A Cantata in Concert: ‘The Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov’

Com­posed by Robert Sirico

In the Spring of 2016, let’s pre­miere an orig­i­nal a capella choral con­cert about one of the most cel­e­brated saints in Russ­ian history!

Please help us to pre­miere the ‘Life of St. Seraphim’ can­tata in the Spring of 2016!

Please donate now! 

The Biographical Icon depicting significant events in the Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov

The Bio­graph­i­cal Icon depict­ing sig­nif­i­cant events in the Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov

In the United States, there is an increas­ing inter­est by Amer­i­can choirs in the lit­er­a­ture and musi­cal her­itage of Rus­sia and the near East, as evi­denced by their more fre­quent per­for­mances and record­ings of sacred music by such lumi­nar­ies as Tchaikovsky and Rach­mani­noff, as well as the rarer works by less famil­iar com­posers like Pavel Ches­nokov and Alexan­der Gretchani­nov, to name a few!

Iron­i­cally, no com­poser of the late clas­si­cal or mod­ern era has cho­sen as his sub­ject, St. Seraphim of Sarov (1754–1833), the MOST famous Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian saint in all of Rus­sia, even though thou­sands of books and films for adults and chil­dren have been pub­lished for decades about his extra­or­di­nary life and mir­a­cle working.

It was for this rea­son, and an act of per­sonal devo­tion, that Amer­i­can com­poser Robert Sirico chose to write the can­tata, ‘The Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov’ in Eng­lish, so that the story which has cap­ti­vated all of Rus­sia and the East for two cen­turies would be acces­si­ble to us here in the West.

This con­cert is his­tory in the mak­ing!  NO known com­poser has pro­duced as thor­ough a musi­cal treat­ment of this great saint’s life and legacy as is pre­sented here and now.

In telling the story of this beloved Saint, this clas­si­cally styled choral can­tata uses sacred texts from Russ­ian Ortho­dox church ser­vices, as well as an abun­dance of orig­i­nal hymnog­ra­phy (reli­gious poetry) to sup­ply the texts for the his­tor­i­cal scenes which had not yet been written!

Please donate now!

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In Lumine’ Con­ducted by Nicholas Reeves per­form­ing sacred music com­posed by Robert Sirico

We want this con­cert to be over­flow­ing with peo­ple who trea­sure sacred music, and value the beauty it brings to their lives and to the world. St. Seraphim of Sarov is an inter­na­tional fig­ure known and loved by mil­lions all over the globe. His mes­sages of faith, hope, love, and peace have inspired gen­er­a­tions of God-believing Chris­tians since he first re-inspired his own nation at the turn of the nine­teenth century.

The ‘Life of St. Seraphim’ can­tata has been a work in progress since Sep­tem­ber of 2012, with six months of intense his­tor­i­cal research on the bio­graph­i­cal icon fea­tured above in the project image before a sin­gle note was writ­ten in March 2013!  It took 2 years of daily writ­ing and edit­ing until the first com­plete draft of the St. Seraphim Can­tata was assem­bled in March 2015.  Final edit­ing has com­menced, and a defin­i­tive per­for­mance edi­tion will be ready before rehearsals would begin.  Many have already been fol­low­ing the progress and devel­op­ment of the St. Seraphim Can­tata on the web­site of the Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project  and its related Face­book page, and have expressed an eager­ness to hear and enjoy this new choral work.  Fol­low the links and enjoy!

The full can­tata has an esti­mated per­for­mance time of 2 hours and 10 min­utes and requires var­i­ous vocal tex­tures includ­ing TWO full SATB cho­ruses and soloists!  It is now time to pre­miere this beau­ti­ful piece of music in a live con­cert, as well as to make a pro­fes­sion­ally mas­tered record­ing avail­able for sale and dis­tri­b­u­tion as a CD or dig­i­tal download.

Please help with your gen­er­ous dona­tions to make this con­cert and CD a real­ity!  Please donate now!

