical nucleus, but was dissolved in 1919 by the atheistic government. Many of the faculty were then merged into the Moscow Conservatory, but the proliferation of Synodal music by its many illustrious composers was over. Many of these directors and faculty members were very accomplished composers like Kastalsky and Viktor Kalinnikov. From this school came many renowned students and alumni such as Rachmaninoff, Grechaninov, Shvedov, etc. It would be appropriate to honor all of them with a compilation of their works.

So, you see, there is still much more work to be done by the PaTRAM Institute to propagate Russian Orthodox music, performed at the highest levels without a hint of accent, in a prayerful manner in unique church venues, to the glory of God!

BLESSED ART THOU AMONG WOMEN  Peter Jermihov, cond; Fotina Naumenko1,5, Alexandra Olsavsky6 (sop); Lauren McAllister6 (mez); Pavel Murashka7, Daniel Shirley6, Sergei Tkachenko7 (ten); Leonid Roschko2,7 (bar); Michael Hawes6 (bbar); Alexis Lukianov3,7, Glenn Miller4 (basso profundo); PaTRAM Institute Singers  REFERENCE 737 (79:11 Text and Translation)

BORTNIANSKY Today the Virgin Gives Birth. Beneath Thy Compassion. KASTALSKY Today the Virgin Gives Birth. Rejoice, O Queen. TITOV O Virgin Unwedded. SVIRIDOV 1A Hymn of Praise to the Mother of God. P. CHESNOKOV 2O Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us. 3Memory Eternal. ZHELUDKOV 4Do Not Lament Me, O Mother. RACHMANINOFF The Theotokos, Who Is Ever-Vigilant in Prayer. VIKTOR KALINNIKOV Virgin Theotokos, Rejoice. N. TCHEREPNIN Virgin Theotokos, Rejoice. It Is Truly Meet. GRETCHANINOV It Is Truly Meet. DANILIN All of Creation Rejoices in Thee. A. CHESNOKOV Do Not Lament Me, O Mother. LEDKOVSKY 5The Angel Cried Out. ILYASHENKO The Mystery of God from All Eternity. LVOVSKY O Ye Apostles, Assembled Here. MATVEYEV 6Magnification for the Icon “Joy of All the Sorrowful.” TOLSTIAKOV With the Voice of the Archangel. To Thee, the Victorious Leader. NIKOLSKY To Thee, the Victorious Leader. ANONYMOUS 7In the Flesh Thou Didst Fall Asleep

This interview is Copyright © 2020 by Fanfare Inc.

PaTRAM Institute™ Board Members, Katya Lukianov and Tatiana Geringer, Interviewed on Ancient Faith Radio

Ancient Faith Radio, an Orthodox online cultural and music website, spotlights people that are involved in, and around, the Orthodox faith. AFR often plays music, in the sacred music genre, on their website, too. Recently, Mr. Bobby Maddex, AFR’s Station Manager, interviewed Katya Lukianov, Co-Founder, Artistic Director and Board member and Tatiana Geringer, CEO and Board member. This interview brought together both of those elements, Orthodox people and beautiful sacred music.

The interview was just posted on AFR’s website. Katya and Tatiana recounted their backgrounds, in both their secular and Orthodox lives, and how they came to be part of the PaTRAM Institute™. They also discussed exciting future event plans for PaTRAM™, their content and more.

We urge our readers to listen and get better acquainted with some of PaTRAM’s key players and management team.

“Blessed Art Thou among Women” Debuts On the Billboard Charts

This week, “Blessed Art Thou among Women”, the latest CD from PaTRAM Institute™ debuted at #7 on the Billboard charts!

PaTRAM new CD Blessed are Thou Among Women - Coming Soon!

The Billboard charts tabulate the relative weekly popularity of songs and albums in the United States and elsewhere. The results are published in Billboard magazine.

In addition to this, the PaTRAM™ YouTube channel has had favorable reactions to this new CD, too, including:

Viola Bear

There is literally nothing on earth like this extremely rare choir. I am a retired cathedral choirmaster, organist, composer, teacher and violist. I have dreamed all my life to hear such a choir.  I am so proud of this group and proud of their work. Blessings and long life from a humble musician here in California, USA.

Poor Man’s Vlog

Been listening to this for hours. I am now a saint.

PaTRAM Institute is very thankful to our listeners and subscribers for their help in making this CD yet another critically acclaimed success.

PaTRAM™ Institute’s Grammy Nominated Composer Featured in The Northerner

In anticipation of the recent 2020 Grammy Awards Ceremony, composer Kurt Sander was featured in an article published by The Northerner last week. Kurt Sander received a Grammy nomination for The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, PaTRAM Institute’s recent CD which featured his original English language compositions. This recording earned much critical acclaim in 2019 after its release, rising to #1 on Amazon, claiming a #11 spot on the Billboard Charts for Traditional Classical Albums, and ultimately receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance.

Click here to read Composer Kurt Sander’s feature in The Northerner.

To read more about the 2020 Grammy Awards Ceremony, check out our last blog post.

 

PaTRAM™ Institute’s Grammy Nominated Conductor Profiled in the Chicago Tribune

Maestro Peter Jermihov, the conductor on PaTRAM Institute’s latest CD, The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, was recently profiled in the Chicago Tribune ahead of Sunday’s Grammy Awards Ceremony. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is up for a Grammy award in the category of Best Choral Performance. The CD was a critical success upon its release, spending many weeks at the top of the charts on Amazon and eventually rising to #11 on the Billboard Charts for Traditional Classical Album. This is the first Grammy nomination for Maestro Jermihov, composer, Kurt Sander, and the PaTRAM Institute Singers™. It is the second consecutive Grammy nomination for a CD released by PaTRAM Institute.

