The Archdiocesan Choir of Washington, D.C. gave its premiere concert on Sunday, August 28 at Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral. The group was formed earlier this year with the blessing and support of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon. Led by Juliana Woodill, the choir sang works from Great Vespers and Divine Liturgy written entirely by American Orthodox composers for the English language. This project began with a call for compositions in February and over one hundred pieces were received for consideration. In selecting music, singability for the average church choir was of primary importance, keeping in mind the need for simplicity, beauty, and flexible voicings. Secondarily, the hope was to share music that is both uniquely American and liturgically appropriate.
While the choir is a project of the Orthodox Church in America, it includes singers from area parishes of many other jurisdictions as well, bringing together those who share a common faith and are separated only administratively. The Archdiocesan Choir is not a professional or auditioned ensemble and does not require a particular level of musical education or even the ability to read music. It is a group of Orthodox Christians desiring to sing praises to God, to learn, and to grow. The choir’s primary purpose will be liturgical, singing for various services and events in the Archdiocese and for His Beatitude. In the future, the choir hopes to facilitate events for community and fellowship as well as educational opportunities for Orthodox singers in the National Capital Region.
In his remarks at the conclusion of the concert, His Beatitude summed up the evening and the importance of liturgical music:
“What we have experienced this evening is not simply a concert but rather an immersion in the sacred liturgical life of the Orthodox Church. It is an experience that elicits something deeper than the merely aesthetical or emotional response of worldly entertainment. Rather, it is an experience that introduces us into the very life of God. These sacred offerings both lift us up, in all our human brokenness and suffering, to the edges of the heavenly and life-giving kingdom and draw down the light of that kingdom to illumine our world of darkness, war, and isolation. Our liturgical hymns and our sacred worship do not provide escapes for us but rather provide a conduit for the grace of God to fill and strengthen our hearts, whether they be joyful or suffering, and bind us
together in one of the few ways that human beings can be truly united: communion with Christ through sacred worship.”
It was announced at the 20th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America in Baltimore, MD that the first Sunday after the feast of Saint Romanus the Melodist (October 1) would be designated Musician Sunday. This day recognizes the vital ministry of our choirs in the life of the Church and honors those who serve as musicians in our parishes. His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon reminds us in his Encyclical from 2018 that “Music is often the first thing which deeply strikes people when they walk into an Orthodox church, even before they absorb the iconography, the architecture, the words of the services, or the preaching.” Often, our congregations see only the product of the work of the choir and conductor, without realizing the many hundreds of hours that go into learning music, preparing binders, rehearsals, and training. Musician Sunday is a wonderful way to begin recognizing all those who contribute to the beauty of the church through music.
On Musician Sunday, parishes are encouraged to go out of their way to recognize the efforts of our choir directors, choristers, and all those who serve in musical ministry, laboring for the Lord and the beauty of His Church. Thanking musicians during any announcements following the Divine Liturgy, notices in parish bulletins, or recognition at parish coffee hour and social events are all suggested as ways to mark the occasion.
This year, Musician Sunday is on October 2, 2022.
“Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance.” Ps 89:15
Visit their website to learn more, or donate to future projects.
All music from the concert is available for purchase at www.seraphim6.com/adc/