The 27th Annual North American Church Musicians’ Conference for church conductors, singers, and readers, which was held at the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Albany, NY, from October 3-7, took place with great success and prayerful enthusiasm.
The event was organized by the Synodal Liturgical Music Commission, joined in its efforts by the local parish of the Nativity of the Mother of God, whose rector is Archpriest Alexis Duncan.
The main theme of the conference was “Strengthening the Foundation in Orthodox Church Singing Today: The Obihod (Common Chant Tradition) in Applied Contemporary Practice.”
Intensive classes, rehearsals, and lectures were held in the wonderful Holiday Inn Express & Suites hotel, located close to the church.
The schedule for the conference was replete. One needs only to list the lectures by title in order to become convinced that the studies were most serious: Matushka Eugenia Temidis – “The Octoechos: A Teaching Methodology;” Peter Fekula – “Demonstrating the Flexibility of the Obihod: Examples from the All-Night Vigil;” an presentation by the Konevets Quartet – “Singing in a Church Choir – Particulars of breathing, sound, and text, and how to best use your complement of singers;” Protodeacon Vadim Gan – “Prokimena and Alleluias, old errors and mistakes;” Ilya Tolchenov – “Orarion: A new score-writing platform for Orthodox music;” Professor Nicolas Schidlovsky – “History and Origin of the System of the Octoechos;” Konevets Quartet – “Exploration, with practical examples, of Russian chants, including Synodal, Znamenny, Valaam, Putevoi, Demestvenny, and the chants of other national Orthodox Churches;” Professor Kurt Sander – “A Layperson’s Analysis of Kastalsky’s Obihod Harmonizations for Passion Week.”
The active participation of the famous world ensemble Konevets Quartet must also be mentioned, who have existed for 25 years and have sung in many Orthodox churches of North America. These deeply pious professional singers happily responded to the invitation by the Synodal Commission and generously shared their extensive wisdom.
A huge thank you to them!
A round table was held, during which time questions were posed regarding real problems in choir life. The general discussions gave all a feeling of support from other participants. These talks and discussions continued between the rehearsals and lectures.
All were overjoyed that, upon arriving, the First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, stayed with the participants during both the rehearsals and the lectures. This was a great show of support not only for the Synodal Commission, but for everyone present.
Thrice a day the participants ate and continued their discussions at the table. In the evenings, they relaxed, swam in the pool, and gathered in the reception hall. A large group of youth was present, among whom were young conductors and singers. The sizeable contingent of youth finished the Synodal summer school for conductors and singers, which is led by the Synodal Liturgical Music Commission. The director of the school and chairman of the Synodal Commission is Archpriest Andre Papkov.
The Commission is comprised of: Protodeacon Serge Arlievsky, Peter Fekula, Vladimir Krassovsky, Nicolas Schidlovsky, Serge Schidlovsky, Kurt Sander, and George Skok.
On the evening of the second day, during the bountiful dinner arranged by the efforts of the sisterhood, Konevets Quartet gave a brilliant concert, the first half in the church (liturgical music), after which the second half was in the parish hall (folk songs). The full hall did not allow the Quartet to leave the stage, thanking them with long thunderous applause.
During the evening, after the convert, having returned to the hotel, the Synodal Commission convened a meeting, discussing the points of a significant agenda. The meeting continued late into the night.
On Saturday evening, everyone departed to the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God. The entire choir, over 70 people, easily fit into the choir loft. The acoustics in the church are wonderful, the church is remarkably muralled. All of the divine services were led by Metropolitan Hilarion. Co-serving the Metropolitan were the rector, Fr. Alexis Duncan, Fr. Andre Papkov, Archpriest Michael Fritz (parish cleric), Abbot Theophylact (cleric of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY), Abbot Tikhon (Gayfudinov; abbot of Holy Protection Skete in Buena, NJ), Protodeacons Serge Arlievsky (cleric of Holy Dormition Convent “Novo-Diveevo” in Nanuet, NY), Vadim Gan (cleric of the Synodal Cathedral in New York City), and Michael Soloviev (parish cleric).
The conference choir sang solemnly and prayerfully. Gems of liturgical music were performed. At the All-Night Vigil: the Introductory Psalm by P. Raspopov; “Blessed is the Man” by Ippolitov-Ivanov; the Valaam melody of “O Gladsome Light” by B. Ledkovsky; “The Hymns of Ascent” by Metropolitan Jonathan (Yeletskikh); “The Great Doxology” by F. Patorjinsky
Sunday morning saw the solemn greeting and vesting of the Metropolitan. The Divine Liturgy proceeded peacefully and prayerfully. The wonderful results of all the work spent at the conference were plainly seen. Performed at the service were: the Entrance “It Is Truly Meet” by P. Chesnokoff; “Thy Soul Shall Rejoice” by F. Stepanov; Antiphonal melodies of the Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra, harmonized by Archimandrite Matthew (Mormyl); the Serbian melody of “O Only-Begotten Son;” the “Trisagion” by Deacon Trubachev; the Eis Polla trio by Fr. M. van Opstal; the “Cherubic Hymn” by N. Golovanov; “A Mercy of Peace” by K. Sander (the composer himself conducting), and others.
After Liturgy, words of thanks by the Metropolitan and the rector warmed the hearts of those in attendance in church. Afterward, all followed into the parish hall, where a final banquet was held, prepared again by the unbelievable efforts of the sisterhood.
During the banquet, the Synodal Commission thanked the Metropolitan, the rector, the sisterhood, and all of the participants of the conference. A special thank you was expressed to the Fund For Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which has supported our conference greatly. Thanks were also expressed to all sponsors supporting the Fund For Assistance.
Prior to their departure, the Konevets Quartet once more took the stage with a short concert, for which the audience gave thanks with thunderous applause.
We wish our Synodal Liturgical Music Commission strength, health, patience, and strength of spirit for their further efforts and labors in the vineyard of liturgical singing.