Click here to read Maestro Jermihov’s profile in the Chicago Tribune.

Be sure to tune in to the Grammy Awards this Sunday, January 26th, to watch the awards presentation! The entire awards show will be streamed online via CBS All Access.

It is Truly Meet to Bless Thee, the Theotokos

Достойно есть блажити Тя, Богородицу (По русски)

Dmitry Anokhin

Translation by Gregory W. Levitsky

INTERNATIONAL MALE CHOIR RECORDS CD OF ORTHODOX HYMNS TO THE MOST IMMACULATE LADY

The visit of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” to Saratov, Russia, was accompanied by a unique musical project, which brought together singers from five countries. During the Dormition Fast, a combined male choir under the direction of Vladimir Gorbik, conductor at Holy Trinity Representation Church in Moscow, recorded a CD of hymns, entitled “More Honorable than the Cherubim,” in Saratov’s St. Nicholas Monastery. On August 22, the choir performed a large solo concert, which sold out the L.B. Sobinov Conservatory. A reporter from The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchy found out what comes next, how millionaires and doctors from the U.S. wound up in the combined choir, and what the overseas visitors did while in Saratov. PDF-version (Russian)

Day One – The Drummer’s Fate

It is the after-feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord at St. John the Theologian House Church at the Saratov Seminary. Outside, the warm August weather pours across the Volga region, while indoors, the atmosphere is heating up under the demanding gaze of conductor Vladimir Gorbik. To his right and a little ways back sits his chief assistant in this project: Katherine Lukianov, also a professional conductor, who over the course of her years serving in the U.S. has fostered three church choir groups, who now sing competently and independently. Recently, Katherine has been focused on the work of the Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Music (PaTRAM™) Institute. She worked as the non-profit’s executive director immediately after its creation, and now occupies herself with its development and repertoire. It is namely Katherine who is able to navigate the plentiful palette of choral concerts dedicated to the Theotokos, who arranged for such a large contingent of singers, and who selected the hymns for the future CD. Now, she works at providing simultaneous translations of the conductor’s directions into English. Otherwise, the work would all be for naught: joining thirty-six singers from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Saratov on the banks of the Volga were a dozen from the U.S., three each from Serbia and Australia, and two Canadians.

Their group is not only highly selective: you could say it was run through the narrowest sieve of exacting requirements and conditions. One non-negotiable condition – not even to be included in the project, but to have one’s application considered – was individually covering one’s part over Skype. Everyone who passed this selection stage not only received all of the score pieces in the mail (this being the program of a large concert in two parts – around an hour and a half of singing), but also audio files with tracks to learn the voice parts. The pride and genuine treasure of such scrupulous preparation were the dozen bass-octavists, stunning with their soft velvet low notes, which captivated both the audience members in every conceivable and inconceivable spot in the hall of the Saratov Conservatory, and the small number of observers of their rehearsals. “Five of them have a working ‘fa,’ three – a contra-octave ‘re,’” acknowledges the author of these lines, Vladimir Gorbik. “What’s more, two of them only discovered this during recording!”

Such a wealth of performance talent, with the broadest spectrum of ranges (the demanding audience could be certain that the first tenors could confidently and effortlessly hit “re” on the second octave, to say nothing of rigorously maintaining their singing posture) afforded the opportunity for freedom in compiling the project’s repertoire. Of course, church composers (both of bygone eras as well as our contemporaries) write less for male choirs than for mixed. Like it or not, such a large-scale project could not be undertaken without a talented arrangement. Gorbik entrusted this work to his student in the choir of Holy Trinity Representation Church, Andrei Chervyakov. Eleven scores underwent his scrutiny. And in each case, this work was done one at a time, in the sense that the arrangements and rearrangements for each section of the choir were compiled for a specific collection of singers. Moreover, the musical texture of the scores for virtually the entire program was presented not in classical fours, but in five-voice part-based arrangements (for the parts of first and second tenors, baritones, first basses and second bass-octavists). This, in turn, gave the musicians the opportunity to seek and find “diamonds” scattered throughout the scores – for instance, the stunning voice leading of the second basses in the chorus of the Song of the Theotokos “My Soul doth Magnify the Lord” from Rachmaninoff’s “All-Night Vigil.”

Sitting in the first row is one of the trio of bassi profondi – Alexis Lukianov. Katherine Lukianov’s husband, an American millionaire, he has worked for over thirty-five years in management in the field of advanced medical technology. Alexis also “moonlights” as the general director and chairman of the board of directors of the Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Music Institute. “Observing the evolution of church singing in the parishes of North America, I came to the unfortunate and distressing conclusion that it is slowly but surely degrading. The sound of parish choirs grows faint and faded, which hardly lends itself either to bestowing a festal character on the divine services, or to the mission of Orthodoxy. Aside from this, we would like to see our singers singing prayerfully and far more spiritually,” explains Lukianov. “My dream was this: if my business were a success, then I would commit one-tenth of the profits to a systematic correction of the situation. Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, gave his blessing for this undertaking. My business flourished, and we started off with courses for choir directors and singers – we conducted about thirty of these across North America. We first considered recording a CD when it became clear that our choir members needed some example, an ideal, toward which they could strive in their daily service. Thus arose first the male choir, and then the mixed, now known as the PaTRAM Institute Singers. Now it has become clear: if we do not explain the importance of our work to the clergy, then we will continue just spinning our wheels. Thus, working for the future, we decided to organize master classes in church singing for the seminarians in Jordanville.”