How will you know if you should take a chance on fund­ing or attend­ing this con­cert? Go to the playlist of the OCMP YouTube Chan­nel and lis­ten to past per­for­mances of other orig­i­nal music writ­ten by Robert Sirico and con­ducted by Dr. Nicholas Reeves.  Many of those per­for­mances were pro­fes­sion­ally remas­tered and are avail­able for sam­ple and pur­chase on ITunes and CD Baby.  If you enjoyed the choral style, lush har­monies, and sweep­ing melodies of Robert Sirico’s other orig­i­nal music, then you will cer­tainly enjoy this new can­tata which con­tin­ues and expands his com­pos­ing style.

 We are ask­ing for back­ers to help raise $40,000 to cover the pro­duc­tion expenses asso­ci­ated with launch­ing a musi­cal con­cert venture.

Let’s take a look at the bud­get and what your dona­tions provide:

Per­form­ers:

  • 32 singers to rehearse and per­form @ $500 each + inci­den­tals =  $18,000
  • 1 tenor soloist = $800
  • 1 Rehearsal pianist = $500
  • 1 Conductor/ Artis­tic Direc­tor, Dr. Nicholas Reeves = $1,000

 Venue (Loca­tion to be announced)

  • Per­for­mance Space Rental  $1000 — $5,000

Print­ing

  • 35 Scores = $1000
  • Pro­grams = $1000
  • Com­mem­o­ra­tive pro­gram book­lets = $1000

Adver­tis­ing at max $1000

Record­ing Ser­vices = $5,000

  • Audio Engi­neer
  • Record­ing equip­ment rental
  • Cd pro­duc­tion
  • Com­mem­o­ra­tive Con­cert DVD  = $1000

 Inci­den­tal Fees, Taxes, Licenses, & Per­mits = $5,000

A note from Composer :

Dear Future Backers,

Thank you for read­ing this Kick­starter project page, and for con­sid­er­ing whether or not you want to finan­cially sup­port this project.

I know this is a lot of money, and that you have many choices where to invest.  If I didn’t feel this project was wor­thy of your con­sid­er­a­tion, I wouldn’t waste your time.  I have writ­ten this music out of love and per­sonal devo­tion in a time when there is so much dark­ness in the world.

How often have I seen the joy that beau­ti­ful music brings to audi­ences, and have longed in my heart to offer my gifts and tal­ents to con­tribute to the effect of such a blessed gift.  Take a chance on this and you won’t be disappointed.

If this project is ‘over­funded’, every addi­tional dol­lar will be used to upgrade the per­for­mance, increase the size of the choir, and /or add addi­tional per­for­mance dates.  As an act of grat­i­tude, I am offer­ing mean­ing­ful incen­tives such as icon prints, and enjoy­able books because this is not’just another gig’, but hope­fully as trans­for­ma­tive event that touches your lives in a pro­found way.

 Do you want to know more about the project, or the music, and you didn’t get enough of it here?  Write or call me;  I’d love to dis­cuss it and answer your questions.

Sin­cerely,

Robert Sirico ‚ Composer

RISKS AND CHALLENGES

Orga­niz­ing a music con­cert fea­tur­ing a new com­po­si­tion poses sev­eral chal­lenges that must be dealt with once fund­ing is secured. The mes­sage of the music is beau­ti­ful, but to make it hap­pen requires thor­ough plan­ning and logistics.

The first chal­lenge is to actu­ally audi­tion and hire highly trained singers who are avail­able for the many rehearsals and the selected per­for­mance date(s). A work of the mag­ni­tude and dif­fi­culty of the St. Seraphim Can­tata must be per­formed by trained vocal­ists who can meet the demands of the lit­er­a­ture. It is an excit­ing ben­e­fit for newly minted pro­fes­sion­als to accept con­tracts for such a large work because the expe­ri­ence and pro­fes­sional expo­sure helps them broaden their reper­toire and looks won­der­ful on a resume .

In a like man­ner, an expe­ri­enced con­duc­tor must be hired who will study the score, teach the choir, and work with the com­poser to real­ize his vision. For­tu­nately, Nicholas Reeves, D.MA, com­poser, con­duc­tor and pro­fes­sor of Sacred Music at St. Vladimir’s Ortho­dox The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, has read the score and gra­ciously agreed to assem­ble cho­ris­ters and pre­miere the piece if we can secure the fund­ing. Other con­certs we have pro­duced together in the past can be found on the YouTube chan­nel OMCP33.

