The 30th North American Church Music Conference in Ottawa
The 30th North American Liturgical Music Conference was a great success, uniting church choir directors, singers, and readers. Approximately 60 people gathered in the Ottawa, ON, suburb of Kanata. The conference was organized by the Liturgical Music Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with the participation of the local organizing committee, headed by George Skok, and the Church of Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, where the rector is Archpriest Oleg Mironov.
The theme of the conference was "The Orthodox Liturgical Aesthetic: Creating Beautiful Services."
The conference was dedicated to the memory of Protodeacon Vasily Milonov (+2023) and the devoted worker in the field of Church music Dr. Denis Brearley (+2017), head of Classical Studies at the University of Ottawa. Sigificant attention was also given to the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff on the 150th anniversary of his birth.
The intensive studies, rehearsals, and lectures took place in the excellent Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, located close to the church.
After the opening prayer, Archpriest Andre Papkov, Head of the Liturgical Music Commission, welcomed all present with a brief greeting and declared the 30th Music Conference open.
The program of the Conference was very full. One needs only list the lectures to be convinced that the studies were serious:
- Vladimir Morosan - "Preserving the Heritage: Dr. Denis Brearley and the Orthodox Sacred Music Reference Library"
- Nicholas Ganson - "A Musical Life Well Lived: E.I. Evetz and His Quest for the Preservation of the Russian Choral Heritage in the Emigration"
- David B. Cannata - "Amid the Tumult of Rachmaninoff’s Life, He Always Remembered God"
- Irina du Quenoy - "ROCOR Aesthetic of Liturgical Music – Tradition and Evolution"
- Kurt Sander – "The Mystical Allure of Rachmaninoff’s Vigil: A Universal Expression of the Sacred?"
- Elias Dubelsten – "Choral Damage Control: Church Singing from a Producer’s Perspective"
- Nicholas Cowall, Keynote Speaker – "Unveiling the Beauty of Russian Orthodox Liturgical Aesthetic through Choral Singing"
- Vladimir Morosan – "Conducting Masterclass"
- Juliya Krukovskaya – "Particulars of Working with a Small Choir with Non-professional Singers"
Three times a day, also at the hotel, the group were served meals and continued to discuss music and to socialize. In the evenings, the participants rested, swam in the hotel pool, and gathered in the reception area. The number of young participants is growing with each conference. There were people in the contingent who had studied at the Synodal School of Liturgical Music, held each summer at Holy Dormition Convent "Novo-Diveevo" in Nanuet, NY.
The following people make up the Liturgical Music Commission (LMC):
- Head: Archpriest Andre Papkov
- Protodeacon Serge Arlievsky
- Irina du Quenoy
- Peter Fekula
- Vadim Gan
- Michelle Ganson
- Gregory Kotar
- Vladimir Krassovsky
- Kurt Sander
- Nicolas Schidlovsky, and
- George Skok
On Friday evening, a free night for the participants, the LMC held a meeting to review a very full agenda of issues.
On Saturday, during the morning schedule, His Eminence Nicholas, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, arrived. He offered a warm greeting and everyone received his Primatial blessing.
On Saturday evening, all the partipants left for St. Xenia Church, where a majestic All-Night Vigil was served to St. Sergius of Radonezh. Concelebrating with Metropolitan Nicholas were Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal & Canada, with a large group of neighboring clergy.
The choir of participants of the Conference sang festally and prayerfully under the direction of different directors.
Pieces sung at Vigil included: "Blessed is the Man" in Kievan chant, harmonized by B. Ledkovsky; "O Gentle Light" by A.V. Nikolsky; the Polyeleos by Stepanov; the Catabasia "I shall open my mouth" in the chant of Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra; and the Hymn of Light to St. Sergius by Protodeacon Serge Arlievsky.
After Vigil, thanks to the unbelievable efforts of the Sisterhood, a wonderful dinner was served in the church hall.
The following morning, the solemn greeting and vesting of the Metropolitan took place, after which he celebrated Divine Liturgy, joined by Archbishop Gabriel and many clergy. Liturgy was sung peacefully and prayerfully with a large contingent of worshippers present.
The amazing results after all the hard work of the Conference were apparent. Pieces of note included: "Ton Despotin" by Ddeacon Sergey Trubachev; "Only-begotten Son" by A. Gretchaninov; "The Beatitudes," Moscow chant, by P. Chesnokov; "The Cherubic Hymn" by V. Kalinnikov; "A Mercy of Peace" (in English) by M.S. Konstantinov, "It is Truly Meet," Tsar Fyodor chant by M.S. Konstantinov; and "O Theotokos and Virgin, Rejoice" by S. Rachmaninoff.
Upon conclusion of Liturgy, Many Years was proclaimed, followed by words of thanks from the Metropolitan.
After the service and its unforgettable impressions was the closing banquet, during which the LMC thanked rector Fr. Oleg, the main organizer George Skok, and his team. Great thanks were offered to the Sisterhood, headed by Sarah Kambites.
Special gratitude was expressed to the Fund for Assistance (FFA) to ROCOR, who each year generously supports the organization of the musical conferences, as well as the Synodal School of Liturgical Music. The Liturgical Music Commission calls upon each of us to donate as they are able to this most necessary and God-pleasing organization, the Fund for Assistance.
It remains to express our thanks to the LMC and all those who organized this wonderful conference, and to wish God’s help and strength of spirit for further efforts and labors in the realm of Church singing.
Next year, God willing, the singers will all meet again at the 31st Conference, which will be hosted by Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Los Angeles, CA.