The celebration of the silver anniversary of the Summer School of Liturgical Music (SSLM) took place on Labor Day weekend; the school operates under the patronage of the Synodal Liturgical Music Commission together with Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY.
SSLM professors, alumni and current students gathered in Chicago, the cathedral city of the Diocese of Chicago and Middle America, as the gala weekend was hosted by the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral. Several members of the Synodal Liturgical Music Cathedral participated, including its chairman, Archpriest Andre Papkov (himself the director and founder of SSLM); Mr Peter Fekula, director of the Metropolitan’s Choir of the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign; Mr Vladimir Krassovsky, director of the Hierarchical Choir of the Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral in San Francisco; and Kurt Sander, choir director at St George church in Cincinnati and professor of music theory and solfege at SSLM. Other professors present included NA Myshkin, choir director at the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in Kolomenskoe (Moscow); AV Shipovalnikov, choir director at the Church of SS Peter and Paul in Jersey City; and LE Temnova, soloist of the Moscow Synodal Choir.
The intense preparations, consisting of rehearsals for the weekend’s solemn services and memorial concert, began at 7 pm on September 1, 2016. Four of the school’s graduates were invited to conduct the assembled singers: Andrei Burbelo, for many years choir director at St Alexander Nevsky Church in Lakewood (Howell), NJ, and currently based in Baltimore; Gregory Kotar, choir director at St Nicholas Cathedral in Seattle; Paula Genis, director of the English choir at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC; and Sander. To the great disappointment of all present, the Ruling Hierarch, His Eminence Archbishop Peter, could not officiate at the services due to the state of his health.
The singing was solemn and prayerful, reflecting the tradition of Russian Orthodox liturgical music that the school strives to pass on to its students. Of the many beautiful hymns sung at Vigil and Liturgy were “O Gentle Light” by Sergei Trubachev; “Praise Ye the Name of the Lord,” an Athonite chant harmonized by Michail Konstantinov; “A Mercy of Peace” by Sander, and the “Zadostoinik of the Dormition” by Pavel Chesnokov deserve special mention.
Divine Liturgy on Sunday, September 4, was concluded by a short thanksgiving moleben, after which Protodeacon Vadim Gan read the text of the Metropolitan’s gramota [decree of blessing] that was awarded to Nikolay Myshkin for his quarter century of service of teaching at SSLM. Afterwards a solemn “Many Years” was proclaimed, to which the choir answered with a powerful monolithic rendition of the “Many Years” melody of the Sofia Novgorod Cathedral. The celebration was concluded by Dimitry Bortniansky’s “Te Deum” conducted by Peter Fekula.
After the service, the choristers returned to intense work, preparing for the concert of spiritual music that took place at 5 pm at the Serbian Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Chicago. The concert, under the direction of Myshkin, was truly magnificent and left the audience spellbound.
The concert was opened by an introductory speech by member of the Synodal Liturgical Music Comission, Vladimir Krassovsky. After briefly describing the history of the school and its mission, he announced that the participants in the weekend’s celebrations wished to dedicate the concert to SSLM’s founder and director, Fr Andre Papkov. In conclusion, Krassovsky read a congratulatory greeting from choral conductor Peter Jermihov.
The evening’s program consisted of Russian liturgical music from the 20th century. Of the compositions performed, the following made the greatest impression: “Christmas Concert” by Archpriest N. Vedernikov; “The Angel Cried” by Chesnokov, with soloist L.E. Temnova; “Who is This King of Glory” from the rite of blessing a newly-built church, by Konstantinov (with Fr Andre Papkov as cantor); and the “Cherubic Hymn” by Yuri Sakhnovsky, a classmate of Sergei Rachmaninov.
After the concert, the audience and singers lingered for a long time in front of the cathedral, joyfully sharing their impressions from what they had just heard.
The evening was concluded by a banquet at the Russian restaurant “Zhivago,” where participants enjoyed a truly glorious selection of Russian cuisine. During the dinner, Fr Andrei congratulated those present and thanked them for their participation in the jubilee festivities, encouraging them to register for the upcoming jubilee Liturgical Music Conference in Montreal (October 5-9, 2016).
After Fr Andrei’s greeting, former and current students of the school, professors and staff shared touching reminiscences about their experiences at SSLM, with the dinner lasting well into the late hours of the night.
Let us wish Fr Andrei and the professors of the Summer School of Liturgical Music God’s help and further flourishing in the field of liturgical singing, as well as complete success in all of their God-pleasing endeavors.
Photos: Luba Kichakoff