Singers from the parishes of Australia participate
in divine services in the Kremlin
Recently, three members of the Male Choir of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia wen to Russia and participated in recordings of Liturgical music. They were joined by singers from Russia, the USA, Canada and Serbia, and had their spiritual music professionally recorded. In addition to performing and recording in Saratov, they traveled to Moscow, where, together with other church choirs, they sang at a patriarchal service at Uspensky Cathedral in the Kremlin, at Christ the Savior Cathedral and Danilov Monastery.
Upon their return home after this unusual and remarkable trip, they shared their impressions with the editors of the online periodical “Unification.”
The discussion with Alexander Dmitriev and the choir director Nektary Kotliaroff took place after a regular Liturgy at SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, while a third participant, tenor Gregory Scanlan, was reached in Brisbane.
-Tell us how long your trip took, and where did you go?
NK: Our trip lasted about three weeks. When we flew in to Moscow, we headed right for Christ the Savior Cathedral. Last year I met its choir director, and he invited us to sing with them. On Saturday, we sang at the main cathedral, and on Sunday evening we sang with the Patriarchal Choir on the feast day of the lower, Transfiguration Church. Afterwards we spent some time with the Senior Priest, Fr Mikhail Ryazantsev, and were blessed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.
AD: That Sunday morning, we sang with the choir of Danilov Monastery. Its director, Georgy Safonov, is an old acquaintance of ours, he would travel to Australia to teach our singers.
-Quite an intense schedule!
NK: Then we flew to Saratov, where a recording was scheduled by PaTRAM Institute (Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Institute). We were warmly greeted, and immediately began rehearsals. They were intense, we would sing up to eight hours a day. Vladimir Gorbik, the choir director of the Moscow Metochion of Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra, who conducted, is one of the organizers of PaTRAM. When a few months ago he invited me to participate in the recording, I asked that our deepest bass singer and highest tenor join me, so Alec Dmitriev and Gregory Scanlan were selected. Fifty-six of the finest male choral singers from five nations assembled to sing Orthodox Christian music.
AD: The evening before the recording, we gave a concert at Saratov Conservatory which lasted an hour and a half. This was on the third day of our joint rehearsals.
ND: The next day, at seven am, we began recording, which continued for two days, with breaks. Blanton Alspaugh, the renowned music technician, who has won about ten Grammies, did the recording. A couple of years ago he recorded the PaTRAM Choir, which won a Grammy nomination. Now we hope to win the award with this recording. The Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign" travled with us, and our entire repertoire was dedicated to the Theotokos. We learned a great deal during our preparations, and have already begun employing certain techniques during rehearsals of our male choir.
After the recording, we returned to Moscow, and Gera Safonov invited us to Uspensky Cathedral in the Kremlin, where Patriarch Kirill served at the feast-day celebrations. We thought that we were simply invited to attend, but Gera said: “You three are a bass, baritone and tenor, take your places in the choir.” Thank God, were sang the Liturgy in the presence of the Patriarch, in the Kremlin’s Uspensky Cathedral. My wish came true. What could be better, more lofty?
NK: Vladimir Alexandrovich Gorbik thanked all the participants during lunch, then asked me to stand and said that “the Australian Male Choir is one of the very best Orthodox choirs.” Of course, we understand that this was just flattery—we are a young choir, just amateurs, but we will try to deserve this high praise in the future.
AD: Then we went to St Petersburg, simply as tourists. There we met was a deacon at Kazan Cathedral. In the largest churches, which also serve as museums, divine services are now conducted, including the Savior-on-the-Blood Church.
-Tell us what else do you remember about the people you met there?
AD: I stood next to Alyosha Lukianov in the choir, he is also a contrabass. He organized this project and is the main sponsor and founder of PaTRAM. He’s from Florida—his father was a renowned priest, Protopriest Valey Lukianov. I also met another contrabass, Vyacheslav Prudskikh from Ekaterinburg. Many choir singers in Russia also sing in the opera.
NK: There were ten contrabasses, the lowest “octavists,” as they’re called. These are the best in the world, all well renowned. A singer from the Kuban Cossack Choir sang with us, too. We made a lot of new friends. When they learned that I’m a contrabass who sings in Russia but came from Australia, they asked me many questions. For them, Australians are a novelty. I came to know Vladimir Gorbik better. I'd like to invite Alspaugh to professionally record our choir.
-What was your impression after singing in the Kremlin? —
AD: So much of Russian history is conntected to Uspensky Cathedral. It was built in the 15th century, and is the resting place of almost all the ancient Russian patriarchs. The acoustics there are remarkable. We had to make sure not only to sing well, but with great accuracy.
NK: Uspensky Cathedral was the main church of Russian Orthodoxy. We could not believe that we would sing in such an historic temple!
-What else can you tell us about your trip?
AD: The day of the concert was also my birthday. Afterwards they presented me with a cake and sang Many Years. I’ll never forget that.
-Do you think you’ll have other such professional trips to Russia?
NK: We have many new possibilities. Our choir was invited to the Paschal Choral Festival, very popular in Russia. Choirs from Sretensky Monastery, Christ the Savior Cathedral and other famous choral groups perform.