In New Jerusalem, angels sing everywhere. Church choir singing and church music remind us of the singing of the angels. They are indispensable to our lives of prayer and worship. Even the reading is done in a singing voice.
At our Convent, there are numerous choirs. The Monastic Choir, the Festive Choir, the Sisterhood Choir and Male Choir are among the best known. The singers are monastics and laypeople, amateurs and professional performers. We value the richness of the talents, voices and performing styles among them, for to be an Orthodox faithful is to be versatile. As says our Convent's spiritual father Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok, "Creativeness and ingenuity are at the heart of the Church. It means looking for and exploring the best means to express one's spiritual movements and sensations most fully and vividly".
All of these aspects are present in the singing, the icons and the atmosphere of the church. Our choirs have a rich repertoire. They sing church hymns and Orthodox chants from Russia, Bulgaria and elsewhere. They also perform Orthodox songs and classical works. Most singing is acoustic or acapella. Their best chants and songs are posted on YouTube and elsewhere on the Net. Nun Juliania, the Chief Precentor of Saint Elisabeth Convent and Conductor of its Festive choir, is convinced that the Church gives a musician a lot of freedom for creativity. “I appreciated the great variety of Church music and familiarised myself closely with the legacy of the great church composers and conductors of the past - Chesnokov, Archangelsky and Bortnyansky, among others,” says Nun Juliania.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise Him with the harp and lyre, with the strings and pipe, with resounding cymbals. There is no expectation for all worship to be the same in all places; no one church should be the exact copy of another. Yet for all the diversity, we share a single common goal - to reach out to God and worship Him in good faith. As the precentors of our choirs are oft to say, a musician benefits the audience to the extent that it brings the listener closer to oneness with God and eternal life in Him. This is a heavy responsibility.
In our singing, we also strive for spiritual unity, something that the Orthodox call Sobornost. It is about community, the sense of belonging, oneness with Christ, and partaking in worship and communion. "I came to see Sobornost as paramount to the singing. One choir, many people. A multitude in oneness" says Nun Juliania.
In this section, we talk about the works of our precentors and singers. They tell us how they make singing the tool for bringing us closer to God and giving us a sense of unity with Him. They discuss the expressive means that they use, share with us their ways of keeping their choirs united and cohesive and tell us what their responsibility as artists means to them. Our choirs are different in size, membership or performing style, but all wish to resonate in people's hearts.