Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And the raven shall scatter your bones ...

This is a nice piece about the powerful choir who travels about to help heal the old wound between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad which came about as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution.


They sing songs about gruesome deaths and appalling suffering. Yet this monk choir is captivating audiences the world over. Luke Harding meets them in Moscow

Tuesday September 11, 2007

The Guardian

It's 6pm at Moscow's Sretensky Monastery and the faithful are arriving for prayer. Inside the church, women wearing headscarves genuflect beneath a vast altar as an orthodox priest in black rectangular headgear waves incense. Hundreds of candles illuminate the ancient frescoes.

Up in the gallery, a group of young men are standing round sheets of music. Several are dressed in seminarians' robes; others wear denim jackets. One has a ponytail. Three have beards. Their average age is about 23. They seem much like any other choir - until they open their mouths. What emerges is a wave of extraordinary sound: rich, gripping, melodic, powerful and utterly unfeigned. It's the sort of sound you might expect had the early apostles suddenly broken off from writing the New Testament and burst into song. Down below, the priest responds in resonant baritone; the glorious exchanges waft heavenwards.

That this choir is so good is not an accident. As the monastery's youthful abbot, Father Tikhon, points out, it is made up of the "best voices in Moscow", many from elite musical academies, and has a growing international reputation. Earlier this month, the Sretensky choir embarked on a world tour, singing in New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, Sydney, Melbourne, Geneva and Berlin. The tour climaxes with a London performance on September 30. Reviews have so far been gushing. The 41 singers have mastered "the dense, nasal tone and luminous blend characteristic of Russian choral tradition", the New York Times noted. It called one hymn, Now the Powers of Heaven, "achingly lovely", and praised tenor soloist Anton Sergeev for his "dreamy ardour". The audience, including many gentlemen in clerical robes, "appeared to be ready to listen all night long".

As well as bolstering the choir's reputation, the tour will introduce western audiences to an unusual range of Russian songs, both secular and religious,...Read the rest here

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