Choir directors and singers from fourteen parishes, participants as young as high school and college, two dioceses - two jurisdictions! Something new and wonderful took place in our diocese recently.
On Friday, 18 May, the parish of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in McKinney, Texas gave a Texas-sized welcome to the participants of the second DCMA Liturgical Singing Seminar. After a Moleben, the seminar leaders got down to business - vocal warm-ups, rehearsals, and presentations. Rehearsing late into the night, participants got busy again early Saturday morning, and worked until it was time for Vigil.
Lectures were presented by DCMA Liturgical Music Committee memebers Fr. Deacon Alexander Petrovsky, Dr. Kurt Sander, Larissa Kaminsky-Sander, and Carol Surgant and were designed to aid choirs in singing liturgical hymns in English. Fr. Alexander's lecture "Becoming the Complete Church Singer" focused on the roles of the singer in the life of the Church. While recognizing the importance of the church singers, it was acknowledged that we often do not have trained voices that are able to sing in four-part harmony as many of the hymns are written. To this end, Carol Surgant presented a wonderful workshop on "The Cure for the Uncommon Choir." This workshop focused on adapting and re-voicing hymns to suit the singers that a director has, as well as some alternatives to standard, four-part music.
"Sing 'Lawd' not 'Lorrrd'! It's 'Theoto-kos' not 'Theoto-kus'!" Larissa Sander gave us the basics for producing a pure vocal tone in her talk "How to Sing Beautifully in English." Did you know that there are fourteen different vowel sounds in the English language? We worked hard focusing on diction, breath support, and vowel formation. Kurt Sander then finished the workshops with a beautiful presentation on "The Case for a Living Music Tradition in the Orthodox Church," in which he explored the necessity of liturgical musicians to welcome new music as part of the living tradition of the Church.
Under the direction of the workshop speakers, the seminar participants sang the All-Night Vigil on Saturday as well as the Divine Liturgy on Sunday. We finished off the day exhausted from an intense weekend, but delighted to have made new friends and connections, to have learned so much about our beautiful hymns, and to have had an opportunity to spend a weekend singing!
Many thanks to Fr. Seraphim Holland, the sisterhood of St. Nicholas parish (which worked tirelessly to provide us with the needed sustenance for a weekend of singing), and the faithful of St. Nicholas parish, who generously gave of their time and space for this workshop. And words are not enough to thank Fr. Alexander, Kurt, Larissa, and Carol for having the vision, drive, and desire to make this needed seminar a reality. With God's grace, may this type of gathering continue in the years to come, so that we may, in our singing, give our best unto God.
Submitted by Demetra Short, choir director at St Jonah Orthodox Church in Houston, TX.