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A Trip With a Creative Touch

With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, a choir of select young singers from the parishes of the Russian diaspora will make a visit to Moscow for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty and the Days of Slavic Literature and Culture. The young people will be led by His Grace Bishop Theodosius of Seattle, Vicar of the Western American Diocese. After a historic performance in 2007 of a choir from the Russian Church Abroad in Uspensky Cathedral in Moscow’s Kremlin in 2007, the first after 70 years of exile, this will be the first such visit by a youth choir from abroad. Discussing the preparation for this trip and the missionary program in Russia of the singers is Vice President of the Synodal Youth Department of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Protopriest Andrei Sommer.  

- The idea of bringing a youth choir came from the young parishioners themselves. They have established a tradition ever since returning from the last pilgrimage of getting together and sharing impressions and good ideas for missionary work, “striking while the iron is hot” in planning themes and venues for further trips. Last year many of our young parishioners expressed the desire to organize a trip for a collective youth choir to Moscow and St Petersburg to participate in the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty. Preparations lasted for six months. The motivated singers already met in Jordanville under the direction of the young choir director of Holy Trinity Seminary, Nikolai Kotar, and held online rehearsals via Skype. Our chorale members will have the opportunity in Russia to sing during divine services and give concerts of liturgical and folk music.  

- Who is participating in the choir?  

- These are mostly students, seminarians, parish activists and kliros singers from the Eastern American, Western American and Canadian Dioceses, twelve in all. Among them are descendants of Russian emigres and some Americans. Some don’t speak Russian, but this doesn’t hinder them from singing in Church Slavonic in our Russian churches, trying to understand the services, participating in Liturgy with their voices and teaching the Orthodox faith to their non-Orthodox friends. Some have already traveled to Russia, for other it will be the first time. We even have a singer from Hawaii—seminarian John Martin.

I’d like to note that most of these singers could hardly afford a trip to Russian themselves, simply because it is too expensive. The Youth Department could not have paid all the expenses if not for the help of our benefactors: the President of Russian Railroads, Vladimir Ivanovich Yakunin, the First Vice President of the Fund of Holy Apostle Andrei the First-Called, Mikhail Ilyich Yakushev, and businessmen Vladislav Stanislavovich Chernikov, Rostislav Ordovsky Tanaevsky-Blanco, Nicolas Nikolaevich Mokhoff. Despite the financial hardships suffered by organizations in Russia and abroad since the financial crisis, people responded to our pleas and, thanks to their generosity, we are going to Russia. We are also grateful to the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in New York for issuing visas for the singers free of charge. 

We are also happy that Bishop Theodosius will accompany us, young people love Vladyka for his accessibility, prayerfulness, and wise and timely counsel.  

- Fr Andrei, this ensemble of singers already had the experience of performing at the Twelfth All-Diaspora Youth Conference in Paris in 2011. What is new in the repertoire they will bring to Russia?

Right after arriving in Moscow, we will travel by train to St Petersburg. On the feast day of Holy Apostle John the Theologian, the choir will sing with an academy choir at Divine Liturgy, and will meet with its students. Over two days in the northern capital, we will make pilgrimages to the holy sites and tourist attractions of the city, including SS Peter and Paul Fortress, where we will perform a pannikhida for the departed members of the Romanov family.  

In Moscow, the young singers will participate in the celebration of the Days of Slavic Literature and Culture, and on the evening before, at the invitation of the Senior Priest of Yelokhovsky Cathedral, Protopriest Alexander Ageikin, they will sing during all-night vigil. Our youth will also participate in the opening of the youth festival “Faith and Deeds” in Christ the Savior Cathedral, and spend some time with the students of St Tikhon Humanitarian Orthodox University.  

The choir will perform a musical-literary composition in Marfo-Mariinsky Convent devoted to the life of Holy Martyr Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fedorovna. The performance will include the readings and the singing of two compositions. Members of humanitarian organizations are invited, benefactors, children from orphanages under the care of the convent’s nurses. This concert will be the little jewel of our missionary program. 

At the invitation of Abbot Melchisedek (Artyukhin), Rector of SS Peter and Paul Church in Yasenev, we will visit parishes where the singers will perform a concert for its young members under Fr Melchisedek’s ministry, and for seniors from an old-age home. We will be happy to share the Paschal joy not only with other people their age but with those in particular need of spiritual warmth.  

The Russian Church Abroad never broke the tradition of missionary service, and even today, the grandchildren of emigres continue to develop missionary service in various directions. Living far from their Homeland, Russian people try not only to establish Orthodox parishes and build churches, but most importantly to build temples within their souls and educate the young generation in the spirit of Russian Orthodox traditions. We live in a heterodox world and so it is very important for us that young people live a life in the church, filled with concrete activities, which our hierarchs have perpetual concern for, and that they carry out missionary work—each to the best of their talents and abilities.  

Marina Dobrovolskaya