On the weekend of March 1-3, 2013, St. Jonah Orthodox Church in Spring, TX (Houston) sponsored an exhibit of historic Russian icons and presented a liturgical choral concert in the English language.
The goal of the event was to impart an understanding of Orthodox Liturgical Worship and its components - Word of God, icons, and music. These components of worship do not exist independently from each other, as if things unto themselves. Their artful expression is generated by and understood rightly only within the life of the Church. No other criterion outside of the Church reveals the true meaning of their artfulness and aesthetic. The icon and church music are both ‘Sacrament,’ and expressions unified by the Word of God with the power, operation, and descent of the Holy Spirit to help lead our lives into redemption. Both share in the ethos of God revealing Himself in the Old and New Testaments, transmitting Church dogma into living experience by sight and sound.
Guest speakers included Archimandrite Luke (Murianka), Dean of Holy Trinity Seminary and Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, and Dr. Kurt Sander, Associate Professor of Music Theory and Composition and Music Department Chair at Northern Kentucky University as well as composer of Orthodox liturgical music. Dr Sander is both a graduate of and resident theory professor at the Summer School of Liturgical Music at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York and music director of St. George Russian Orthodox Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. With us also was Larissa Sander, Chairperson of the Liturgical Music Committee of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America.
Archimandrite Luke spoke on the topic, “The Knowledge of Icons that Leads to God.” Kurt Sander gave a presentation entitled, “Ineffable Beauty: An Introduction to the Aesthetics of Orthodox Liturgical Art and Music.” Both presenters offered thought-provoking and informative discussions which linked the foundation of iconography to the creation of church music in a profound and engaging way.
The presentations culminated with the celebration of the Saturday evening All-night Vigil and Sunday morning Divine Liturgy. Fr. Luke officated, concelebrated by Fr. John Whiteford, rector of St. Jonah Church, and Deacon David Companik, who was the master of ceremonies for the weekend. Other guest clergy included the Sunday homilist, Hieromonk Innokenty (Reichert) from SS. Sergius and Herman Church in Houghton, MI; and Deacon Alexander Petrovsky, member of the Liturgical Music Committee, from St. Innocent Church in Carol Stream, IL.
On Sunday afternoon, the choir of St. Jonah Church, under the direction of Ms. Demetra Short, sang a selection of hymns dedicated to the feast days of the Mother of God. The singing was complemented with commentary by Kurt Sander on the musical selections and text, and by iconographer John Lickwar regarding each corresponding icon. The choral presentation filled the church to capacity with over 150 guests with additional attendees having to stand outside of the church building. Our concert program booklet included a letter from Fr. John Whiteford welcoming visitors and sharing information about the parish. From that message, he noted “Please keep in mind that by attending this weekend’s events, you will have walked into the first Orthodox Church in the world dedicated to the Holy hierarch Jonah of Manchuria. The year 2025 will mark his repose, October 20, 1925 (N.S.), and by that time it is our hope that we will have finished building a Temple and complex suitable to celebrate the occasion, and host the pilgrims that will come to join in that celebration.”
St. Jonah Orthodox Church was especially pleased to host this event because it allowed us the distinct privilege of joining with Ancient Faith Radio to provide to the world the unique opportunity of rediscovering Holy Trinity Orthodox Monastery and Seminary as the spiritual centers they have always been in the Orthodox world. Ancient Faith Radio was present to record and make each presentation available to a worldwide audience, reaching 131 countries through its website which generates as many as 600,000 hits a month. It should be noted as well that the program was not an academic event. It was intended to connect people to the integrity of the Church through understanding the unique components of her liturgical worship.
All of the weekend’s recordings can be found on Ancient Faith Radio’s site: http://ancientfaith.com/specials/sacred_art_sacred_music
“I’m personally more excited about events that might bring in more un-churched or Protestants and expose them to Orthodoxy…Not being artistically inclined I wouldn’t have thought the concert would have been a great vehicle for that either, but I’m glad I was wrong.”
Mr. James Hall, Attorney
Warden, St. Jonah Orthodox Church
“Last Sunday, after an alert from a friend, I attended the Liturgy at St. Jonah’s about an hour north of Houston. It was a singularly joyous experience, due largely to the beauty of the choir….The great credit, of course, is due to its Choral Conductor, Demetra Short. She encompasses all of the qualities needed: gentle leadership combined with a thorough knowledge and love of the music…I’ve chosen my words carefully…As I left the program, I said to the crowd collected outside: There is BEAUTY, there is WONDER inside!”
Ms. Olga Bennett
Orthodox Christian and Visitor to St. Jonah’s
Glory to God for All Things!