Combined (Australian and New York) ROCOR Mens Choir Perform in New York City Area

The Russian Orthodox Male Choir of Australia and the Tsar Nicholas II Choir merged together to perform as the ROCOR Mens Choir in three different church halls around the New York City area from December 19th thru December 22nd 2019. As a major sponsor of these events, PaTRAM Institute™ was proud to help these dedicated and driven individuals in their first public performances as a combined choir.

The project was not an easy effort. The two choirs had to overcome major financial and logistical issues to become a combined, in-sync collective of choristers. Nektary Kotlaroff, who leads the Russian Orthodox Male Choir of Australia, and Adrian Fekula, who directs the Tsar Nicholas II Choir in New York, planned for months to bring this effort to fruition. With help from PaTRAM™ as well as several other sources, the two conductors were able to connect with each other from half a world away. As a result of their tremendous efforts, the two choirs sounded as though they had sung together for months when in fact they only had a handful of live rehearsals together.

The concert repertoire consisted of both sacred and secular music, which they performed with great enthusiasm and skill. From the beautiful sound of Chesnokov’s and Tchaikovsky’s liturgical masterpieces to the legendary folk song, Volga Boatmen, approximately half the program was devoted to each of the two music genres.

On Thursday, December 19th, coinciding with the Feast Day of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the ROCOR Mens Choir performed their program at the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin & St. Sergius in Glen Cover, Long Island.

Friday, December 20th, saw the Choir move their performance to the Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY. Those who attended were treated to a wonderful performance, which was received with great enthusiasm.

On Saturday, December 21st, the Choir sang the All-Night Vigil services at Synod Cathedral of the Sign Church in Manhattan, officiated by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) and His Grace Bishop Nicholas (of Manhattan and Vicar Bishop of the Diocese of Eastern America and New York). Following the service, the choir was invited by PaTRAM Chairman, Alex Lukianov, to his private club, the Grand Havana, on 5th Avenue midtown. The group celebrated the tour, and the Choir sang “Many Years” to Alex and his wife Katya for all their help and support.

Sunday, December 22nd, saw the culmination of the short tour by the ROCOR Mens Choir beginning with their singing the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, officiated by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion and His Grace Bishop Nicholas. The service was followed by a wonderful Lenten meal provided by the Parish’s Sisterhood. After lunch, all were welcomed back into the main Cathedral to listen to the Choir perform their sacred music pieces for the attending Hierarchs and a large numbers of listeners. The day concluded with all in attendance welcomed back to the Church hall for wine, soft drinks and snacks along with big helping of folk songs, sung with great exuberance by the ROCOR Combined Mens Choir as the standing-room only crowd inspired them with traditional hand-clapping and whistling to the boisterous folk songs.

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™ Sponsors World Premiere Concert of An Original Liturgy by Benedict Sheehan

“Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom”, an original composition of Orthodox choral music by frequent PaTRAM collaborator, Benedict Sheehan, will have it’s WORLD PREMIERE on Sunday May 26, 2019.

The Liturgy was commissioned by PaTRAM, from Mr. Sheehan in 2015, and will be performed by the Saint Tikhon Choir, with members of the PaTRAM Institute Singers, at a special concert as part of St. Tikhon Monastery’s Annual Memorial Day Pilgrimage being held at the monastery in Waymart, PA from Saturday May 25-27, 2019.

PaTRAM is proud to be a major sponsor of this World Premiere event and congratulates Benedict as we pray for his success.

Tickets are available at the Concert’s website.

Russian New Year Concerts A Resounding Success

The PaTRAM Institute Singers performed at the annual Russian New Year Concerts staged by the Clarion Choir. The concerts took place on New Year’s Eve and Day in New York City at the Church of the Resurrection on East 74th Street.

The Clarion Choir invited the PaTRAM Institute Singers to be part of their annual event, and it was a resounding success with full-house audiences on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Led by Maestro Peter Jermihov (left center), the PaTRAM Institute Singers presented a program of traditional Russian Orthodox liturgical pieces by such well-known composers as Chesnokov, Kastalsky, Ledkovsky, and Rachmaninoff, but also sang works by living American Orthodox composer Kurt Sander and Russian great Georgy Sviridov. The PaTRAM segment of the program included solos by Fotina Naumenko, Soprano (“Sacred Love” by Sviridov), Glenn Miller, Bass (“God Is With Us” by Kastalsky), and Protodeacon Leonid Roschko (“Memory Eternal” by Chesnokov and “Many Years” by Prokofiev).

The second half of the program, performed by the Clarion Choir and led by Maestro Steven Fox, included Alexander Kastalsky’s unique and seldom-heard “Memory Eternal to the Fallen Heroes.” This great work was written exactly 100 years ago in memory of those who lost their lives in the First World War. Soloists included Protodeacon Leonid Roschko, Marc Day, Tenor (“The Great Litany”), and Jonathan Woody, Bass (“Alleluia and With Profound Wisdom”).

At the end of the program both choirs surrounded the audience and, led by Maestro Peter Jermihov, sang Rachmaninoff’s famous “Bogoroditse Devo” from the “All-Night Vigil.” The choirs and both maestros received a rousing ovation from a visibly moved audience.

Maestro Dr. Peter Jermihov conducts the latest recording of Rachmaninoff’s “All Night Vigil”

In yet another major accomplishment in the storied career of PaTRAM’s esteemed faculty member, Dr. Peter Jermihov conducted the landmark recording of Rachmaninoff’s “All Night Vigil”.

Leading several different Choirs, including the PaTRAM Choir, Dr. Jermihov has delivered a superb performance of this beloved liturgical music classic that has drawn accolades across the choral music world.

“What a privilege it was to be a part of this monumental recording which brought together an amazing assemblage of singers so deeply rooted and grounded in this spiritual and musical tradition. While the choral sound is incredible, the spiritual dimension of this recording lifts it all to a mystical plane.” –Glenn Miller, Basso Profundo

“As an exchange student in Europe, my first time away from home, I was introduced to a memorable choral experience at St. Petersburg. The voices were around me, powerful, immersive, and the performance deeply moving. The music and its Russian passion has stuck with me…During this recording and production…the spiritual connection created by this great choir is memorable.” Keith O. Johnson, legendary sound engineer of Reference Recordings

As one can see, this recording is a highly acclaimed work that deserves a place in any listener’s collection. PaTRAM has been given the opportunity to pass on to our subscribers a special price on this classic recording. Everyone is welcome to purchase as many copies as desired at a 50% discount by visiting the Paraclete Press website and enter coupon code: ANV50 at checkout. Don’t miss your chance to obtain this masterpiece before the discount ends.

 

PaTRAM Co-founder Maestro Gorbik conducts the National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan

News from Uzbekistan, Classical music of the highest quality: Immortal musical works performed in Tashkent.

Written by: Inessa Gulsarova

“Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman.” – These words belong to the great German composer, Ludwig van Beethoven, and it serves as an epigraph to a concert of classical music, which was recently held at the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan. This thought wonderfully conveys the atmosphere that prevailed that evening in the Great Hall of the famous Uzbek University, under whose arches the immortal music of Beethoven, Bizet and Tchaikovsky, resounded. Each of these great composers put their hearts, their thoughts, and their attitudes towards life into these magnificent works.  And these attributes were reflected by those self-same qualities of the artists who performed that evening on the concert stage.   It may seem from the photos that the empty seats at the beginning of the concert meant that the audience was not expecting anything special.  However, happily, the concert hall was later filled to capacity, and more, the audience was treated to an exceptional holiday concert for music lovers.

 

The program included Beethoven’s Second Symphony and his Egmont Overture;  Habanera, from Bizet’s opera Carmen, featuring the award-winning soloist Aziza Mukhamedova; and Variations on a Rococo Theme by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, featuring Sardor Ibragimov, also an award-winning soloist. However, as the saying goes, let’s look at everything decently and in order. On the stage we saw the Honored Collective of the National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan, directed by Alibek Kabdurahmanov (on the photo he is on the right).

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People’s Artist of the Republic Ismail Dzhalilov is the artistic director of the orchestra. At the conductor’s stand we also saw our guest from Russia, the multiple award-winning Maestro Vladimir Gorbik, whom the Tashkent audience first met at the International Festival of Arts, themed “Golden Autumn”, last year. The program started with a performance of Beethoven’s Second Symphony (Opus 36), which was interpreted in an unusually fresh and joyful manner.  Many times when this piece is performed it is done in a heavy-handed manner, and a listener feels “clobbered” by such an interpretation of this work.  Not so under Maestro Gorbik’s direction!

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Written in 1802 by Beethoven when he was thirty years of age, this symphony is the most perfect work of this young author. During that time, Beethoven had already begun to suffer from the first strong attacks of deafness.  Following the advice of his doctors, he spent the summer of 1802 alone in a cozy rustic cabin in Heiligenstadt. The composer was happy to experience a temporary improvement in his hearing. The cheerfulness of a young man woke up in him, his heart once again full of endless fun and love for life. This is precisely the content of his Second Symphony – sunlight and joyfulness. Structurally, this symphony is much like Beethoven’s first one, in that it continues in the traditions of Haydn and Mozart.  However, the Second Symphony contains some innovative features: the clearly expressed feeling of heroics and monumentality; and in this work, the Minuet, a part of the symphony that is like a dance, has disappeared and is replaced by the Scherzo.

In his own interpretation of Beethoven’s works, Maestro Gorbik emphasized the monumentality of the composer’s intent, his heroic pathos and dramatic contrasts, building the symphonic opus from bravely persevering energy in the first movement, through a profound Larghetto and Scherzo that is full of humor, to a vivid, life-affirming finale.

The orchestra demonstrated its level of excellence, presenting the works deeply and with emotion. Following the Second Symphony, the orchestra launched into the Egmont Overture (Opus 84), one of Beethoven’s most famous works.  Written in 1810, and inspired by the tragedy of Goethe, this composition demonstrates not only the strength and brightness of musical imagery, but also its utmost clarity, leaving the audience no room for doubt. This composition was written during the period of Beethoven’s greatest creative energies. The central idea of the Egmont Overture’s whole musical-dramatic composition is clearly and simply expressed: the struggle for freedom and the joy of achieving it. In Maestro Gorbik’s interpretation, the orchestra captured all the musical detail, and presented Beethoven’s opus in its highest form, clearly showing the composer’s own apotheosis and triumph.

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The popular piece Habanera, from the opera Carmen by Bizet, came next. This was performed by one of the soloists from the Alisher Navoi Theatre, the diplomat Aziza Mukhamedova, who in a small solo piece was able to masterfully reveal through a gesture, a look, a smile, or a movement, the fiery temperament and the nature of Carmen – the strong-willed, proud and passionate heroine. While listening to Aziza’s performance of Habanera, the hall was plunged into a world of vocal fantasy, as Mukhamedova brought the audience to experience Carmen’s own delight from the unexpected results of her own capricious and passion-filled actions.

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This full-sounding mezzo-soprano impressed the audience with the depth and richness of her voice. The orchestra was a most worthy partner of the soloist and this is of considerable credit to the conductor, who had obtained a truly emotional response from the orchestra. I would like to especially note Maestro Gorbik’s attention to details and his ability to present them.

 

Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra (Opus 33), known today as one of the most popular models of cello concert literature, was the next piece we heard. Given the superb nature of this piece, it seems strange that during Tchaikovsky’s own lifetime this work was only rarely performed.

Tchaikovsky worked from 1876 to 1877 on the Variations. In the author’s original notation, the work consists of an introduction, the theme and eight variations. In the foundation of the Rococo theme we can hear the melody of the Russian folk song “Along Peterskaya Street.”

This Tchaikovsky opus is very challenging for any soloist. The difficulty lies in the fact that the twenty-minute variations are played without orchestral tutti, which would give the cellist an opportunity to rest a little. However, the nobility of expression, simplicity and elegance, along with a strong virtuoso beginning, provides to the soloist incredible opportunities to showcase his or her own talent.

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Sardor Ibragimov, an award-winning student of the Honored Artist of Uzbekistan, Anvar Raimdzhanov, was superbly prepared as the solo cellist.  Deftly, with his usual ease, he showed his mastery of the technical difficulties of the score. From his very first notes, he captivated the audience. It felt as if Ibragimov was playing personally for each person in the audience, holding them with every nuance, and keeping his listeners in breathless suspense until the very last note. His ability to play with all the nuance, all the dynamic contrasts and shades – from the finest pianissimo to a powerful forte – mesmerized all in his audience. It was glorious to listen to, and Sardor was beautifully and perfectly supported by the sensitive accompaniment of the orchestra, itself attentive to the exact gestures of Maestro Vladimir Gorbik, who listened with greatly focused attention to the soulful playing of the soloist.