It is worth adding to this that Alexis’ breadth is not limited to business and church singing. He began as an amateur musician, a drummer. Nine years ago, he produced Broadway shows, one of which – “Memphis” – even won a Tony Award (the theatrical equivalent of the “Oscars” for movies).

Day Two – Nomination for a GRAMMY

Lukianov finances the work of the PaTRAM Institute independently. But in Saratov in 2019, he was able to cover only nine-tenths of the expenses. With uniquely American determination and drive to succeed, in order to make up the difference, he invited aboard two companions – Greg and Brian. Among the American contingent of guests, they were the only two who were not directly involved in the musical aspect of the project.

During the program’s run at the Saratov Conservatory, Greg and Brian tactfully recorded the goings-on on their phones, photographed the rehearsals, and exchanged whispered impressions, which this trip gave them in abundance. Greg, a Catholic by faith, came to Saratov with his wife. The pair was enchanted by the expansive Volga landscape, the Russian hospitality, and the beautiful sound of the ideally selected male choir. Brian is areligious, and came to faraway Russia, where bears walk right down the streets, with his entire family. He recalled how his relatives even teared up as they were leaving. And you could not be sure if he were joking or being entirely serious.

Why did Greg and Brian answer Lukianov’s call? The latter certainly had a trump card: the previous album of PaTRAM’s international male choir, also recorded in Saratov, three years earlier. Featuring a collection of Pavel Chesnokov’s compositions and entitled “Teach Me Thy Statutes,” it caused a furor in the U.S.: the authoritative musical review site MusicWeb International officially recognized the CD as its 2018 Recording of the Year. And this year, it was nominated for a GRAMMY in the field of “Best Choral Performance.”

Yet another American not in the singing contingent is instead fully immersed in the arrangement of notes. This is Blanton Alspaugh — a sound engineer for one of the best American recording studios, Sound Mirror, in Boston. And while the CD recorded three years ago in Saratov was a hair’s breadth from winning the most prestigious American music award, Blanton himself did win, as producer of the “Teach Me Thy Statutes” CD. This is either his 10th or 11th award – he says even he doesn’t remember.

The concert itself, which took place on a stuffy Saratov evening, began with a seriously threatening attempt to take down the doors to the Conservatory’s concert hall. One of the best acoustically outfitted concert halls in provincial Russia (it is no coincidence that, just before the start of the First World War, this educational institution was opened personally by Emperor Nicholas II), it had not seen an audience like this in ages! The audience, who literally fought their way into the hall, was ready to stand in the aisles. Meanwhile, the Most Holy Theotokos reigned up on stage: Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan had brought the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon to Saratov, and triumphantly accompanied it to the hall for the beginning of the concert.

“We have done nine-tenths of the work,” Gorbik announced to reporters before the performance began, referring to the project’s main goal: recording a new album. But it is likely that even the most exacting audience member at the concert – which lasted for two hours with no intermission – would be hard-pressed to name any particular shortcoming that could qualify for that missing 10%. The exact precision of the framing and the impressive nuance stunned the audience, and held their rapt attention for the entire evening. There was not even the slightest foreign accent in their pronunciation! And the auditorium fell in love with the inimitable baritone of soloist Michael Davidov.

Day Three – Breaking Boundaries

Gorbik is terrifying in his wrath. The style of his work can be outwardly described as tender authoritarianism; he himself likes to speak of the carrot and the stick. There is no other way to handle such a large artistic group, gathered from various countries and comprised of musicians representing various vocal techniques.

“The concert does not just sap energy – certainly, it also adds fuel. Any musician knows this,” admits Maestro Gorbik, who has three conservatory degrees (in Composition and Symphonic and Choral Conducting). “Feeling that more could be accomplished with the group collectively, I saw this goal and began to demand of them total dedication. I am very grateful to all of the singers: they heard me and understood me correctly. We have one American singing in the choir, Victor, a neurologist by trade. We had crossed paths earlier in the overseas master classes. After completing the recording, I approached everyone who had been on the receiving end of my ire and asked them not to take offense. And Victor admitted that such a professional approach had, of course, been stressful for him, but extremely helpful.”

But what then of the “report” of only nine-tenths of the work being done?! “I meant what I said,” parries Vladimir Alexandrovich. “But as a result, the choir gave not 100%, but 180% for the recording.”

After the project’s completion, Vladimir Gorbik did not fly home, but to New York City, where he was awaited by the Capital Symphony Orchestra. This young group, founded by Gorbik, is only two years old, and is comprised of two sections – Russian and American. On October 30, it will be holding a concert [in America], under the symbolic header, “Breaking Boundaries.”

Alexis Lukianov also has not tired of breaking boundaries. For next year, he has already planned a new international project – a concert of choral compositions of spiritual music, in which the connecting role of the conductor and the reader will be performed simultaneously by national artist of Russia Evgeny Mironov, who has already agreed to the part. Alexis intends for all of the profits from the project to benefit one of the largest benevolent foundations in Russia, one which helps handicapped children. For the year after that, he wants to carry out the same program on some of the most prestigious stages in Russia, China, Great Britain, and the U.S.

Metropolitan Longin of Saratov & Volsk: “The tradition of receiving yesterday’s schoolchildren into seminary is becoming obsolete.”

The head of the Saratov Metropolitanate speaks about why he took the international Orthodox choral project under his wing, what he feels when he remembers the 1990s, and under what conditions it would be possible to resurrect the old diocesan cathedral on the current site of the “Dynamo” Stadium. PDF-version (Russian)

It took an entire year to prepare for the arrival of the Kursk Root Icon.

