Octet visits St. Andrew's Orthodox Church in “a day of joy, prayer, and beauty”
In 1962, the first St. Vladimir's Seminary Octet visited some 100 parishes throughout the United States, beginning in Philadelphia and traveling as far west as Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The following summer a second Octet journeyed to the west coast, and a third Octet went out the next summer as well. Eventually, the Octet tour took place every two years; in between, the eight–member all–male choir visited parishes within driving distance to present concerts and serve as goodwill ambassadors for the Seminary.
Reviving this tradition for one Long Island, NY parish, the Octet visited St. Andrew's Orthodox Church, Orthodox Church in America (OCA) on the last Sunday in March. Afterwards, Octet Director Hierodeacon Herman (Majkrzak) noted, "St. Andrew's was visually a very warm environment to sing in, with its wooden interior, and beautiful iconostasis and icons. Even warmer were the parishioners themselves, and their kind hospitality as well as their appreciation for our presence and our singing.
The parish website posted the following story:
On March 31, 2013, the St. Vladimir Seminary Choir Octet visited the parish of St. Andrew's in Dix Hills, NY, for a parish visit, and to participate in the New York City Deanery's Lenten Mission Vespers that evening. It was an overwhelming day of joy, prayer, and beauty as the choir ministered to the parish, revealing the true glory and essence of Orthodox hymnody.
Following the Divine Liturgy, enriched greatly by the profound and prayerful singing of the Octet and the concelebration of The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, St. Vladimir's chancellor, and The Rev. Dn. Gregory Hatrak, Marketing and Operations manager SVS Press and Bookstore, along with The Very Rev. John Klingel, rector, the young seminarians had a chance to engage with the faithful of St. Andrew's, discussing life in the Seminary and the parish.
In the evening, the Octet (after rehearsing all afternoon!) sang the responses at the traditional Sunday evening Mission Vespers. Fr. John and Fr. Chad were joined by clergy from throughout the Long Island community: The Very Rev. Eric Tosi, Secretary of the Orthodox Church in America; The Very Rev. Wiaczeslaw Krawczuk, Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Brooklyn, and dean of the NYC Deanery; The Very Rev. Joseph Woodill, St. Nicholas Church in Whitestone; The Very Rev. Jonathan Ivanoff, St. John the Theologian Church in Shirley; The Rev. David Cowan, Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers, and secretary to The Rt. Rev. Michael, bishop of New York and the Diocese of New York and New Jersey; The Rev. Nathan Preston, St. Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church in Queens; The Rev. Seraphim Joa, from Holy Trinity Church in East Meadow; The Rev. Dn. Nicholas Garklavs, St. Mary Magdalene Church in New York City; and subdeacons from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Flushing. Also present were The Rev. John Diamantis, from Holy Trinity Church in East Meadow; The Rev. Protodeacon Eric Wheeler, St. Sergius Chapel in Syosset; The Rev. Dn. Gregory Hatrak; and sisters of the All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery in Calverton.
Following the Vespers, Fr. Chad preached a rousing sermon recalling the missionary efforts of St. Innocent of Alaska, whose feast was kept that day. In his remarks, Fr. Chad exhorted the faithful to remember the fervor of early missionaries, whose legacy now benefits Orthodox Christians all across America; and—by remaining unafraid to share our faith with the public, by staying true to our faith, and by providing generous, sacrificial stewardship of time and financial support —will build up the church for the generations to come.
The faithful then shared a festive, Lenten agape meal in the parish hall, prepared through the diligent labor of Matushka Peggy Klingel. After the meal, the Octet performed a few additional selections, including an awe–inspiring rendition of Trubachev's "Bogoroditse Devo". Father John presented a gift of financial stewardship on behalf of the parish and visiting faithful, and offered his profound thanks to Fr. Chad, Fr. Herman, Fr. Gregory, and the seminarians of the Octet.
Reflecting on the visit, Fr. John noted: "For many years, especially in the late 60s and early 70s, our parish had a close connection to St. Vladimir's Seminary. Many of the Seminary's greatest luminaries, such as Fr. Alexander Schmemann and Fr. John Meyendorff, visited and played an important role in guiding our parish, the first English–language mission on Long Island. And through the efforts of Fr. Michael Mihalick, our former pastor, we were blessed to gain the original iconostas from the 'Old Chapel'—a very tangible connection with St. Vladimir's and its liturgical life.
Father John continued, "But for many years, for many reasons, this connection became weaker and more distant. And so it is a great joy for us to welcome Fr. Chad and the Octet, to renew and reconnect this relationship of prayer, education, and inspiration with our parish. That this took place during Great Lent and through the ministry of such powerful and profound singing by the Octet, under the direction of Hierodeacon Herman (Majkrzak), made this day one that will be long remembered by us. And in the time we spent with these seminarians, who were thoughtful, open and generous with us, we truly revisited the zeal and inspiration of our youth."