by Valentina Shatalova
The Synodal School of Liturgical Music (SSLM) held its thirty-second annual summer session, from July 16th to July 29th, in the refurbished rooms and halls of the former Old Persons’ Home at the Novo Diveevo Convent (Nanuet, NY). Students from across the United States and across the pond converged at Novo Diveevo to work in service of their commitment to learning the tradition of Russian Orthodox choral music. Since the move to the convent in 2021, the program (which previously for twenty-nine years took place at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville) now offers the unique opportunity for students to conduct and sing services in both Slavonic and English as practicum under faculty supervision.
The intensive two week coursework also included Liturgical Performance Practice (Very Rev. Andrei Papkov, Alexei Viktorovich Shipovalnikov, Peter Fekula, Dr. Irina du Quenoy), Typicon (Dr. Aleksandr Andreev), Church Slavonic for both Russian and English speakers (Matushka Elena Perekrestov and Elizabeth Purdy), Vocal Pedagogy and voice lessons (Laryssa Doohovskoy), Musicianship and Music Theory (Dr. Kurt Sander and Valentina Shatalova), Church Music History (Matushka Elena Perekrestov), and Choral Methods and Conducting (Peter Fekula, Anastasia Kappanadze).
Choir class was divided into sections of student-led rehearsals in preparation for the final choral conducting exam and faculty-led rehearsals of traditional repertoire with workshops, including an in-depth focus on the unique aspects of the eight tones system. Learning how to harmonize these melodies and sing from text is truly one of the fundamental skills necessary for an Orthodox conductor and singer.
This year, reader Peter Loban was awarded a certificate for completing the three years of study and coursework necessary to qualify as a Reader/Precentor (Psalomschik). On the final day of the session, Peter, as well as second-year students Alexey Campbell, Morgan Maudiere, and Matushka Eugenia Podymov (Schatoff) conducted the student choir in the Novo Diveevo main church in a demonstration of their work.
Additionally, this year marked the post-COVID return of two SSLM traditions: the picnic and a student/faculty concert. The picnic, traditionally planned by the second-year students and held on the middle Sunday of the session, was a wonderful bonding experience for the students and offered a bit of a respite between the two difficult weeks of study. On Wednesday July 26th, the school held a concert dedicated to the memory of former SSLM faculty Irina Mozyleva. Many remember the dynamic energy that Irina brought to this event, which this year was well-attended by people from in and around the Novo Diveevo community. Both faculty and students presented an eclectic performance covering everything from sacred music to jazz and involving both vocal music and instrumental pieces (piano, guitar, and even trombone). A lively reception followed, allowing for the community to meet the students and faculty and to learn more about the school’s work.
The highlight of the two-week session were two visits by Metropolitan Nicholas. For the Feast of St. Olga, His Eminence led a Hierarchal Liturgy during which a choir consisting of almost all the faculty and students sang, under the direction of Peter Fekula. Metropolitan Nicholas was also present for the final day conducting exam and awarded Peter Loban his certificate after a Thanksgiving Moleben. On both occasions, Vladyka Nicholas expressed his support of the school and its ongoing mission to preserve the unique and wonderful traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The School carried out its activities with the support of generous donors, first among them the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia).
More information regarding the Synodal School of Liturgical Music, its program and history, may be found at the school’s website: synodalschool.com.