In the last few weeks we have been happy to welcome our choir director, Julie Dimas back from the Master's Class and Choral with Vladimir Gorbik at St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary in New York. Our seminarian, Joshua Schoopingh, also participated in the choir. Joshua is studying at St. Vladmir's and we are asking members of St. Stephen's to support him and remember that money given to support his tuition are matched by the school.
The workshop was conducted by Vladimir Gorbik, a prominent Russian conductor, and while St. Vladmir's has held summer choral workshops before this is the first time it has been with a director this well known, according to Dr. Vladimir Morosan, the founder of Musica Russica in an interview on Ancient Faith Radio.
Vladmir Gorbik was very impressed by the joy and loving attitude of the American participants according to a interview for St. Vladmir's. Gorbik said "... when I crossed the threshold of the seminary, the first thing I observed was not just respect but also a direct and open childlike love of one person for another,".
Gorbik was also impressed by how hard the participants worked and how well they took direction "My next [striking] impression came during my first encounter with the actual singers and directors. These workshop participants had a tremendous willingness to work hard, as well as a deep faith in God; in particular, a willingness and ability to listen to me without hesitation to fulfill what I was requesting of them."
The week of work was finished with recital and the participants forming the choir for a hierarchical liturgy on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul that Friday. You can read more about the class and the interview the Gorbik on the St. Vladmir's site here and here. An interview about the event from before the workshop is available on Ancient faith radio including some music directed by Gorbik.
Here is a letter by Julie to us at St. Stephen's.
Dear St. Stephens Family,
I have so much to share about my trip to St. Vladimir’s Seminary for the Master Class in Conducting and Singing Church Music. Directing the music at church is a great honor that I will give my utmost attention to, and the Master Class was a great opportunity for me to sharpen my skills and motivated me to continue on and take further classes as they are available. I was very blessed to have the opportunity to attend this class.
I want to begin with the overall theme for the class which is best quoted by Metropolitan Longin of Saratov: “Sacred music is a unique musical phenomenon, which it is necessary to perform with soul, that is, first of all, in a soulful manner, otherwise, a self-deception will set in that the music was performed “spiritually” (something resembling the self-beguilement in spiritual life, identified by the church Fathers as prelest)”
This quote can be best understood by explaining that a church conductor’s job is to keep the soulful passion in the music, include all the nuances, and keep the tempos consistent so as not to distract the worshipers from prayer. The choir serves as the open book for worshipers to follow. During worship it is the words that we sing that are master, and the sound is the servant, so the focus must be on making the words clear and consistent.
Master Vladimir Gorbik from Russia was our instructor/ director during the week, and we had a rigorous schedule that started each day at 8:00am: and ended at 9:00pm. I learned that as a director I must make sure the singers understand and correctly interpret my gestures so we can better understand each other during the services. It was explained that conducting a good choir can be even more complicated then conducting an orchestra, and that a choir conductor should be pleasant to look at while conducting.
During our church services, there are many recitative words being sung, and the focus needs to be to control the speed of the reciting so that is it not rushed but that it does not drag either. It must also sound natural.
I learned much about how to produce the best sound through positioning of the larynx during singing, and the proper way to sing the higher and lower notes. Each choir member must listen closely to the other sections in order to sing cleanly and this is a manifestation of love for one’s neighbor.
The week was packed full of learning and experiences that I will be putting into practice over the next few months. It was full of wonderful and talented people that I was able to learn from. God was glorified with our vigil and liturgy for Ss. Peter & Paul Thursday night and Friday morning. I will pass along the recording of some of our selections from the Master Choir as soon as it is available for anyone who is interested in hearing it.