 

Translated by: Seraphim Hanisch

The Miami Ball. A Russian Cultural Event. A Rousing Success!

On November 11, 2016, the Ritz Carlton Hotel in South Beach opened its doors to the First Annual Miami Ball,

“A Russian Cultural Event”!

15129455_571963896342093_1804300951130918834_oThe event was a fundraiser co-hosted by two non-profit organizations, the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute (PaTRAM) and the Prince Vladimir Youth Association (PVYA). Both organizations are deeply committed to our youth maintaining and expanding their cultural, artistic, philanthropic and religious interests.

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15111002_571963903008759_7549146242086804801_oThis black tie/evening gown affair featured cocktails, dinner, entertainment and dancing, was everything a night out could possibly provide. The Miami Ball was attended by almost 200 people including clergy from the local Orthodox parishes and His Grace, Bishop Nicholai of Manhattan.

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The evening began with a red carpet photo session as each patron was ushered over to the press wall and photographed, sometimes with their spouse, sometimes with their friends and sometimes solo. The resulting photos reflected the joyful beginning to the night’s event.

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After the photos, patrons were escorted to their respective cocktail hours.

For VIPs, there was a special, pool side reception held outdoors overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The evening was a bit balmy but not enough to matter to any of the VIPs as they sipped Beluga vodka shots, cocktails and enjoyed caviar and sturgeon provided by the Tsar Nicoulai Caviar Company, the Miami Ball’s exclusive provider of these fantastic delicacies. Xenia Maximova, the Tsar Nicoulai representative (and guest of the Miami Ball), served these exclusive and tasty dishes to all the attending VIPs. Delicious!

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Ms. Maximova even took the time to explain to the VIPs the different ways to enjoy these products and the condiments that accompanied them.

img_3947Meanwhile, the remaining patrons assembled in the foyer of the Ballroom to enjoy their cocktails of vodka, other varieties of spirits, wine and beer. The wine, provided by another sponsor, Lot 18, was delicious and served a white blend called “Docheri”, meaning “daughters” in Russian, and even had the famous Russian nesting dolls on the label which really added to the Russian theme of the evening. Tsar Nicoulai provided caviar for this cocktail hour as well which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.

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As the cocktail hours ended, everyone moved to the ballroom, as the Barynya band played, and settled into their table assignments for dinner.

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img_4065 After everyone was seated, the Emcees introduced the two organizations and their histories. Once completed the entertainment began.

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First to perform was Tonia Cianciulli, an accomplished opera singer who also has performed popular music and is a composer in her own right. Ms. Cianciulli performed superbly, acknowledged by the audience in rousing applause. Ms. Cianciulli was joined by Anna Bateman and the two singers performed a duet to close that segment of the entertainment.

15111024_571963556342127_3425310723795884026_oAfter the arias, Bishop Nicholai led the room in prayer and gave his blessing before the meal. As the dinner continued so did the entertainment when the Barynya dancers took to the floor and gave a sensational performance of traditional Russian music and dance replete with traditional Russian costumes.

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15110295_571963683008781_6019350372315291279_oimg_4208When the audience settled down from Barynya’s exciting dancing, the Emcees introduced another Miami Ball sponsor, Mr. Mark Pugachev, representing Pugachev Concierge Services. This generous sponsor contributed a door prize of a day’s outing for four on a 70-foot yacht (valued at $7000). Mr. Pugachev was asked to pick a table number out of a hat. The chair at the winning table, denoted by a red dot placed on the back of one chair, was Table 6. The lucky chair belonged to Irina Jermihov to whom Mr. Pugachev presented the prize.

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Next came the leaders of the host organizations. PVYA’s Chairman and co-Founder, Father Andrei Sommer’s presentation was first. Regrettably, Father Andrei was unable to attend due to illness. He was instead represented by PVYA’s Vice-President and Secretary, Eli Shikaloff who gave a heartfelt speech wishing Father Andrei well and presenting the efforts of PVYA and how they work with youth and the community.

