Sip of Living Water;" a concert by the parish choir of the
Church of All Russian Saints
who later converted to Orthodox Christianity, while still a Protestant,
told of his first time in the Church of All Russian Saints in Burlingame,
where he was elated by the splendid singing of the choir. The beauty
of the service and the adornment of the church strengthened the
notion within him that Orthodox Christianity must be the true faith
if people could pray to God so beautifully.
Most of the
music we hear is that of the so-called "mass culture,"
which empties the soul of man. But there is another kind of music
which does not rely on commercial success, which cleanses the soul
and forces one to think of eternal values: religious music.
An icon taken
out of the church and displayed in a museum remains an icon—a religious
item, but it is viewed as a special work of art with a religious
theme. Similar in this way to an icon is church music that is performed
in public, which becomes an independent work of art yet does not
lose its religious, spiritual meaning.
performance of religious music is not a common event, but on the
eve of Thanksgiving, the choir of the Church of All Russian Saints
in Burlingame, CA, gave its first concert of church music. This
important event in the life of Russian society in and around San
Francisco and the Bay Area was held on November 14, 2004, at Burlingame
gathering from San Jose and Walnut Creek to San Francisco, began
arriving long before the start of the concert. Russian Orthodox
Community Services and St Olga House chartered a bus to bring people
wishing to attend the concert. Among the attendees were not only
Russians but Americans as well. Fifteen minutes before the beginning
of the concert, the house was filled to capacity, but people kept
streaming in, seeking out seats with difficulty.
Not long before
the beginning, Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America
arrived. The choir director, Andrei Roudenko, receiving Vladyka's
blessing, assumed his place, the choir rose to its feet, the audience
fell silent, and the magnificent chords of Dimitry Bortniansky's
Da voskresnet Bog ["Let God Arise"] rang out. The audience
heard the familiar composition in a new way, savoring the beauty
of the choir singers' voices and the harmony of Russian church music.
services, one concentrates more on prayer, and the singing of the
choir is taken in as beautifully-rendered prayer. But at a concert
of church music, one listens to the beauty, the harmony, the sounds
of the choral voices and that of the soloists.
The pure female
voices of the soloists Olga Medvedko and Alexandra Rozhkovsky in
Ledkovsky's Angel vopiyashe ["The Angel Cried"] recalled
the lines from the poem of A. Blok:
A girl sang
in the church choir
Of all who
are weary in foreign lands,
Of all the ships gone out to sea,
Of all who have forgotten their joy.
And here we
are, like those ships, far from our native shores, having taken
root in foreign soil through the strength of the Russian spirit,
the Orthodox faith, Russian culture, but our souls fly to our homeland,
and we pray for Russia...
of the concert was the multi-voiced performance of the Velikoye
Slavoslovie ["Great Doxology"] by Strumskii. Upon the
foundation of the bass voices, the women's voices floated gently,
while Paul Roudenko's magnificent baritone streamed forth.
Thanks to the
efforts of the founders and veterans of the choir, it was represented
by various waves of the Russian emigration; side by side with senior
singers were adolescents continuing the traditions of the Russian
diaspora. Many participants in the amiable ensemble are bound by
familial ties. Their selfless efforts during rehearsals and during
church services bring joy not only to the audience and to the parishioners,
but to the singers themselves. The choir is the pride of this parish.
From the moment of the establishment of this Orthodox church in
Burlingame in 1952 to this very day, a total of twelve choir directors
have taken the helm.
is known by the parishioners as a humble, warm person, a talented
musician, a scholar of church music. But surely not everyone knows
that Andrei Vladimirovich Roudenko began singing in his church choir
at the age of seven, working as a musician for a great many years,
and attained great mastery in his performance of classical and church
music. Until his appointment as choir director of the Church of
All Russian Saints in June, 2001, he founded and served as the Music
Director of the Russian Chamber Chorus in Boston. There, A.V. Roudenko
was a member of numerous musical societies, took part in festivals
of choral music and participated in many conferences on Russian
church music. In 1995, he debuted as the choir director in Boston
Symphony Hall during a concert of Russian church and folk music
together with the Russian baritone Dmitry Khvorostovsky. Andrei
Vladimirovich worked in Russia as well, directing the Karelian Academic
Choir, directing a joint performance of his own Russian Chamber
Chorus and of "Voskresenie" Choir in Moscow, and also
produced a recording of Rachmaninoff's Vespers.
In the first
part of the well-arranged program were the works, performed in chronological
order, of church music of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The
succession from the Italian Baroque style of Bortniansky's Da voskresnet
Bog to the severe, even ascetic musical compositions of S.V. Rachmaninoff,
A. Nikolsky and F. Rozhnov reflected the return of ecclesiastical
music to the firm roots of ancient Russian chants. From the St Petersburg
School, with its free composition, heard in the music of P.I. Tchaikowsky
and A. Rozhnov, the program moved to the compositional style of
the Moscow School, marked by the revival of Russian national patriotism
during the second half of the 20th century, characterized by the
music of S. Trubachev, S.V. Rachmaninoff, F. Stepanov and A. Nikolsky.
The second half rang out with splendid works, more varied in arrangement,
multifaceted in their musical sound, glorifying the Lord God, the
Mother of God and the Saints and manifested in the music of Nikolsky,
R. Chesnokov, Ledkovsky, Bortniansky, A. Lyadov and Nikolaev-Strumsky.
After the conclusion
of the concert, the Parish Rector of the Church of All Russian Saints,
Fr Stefan Pavlenko, remained to bless and greet the guests, who
lingered for a long time, sharing their impressions, congratulating
the singers on their successful debut, thanking them for the joy
they offered--like a sip of living water in a spiritual desert--and
wished the musicians further success. One wishes to thank and congratulate
yet again the church choir and its director on their first concert,
for all their work brought fruits a hundredfold in return. A great
bow to them!