Faculty Member Leads Music Retreat

23-25 June 2017 • Ellwood City, PA

Harrison Russin, lecturer in Liturgical Music here at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and Mother Seraphim, choir director at The Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA, co-led a music workshop and retreat for young adults ages 18–29 at the monastery, June 23–25, 2017. Their weekend effort culminated in the singing of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, and an afternoon public concert, which attracted more than 70 people. Videos of both the Divine Liturgy and afternoon concert are available on-line.

Harrison remarked, “It was inspiring for me to work with a group of young, enthusiastic musicians and to explore a shared love for music and the church. My wife and I have hosted singing events in our on-campus apartment over the past year, and some of the music we sang at the Monastery was music we enjoy singing there for fun—I hope that the participants and the audience realized how joyful music can be, both within worship and as a social activity.”

Among the musical selections learned by the participants were liturgical works by G. L’vovsky and N. Kedrov, Sr., in addition to pieces by American composers, including Archpriests Sergei Glagolev and Igor Soroka, Mark Bailey, and Monk Martin.  Other sacred music included 16th-century English polyphony by W. Byrd, T. Tallis, and O. Gibbons, and 19th-century American shape note hymns by W. Walker and J. Christopher.

“In the past, families and friends enjoyed singing together for recreation and fellowship, but this practice has become rather rare in our current day of recorded digital music, often listened to by personal headphones,” said Mother Christophora, abbess of the Monastery, in reflecting on the impact of the workshop.  “Singing is helpful for one’s emotional and spiritual health, known to relieve anxiety and stress, and fellowship among young Orthodox Christians can be enhanced by time spent together singing.  Knowledge of their faith will also be enhanced by learning to sing liturgical services, and parish choirs will benefit from the youth attending such workshops and returning home with new skills and new music.”

“In the early documents of the vision for the monastery, it is stated that a guesthouse would be built to offer traditional hospitality and that the monastery would especially reach out to youth who want to learn more about their Orthodox Faith,” Mother Seraphima added. “Coincidentally, the day after the concert, work began at the monastery for the building of a new guesthouse, ‘Tabor House,’ which will supplement the original, now aging, guest facilities.”

In related news, two one-day workshops for youth ages 18 through 25 are being planned for later this summer—on Saturday, July 29 and Saturday, August 19.  Interested persons should contact Mother Seraphima at omtchoirdirector@gmail.com to register.  There is no charge to attend the workshops, but space is limited, so early registration is encouraged.

Story composed using text and photos from The Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, used with permission.