Choir Conducting Techniques

This course deals with the three main elements of choral sonority: ensemble, intonation, and nuances, and provides guidelines to singers for mastering choral singing techniques. Topics include: the difference between a choir and a group of singing people; the difference between choral sonority and the sound of singing voices; why one choir sounds better than another; and what can be done to improve the sound of a choir.  

In the workshop extension of the class, second and third year students are required to rehearse  with and teach choral pieces to the school choir, which is composed of all the students.  Participation in the choir is mandatory for all students from all three levels. In order to graduate with the “Conductor” certificate, third year students must demonstrate their ability to conduct both music from the Obikhod as well as free compositions. This requirement is waived for students seeking certification exclusively as “Church Reader.”

Instructors: Nikolay Myshkin and Liubov Temnova (private sessions) 

Church Slavonic

This course is designed to give students a working knowledge of the liturgical language of the Orthodox Slavs in the standard recension of the Russian Orthodox Church. After a brief introduction to the orthographic system of Church Slavonic, the major part of the course for the first two years is devoted to inflection morphology of the language. Daily homework, periodic quizzes and a final examination require students to produce some forms actively, but the primary goal is to be able to read scriptural and liturgical texts with understanding. The third year focuses on the syntax of Church Slavonic and how it differs from that of Russian and English.

Since 2013, we also offer an “Introduction to Church Slavonic” class tailored specially for those students who do have no previous knowledge of Church Slavonic but must sing and/or read in it as part of their duties in their churches; the goal here is rudimentary understanding together with correct pronunciation of the written text.

Instructors: Elena Perekrestova and Dr. Elena Nelson (“Introduction to Church Slavonic”)

History of Russian Church Music

A survey of Russian sacred music from the 10th through the 21st centuries. Over three years, the course covers chronologically various types of chants, early Russian polyphony, 17th century multi-voice compositions, as well as the great variety of representative 18th-20th century choral styles, including the works of such masters as Bortniansky, Lvov, Archangelsky, Kastalsky, Chesnokov and Rachmaninov. The course is illustrated by rare recordings representative of the rich and vast repertoire of Russian choral music. 

Successful completion of all three levels of the course is required for certification both as “Choir Conductor” and as “Church Reader.”

Instructor: Elena Perekrestova

Liturgical Performance Practice

Contemporary Russian parish practice. Various aspects of kliros singing, the problems relating to this, and their solutions. The eight-tone system and its use in the Russian Church. Coursework over the three summer sessions includes: (1) Stichera and Troparia, (2) Hiermos and Prokimena, (3) Special Melodies (10 podobni). All melodies are to be memorized.

This course is tightly related to the Choir Conducting Techniques class.  In years two and three, students practice conducting the Obikhod as part of the requirement leading up to successful completion of the conducting exam in year three. The class also provides the opportunity for in-class discussion of practical questions arising from the “Liturgics for Choir Directors” course.

Instructors: Archpriest Andre Papkov (first year);  Liubov Temnova (second and third year).

Liturgics for Choir Directors

An overview of the history, structure, and meaning of the liturgical cycle in the usage of the Russian Orthodox Church based upon the Jerusalem Typicon. Students learn the nature of the four cycles in the liturgical year, and the contents and use of the books used in Orthodox worship. This is followed by detailed analysis of how to perform the major services, with particular attention to the role of the choir director and psalmist. The first year covers Vespers and Matins — their components and history. Years two and three cover the Divine Liturgy, the occasional services (“treby”) and the services associated with the Lenten and Paschal seasons.

Successful completion of all three levels of the course is required for certification both as “Choir Conductor” and as “Church Reader.”

Instructor: Aleksandr Andreev

Music Theory and Musicianship

Presentation of the basic elements of Music Theory to help understand and analyze a musical composition. Topics covered include: intervals, modal and tonal concepts, chord progressions and harmonization, open and closed harmony, various types of triads and seventh chords and their inversions and resolutions, phrase structure, voice leading and cadential progressions.  Passing all three levels is required for certification as “Choir Conductor.”

The Musicianship segment of this course covers sight-singing and develops the musical ear. An elementary and an advanced level are offered. Successful completion of the advanced level is mandatory for certification as “Choir Director,” and includes all major and minor tonalities, intervals, chords, chromaticism, and modulations. Different meters and rhythmic patterns are studied, and musical dictation is given. The elementary level develops the basic skills of singing from a musical score and is required for certification as a “Church Reader.”

Students with previous knowledge of the subject may opt to test out of Music Theory and Musicianship on the first day of the annual two-week School session. Testing is offered after immediately after the opening ceremony, in the Holy Trinity Seminary building.

Instructor: Dr. Kurt Sander

Voice Class

A practical approach to voice production. Basic principles of breath support, head and chest resonance, articulation, and phonation as they apply to Russian choral church singing. The do's and don'ts of producing a singing tone. Some private instruction is available.

Instructor: Irina Mozyleva