— Your Eminence, the performance of the international combined male choir under the direction of Vladimir Gorbik in Saratov was accompanied by the visitation to your diocese of the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign.” The choir greeted this sacred icon in Saratov’s Holy Virgin Protection Church, and then sang at Divine Liturgy. How significant are these festive events for the entire Metropolitanate and for Saratov?

— The visitation of any holy object to our diocese is always very important, and stirs the faithful of Saratov. The thing is that the Lower and Central Volga regions are relatively young as Russian lands. Unlike ancient Russian cities, Saratov cannot boast of a centuries-old history of Orthodoxy, overflowing with examples of saintly God-pleasers. We do not have the same number of saints and holy icons and relics as, for example, another Volga city like Yaroslavl. Therefore, any encounter with a wonderworking icon visiting from afar is especially meaningful for the flock. All the more so, since we are speaking of one of the principal holy icons of the Russian Diaspora, whose history reaches back over seven centuries. As we know, the Kursk Root Icon takes part annually in the revived historic procession in the Kursk Metropolitanate to the Kursk Root Hermitage, and then visits one additional diocese in Russia. We prepared for over a year to greet the icon.

— The project under the direction of Maestro Gorbik has a backstory, and it was here, in Saratov, that three years ago the same group recorded its first double album of Orthodox hymnography. What is behind this mutual fondness between the choir and your diocese?

— Vladimir Alexandrovich is a person dear to me, even very close. He began his work as a choir director when he was still a student at the Moscow State Conservatory, at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra Representation Church in Moscow, where I was rector at that time. And we formed a truly fruitful team. I was not just his boss – for a while, he also confessed to me. When he finished the conservatory with honors and received various job offers, he came to me for advice in choosing his career path. I told him that I saw him as a choir director. You see, for a professional musician, even one who is a sincere believer, obedience in the choir, with rare exception, remains off to the side, a secondary activity. What then could one expect of a young man who just recently came to the Church! Nevertheless, after giving it some thought, he agreed with me, and was not afraid to reject a secular musical career.

In 2003, I took up the See of Saratov, but we did not stop corresponding. And the choir at the Holy Trinity Metochion was highly appreciated by Orthodox Americans who went to Russia on pilgrimage. They especially liked the combination of utmost professionalism with a firm grounding in the tradition of Lavra singing, which Gorbik inherited from Archimandrite Matthew (Mormyl). At first, they invited Vladimir to the U.S. for the master classes. Later, a combined male choir was formed. With the support of wealthy Orthodox Americans who were not afraid to invest their own money in the project, the Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Music Institute was founded, which has as its goal the elevation of church singing in the U.S. parishes. It was this organization that proposed the idea of recording CDs with choral compositions selected from the treasury of Russian church music, which themselves could become missionary Orthodox projects in the West. Three years ago, the first album with works by Pavel Chesnokov was successfully recorded in Saratov. This time, hymns were chosen in honor of the Mother of God. In addition to the recording and the divine services, there was also a concert in the Saratov State Conservatory, at which the Kursk Root Icon was present.

— Vladyka, you served as rector of Holy Trinity Representation Church in Moscow for almost eleven years. That time was a difficult one for the country and for Russian society. What do you remember from that period most of all?

— Human memory is selective, and generally retains mostly good memories. But these were truly difficult times. At the very moment when I was appointed rector, the so-called Abkhaz-Georgian conflict erupted in my adopted homeland of Sukhumi. My mother was evacuated to Sochi on a military transport under fire from the beach. The Representation Church in Moscow did not exist at that time as we understand it today: its territory was a large landfill. We gradually succeeded in returning the remaining buildings and part of the former grounds to the Church.

The nineties are often characterized as a time of collapse. This is accurate. But at the same time, this decade was a period of unheard-of ascent for the Church. Our generation was lucky to have begun our service and grown in it during these years. A multitude of good, open, sincere people came to the Church – enthusiasts in the highest sense of the word. They returned to the Church as if they were returning home, which was unbelievably inspiring. That was a time of sacrifice of the kind we rarely see today.

A night-time education at the theological schools

— You have led the See of Saratov of sixteen years. How would you characterize the general trends of your service here?

— In day-to-day affairs, I try to develop Church life in all of its spheres: building churches, engaging in Orthodox education and formation. Several monasteries have been restored, several have been built from scratch and opened. If I had to highlight one of the completed undertakings, it would be the seminary I head. Of course, we have more left to do. For instance, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, which before the revolution was one of the most renowned in the Central Volga region, is still awaiting real restoration work. But the most important thing in Church life is the people: the pastors and the flock. Therefore, my first concern is for them.

— Five years ago, the Saratov Seminary obtained both a well-adorned building on Michurin Street, and the beautiful St. John the Theologian House Church. In one of the latest Church-wide rankings, this educational institution soared to the uppermost rungs. What is the secret of these impressive results?

— It is my deep conviction that the main administrative task of the ruling bishop is to select faithful personnel and place them appropriately. Every key position must be occupied by someone who is capable of accomplishing the tasks set before him with maximum success. I do not recommend governing according to any other criteria, and I try not to even pay such criteria any mind. Of course, as ruling bishop, I cannot constantly delve into the everyday affairs of the seminary, and thus especially important are the qualifications of my assistants – provosts, inspectors, and course professors.

— How was your 2019 recruitment campaign? Are you satisfied with the quality of students you admitted? And what did the application “contest” require?

— We have not had a contest as such for a relatively long time. We accept virtually all who are willing, except, of course, outright “D students.” There are relatively many seminaries open now, so for the most part we teach local Saratov students. In itself, this is not bad; after all, before the revolution, the seminaries trained their own local personnel for service in their dioceses. But new students vary strikingly not only from applicants twenty years ago, but even ten years ago. This is connected to the fact that young people have practically stopped reading. If, at the beginning of the 2010s, I would ask an applicant what book he had recently read, now I have to ask what movies he has recently watched, what games he has played, what music he prefers. And we are not talking about boys coming in from the street – these are good, well-mannered, more or less churched young men!

