On September 12-14, 2014, with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Peter, the Liturgical Music Committee of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America held this year’s Liturgical Singing Seminar at the church of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God in the God-saved city of Pflugerville (Austin), Texas. The conference which was entitled “Unto All Generations: Building a Foundation for the Future” coincided with the Indiction of the Church Year, which was particularly appropriate for the theme of continuing the tradition of church singing into the future. As the church began a new cycle of the church year, so participants received valuable instruction and practice in bringing new singers into active participation in the choir.
The conference began with prayer and welcoming remarks by Larissa Sander, chair of the Liturgical Music Committee. Fr. Deacon Alexander Petrovsky gave the opening address entitled “What To Do When YOU Are Suddenly the Choir Director,” in which the conferees were offered valuable tips for leading a choir and gaining the musical knowledge required for this ministry. Ultimately, Fr. Alexander reminded us that the role of the choir is to “reveal heaven on earth.” Later in the day, Fr. Alexander and Larissa Sander conducted a practical session on the basics of directing a choir.
The theme of understanding the role of the choir continued in the afternoon when participants were treated to a talk by iconographer and church singer John Lickwar entitled “Icon and Music: Artistic Counterpoints of the Word of God.” Proper church singing appeals to the Logos in the faithful, just as visual icons do, and both icons and music are to be a prayer focus, or “school of prayer.” Our liturgical arts serve to pass our living tradition from one generation to another.
On day 2, the theme of passing on our church music continued with an inspiring talk by Demetra Durham entitled “The Choir as Classroom,” which challenged us to answer the question “Why do we sing in church?” The next treat was a presentation by David Lucs on “How To Get Kids to Sing in Church Without Gimmicks.” Everyone should be working with the children of the church, and be “open, loving and inviting,” but fun and engaging workshops for youth can help foster a love for singing in church in our kids.
The high point of all the conference sessions was the rehearsal conducted by David Lucs and Larissa Sander with the youth choir of the parish. Adult seminar participants observed as the teachers first worked through vocal warm-ups and musical exercises appropriate for children, and then practiced the pieces that the children’s choir would be singing antiphonally with the adult choir at liturgy the next day.
As always, the divine services provided participants with the pleasure of singing in a large choir under the direction of experienced conductors: Demetra Durham, Fr. Deacon Alexander Petrovsky, and Larissa Sander. However, the culmination of all the elements of this year’s theme was the antiphonal singing at Divine Liturgy between the adult and youth choirs. This is what many came to the seminar to see firsthand, and it was a moving and joyful experience.
Fr. Aiden Keller, (rector of Holy Protection Church), the wonderfully hospitable parish sisterhood, and the parishioners are to be congratulated for their hard work in hosting a successful event. It is certain that each participant received lasting knowledge to bring forth good fruit in their parishes through the new church year and for countless years to come.
St Benedict Orthodox Church, Oklahoma City, OK