After weeks of intense preparations on the parts of singers, managers and hosts, the Patriarch Tikhon Choir assembled for the first time ever at St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary. The choir’s Artistic Director, Maestro Vladimir Gorbik, of the Moscow Representation Church of the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra, hand-selected the 32 singers and prepared them for weeks via recordings sent electronically and Skype internet video conferencing. The singers, coming from Canada, Russia and the United States, began assembling on September 12, to embark on an intense week-long musical effort.
Their work began with a master class in preparation for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, September 13th and 14th, which combined members of the St. Tikhon’s Seminary choir with members of the Patriarch Tikhon Choir from both Russia and North America. This combined choir then sang the services for the feast, at which Metropolitan Tikhon presided. Many faithful from the area surrounding the Monastery came to celebrate the feast, which was an expression in itself of the unity of the church throughout the world.
As the sticheron was sung that night:
“Come, all ye kindred of the nations, let us honor in hymns the cross of the Lord!”
In the face of many great obstacles, God gathered the members of this choir together. Two very different cultures, several jurisdictions, many personalities, and across thousands of miles: under Maestro Gorbik’s direction, they were all formed into one body. But it was not simply an artistic endeavor. As Maestro Gorbik insists, in order to create high art, the souls of the artists must be joined in love. But the very highest art comes when the artists are joined in Love Himself, in Communion. And so, Gorbik’s mission has been to lead church singers in an effort to deny their own egos, to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbors as themselves. This is done through an exhaustively demanding rehearsal and performance process. And for the singers of the Patriarch Tikhon Choir, the extremity to which they were asked to go, left them in a place of joy.
After only one nine-hour rehearsal, the choir embarked on their debut tour. Their first concert, at St. Malachy’s – The Actors’ Chapel, on 49th Street, in Manhattan, was held on Monday, September 16th to critical acclaim. The New York Times review of this concert can be read here. On the 17th the choir traveled to Pittsburgh where their second performance was held at First Baptist Church, Pittsburgh. The local OCA parish of St. Alexander Nevsky very graciously hosted the choir and provided a beautiful reception, at which many local friends of St. Tikhon’s Seminary and Monastery had the opportunity to meet Maestro Gorbik and the members of the choir. On the 18th, the choir traveled to Washington D.C., where the ROCOR Cathedral of St. John the Forerunner generously hosted the choir for a Russian style luncheon feast. Fr. Victor Potapov welcomed the choir personally, gave a tour of the cathedral, and served a moleben for the choir’s efforts. The third and final concert was held that night at the Roman Catholic church of St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill. Each concert provided a very enthusiastic audience and each night the choir received multiple ovations and performed multiple encores.
Throughout the tour, the linguistic and cultural divide between Maestro Gorbik and the Russian musicians and the North American musicians and hosts presented a challenge. However, in spite of the best efforts of the evil one, who abhors unity among the faithful, humility and love were victorious. Gratitude for their experience and love for one another was be expressed clearly, though the group had a small common vocabulary. And at the end of their week-long marathon, the group parted with many tears and embraces.
With God’s help, the efforts of the Patriarch Tikhon Choir will continue in the months and years to come through performances before a broad range of audiences of the finest examples of Orthodox liturgical music. This will be augmented by the creation of coordinated educational programs to assist Orthodox church musicians in North America. The choir’s parent organization, the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute (PaTRAM Institute), is planning a multi-tiered series of training programs aimed at choir directors and singers of all ages, professional and non-professional alike, and offered by some of the foremost conductors and instructors in the Eastern Orthodox Church. To learn more about the PaTRAM Institute visit their website www.patraminstitute.org.
(In the weeks leading up to the event the author of this article, Maria Sheehan, also sat down with Ancient Faith Radio to provide an interview regarding the Patriarch Tikhon Choir and its Mission. That interview can be heard in its intirety here.)