I think that the practice of receiving high school graduates into seminary is becoming obsolete. Today’s seventeen to eighteen-year-olds still possess an unacceptable degree of infantilism. It is not so much that they lack motivation in life, but that they do not even think about it, with absolutely no appreciation for what it even is! Many of them are not prepared internally for the prospect of being ordained. Of course, five years of education in seminary does not leave you without some trace. Those who survive our education regimen are changed by the theological school. But a significant number drops out – in some years, this has been up to half of the students. I have absolutely no interest in quantities or statistical percentages! I consider it better to bid a timely farewell to someone who does not belong at the theological school, than to drag him to his diploma by means of whatever truths or fictions are needed, and then you don’t know if you should ordain him or what. If this current and unpleasant trend continues, we will have to seriously consider altering the principles of our work with student-seminarians.

However, in my view, the time has come to create the conditions for well-composed, family men to receive a quality seminary education. We understand that they cannot drop their families and jobs and come live with us in the dormitory. Of great value here is our correspondence department, which we have seen evolve over the past years. Traditionally, it was mainly clergy who studied this way. But now it is not so: there are not many such cases, but the number of ordinations among the correspondence students happens at no less a rate than among the general student population.

In my day, I happened to receive my university education by taking night classes. Clearly such a format could be useful in theological schools, as well, especially for seminaries located in big regional centers. If such a thing were to happen, students could receive a quality theological education, and the staff and administration would have a chance to see them as they developed, and not once or twice a year, as with the correspondence students. After all, the rector-bishop must know the candidates for ordination not merely by reputation or paperwork, but individually!

— Saratov State University is one of the best in the Volga region. Are there any opportunities for collaboration?

— Of course. From the very beginning, we had very honest, genial relationships with the former rector (now president) of the university, Leonid Kossovich, and with his successor, Alexey Chumachenko. Our professors teach courses in the Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies Departments, and the university professors help in our education process. We hold a large number of joint events. For instance, the Pimen Readings, dedicated to the memory of our department head in the Soviet era, Archbishop Pimen (Khmelevsky). The university students are very active on social media and recently started a Facebook group named “Orthodox Saratov.” The university church dedicated to the Holy Equals-of-the-Apostles Cyril & Methodius is a de facto parish, with parishioners worshipping there on Sundays and feast days. The community there is very strong and friendly, a lecture hall is available for the students, and meetings with interesting people are organized on weekdays.

“Program 20” – Preliminary Results

Holy Trinity Diocesan Cathedral, built in 1674, is not far from the banks of the Volga River, and is one of the landmarks of Saratov. It is considered the oldest building in the city, and is the first entry in the regional codex of cultural heritage sites, identified as a monument of federal significance. Does it accommodate all who wish to worship there, or is it, as the saying goes, “bursting at the seams”?

— No, it is not bursting at the seams; there is room inside for all who wish to pray there. On especially significant days, which are attended by guests from various cities and regions, we perform the festal divine services in the more capacious Holy Protection Church. But generally, the situation with the operational churches has righted itself: no longer are there instances where people are crushed or forced to pray on the street. When I came to this diocese, the new Saratov suburbs did not have a single church! Over the past two years, we have gotten nineteen up and running, with construction being completed on a twentieth. Our average capacity is 11,500 for each of our sixty-four parishes. This is an acceptable amount.

— What about the “new” Diocesan Cathedral of the Holy Right-Believing Alexander Nevsky, which our forebears built in memory of the victory over Napoleon? Is rebuilding it really unrealistic?

— Why, it’s entirely realistic! But the matter is complicated now, in that the “Dynamo” Stadium currently occupies that spot. And the situation with sports venues in Saratov is very lamentable, and we cannot eliminate one of the most accessible stadiums for our citizens. That is why a necessary precondition of restoring the historic St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral is the relocation of the “Dynamo” Stadium to another location in the city center. I hope that with time this plan will be realized, and we will see a restored “new” diocesan cathedral. This would be just and proper, as the remains of two of Saratov’s hierarchs – Bishops Abraamius (Letnitsky) and Euthymius (Belikov) – are buried below the racetrack at “Dynamo” Stadium.

— You have announced that one of the diocese’s tasks is to restore dilapidated and neglected prerevolutionary churches. Are you referring to architectural monuments in particular, or not only these?

— Virtually all such buildings have protected status, and for those that do not, we are currently launching the requisite registration process. So far, we are only approaching this task. There are about sixty such buildings in the Saratov Oblast, in our diocese – about forty. Some of them are able to host the divine services. In some places, nothing is left around the church – the villages died out. There are several examples of dying churches being restored either by the parishes themselves or by benefactors. Right now, we are trying to give a more coordinated character to this process. Let us say there is a large dilapidated cathedral in the village of Kutyino. Next door, they have opened a small, simple church, which entirely suffices for the performing of divine services for the small parish community. But the church was very beautiful, and on a diocesan level, of course, we ought to think about how to prevent its total loss.

— Eight years ago, answering a local reporter’s question about relations with the regional government, you answered, not without some subtle humor: “The only unfortunate thing is that issues relating to some problems or other in church life are resolved very slowly. The coefficient of useful action is often close to zero, but despite this, our relations remain good.” What about now?

— Thankfully, these problems stayed in the past. The key issues in our region are tackled with the help of the speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Volodin, for which all citizens of Saratov are grateful to him. I think that, in this sense, the Orthodox faithful are no exception.

