The 23rd Liturgical Music Conference
of the North American Diocese of the Russian Church Abroad
The 23rd Liturgical Music Conference of the North American Diocese of the Russian Church Abroad, held in Santa Rosa, CA, from October 8-12, 2014, was a magnificent event inspiring great enthusiasm. Its venue was SS Peter and Paul Church, whose rector is Protopriest Alexander Krassovsky. It was convened by the initiative of the Synodal Liturgical Music Advisory Board (SLMAB) of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, with the cooperation of a local organizing committee headed by the parish choir director and Serge Schidlovsky, Secretary of the the SLMAB.
Thanks to funds provided by the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the League of Russian-American Women, the Congress of Russian Americans and other organizations, the SLMAB was able to cover the travel costs and accommodations of several professors and specialists to share their knowledge and experience.
Speaking were Maestro Peter Yermikhov, a professional choir director. Professor Yermikhov held a series of master classes in which he offered intensive work with four choir directors, Gregory Kotar of Seattle, Eugenia Temidis of New York, Sergei Furmanov of Chicago and Nicholas Caster of Santa Rosa, preparing them for directing certain compositions for the scheduled ceremonial hierarchal services.
A great deal was learned from general discussions between the participants and lecturers: Professor Marika Kuzma of Berkley University held a workshop for vocale: breathing and voice as one spirit. All sorts of vocal examples were shown to the participants, how to master ones voice, how to breathe and achieve the requisite sound during singing.
Professor Irina Shachneva of the renowned choir “Slavyanka” in the Bay Area of California delivered a lecture and workshop on the topic “Improving Choral Sound Through High Technique During Rehearsals.” The singers were infected with her fervent love for choral music, sensing the importance of utter subjugation to the desires and instructions of the choir director, constantly heeding the voices of neighboring singers, thereby achieving a high sonic quality-that of an ensemble.
Protopriest Lavrenty Margedich, Rector of St Seraphim Church in Santa Rosa of the Orthodox Church in America, an experienced musician and choir director, read a lecture on the topic “Church Singing From the Viewpoint of a Pastor,” in which he drew references from the writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church, revealing the spiritual side of the services of a choir director and singer.
Peter Fekula, member of the SLMAB and choir director of the Synodal Cathedral Choir in New York, led an inspired elementary course for beginners at choir directing.
Andrei Roudenko, choir director of Church of All Russian Saints in Burlingame, CA, delivered a successful presentation on the basic musical educational method known as solfeggio for beginning singers.
Nicholas Caster, choir director of St Seraphim Church in Santa Rosa (OCA), read a very engaging lecture on the arrangement of Russian liturgical music in the English language. He presented a series of examples of various translated texts and demonstrated how they were either successful or not given the melody.
The conference was dedicated to the memory of three major composers: Vladimir Krassovsky, member of SLMAB and director of the Cathedral Choir of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in San Francisco, read a brief lecture on the life and oeuvre of Pavel Grigorievich Chesnokov (1877-1944) to mark the 70 th anniversary of his repose. Professor Kurt Sander delivered a speech on the life and work of Alexander Tikhonovich Grechaninov (1884-1965) to mark the 150 th anniversary of his birth. Maestro Peter Yermikhov talked about the life and work of Alexander Vasilievich Nikolsky (1874-1943) in memory of the 140 th anniversary of his birth.
During lunch on Thursday , October 9, a round table was held during which every participant could pose questions on church singing and challenges faced on the parish level . After the discussion, everyone agreed that this type of forum should be part of future conferences .
It is notable that three choir directors from St Petersburg, Russia, were present: Mikhail Ivanovich Vashchenko and Vladimir MikhailovichVashchenko of Holy Prince Vladimir Cathedral as well as Elena Mikhailova of the Church of Holy Martyr Anastasia the Deliverer from Bonds.
The culmination of the event was the hierarchal services headed by His Grace Bishop Theodosius of Seattle, Vicar of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, along with a host of clergymen in an overfilled church.
Before Divine Liturgy, Fr Alexander greeted the bishop, emphasizing the importance of such conferences, and thanked Vladyka for his support and participation in the services.
During divine services, the choir sang the music of the aforementioned composers; their sound was unified and possessed a prayerful spirit as they followed the choir directors.
As is customary, the conference ended with a banquet organized by SS Peter and Paul’s sisterhood under Nadezhda Ivanovna Steward, which was described as glorious. All the participants were fed before and after all-night vigil, and offered the banquet the following day, when Fr Alexander then expressed his thanks to all who helped organize such a successful event at his parish, including parish warden Paul Johnson, the parish council, sisterhood and local organizing committee. Special thanks were reserved for the League of Russian-American Woman for organizing a large-scale lottery without which the conference could not have taken place.
Mr Fekula thanked the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which every years contributes to church-music conferences. He stressed the importance of supporting the FfA and gave examples of the benevolent projects it organizes.
Mr Krassovsky thanked the local organizing committee and gave each of them a modest gift from the SLMAB.
Protopriest Andrei Papkov, President of SLMAB, announced that the next conference will be held in Calgary, Canada, at the Church of All Saints from October 7-11, 2015 .
It is important to note the enthusiasm and joy of the participants, who returned to their hometowns in the Russian diaspora with renewed energy for continuing their work in the harvest fields of church singing.