“Hymns of Holy Russia in the New World”
In 2013, three esteemed theological seminaries in America—each of them in their turn an offspring of Russian Orthodoxy—celebrated major anniversaries: St. Tikhon’s Seminary and St. Vladimir’s Seminary together marked 75 years, and Holy Trinity Seminary its 65th. As a way of commemorating these joint anniversaries, the select student choirs of the three institutions came together to form a single ensemble for the first time in their respective histories. Gathering at St. Tikhon’s Seminary a few days prior to the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the 25 young men who were invited to participate in the event rigorously prepared to sing Vigil and Divine Liturgy with His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon at St. Tikhon’s Monastery (America’s oldest Monastery, founded in 1905), and afterwards to perform a public concert. The present CD is a live recording of this concert, which took place on March 3, 2013, in the Episcopal Pro-Cathedral of St. Stephen, Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. Guiding the proceedings was the world-renowned Russian conductor Vladimir Gorbik, who was invited to prepare the choir for this historic event.
“To Thee Our Champion Leader” — S. Trubachev
“Trisagion” — B. Sheehan
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The week-long gathering at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary that took place from June 25-29, 2012 was aptly termed a “master class” on the topic of “Interpreting Orthodox Sacred Music.” The task set before the twenty-nine singers and five student conductors, was to master nearly 250 pages of music for All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy, bound in voluminous choral folders. The results achieved within a period of three-and-a-half days of intense and demanding rehearsals would be termed by many participants, a “mountain-top” experience.
A news article by Deborah Belonick summarized the experience in the following terms: “Their efforts—which might be described as including a mixture of blood, sweat, tears, and tremendous grace—were notable. By the end of the week, workshop participants composed a heavenly chorus; they presented a public recital in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium (which brought listeners to tears) and sang the responses at the Vigil and Primatial Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul in the seminary’s Three Hierarchs Chapel.”(from a release on svots.edu).
The fruits of these labors are documented in this recording, comprised of highlights from the All-Night Vigil on the eve of the feast of Sts Peter and Paul (sung on June 28). The examples of Orthodox liturgical music featured here employ a variety of textures and exhibit many levels of complexity, exemplifying many of the different styles of choral music and chant found in the Church today. Especially valuable is the fact that these selections are sung live in the context of the actual worship service; one can easily hear the serving clergy, the movement of children, the impromptu participation by the congregation, and how the Master Class Chorus remains focused on prayer in the midst of these surroundings, thus fulfilling their role as a liturgical choir. It is hoped that this recording will be the first of many under Vladimir Gorbik’s direction, demonstrating how to interpret the vast choral repertoire of the Orthodox Church in a manner that is musically polished, emotionally engaged, and, at the same time, liturgically appropriate.
“Bless the Lord, O My Soul” — Russian “Greek” Chant, arr. P. Chesnokov
“The Great Doxology” —Znamenny Chant, arr. N. Zakkak (English chant adaptation by V. Morosan)
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