Project Participants Sound Off

Deacon Nicholas Kotar, choir director at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville (New York, U.S.):

— I do not have a musical education: I taught myself; I’ve been in the choir since childhood. The repertoire here was, of course, magnificent. Our singers, who are primarily used to the sound of non-professional choirs, could not have performed this music without preparation. The rearrangements were also complex: the tenors had very high notes.

Nektary Kotlaroff, student (Australia)

— In Sydney and Melbourne, I direct the Russian Orthodox Choir of Australia. We only have amateurs singing with us, and so this repertoire seemed a little complex for us. We know these composers by name, of course, but far from all of the compositions were familiar to us before we began this project.

© The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchy and Church Herald, 2007-2011

PaTRAM™ Returns From Successful Recording Trip in Saratov, Russia

The PaTRAM Institute Male Choir recently returned from Saratov, Russia, where they recorded the next CD to be released on the Reference Recording label, More Honorable Than the Cherubim. Release date is TBA for 2021.

The new CD is a compendium of hymns to the Theotokos, performed by a fifty-six member male choir. The choir was directed by Grammy nominated Maestro Vladimir Gorbik. The singers hailed from Russia, Serbia, North America, and Australia. Michael Davydov was the featured soloist and the choir featured an unprecedented ten oktavists! Click here to listen to the choir during rehearsal and see more of the gorgeous Nikolsky Monastery.

The first day of rehearsal began with a Moleben at the seminary church in Saratov. The Associate Producers also spent the day watching the choir rehearse. Later that evening, the Kursk Root Icon arrived in Saratov with Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan. The PaTRAM Institute Male Choir sang at the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral to greet the Icon as it arrived. Click here to watch and hear our choir. There was then a Moleben and Akathist at the Cathedral in honor of the Kursk Root Icon. Click here to watch the service and listen to our choir!

On the second day of recording, the PaTRAM Institute Male Choir continued rehearsal at Nikolsky Monastery. While the choir rehearsed, our Associate Producers enjoyed an all-day tour of churches and other points of interest in Saratov.

Our third day of rehearsal on Thursday, August 22nd culminated with a press conference and concert at the Saratov Conservatory. It was an evening to remember! The concert set a record for attendance and included the governor and minister of culture. Bishop Nicholas, carrying the Kursk Root Icon and accompanied by Metropolitan Longin, led the procession into the standing room only auditorium. The hierarchs, and the 1,000+ people in attendance, then witnessed a riveting performance culminating with an encore and standing ovation.

Click here to check out an article about our trip to Saratov that was posted to the Saratov Minister of Culture website.

The next day, the choir then began the professional recording of the new CD with multi-GRAMMY Award-winning production company, Sound Mirror. PaTRAM partnered with Blanton Alspaugh and John Newton of Sound Mirror on our last two CDs, including the Grammy-nominated Teach Me Thy Statutes. It was wonderful to work with them again toward what we hope will be a world-class Disc which showcases the beauty of Russian choral music.

On Sunday the 25th, the PaTRAM Institute Male Choir sang during the Hierarchical service that was held at the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in the presence of the Kursk Root Icon. Metropolitan Longin acknowledged the group and awarded medals of the 1st order to Alexis and Katya Lukianov and Vladimir Gorbik; orders of the 2nd order to John Newton and Blanton Alspaugh of SoundMirror; 3rd order awards to Alex Milas, Tatiana Geringer, Natalia Prokopeca, and Andrei Zemtsov; and Gramotas to Andrei Chervikov, Leann Alspaugh, Oleg Guskov, and Michael Shoshin. Afterwards our group enjoyed a celebratory luncheon with Metropolitan Longin.

Click here to listen to the choir singing during the service.

From there, our group enjoyed a day of relaxation and fun on the Volga River. A boat ride took the group to a relaxing banya, dinner, ad hoc volleyball games, and swim in the beautiful Volga. It was a wonderful day and many new friendships were cemented!

On Monday, it was back to work for the final day of recording for the new CD. You can hear how fantastic the choir sounds by listening to these clips (here and here)! It was overall a very successful experience and we can’t wait to share the CD with you in the near future. PaTRAM was even featured on the local news in Saratov!

Following the final day of recording, many of the singers and support staff began to make their way back home, but some remained to celebrate the Feast of the Dormition. Eleven remaining members of the PaTRAM Institute Male Choir sang with the local choir during the Hierarchical Dormition vigil, which was celebrated by Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan with the Wonderworking Kursk Root icon at the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral. While it was in Russia, more than 18,000 people came to venerate the Icon! We were blessed to have it traveling with us.

Alongside the tremendous effort of the choir, we also had our Associate Producers traveling with us as they enjoyed the Ultimate Russia Insider Experience! The Associate Producers arrived in Moscow a few days before the choir met in Saratov to rehearse and record the new CD.

On their first night in Moscow the Associate Producers were treated to cocktails and dinner on the roof of the Ritz Carlton, overlooking Red Square. The next day, Saturday, they enjoyed a VIP tour of Red Square, the Kremlin, and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. They also experienced a traditional Russian banya at the Sanduni Banya. In the evening, the group had dinner at the White Rabbit, one of the best restaurants in the world with breath-taking views of the city!

On the second full day in Moscow, we began with our choir singing the Liturgy at Podvorye in the morning with our Associate Producers in attendance. The Associate Producers then had lunch at Genatsvale, a wonderful Georgian Restaurant. From there they were treated to a Moscow riverboat excursion and then a tour around the city before dinner.

