In Praise of Small Music

Our Western culture has long held that to be truly educated you have to be musically educated. For centuries in the West, most people with sufficient resources received some kind of musical education, both formal and informal. But at some point in the last half-century or so, our cultural values shifted. Now, instead of being something that simply makes you…

The Rachmaninov Vigil in Context

The following is a program note for an upcoming concert I will be conducting with the Chamber Choir of St. Tikhon’s Monastery, on May 27th at 7:30pm, in St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Tickets are available at here. I’d love to see you!   Writing in 1915 of Rachmaninov’s newly-composed All-Night Vigil, the preeminent church composer Alexander Kastalsky effused that “one…

Building your Church Music System, Part 1: Core Singers

A lot of people who visit St. Tikhon’s Monastery nowadays remark on how beautiful the music is. I know this sounds self-congratulatory, but I don’t mean it be. The funny thing is that people tend to tell me this, as if I as the choir director were somehow singlehandedly responsible for the beauty of an entire cycle of services that involves…

With One Mouth and One Heart

I want to say a few things that I think are basic truths about church music. However, be warned: as I recently heard someone say, “The truth is like poetry, and most people hate poetry.” In any discussion of church music, liturgy has to be the starting point. This is what makes a church a church—this is the one thing…

A Reflection on Harmony

One of my students at St. Tikhon’s, Fr. John Kennerk, delivered a beautiful homily this past Sunday, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, a feast that commemorates the triumphant restoration in 843 of the use of iconography, and by extension sacred art generally, in Christian worship. Fr. John drew some lovely connections between the spiritual life, iconography, and the work of making music in the Church. I…