Written by Alex Milas
There could not have been a better setting than the Representation Holy Trinity-St.Sergius Monastery (Lavra), aka Podvorie, in Moscow this past July. The location provided the best in spirituality, history and hospitality to the ten student conductors who gathered in the ornate meeting hall during the week beginning July 6th thru July 12th, 2017.
The class was led by Maestro Vladimir Gorbik, one of PaTRAM’s founders, the Conductor of the Podvorie Choir and member of the Conducting Faculty at the Moscow State Conservatory.
Maestro Gorbik also assembled a professional choir. These singers were needed so that Maestro Gorbik could show the students experienced singers who will take direction as presented by the Conductor and, thereby, better illustrate to a student how and what they did to make the singers respond the way they did to the student’s actions.
As with all PaTRAM Master Classes, the event began with a Molebin, served by Father Sergei, in the monastery’s chapel, next to the meeting/rehearsal hall.
Each student was assigned parts of the All-Night Vigil and the Divine Liturgy which they would conduct at the weekend services and at the services for the Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul. The Maestro would also fill in, directing the remaining parts of each service.
The Feast Day services would be Hierarchical as the class and the Podvorie were blessed to have Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan agreeing to officiate. Bishop Nicholas, a huge supporter of PaTRAM, flew to Moscow to give his blessing to the class, show his support for PaTRAM’s efforts and concelebrate the Feast Day services with Archimandrite Dionisy, and other clergy.
Each day the group gathered in the meeting/rehearsal hall. The process was, basically, the Maestro leading each part of the liturgy himself then taking a seat in the rear of the room, watching and listening as each student directed their assigned pieces. There are many nuances in facial expressions, hand movements, body motion and posture that affect the relationship between choir and conductor. The Hierarchical services would be the high point of their rehearsals.
During the services each student stepped on to the conductor’s podium and, seamlessly, took over the choir without ever missing a beat.
Maestro Gorbik told me after the Divine Liturgy that a parishioner shared with him that they heard NO difference between one part or another of the service despite finding out later that multiple conductors were stepping on and off the podium to direct their parts. A big accomplishment, he thought.
The end of the Divine Liturgy signaled not only the end of the service but also the end of the Master Class. Bishop Nicholas gave a short sermon acknowledging PaTRAM and their work, thanking the Podvorie and the monastery’s abbot, Archimandrite Dionysi, for their hospitality and kindness, and, last but not least Maestro Gorbik, the students and the Choir which “sang so beautifully”.