We are a group of local singers, with a variety of church affiliations and none, who love singing Russian music. We have sung for Russian and Romanian Orthodox services, as well as for a wedding at Turnbull Hall and for the Russian Consul-General in Edinburgh.
We thought it a great privilege to be asked to give a concert as part of the celebrations marking the re-opening of St Andrew’s Cathedral, in an extension of Lentfest into Eastertide. We arrived in high spirits. Most of us were setting eyes on the magnificently renovated interior for the first time, and as we did so our spirits rose even higher.
But light, impressive interiors are one thing. Sensing that a space is designed for holy things is another. And our perception that this space was set apart in that way was overwhelming. To us as musicians, the splendid acoustic for unaccompanied choral singing, that hallmark of church singing down the centuries, complemented the sense of a sacred space.
Inspired in these various ways, we did our best to convey the various moods of Russian Orthodox music for Easter, the greatest Christian festival of them all. We proceeded from hypnotic litanies via the exuberance of the many-times repeated ‘Christ is risen!’ to the more reflective movements of (for instance) Bortnyansky’s ‘Cherubic Hymn’. Some folksongs for spring were also sung.
We relished the warmth and bloom added to our singing by the expansive space with the high ceiling. Organists say of venues they like that the building itself is the finest stop on the organ, and equivalent thoughts went through our minds in the Metropolitan Cathedral on the evening of 5 May.
Our efforts at the concert were uncommonly well received by an audience which included Archbishop Conti and Monsignor McElroy. We were delighted to meet the Archbishop at the end of the concert, and more so when he agreed to appear in this photograph, taken by John McElroy. Privileges indeed!
We had an equally good time at the workshop on Russian music we undertook there later in the week. It was a pleasure to be able to leave all the administrative side in the capable hands of Stephen Callaghan and his team.
Svetlana Zvereva and Stuart Campbell