Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD, Dean and Professor of Moral Theology at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, offered a multimedia presentation at the inaugural Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute (PaTRAM) “Summer Academy” for church choir conductors and singers. The conference sessions were hosted for four days on the campus of the Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ.
Father Alexander was one among several presenters, including Father Sergius Bowyer, Abbot of St. Tikhon Monastery in Pennsylvania. In the Dean’s presentation, titled “Music to Soothe the Savage Beast . . . With a Tin Ear,” Fr. Alexander did not presume to lecture the gathering on their field of expertise. Instead he offered personal reflections and musings from the perspective of a non-specialist on aesthetic, spiritually uplifting Orthodox church music as the “cathedral of sound for the ear,” much as magnificent Byzantine and Russian church architecture is a “cathedral of place and space for the body” and Orthodox icons are a “cathedral of form and color for the eye.” He illustrated his lecture with video and audio excerpts from classical composers such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Aaron Copland, the Trisagion hymn in Byzantine Greek, Romanian, and Church Slavonic settings, and the contrasting musical settings of the Great Doxology in Russian Orthodox matins and the Gloria in Leonard Bernstein’s modern, jazzy “Mass.”
PaTRAM’s first Summer Academy culminated with the Hierarchal All-night Vigil & Divine Liturgy, celebrated by His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, at the Eastern American Diocese’s St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Howell, N.J. Two choirs sang the responses: one male choir on the right kliros directed by Maestro Vladimir Gorbik and a mixed choir on the left kliros directed by several students from the Summer Academy, who conducted under the supervision of Maestro Dr. Peter Jermihov, PaTRAM’s artistic director.
Deacon Michael Pavuk, Director of Development at Holy Trinity Seminary, also participated in the PaATRAM Summer Academy as one of the professional singers in the chamber choir.