June 4, 2010
Interview with members of the Eastern American Diocesan Music Committee (EADMC)

On Saturday, May 29, on the last day of the church musician’s conference in Washington, DC, diocesan Media Office correspondent Reader Peter Lukianov 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.

interview.lg.jpg (50494 bytes)- Youri Alexandrovich, tell us, how was this conference’s program planned and developed?

EADMC 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?

This 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?

In 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 choirs’ singing.

- Matushka, how do you see the future of these conferences?

With 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?

I 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 language.

- Youri Alexandrovich, tell us about the relationship between the two choirs in Washington.

I 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?

We 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 Cathedral?

Y.A.: 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.

M.E.: 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 visit.

  Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese

See also

Washington, DC: The first diocesan music conference was held at St. John the Baptist Cathedral