From June 30 to July 3, 2014, Saint Tikhon’s Seminary here opened its doors to welcome Vladimir Gorbik, choirmaster of the Holy Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra Moscow Representation Church and rector of the recently founded Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music (PaTRAM) Institute, for a four-day intensive master class in Orthodox liturgical singing. The master class attracted more than 50 singers and student conductors from across the United States and Canada. Along with Maestro Gorbik, the master class faculty included Dr. Vladimir Morosan, head of Musica Russica, and Benedict Sheehan, Instructor of Music at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary. Among the student conductors were Dr. Nicholas Reeves and Hierodeacon Herman (Majkrzak) of the Saint Vladimir’s Seminary faculty, as well as Paula Genis of Saint John the Baptist Cathedral (ROCOR), Washington, DC, and Laryssa Doohovskoy of Saint Xenia Church (ROCOR), Methuen, MA.
In addition to the many fine singers who came to learn under Maestro Gorbik’s expert hand, the choir was joined by special guest John Michael Boyer of Cappella Romana, a graduate of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA, who helped prepare a group of participants to sing portions of the master class services in Byzantine Chant, and by special guest and basso profundo Archpriest Daniel Kovalak, rector of Holy Cross Church, Williamsport, PA, who has been a significant presence in Orthodox liturgical music in America for many years. The choir was also joined by Saint Tikhon’s Dean, Archpriest Steven Voytovich, who took part in the master class from beginning to end, and who said in his remarks at the culmination of the master class that he felt Saint Tikhon of Moscow’s vision for the Church in America was being realized in this event, in that it brought together so many devout Orthodox from so many ethnic backgrounds and jurisdictions to sing the praises of God, with both prayerfulness and excellence, under a single roof.
In addition to six hours a day of intense rehearsals, the master class schedule included daily spiritual talks by Saint Tikhon’s Monastery’s Abbot, Archimandrite Sergius, who spoke on the nature of liturgical music, its spiritual demands, and the importance of the Liturgy in one’s spiritual life. The schedule also included a pilgrimage to Saint George’s Church, Taylor, PA, to venerate that church’s miraculous myrrh-streaming icons of the Mother of God. Many master class participants had never witnessed a myrrh-streaming icon before, and all were deeply moved. After the participants had venerated the icons and had been anointed with the fragrant oil that literally pours forth from the icons, Saint George’s priest, Father Mark Leasure, gave an edifying account of the history of the icons and of some of the miracles that had been worked through them. The next day, master class participants gathered in Saint Tikhon’s Monastery Church to sing a moleben to the Mother of God and to receive pieces of cotton that had been soaked in myrrh from the Taylor icons. Priest Vladimir Kantor of Syracuse, NY, a master class participant, presided at the service.
The master class schedule culminated with the celebration of an All-night Vigil and Divine Liturgy in Saint Tikhon’s Monastery Church in honor of Saint John the Wonderworker of San Francisco. The services were presided over by His Grace, Bishop Michael of New York. In his homily during the Divine Liturgy, Bishop Michael enjoined master class participants to follow the example of Saint John, rejoicing in whatever personal weaknesses they might have as opportunities for God to work through them. He went on to congratulate the choir for not settling for mediocrity, but for striving to increase the talent given them for the glory of God and the building up of the Church.