Participants from nearly every jurisdiction in North America attended the 2016 Pan-Orthodox Music Symposium held at the Saint Mary’s Cathedral here June 23-26, 2016.
“When we attend conferences and symposia, every once in a while you really feel like you are attending one that is truly special,” said Michael Lang, a member of Christ the Saviour Church, Ottawa, Ontario. “This year’s symposium had that special feel.”
Michael was one of five attendees from the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese who joined nearly 150 other participants from 31 states and five countries, representing ten Orthodox jurisdictions as well as the Roman and Byzantine Catholic and Lutheran traditions.
The five-day event, sponsored by the International Society for Orthodox Church Music [ISOCM] with cathedral parishioner David Lucs, a member of the ICOSM Board, closed with the Hierarchical Divine liturgy on the Sunday of All Saints, June 26, celebrated by His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago and His Eminence, Metropolitan Elia of Oulu, Finland. At the liturgy, participants sang new settings of the post-Communion troparia composed by Archpriest Sergei Glagolev and other recent compositions written especially for the symposium. The youth of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, who were attending the parish’s vacation Church school, sang parts of the Vigil and Liturgy with symposium participants.
“There is nothing quite like a gathering of Orthodox Christian liturgical musicians, and this symposium definitely proved the point,” said Larissa Sander, one of the symposium’s directors. “What a wonderful gathering of like-minded souls—singers dedicated to the glory of God and His Church, all seeking musical and liturgical beauty.”
The symposium also included workshops on the use of Byzantine Chant in parish practice, led by John Boyer; a session with Juliana Woodill on teaching children to sing; and presentations by John Black on how to work with senior choir members. Formal presentations were also given by Dr. Kurt Sander on the theme of “joyful sorrow” in Church music, Dr. Paul Barnes on the use of Orthodox music in concert settings, and Dr. Nicoletta Freedman on balancing aesthetics with theology while singing or chanting.
The keynote address was presented by Father Ivan Moody, who chairs ISOCM’s Board, who explored how beauty, prayer, and music are inherent to our Orthodox Christian ethos and liturgical experience.
A working session considered the future of Orthodox Church music and how participants can work together in such areas as Church music for children, research and publications, leveraging social media, training of leaders and singers, engraving and transcribing music, and concerts and outreach. The results of this session will be shared in a formal letter that will be sent from the ISOCM to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA and jurisdictional music departments.
“I would say I thoroughly enjoyed the balance of education, participation and of course the music itself,” said Nina Lickwar, a member of Saint Jonah Church, Spring, TX. “It’s a sensational feeling when you have a composer present to hear his or her art come to life, an electric one when they conduct you singing it, and heartwarming when you leave being friends with them.”
Enthusiasm for the event has been overwhelming, with participants asking the ISOCM to consider hosting another regional gathering in North America. ISOCM Board members already have discussed ideas for themes and possible locations.
“The Society strives to provide resources for those interested in Orthodox liturgical music and opportunities for them to meet to discuss vital topics related to Church music,” said Father Ivan. “In meeting, we strengthen our relationships which improves the quality and beauty of singing.”
ISOCM works to increase awareness of Orthodox liturgical music and chant by hosting gatherings around the globe, publishing resources and proceedings from its events, and facilitating research studies that explore the many facets of Orthodox Christian music.
Galleries depicting highlights of the gathering are available on the OCA web site and Facebook page and the cathedral web site. Recordings of symposium presentations are being edited and will be made available in the near future.