While in Saratov, the Associate Producers continued to enjoy the VIP experience with exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the choir, front-row seats at our concert at the Saratov Conservatory, and tours around the city. If you are interested in the VIP Russia Experience stay tuned for how you can support PaTRAM during the recording of our next CD! All of our recording projects are generously funded by donors like you and we would love to have you involved in the process.

PaTRAM™ Institute to Record Next CD in Saratov, Russia, Accompanied by the Wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God

Fresh off their GRAMMY nomination for their CD, Teach Me Thy Statutes, and their newly released CD, The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the PaTRAM Institute will record their next CD in Saratov, Russia, this summer. The new CD, entitled More Honorable Than the Cherubim, is a compendium of hymns to the Theotokos by various composers, which will be sung by a fifty-six-member male choir. The singers hail from Russia, Serbia, North America, and Australia. GRAMMY-nominated Maestro Vladimir Gorbik will conduct the choir, which will include an unprecedented ten octavists, with baritone Michail Davydov as the featured soloist. On August 22nd, 2019, the choir will perform their repertoire in concert at the Saratov Conservatory.

The PaTRAM Institute Male Choir will be in Saratov for rehearsals and the recording of the new CD from August 20th-26th, 2019. The CD will be recorded at St. Nicholas Monastery by multi-GRAMMY Award-winning production company Sound Mirror. Sound Mirror has received more than one hundred GRAMMY Awards and nominations for their body of work. PaTRAM is thrilled to be working with them again to create a professional quality CD that brings the beauty of Russian choral music to a Western audience. Reference Recordings, a multi-GRAMMY Award-winning record label based in San Francisco, will print and distribute the completed CD.

With the special permission and blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, considered by the Orthodox Church to be wonderworking, will also be traveling with the choir, accompanied by Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan. The icon will be in Saratov, Russia, from August 20th-28th, 2019, including during services for the feast of the Dormition.

PaTRAM will hold a press conference regarding this special project on Thursday, August 22nd, at the Saratov Conservatory at 5pm before the concert, and include a question and answer period with Alex Lukianov, co-founder and CEO of PaTRAM, and Maestro Vladimir Gorbik and Katya Lukianov, co-founders of PaTRAM.

Alexis Lukianov, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of PaTRAM Institute said, “This is the next step for our organization. We are trying to replicate our success from our earlier CDs, but with different composers and prayers. Originally, we had planned to focus on just one composer for this next recording. But once we realized the incredible blessing of the icon traveling with us, we decided to change the repertoire to be comprised of hymns to the Theotokos to honor the Mother of God and to appropriately celebrate the feast of the Dormition right after our recording.”

PaTRAM’s GRAMMY-nominated CD Teach Me Thy Statutes was recorded in Russia in 2016 and featured both American and Russian singers. Teach Me Thy Statutes was also named MusicWeb International’s 2018 Recording of the Year. PaTRAM’s newest CD, The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, has consistently been in the Top 15 on Amazon’s list of Hot New Releases in Opera and Vocal since the CD was released at the end of April. Besides continuing to promote and develop the skills of Orthodox choral singers in North America, PaTRAM also views its work as a landmark opportunity to unite East and West as the organization brings together singers from different countries who share the same language, culture, and beliefs to create beautiful and prayerful music. PaTRAM seeks to broaden its partnerships around the world with the aim of introducing more people to the beauty and power of Russian liturgical music, so that their lives might be transformed through a connection to this ancient and soulful form of worship.

 

Мужской хор Российско-американского музыкального института имени патриарха Тихона запишет новый диск в Саратове

С 19 по 26 августа в Саратове по инициативе хора Русско-Американского института им. Патриарха Тихона (США), учредителем которого является Алексей Лукьянов, будет проходить запись нового диска духовных песнопений. В сводный мужский хор, собранный специально для записи,  также войдут Мужской хор Московского Подворья Свято-Троицкой Сергиевой Лавры и Архиерейский хор Саратовской митрополии.

В записи под руководством известного дирижера Владимира Горбика примут участие пятьдесят шесть певчих из пяти стран (США, Канады, Австралии, Сербии и России). В альбом войдут духовные произведения разных композиторов, посвященные Пресвятой Богородице.

Запись CD-диска будет проводиться в Свято-Никольском мужском монастыре компанией Sound Mirror – обладательницей более 100 премий «Грэмми». PaTRAM очень рады новой совместной работе и надеются, что создаваемая запись будет способна передать западной аудитории всю красоту звучания русской хоровой музыки. Предыдущий совместный альбом «Научи мя оправданием Твоим» (‘Teach Me Thy Statutes’) был номинирован на Grammy в 2019 г.

22 августа сводный хор выступит с концертом в Большом зале Саратовской государственной консерватории.

20 августа в Покровском храме сводный хор в течение дня проведет открытые репетиции и исполнит духовные песнопения в честь главной святыни Русского Зарубежья – Курской-Коренной иконы Божией матери. Хор Русско-Американского института им. Патриарха Тихона (США) организует принесение этой чудотворной иконы в Саратовскую епархию.

Верующие смогут поклониться святыне в Покровском храме Саратова (ул. Горького, 85). Встреча иконы состоится в храме 20 августа в 19.00. Икона будет доступна для поклонения ежедневно с 20 по 28 августа.

В 2020 году Хор Русско-Американского института им. Патриарха Тихона (США) исполнит произведения, записанные в Саратове, а также другие духовные песнопения, собирающие полные залы по всему миру, в Москве. Специальным гостем концерта станет народный артист России Евгений Миронов. Все вырученные от концерта средства будут направлены на поддержку подопечных Благотворительного фонда «Жизнь в Движении», учредителями которого являются Евгений Миронов и Наталья Шагинян-Нидэм.

