February 28–March 3, 2013 • Off–Campus • Virginia Nieuwsma
In an historic collaborative effort, three seminary choirs from St. Vladimir's (SVOTS) and Holy Trinity in Jordanville, New York, and St. Tikhon's (STOTS) in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, united for a Master Class and concert under the direction of Maestro Vladimir Gorbik, one of Russia's leading practitioners of sacred choral music. After several grueling days of rehearsals and class instruction at St. Tikhon's, the choir sang at the Monastery Church of St. TIkhon of Zadonsk for a Saturday evening Vigil and then a Sunday morning Divine Liturgy in which Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) presided. The weekend culminated in a Sunday evening concert at St. Stephen's Episcopal Cathedral in Wilkes–Barre, PA.
The combined choir, assembled in celebration of the 75th anniversary years of St. Tikhon's and St. Vladimir's and the 65th anniversary year of Holy Trinity, met three times daily for rehearsals and instruction with Maestro Gorbik. The renowned music instructor taught a Master Class at St. Vladimir's in June of 2012  and is well known within the SVOTS community.
"Vladimir Gorbik brings together two ideals," explained Octet Director Hierodeacon Herman (Majkrzak), lecturer in Liturgical Music and Chapel Choir Director at St. Vladimir's. "On the one hand, he offers a high level of musical technicality and professionalism; on the other hand, he exemplifies a high degree of faith, piety, prayer, and love of the Christian life. There is a certain monastic ethos that he brings to his work with the choir—he expects obedience and humility. If he corrects you, it's a deliberate choice of his, because he wants his singers to be humble, to be willing to grow."
Added Fr. Herman, "after we had finished all our rehearsals and sound check before the concert and were waiting for it to begin, Maestro Gorbik explained to us how much joy he had experienced, being able to sing with us and work with us, and that he would be happy no matter what the outcome, out of gratitude for the time he'd shared with us."
The hard work for the choirs paid off, when hundreds of concert goers filled St. Stephen's Cathedral to hear the sublime sacred music selections prepared by the musicians. At the conclusion of the concert, the combined choir received five standing ovations that required the singers to present four encore pieces. (Listen to a sample of their selections. )
The Rt. Rev. Michael, bishop of New York and the Diocese of New York and New Jersey and rector of St. Tikhon's Seminary, thanked Maestro Gorbik and noted that the concert reminded him of how the three seminaries can work together "in harmony" to promote Orthodox theological education. In October of last year, choirs from St. Vladimir's and St. Tikhon's jointly sang a molieben to launch an icon exhibit  at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
"We hope that the success of this event will mark a new era of cooperation between the music departments of our seminaries," said St. Tikhon's Choir Director Benedict Sheehan. Father Herman concurred: "Our students stepped up and I'm proud of them. It was a big commitment but we all experienced a very positive dynamic between the three seminaries. It was a significant milestone for us all."
Photography and video credits: Christopher Patton, assistant to the Dean for Media, Publications, & Public Affairs, St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary