Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Los Angeles, CA, hosted the very successful, fruitful, and uplifting 26th North American Conference with over 70 church choir directors, singers, and psalmists participating. The conference, whose main theme was “Vocal Artistry of the Deacon, Reader, and Singer at Divine Services,” was organized by the Liturgical Music Commission under the auspices of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and by a special committee of Holy Transfiguration Cathedral.
This was the first year in which seven deacons attended the conference. The commission had decided to reinforce the links between the deacon, kliros, and choir through a special program, which undoubtedly will be expanded in the future.
The beautiful Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Culver City hosted a series of very interesting activities, rehearsals, and lectures.
His Grace Bishop Theodosy of Seattle, opened the conference by serving a moleben before undertaking a good work, sung by all the participants. Following Bishop Theodosy’s introductory remarks, the Commission Chairman, Protopriest Andrey Papkov, thanked the bishop for his support and declared the 26th Church Musicians’ Conference officially open.
The conference program was packed full of lectures and reports whose titles alone attested to the very serious nature of the activities:
1) Bishop Theodosy: “Orthodox Musical Culture in Divine Services in the Spirit of Unity of Mind and Love.”
2) Guest of Honor and Professor at Kiev Theological Academy, Archpriest Dmitry Bolgarsky: “The Internal and Physical State of the Singer in Preparation for and During the Divine Services.”
3) Protodeacon Ioann Drobot from St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris: “The Church Council of 1917-1918 regarding Church Singing.”
4) Protodeacon Vadim Gan, Synodal Cathedral of the Mother of God of the Sign, New York, who read two reports: “The Legacy of the Archdeacons of the Church Outside of Russia,” and “Practicum for Deacons with Readers and Singers in Mind.”
5) Andrey Roudenko, choir director at Church of All Russian Saints in Burlingame, CA, gave two reports on “Music Theory/Solfeggio,” and “Choral Performance Techniques.”
A round table discussion was held where participants could ask questions or talk about problems.
The rehearsals acquainted participants with some jewels of liturgical music. The vigil resounded with: Chesnokoff’s “Praise the Lord, Oh My Soul,” Pochaev Lavra’s version of “Blessed Is the Man,” Arkhangelsky’s “Praise the Name of the Lord,” Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra version of “I Shall Open My Mouth” and other works. The Liturgy included: Kastalsky’s “Only-Begotten Son,” Panchenko’s “Beatitudes,” Chesnokoff’s “Cherubikon,” Konstantinov’s “It Is Meet and Right” (melody lamenting the destruction of Moscow ), Ledkovsky’s “It Is Truly Meet,” and other pieces.
Meals were served three times a day at the hotel, providing opportunities for fellowship. In the evenings participants rested, swam in the pool, and gathered in the reception hall. Special mention should be made of the poolside supper held to honor everyone who had worked to bring about this remarkable conference. Thanks be to God that the number of young people attending the conference has been increasing each year! A contingent of the youths participating in the Summer Liturgical Music School led by the Synodal Commission and Holy Trinity Seminary was also in attendance at Los Angeles.
On Friday evening while participants rested, the Synodal Commission conducted a meeting at which important matters were discussed.
On Saturday evening everyone headed to Holy Transfiguration Cathedral, a large structure with excellent acoustics. It was a special blessing to have present the Miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Iveron Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos from Hawaii. The clergy led by Bishop Theodosy and the choir with more than 70 singers ceremoniously greeted the holy image adorned with an abundance of flowers which stood in the center of the church overcrowded with worshipers. The vigil service progressed beautifully and triumphantly with prayerful decorum.
After the vigil a “Mexican kitchen” was set up outside the cathedral, and everyone could order from a variety of tacos, which was a very enjoyable experience.
On Sunday morning there was a ceremonial meeting of Bishop Theodosy followed by his vesting. The Divine Liturgy progressed peacefully and prayerfully, once again with an overflowing congregation, and the great efforts made by singers at the conference were made evident with the spectacular results in their choral performance. At the conclusion of the liturgy the “Many Years” was sung triumphantly and the cathedral rector, Protopresbyter Alexander Lebedeff, expressed words of gratitude.
The closing banquet held at the large church hall left an indelible impression. The Synodal Commission thanked everyone on the local level who had worked to organize the conference, presenting them with small gifts. Taso Komanescu delighted all present with a virtuoso classical guitar performance, met with many thanks and thundering applause.
A word of gratitude must be expressed to the members of the local organizational committee, led by choir director Irene Orloff, who took upon herself the lion’s share of leadership. She was helped by Sergei Orloff, Elizabeth and Barbara Orloff, Natasha and Nicholai Zaharov, Aleksei Krassovsky, Arthur Akopian, and the cathedral warden, Dr Natalie Orloff. Also, there were many good people who pleased God with their generous and anonymous support for this conference. Thanks to all of them!
And last but not least, it remains to thank the Synodal Commission and all the organizers of this wonderful conference and prayerfully wish them God’s help, spiritual fortitude for continuing efforts and work in the vineyard of church singing. And so, until we meet again, at the next conference, please check for announcements on the Synod website (synod.com) for upcoming location and dates.