Курская-Коренная икона была явлена в сентябре 1295 года недалеко от сожженного татаро-монгольскими полчищами Курска. Название Коренной она получила потому, что, по преданию, местный охотник увидел ее в лесу лежащей ликом вниз на корне дерева. Когда этот человек поднял икону, на месте ее обретения забил родник.

Согласно житию, в 1767 году после молитвы перед этой иконой исцелился, будучи ребенком, преподобный Серафим Саровский.

Образ покинул Россию в октябре 1920 года. С тех пор икона находилась в Сербии, Германии, Швейцарии, а в 1951 году была перевезена в США.

Этот святой образ не без оснований называют главной святыней Русского Зарубежья: перед ней молились о покинутой Родине, терзаемой безбожниками, несколько поколений русских эмигрантов, перед ней скончался во время молитвы святитель Иоанн Шанхайский. Место постоянного пребывания святыни — Синодальный Знаменский собор на Манхеттене г. Нью-Йорка. В 2009 году, спустя 90 лет нахождения за пределами нашей страны, икона была в первый раз привезена в Россию. 

 

Пресс-активности:

16-17 августа | Москва | интервью и встреча с основателем PaTRAM Алексеем Лукьяновым.

20 августа | Саратов, Покровский храм | Пресс-брифинг, интервью, съемка Курской-Коренной иконы Божией материи, духовные песнопения.

22 августа | Большой зал Саратовской государственной консерватории | концерт.

 

Контакты для СМИ:

+7 917-584-80-66 (Егор), +7 962-623-74-56 (Елена).

 

An Afternoon At the Grammy Awards Was A First For PaTRAM™

On Sunday, February 10th, 2019, we made our first red carpet appearance at the 61st Grammy Awards in Los Angeles! It was truly an honor to be nominated and it was certainly a day to remember. PaTRAM has only been in existence for five short years and many musicians, choirs or otherwise, go decades without nomination. We wish to congratulate Donald Nally and “The Zealot Canticles” for their win in the category of “Best Choral Performance” – it was a privilege to be nominated alongside you.

We especially want to thank Alex and Katya Lukianov, Executive Producers of “Teach Me Thy Statutes”, Maestro Vladimir Gorbik, the Conductor of the PaTRAM Institute Male Choir, Blanton Alspaugh and John Newton, our Producer and Sound Engineer, respectively, from Sound Mirror, Marcia Martin from our label Reference Recordings, and of course each of the wonderful forty-two members of the PaTRAM choir. We look forward to another opportunity on the red carpet next year with our new CD releasing this spring!

Additionally, we wish to congratulate Blanton Alspaugh on winning the 2018 Grammy Award for Producer of the Year! Mr. Alspaugh produced Teach Me Thy Statutes and is a frequent collaborator with PaTRAM. Congratulations!

And we want to congratulate the Clarion Choir for their Grammy nomination for Memory Eternal! Alex and Katya were executive producers of their CD as well.

PaTRAM was very well-represented in Los Angeles. Alex and Katya Lukianov attended the awards along with their children Elizabeth, Cassandra, Alexander and Anastasia, Maestro Gorbik, his wife Svetlana, and other friends and supporters of PaTRAM.

Teach Me Thy Statutes Nominated For A Grammy Award

PaTRAM™ is proud to announce their latest CD, “Teach Me Thy Statutes“, has been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance!

On the heels of MusicWeb International’s recent designation of “Teach Me Thy Statutes” as their Recording of the Year, the Recording Academy has followed that honor with a Grammy nomination. The pinnacle of all recorded music accolades.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the Producer of “Teach Me Thy Statutes”, Blanton Alspaugh, has been nominated as Producer of the Year by the Academy! Mr. Alspaugh, and his production company Sound Mirror, are frequent collaborators of PaTRAM’s. Congratulations to Mr. Alspaugh!

The 61st Grammy Awards will be held in February 2019.

Teach Me Thy Statutes – MusicWeb International’s 2018 Recording of the Year

Teach Me Thy Statutes“, has been named 2018 Recording of the Year by MusicWeb International – following over a dozen critically acclaimed and highly respected reviewers.

MusicWeb International (WMI) is a world-renowned non-commercial classical and choral music resource on the web. MWI’s reviewers published 2400 reviews in 2018. The recording of the year competition included 130 selections from 70 different labels, an incredibly competitive sample of work. From all of those options, MWI selected “Teach Me Thy Statutes” as the best in 2018!

PaTRAM™ Institute considers this an immense achievement and is very proud and humbled by this distinction.

PaTRAM thanks ALL of its supporters, donors and friends for their faith in our work.

PaTRAM™ CEO Interviewed by Fanfare Magazine

PaTRAM CEO Alexis V. Lukianov

After an incredibly successful release of PaTRAM’s latest CD, “Teach Me Thy Statutes”, PaTRAM’s CEO, Alexis V. Lukianov sat down recently to do an interview with Fanfare Magazine’s James Altena.

Mr. Lukianov talks about the history of PaTRAM, his love for and devotion to the Russian Orthodox Church and its music and, of course, about the recently released CD. The discussion gives the reader an in-depth look into PaTRAM’s involvement in sacred music and Mr. Lukianov’s role in bringing that music, and the practical knowledge of reproducing it, to North America.

Accompanying the interview is a review of the CD by one of Fanfare’s reviewers, JF Weber.

We hope you’ll take the time to read this informative interview.

As Wikipedia describes it, “Fanfare is an American bimonthly magazine devoted to reviewing recorded music in all playback formats. It mainly covers classical music, but since inception, it has also featured a jazz column in every issue.”