The Archdiocesan Choir of Washington, DC performed its first concert Sunday, August 28 at St. 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 the Divine Liturgy written entirely by American Orthodox composers for the English language. This project began with a call for papers in February and over a hundred pieces were received for consideration. When selecting the music, the ability to sing for the average church choir was of paramount importance, keeping in mind the need for simplicity, beauty and flexible voices. Second, the hope was to share music that was both uniquely American and liturgically appropriate.
Although the choir is a project of the Orthodox Church in America, it also includes singers from area parishes from many other jurisdictions, bringing together those who share a common faith and are only administratively separated. The Archdiocesan Choir is not a professional or auditioned ensemble and does not require any particular level of musical education or even the ability to read music. It is a group of Orthodox Christians eager to sing praises to God, learn and grow. The primary purpose of the choir will be liturgical, singing for various services and events in the Archdiocese and for His Beatitude. In the future, the choir hopes to facilitate community and fellowship events as well as educational opportunities for Orthodox singers in the National Capital Region.
In his remarks at the end of the concert, His Beatitude summed up the evening and the importance of liturgical music:
“What we experienced tonight was not simply a concert but rather an immersion in the sacred liturgical life of the Orthodox Church. It’s an experience that elicits something deeper than just the aesthetic or emotional response of mundane entertainment. Rather, it is an experience that introduces us to the very life of God. These sacred offerings raise us at the same time, in all our human fractures and sufferings, to the confines of the celestial and life-giving kingdom and attract the light of this kingdom to illuminate our world of darkness, war and isolation. Our liturgical hymns and our sacred worship do not provide us with escapes but rather provide a conduit for the grace of God to fill and strengthen our hearts, whether joyful or suffering, and bind us
together in one of the few ways in which human beings can be truly united: fellowship with Christ through sacred worship.
It was announced at the 20th Pan American Council of the Orthodox Church in America in Baltimore, MD that the first Sunday after the Feast of St. Roman the Melodist (October 1) would be designated Musician’s 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 2018 Encyclical that “music is often the first thing that strikes people deeply when they enter an Orthodox church, even before they absorb the iconography, the architecture , the words of the services or the sermon. .” Often our congregations see only the product of the labor of the choir and conductor, unaware of the hundreds of hours spent learning music, preparing binders, rehearsing and training . Musician’s Sunday is a wonderful way to begin to recognize all those who contribute to the beauty of the church through music.
On Musicians’ Sunday, congregations are encouraged to do all they can to recognize the efforts of our choir directors, choristers, and all who serve in music ministry, working for the Lord and the beauty of His Church. Thanking musicians at any announcement following the Divine Liturgy, notices in parish bulletins, or recognition at parish coffee time and social events are all suggested as ways to mark the occasion.
This year, Musician Sunday is October 2, 2022.
“Blessed are the people who know the festive cry, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face.” 89:15
See and hear the concert
Visit their website to learn more or donate for future projects.
All music from the concert is available for purchase at www.seraphim6.com/adc/
See the photo gallery