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Following Mr. Shikaloff, the Emcees introduced Alexis Lukianov, Chairman, CEO and co-Founder of PaTRAM. Using accompanying slides on two large screens, Mr. Lukianov described to the audience what PaTRAM’s mission entails, a short review of accomplishments and PaTRAM’s future aims.

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Mr. Lukianov mentioned the efforts of PaTRAM to help singers and conductors which perfectly segued into Mr. Lukianov introducing the highlight entertainment of the evening, the PaTRAM choir.

img_4231Before joining the Choir as an octavist, Mr. Lukianov introduced Dr. Peter Jermihov, the conductor of the Choir. Maestro Jermihov led the choir through their repertoire with efficiency and grace.

15123035_571963913008758_1781913988745392448_oThe musical depth of the choir was obvious and the sound clear and bright. Soloists, Fotina Naumenko (soprano) and Pavel Roudenko (bass), both sang beautifully. But the most amazing thing about this Choir’s performance is that they had ONE single rehearsal together earlier that day. One!

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The audience was enthralled and could never tell that this performance resulted from so little rehearsing. Many of these singers honed their skills using PaTRAM’s training resources, so there is a lot to be proud of.

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After the Choir’s performance, there was more dancing from Barynya and then came a performance by the VK dancers. This world-renowned dance troupe wowed the audience with their expert execution of tangos and other Latin-based ballroom dancing. VK clearly inspired the audience because their performance segued beautifully into the final stage of the evening, dancing!

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There were press reporters present from Miami Me Magazine, Voice of America(Miami) and other news outlets who did stories and interviews about the evening.

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Photographers and videographers were recording the events throughout the night and the social networks were abuzz with commentary about the Ball.

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All in all, everyone who attended confirmed that the evening was exciting and fun. As Alex Lukianov had mentioned in one of his interviews, “mark November 10th, next year. The Miami Ball will be bigger and better!”

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img_4447View the full album of the Miami Ball here.

PaTRAM and Clarion Choirs to perform for the US Ambassador at Spaso House in Moscow during Clarion World Tour 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The highly acclaimed Clarion Choir, led by Maestro Steven Fox, has been invited to perform at a special reception at Spaso House in Moscow, the residence of the US Ambassador to Russia, during their world tour performing the recently found masterpiece, “Passion Week” by Maximilian Steinberg. The PaTRAM male choir, led by Maestro Vladimir Gorbik, was asked by Mr. Fox, and by invitation of the Ambassador, to perform as special guests that evening as well.

The reception is by invitation only and will take place on Thursday, October 27th, 2016, following a joint choral workshop hosted by PaTRAM for Clarion in Moscow. The Clarion and PaTRAM Choirs will each perform several pieces, independently, and then merge into one grand choir for a combined finale. PaTRAM will be performing select pieces from their upcoming CD; recorded in Saratov, Russia this past summer of Pavel Chesnokov’s liturgical music. The latest PaTRAM CD, to be released in 2017, features a Russian-American choir of 42 male voices of the highest professional caliber.

Alexis Lukianov, Founder, Chairman and CEO of PaTRAM Institute said, “We are delighted to join forces with Clarion to perform for the US Ambassador to Russia. We believe it is culturally and socially beneficial for our countries to foster ongoing projects and collaboration between American and Russian Choirs, especially to promote the beauty of the Russian liturgical arts. PaTRAM is comprised of both Russian and American singers working in tandem through workshops, master classes and professional recordings. The PaTRAM Choir for the Spaso House performance will be predominantly comprised of professional Russian singers. We are very excited to perform alongside a choir of Clarion’s caliber to showcase our world class capabilities.”

 

About PaTRAM (Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Music Institute)

The mission of the Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Music Institute (PaTRAM) is to cultivate and promote the beauty and spiritual depth of Russian Orthodox liturgical arts in general and choral singing in particular, in both the English and Church Slavonic languages. PaTRAM seeks to utilize rigorous educational programs, distinctive performance events, and the latest technological tools to realize this mission.

PaTRAM is a non-profit 501-c3 organization in their 3rd year of existence and headquartered in Tiburon, CA.

To learn more visit www.patraminstitute.org, or call us at 551-224-8657.

 

 

Download the Press Release Here.