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  1. aka

    As a former professsionalperforming artist myself and being married to another, I would suggest theven key to greater support for greater professional support for sacred music is more robust amateur involvement in chanting and singing. It is the same in the secular arts when seen relative to sports. Large numbers of amateur athletes instill a desire to see professionals play; far smaller numbers of amateur artist lead to far less interest in and support for professional artists. In the context of already mainly amateur Orthodox sacred music, I would suggest what is missing is the ability to sing an entire service in some standard fashion, and the ‘ownership’ and desire for greater virtuosity that stokes. This is most obvious in a choral Russian tradition where most singers only know their part, not the melody, meaning the average choir member could not just step in to sing a service. Doing something to increase quality in Orthodox sacred music is too often focused on top-down initiatives focused on those seeking a living in Orthodox music or in new compositions attempting to ‘baptize’ some aspect of a local musical cultural tradition. I would suggest we too often begin with the roof rather than the foundation. Our focus should be on increasing basic fluency in common (rather than idiosyncratic), received (rather than new) musical traditions and the skills necessary for a large number of singers to own the music of the services (rather than simply being able to ‘follow along’ with a beleaguered, frustrated choir director or psalti.) For instance, we could certify singers in a Russian tradition who know the melody and one of the four parts of the various Obikhod or Kievan tones, the basic ‘set pieces’ of the services typical for a parish, e.g., Liturgy, Vespers, Matins; Baptism, Wedding, Funeral; Molieben, Artoklasia, Agiasmos. Preparing the ground better will result in the harvest of increased virtuosity and creativity we all seek.

  2. This is a fascinating history, and inspiring to me on several levels. I very much appreciate the emphasis on authentic prayerful expression AND on professionalism. I meet so many people who think of these as exclusive qualities in church music, which is, of course, absurd. But considering that the performance of Russian church music has long been the realm of very amateur church choirs and very professional secular choirs, the appearance of exclusivity has emerged. It is a very important witness to reveal to the world the staggering beauty of prayer and excellence united in song.

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