On May 10, 2019, the Moscow International House of Music held a very interesting, unique and solemn concert. On the stage of the popular concert hall were not secular performers, but church singers, believers of the Old Belief, and they performed ancient Russian liturgical chants, which are very rarely heard today outside of the Russian Orthodox Old-believer churches and communities.
The evening was dedicated to the bright feast-day of Holy Pascha and to the week of the holy Myrrh-bearing women. This particular week is especially revered in Moscow, as the week also connects with celebrating the anniversary of the unsealing of the church altars in the Rogozhskoe settlement in Moscow and the granting of freedom given to Old-believers 114 years ago under Tsar Nicholas II.
In the evening program, five choirs performed, from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk and Rzhev. The host of the evening was father Vasily Andronikov from Moscow. The head of the Russian Orthodox Old-believers Church, metropolitan Korniliy, as well as other bishops and priests, attended the evening of chants, and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church (archpriest Dmitry Smirnov, hegumen Cyril Sakharov and protodeacon Valery Rublev) also attended the concert.
The concert consisted of two parts. The first part included individual choir programs. Each choir has its own local traditions and versions of performing the same liturgical chants that are accepted by the church charter. The singing of each choir was impressive in its unison, melody, harmoniousness and great concentration on the prayers. In the second part of the concert, the Paschal canon was performed – each song of which was performed by different choirs alternately. They beautifully alternated between each other on the stage and each choir had its own local melody, which gave the singing of the canon a special uniqueness.
At the end, all the choirs united into male and female choirs and performed the hymns for Pascha. The joint male choir was led by Vitaly Moskvichev and the joint female choir by Marina Andronikova. The combined singing was truly grand and magnificent to hear – the choir singers from all different parishes across Russia, representatives and guardians of the ancient Old-believer singing traditions, on one stage, in one voice and Spirit, sang and glorified the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Without exaggeration, this event can be called the rarest and all-Russian performance, because at this event one could hear the canonical, unchanging performance of ancient chants, such as they were during the reign of the Orthodox Russian tsars before the schism in the 17th century. How gratifying to see that the tradition is still alive. Like a precious stone, it shimmers brightly and does not fade over time, but gains an ever more interesting sound and the value of this sound for the soul is never lost! – noted Vitaly Moskvichev, the head of the choir of the Intercession Cathedral in Moscow.
The concert left the brightest impressions on many, in particular father Dimitri Smirnov, who shared his impressions:
Thanks to your diligence and your prayers, we were able to experience the quintessence of Old Russian singing, which is very important to us. The Russian culture, which is already over a thousand years old, we love it very much … You sang beautifully, with remarkable energy and dedication … God bless you all for many years!