June 4, 2010
Interview with members of the Eastern American Diocesan Music
Saturday, May 29, on the last day of the church musician’s
conference in Washington, DC, diocesan Media Office correspondent
conducted an interview with members of the Eastern American Diocesan
Music Committee (EAMDC) – Youri A. Petcherkin, choir conductor of
St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, and Matushka Eugenia
Temidis, conductor of the Holy Myrrhbearers Women’s Choir.
Youri Alexandrovich, tell us, how was this conference’s program
planned and developed?
chairwoman Elizabeth A. Ledkovsky and Matushka
Eugenia Temidis came to us with the idea of organizing a singer’s
conference. I had participated in similar conferences before. The
program of these conferences was organized as follows: directors and
singers would come together, they would work actively on sheet music
for the All-Night Vigil and Liturgy, and finally they would sing the
divine services together. In our view, this program did not give
participants any practical skills. So we decided to arrange the
program of our conference differently. We chose to offer workshops on
directing, vocal technique, and arrangement.
Matushka, many singers’ conferences in the Church Abroad host more
than 100 people, but this conference hosted no more than 30. Why was
the number of participants limited?
was intentional on our part. We decided to limit the number of
participants to 35, because the conference program was practical, and
offered instructors the chance to work with every participant
individually, which yields better results.
Youri Alexandrovich, what were your impressions of the work of the
first diocesan music conference?
order to teach one how to work with a choir, it is necessary to hold
these conferences more often. Obtaining these skills in a day or a day
and a half is extremely difficult. But this was our first such
experience, and in my view it was a successful one. I hope that over
the course of these two days the participants internalized some
initial skills that they can further review on their own. Then when
they return to regular conferences next time, they will already have
their own questions with which we can try to help them. I see this as
the goal of our conferences and a path to improving the quality of our
Matushka, how do you see the future of these conferences?
God’s help, we hope to expand these seminars across the whole
diocese, farther to the north and south, because different parishes
require different approaches. In the south we have more
English-speaking parishes, and more converts to the Orthodox faith. In
the north we have more parishes of old émigrés, where the services
are in Slavonic or bilingual. We have to approach this question with a
clear understanding of the needs of all of the parishes in our diocese
– new and old, Russian and American.
Do you feel a difference in the Eastern American Diocese between
Russian choirs and English ones?
often do, because the majority of choirs sing either only in Slavonic
or only in English. Here in Washington there is a unique situation,
wherein two parishes co-exist, with two choir conductors and two
choirs successfully singing together. Singers of St. John the Baptist
Cathedral show by their example how English and Slavonic singing can
come together. It is important for us to preserve our rich Russian
church choral tradition, but at the same time we cannot forget that we
live in America, and that church singing is one of the best forms of
missionary work. Divine services in the Russian Orthodox Church are
distinguished by their special beauty and the splendor of our
melodies, and we are obliged to continue this tradition in the English
Youri Alexandrovich, tell us about the relationship between the two
choirs in Washington.
can speak from the experience of our parish when I say that we feel
practically no separation between the English and Russian choirs.
Jared Brewer, the conductor of the English choir, and I use the same
methods to work with our choirs, and this unites us.
Matushka, this week, a new section opened on the diocesan website,
where for the first time in the history of the Church Abroad, "A
Church Singer’s Companion" is available in full in English. The
site also has a section for English-language choral music from the
repertoire of this parish’s English choir, but there is little
Slavonic music. Are there any plans to develop the Slavonic church
music section on the diocesan site?
aren’t as much in need of Slavonic music as much as we are of
English music, because there are already remarkable Russian sites,
from which any choir conductor or singer can download Slavonic music.
We are planning on publishing more materials for small choirs or
specific choir make-ups, as well as for male and female choirs. The
goal is to have materials on the site that are not available elsewhere
on the Internet.
Are you planning any joint events between the diocesan Holy
Myrrhbearers Women’s Choir and the choir of St. John the Baptist
So far we haven’t planned anything, in light of the fact that we
have just begun collaborating. God willing, His Holiness, Patriarch
Kyrill will grace us with a visit, and we can invite our diocesan
women’s choir in order to concelebrate with the Patriarch with three
choirs. Our rector, Archpriest Victor Potapov, supports our work and
has been planning to reconstruct our choir loft.
When the honorable head of St. John Chrysostom was brought from
Russia, our women’s choir and a male choir from the Synodal
Cathedral of the Sign sang antiphonally. We would gladly participate
in any joint events in Washington, especially during the Patriarch’s
Office of the Eastern American Diocese
DC: The first diocesan music conference was held at St. John the