4 Comments

  1. James Chater

    This article contains a lot of good advice on how to produce the voice. But supposing the church does not have any voices to produce? How does one attract good musicians into the parish? Some parishes are trapped in a vicious circle. Bad singing keeps the good singers away, which confirms the badness of the singing even more, etc. Does anyone have any ideas?

  2. You bring up an excellent question, James!
    Vladimir Gorbik was asked a very similar question at the first choral Master Class he taught at St. Vladimir’s Seminary back in 2012. I will try and summarize his response. Basically, he said, what is required is a single committed and qualified individual, around whom the music program in a parish can be built. That person, when given the moral and financial support by the parish, can begin to raise the level of singing at divine services, singing them well, if only as a solo chanter at first, working together with the pastor, identifying, recruiting, and training adult members of the community, working with children, etc. The process may require several years to bear fruit, but it has to start with a competent and visionary leader.

    This notion of hiring a qualified professional musician to build a parish music program may strike some people in the Orthodox Church as radical, especially in North America. (I don’t know about other countries.) Church choirs here are •generally• led and staffed by well-meaning but not always qualified amateurs, who are paid very little if anything. Yet people seem to understand that in order to build a church, one needs to hire an architect; to adorn the temple with an iconostasis and frescoes one needs to hire an iconographer; and the list can be continued to include professional roofers, plumbers, and electricians, etc. Why doesn’t the same understanding extend to church musicians who are, arguably, the most crucial contributors—next to the priest—to well-appointed liturgical worship?

    There have been some thought-provoking articles written on this topic in recent years, chiefly by Benedict Sheehan, Professor of Liturgical Music of St. Tikhon’s Seminary: http://myocn.net/dont-pay-church-musicians/,
    https://pravoslavie.ru/82389.html,
    https://goodguyswearblack.org/2017/01/10/how-to-get-competent-musical-leaders-benedict-sheehan/

    The problem, as you say, is “circular”: if there are no professionally paid positions supported by parishes, aspiring and talented young people will be less likely to pursue a vocation as an Orthodox church musician; and with no qualified candidates to fill those positions that might presently exist, the overall level of the musical culture in parishes spirals downward.

    Thankfully, there are a few bright lights upon the generally bleak landscape. In addition to Vladimir Gorbik’s master classes—both in North America and Russia, St. Vladimir’s Seminary has recently launched a “Parish Music Program” designed to bring the resources offered by the Seminary out to parishes.
    https://www.svots.edu/headlines/seminary-launches-parish-music-program

    The Summer School of Liturgical Music at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY, has been educating Orthodox choir conductors, singers and readers since 1992.
    http://sslm.hts.edu/

    The Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute continues to develop a range of master classes, workshops, and online classes, designed to address the educational needs of Orthodox church musicians.
    https://patraminstitute.org/

    Graduates and trainees of these programs need to be assured that the Church—on the level of individual parishes—will recognize the time, effort, and money they have expended, (Yes, lessons in conducting, vocal technique, and music theory cost money!) and offer them a basic living wage if they choose to dedicate their lives to a vocation in church music. Perhaps a parish can subsidize the cost of such lessons, sending “one of their own” to be trained, or perhaps a competent individual needs to be invited from the outside.

    The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few! They need intense encouragement, good will, and prayerful support—a good and fruitful soil. Then we can be assured that the Lord will provide.

  3. Vladimir Gorbik

    I thank dr. Vladimir Morosan for such a deep answer the question!
    The question really is very diffucult and actual.

  4. T. Chan

    What a wonderful experience it must have been!

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