A diverse crowd of about 300 people attended "Rejoice, O Mountains of Pennsylvania," a benefit concert for St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary sung by the Chamber Choir of St. Tikhon's Monastery on Sunday, May 29 at St. Stephen's Episcopal Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre.
In addition to several hierarchs, dozens of clergy, and many Orthodox faithful, the concert attracted at least 100 attendees who were not Orthodox.
"A husband and wife who were passing through the area on the day of the concert heard a recording of the Chamber Choir on WVIA, the NPR affiliate for Northeastern Pennsylvania," reported Benedict Sheehan, artistic director of the Chamber Choir and professor of Orthodox liturgical music at St. Tikhon's Seminary. "They were so taken with what they heard that they changed their plans, stayed in Wilkes-Barre, and ended up buying tickets. Many people received their first introduction to Orthodox sacred music, and perhaps even to Orthodoxy, because of this event."
The Chamber Choir is a professional vocal ensemble whose members include some of the finest solo and ensemble singers in the New York area and throughout North America. Several of the singers are also members of Grammy Award-winning ensembles and appear as soloists with professional opera companies around the country. Six members have direct ties to St. Tikhon's Seminary, either as current students, alumni, or wives.
The choir's debut album, "Till Morn Eternal Breaks: Sacred Choral Music of Benedict Sheehan," attracted the attention of the regional arts media, as well as various Orthodox media outlets, following its release in 2015 and a celebratory concert on November 12 in New York City.
In December, ArtScene with Erika Funke, a radio program which brings attention to arts and cultural events in Pennsylvania, featured an interview about the debut album with Archimandrite Sergius, abbot of St. Tikhon's Monastery, and the Sheehans. In March, Vladimir Morosan, a leading musicologist of Orthodox music, reviewed the album during an episode of his podcast on Ancient Faith Radio. Then, in April and May, WVIA featured two long-form broadcasts of the album itself, exposing the region's classical music fans to Orthodox sacred music.
"Beauty, as Dostoevsky said, saves the world. Beauty is one of the things that the Church has to offer, and making that beauty available to a wide audience can open people's hearts to deeper realities," Archimandrite Sergius said. "That's why the monastery is committed to supporting this choir and a regular cycle of performances."
A five-minute video from the concert is available on YouTube. It shows the program’s very first piece and its very last: the final encore at the evening’s conclusion.
"We look forward to hosting more concerts like this in this region of the country, and maybe even beyond," Archpriest Dr. Steven Voytovich, Dean of St. Tikhon's Seminary, said. "The Chamber Choir is one of the ways that the monastery and the seminary work together for the life of the world and its salvation."
The presenting sponsor for the evening was Renovation Angel, a national non-profit organization that recycles luxury kitchens and donates proceeds to charity. Other major sponsors included the Philadelphia Trust Company, the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute, and the Honesdale National Bank.
Sponsorships for the choir's 2016-2017 season are now available. For more information please contact Benedict Sheehan at email@example.com.