SAN FRANCISCO: December 1, 2003


A Unique Landmark: Chants of the Russian Diaspora

A new CD has been released in San Francisco. This CD, “Chants of the Russian Emigres,” is a historic milestone: all the hymns recorded on it are exclusively by composers of the Russian emigration. This is the first such recording of its type. As is well known, one of the consequences of the catastrophe which befell Russia in 1917 was the flight of several million Orthodox people abroad. Having settled in various countries, they continued in those foreign lands the age-old tradition of church music which was violently interrupted in their homeland.

The composers who left Russia did not bury the talent entrusted to them by God, but, on the contrary, under the difficult conditions of the emigration, not only preserved it, but even increased it. The composition and harmonization of Russian church hymns became for them one of the means of expressing their love for God, their dedication to the Orthodox Church, and their commitment to the future of Russia. If in Babylonian captivity the chosen people posed the question: “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land,” the Russian people who found themselves in exile and who chose Christ were able to survive in foreign countries precisely because they sang the Lord’s song in a strange land. It was these strange lands which, in the context of the historical and spiritual catastrophe of Russia, enabled them fully to understand and be aware of how short, how illusory our life is; how much more sublime the internal is as compared to the external. This, in turn, found expression in their spiritual creativity. The composers of the Russian diaspora do not so much constitute a particular school as a definite direction in church music. A group of church musicians was formed, who continued the tradition of studying and reworking the old church chants, as well as the experience of free composition in the best traditions of the Russian ecclesiastical music of the early 20th century.

With the lifting of the Iron Curtain, the idea occurred to us to record a CD of church music exclusively by composers of the Russian exiles, and sung by a church choir in the former Soviet Union. In connection with the changes which have taken place in Russia, the time has come to return church treasures to the motherland, one of which is the heritage of church choral music. The heritage entrusted by God to the Russian emigres: that which was saved, preserved and increased in exile is being returned to the native land. The mission of the Russian exile community is reaching its end.

We hope that what is best within the church music tradition of the Russian diaspora will help to promote the regeneration of church music in Russia, and that this, in turn, will prove to be a contribution toward the rebirth of parish life. Apart from the original objective of our project, the present recording may also serve as a model for small parish choirs which desire to follow a stricter tradition of Russian Orthodox choral music. By no means are all the composers of the Russian emigration represented on the disc. Archbishop Gabriel (Chepur), Alexander Glazunov, Andrew Ilyashenko, Nicholas Kedrovpere, and Nicholas Kedrov fils, Maxim Kovalevsky, Ivan Kolchin, Michael Konstantinov and Boris Ledkovsky belonged to different generations, possessed different levels of musical education, lived in different countries, and belonged to different branches of Orthodoxy. Several of them were composers of wide repute, others lived in obscurity; the legacy of the church music of some was vast, while others wrote only a few church pieces. However, all of these composers lived the dream of the future rebirth of Russia and its highest religious traditions.

God willing, we hope in the future to continue as a series “The Heritage of the Church Choral Music of the Russian Emigres,” which has been initiated by the present recording.

Archpriest Peter Perekrestov

This is a unique landmark CD, the first to focus entirely on the sacred chant arrangements and compositions of Russian expatriates, who left their homeland to escape the godless Communist regime, yet continued to carry forward the creative currents that had already arisen before the 1917 Revolution in the works of such composers as Kastalsky, Chesnokov, Gretchaninoff, and Rachmaninoff. The selections are beautifully sung by a choir in the former Soviet Union, representing a poignant "homecoming" of sorts for this music. The church choir of SS Peter and Paul Church, numbering about 16 singers, could be the envy of any Orthodox parish: the singing is sensitive and tuneful, showing excellent dynamics, ensemble, and phrasing. The editors and consultants of the CD did their research, unearthing biographical details and rare portraits for most of the composers. The repertoire is also extraordinarily interesting, many of the works being recorded for the first time ever... The disc edition is entirely bi-lingual, featuring notes and titles in Russian and English.

Vladimir Morosan


The new CD (sung in Church Slavonic) is available from:

In the U.S.A.
($17.00 US + $3.00 shipping & handling):
Synod Bookstore
75 East 93rd Street
New York, NY 10128 USA
(212) 534-1601

Holy Trinity Monastery Bookstore
PO Box 36
Jordanville, NY 13361 USA

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Bookstore
200 Alexander Avenue
Howell, NJ, 07731 USA

Holy Virgin Cathedral Bookstore
6200 Geary Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94121, U.S.A.

In Europe
(15 EUROS + postage)
Couvent de Lesna
1, rue du Moulin
Provemont, 27150 Etrepagny, FRANCE


($27.00 AUS + shipping & handling):
Holy Virgin Protection Church Bookstore
136 John Street
Cabramatta, NSW, 2166, AUSTRALIA

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