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Nikon Zhila: “We did not sing only in Antarctica and in Africa”

About spiritual and spiritual music – under the sound of bells. Regent of the Choir of the Moscow Sretensky Monastery Nikon Zhila tells Natalia Letnikova about secular music in the repertoire of the church choir, revolutionary songs in pre-revolutionary sound and Armstrong’s spirituals.

– Nikon Stepanovich, you graduated from the music school, then Gnesinka. Immediately went with a spiritual guide, or simply “chose the music”, and then circumstances have developed?

“It seems to me that I really didn’t have a lot of chances to take some other path.” I was born and raised in Sergiev Posad. From childhood I heard Lavra singing. My mother was a chorister in the choir of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, so I came to the choir quite early. In general, church singing is really very close to me, and, probably, my whole life path was, of course, directed towards church music, therefore I now have the opportunity to manage the chorus and receive great joy. I hope that I, too, could give something to the people and could do something for the church life.

– You came to the Sretensky Monastery Choir in 2005, more than ten years ago. During this time the choir has changed a lot?

“In China, we sang“ The Amur Waves ”right on the Great Wall of China, in America,“ Oh, you are a wide steppe. ” This is the Russian soul! ”
– The choir was created and inspired by Father Ambrose (Ermakov), whom the governor Father Tikhon (Shevkunov) invited from the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. Now Vladyka Ambrose is the Archbishop of Petergofsky, the Rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and Seminary.
It turned out to gather a very interesting creative musical group. We are trying to preserve those traditions and introduce something of our own, some musical, technical aspects. This creativity, it develops, but has some common roots, common features.

Choir Sretensky monastery. “Ah, it is not yet evening”

– How did secular songs appear in the repertoire?

– Father Superior Tikhon asked Father Ambrose to put together a good, especially monastic, church choir. But since not only seminarians, but also musicians — students of the Choral Academy — came to the singing group, the choir’s repertoire included everyone’s favorite melodious Russian folk songs that were close to us in spirit. Thus began the good tradition of performing folk, military-patriotic and original music by our church choir.

– A part of your secular program is revolutionary songs, but in a pre-revolutionary version. These are completely different texts. The same march “Siberian shooters”, but the text of Gilyarovsky, which was originally. How does the viewer react?

– Wonderful songs! Of course, this is a very interesting topic for us, and I would like to continue this program: to make some comparison of this music in its two aspects in one concert – in the Soviet and pre-revolutionary ones. The original poems were created during difficult periods of history, mostly tragic. Before the revolution – this is the Russian-Japanese war, the First World War. Later, the lyrics were remade in favor of Soviet propaganda.

– How do you manage to achieve such an amazing confluence of voices, as if this is a single living organism? What’s the secret? A single spiritual impulse?

– The chorus is somehow a living organism, it is a human voice; it is often subject to external factors. But really, you are right that this is a single spiritual impulse! This is our common cause, to which everyone applies not only his voice, but first of all his own heart. This changes the music itself. The chorus is a truly living organ in its essence.

– You sang in many countries, in a huge number of halls. Is there any kind of performance that was especially remembered, maybe it became a landmark?

– Abroad often there is the opportunity to sing Russian sacred music in the cathedrals – Orthodox and Catholic. It is wonderful! In Russia, this tradition is not so strong, most often we perform in concert halls. Only the Easter festival provides an opportunity to sing in the temples for the audience in non-liturgical times. And I think it’s great, great.

Many foreign cathedrals are magnificent in their acoustics and decoration, and singing there is a great pleasure. We sang a concert in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, there were a huge number of people, several thousand. It was exciting, very nice and remembered forever! Of course, such large, serious concerts remain in the memory. In 2007, in the United States, in Australia and European countries, we performed in the best halls – it was a trip dedicated to the unification of the two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church – the Abroad and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. And in those regions where there are parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, divine services were held and concerts were held. And this, too, remained with us for life. It was absolutely amazing, extraordinary.

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