…as I was a couple of posts ago, I’m off on Friday for two weeks of singing Russian Orthodox Church music.
There’s a monastery in upstate New York, not too far from the Baseball Museum in Cooperstown, which hosts the Summer School of Liturgical Music for two weeks every summer. If you go through all the courses, over a three-year period, you are certified as a choir director and/or Reader in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. I completed this course in 2003, went back in 2004 to help out in the kitchen (and sing, of course), missed it in 2005 for my grandson’s second birthday — I’ll never do that again — and last year, well, we know about that.
So I need this course this year. I plan to take a couple of refresher courses in Choral Conducting Methods and Church Music History, and, never having passed Church Slavonic, I really want to take that course for a (ahem) fourth time. Well, come on, most folks who take it at least have to read the stuff in church on Sundays. Until a few years ago, I never even knew it existed.
Now, I do attend a Greek church. So why am I taking courses in Russian Orthodox choral singing? Well, apart from the chance to sing four hours a day, with music composed by the likes of Rachmaninov, when I began the course I was in fact a choir director. Shortly after completing the first third of the course, my choir and I had a falling out, and I have not conducted since then, but the course material itself is so compelling that I just had to go back and finish it out, and I did.
However, there is now an ulterior motive: We have a new priest. I have met him, like him very much, and spoken with him at length about the parish, the choir, and the fact that although there are a number of Russians in the area, they don’t seem to feel awfully comfortable at our church. They show up for Pascha, then crawl back into the woodwork until the next year. He would like to change that.
My husband points out that any such effort is likely to put a number of Greek noses far out of joint, and he’s probably right about that. Some folks in the parish are still in a snit that they’ve had to put up with a non-Greek priest for the past six years, and the new priest is also not Greek, but Romanian. Still, seven years ago they didn’t even want to have English in the parish, and now they use it all the time, so I hope that there’s hope. If you focus on the Church as a spiritual hospital, this isn’t usually a problem, but if you focus on it as an ethnic club, that’s where the sparks fly. Will keep you all posted how this goes.
Meanwhile, I shall shortly be off for my spiritual “fix” for the year. I need it.