Select­ing a venue is done simul­ta­ne­ously when assem­bling a choir. Since per­for­mance spaces must be rented, we have to check var­i­ous loca­tions for afford­abil­ity and avail­abil­ity. Once a loca­tion and date of the pre­mier is secured, then con­cert pro­mo­tion and adver­tise­ment is under­taken to ensure max­i­mum atten­dance! New York City is the cross-roads of the world; we intend to find a venue within it or its imme­di­ate envi­rons so that the St. Seraphim Con­cert will be read­ily and eas­ily acces­si­ble from any direction!

REWARDS

  • Pledge $25 or more:  Please donate now!

    Gen­er­ous Donors who pledge $25 or more will receive the fol­low­ing rewards in appreciation:

    1. Acknowl­edge­ment in the Con­cert Pro­gram
    2. A com­pli­men­tary 4″ x 6″ pho­to­graph of the Icon of St. Seraphim

  • Pledge $100 or more:  Please donate now!

    Gen­er­ous Donors who pledge $100 or more will receive the fol­low­ing rewards:

    1. Acknowl­edge­ment in the Con­cert Pro­gram as a Gra­cious Sup­port­ing Donor
    2. A com­pli­men­tary 4″ x 6″ pho­to­graph of the Icon of St. Seraphim
    3. 20% Reduced Admis­sion
    4. A com­pli­men­tary copy of the con­cert CD
    5. A com­pli­men­tary 4″ x 6″ pho­to­graph of the Icon of St. Seraphim
    6. A com­pli­men­tary copy of the book­let, ‘In the Foot­steps of a Saint: The Sarov Her­mitage Life and Teach­ings of St. Seraphim’

  • Pledge $500 or more:  Please donate now!

    Gen­er­ous Donors who pledge $500 or more will receive the fol­low­ing rewards:

    1. An invi­ta­tion to attend the dress rehearsal
    2. Acknowl­edge­ment in the Con­cert Pro­gram as a Found­ing Sil­ver Tier Donor
    3. Inclu­sion in the photo doc­u­men­tary
    4. Sil­ver Tier Priv­i­leged Con­cert Seat­ing for the donor and free admis­sion for 1 guest
    5. A com­pli­men­tary copy of the con­cert CD and a 8″ x 10″ pho­to­graph of the Icon of St. Seraphim
    6. A com­pli­men­tary copy of the book from which the Can­tata was adapted, ‘An Extra­or­di­nary Peace: Flame of Sarov’

  • Pledge $1,000 or more:  Please donate now!

    Gen­er­ous Donors who pledge $1000 or more will receive the fol­low­ing rewards:

    1. An invi­ta­tion to attend the dress rehearsal and a 30 minute inter­view with the Com­poser
    2. Acknowl­edge­ment in the Con­cert Pro­gram as a Gold Tier Found­ing Donor
    3. Inclu­sion in the photo doc­u­men­tary
    4. Gold Tier Priv­i­leged Con­cert Seat­ing for the donor and 2 guests
    5. A com­pli­men­tary copy of the con­cert CD and a 8″ x 10″ pho­to­graph of the Icon of St. Seraphim
    6. A com­pli­men­tary copy of the book from which the ‘Life of St. Seraphim’ Can­tata was adapted, ‘An Extra­or­di­nary Peace: Flame of Sarov’

  • Pledge $5,000 or more:  Please donate now!

    Gen­er­ous Donors who pledge $5000 or more will receive the fol­low­ing rewards:

    1. An invi­ta­tion to attend the dress rehearsal and a 60 minute inter­view with the Com­poser
    2. Acknowl­edge­ment in the Con­cert Pro­gram as a Plat­inum Tier Found­ing Donor
    3. Inclu­sion in the photo doc­u­men­tary
    4. Plat­inum Tier Priv­i­leged Con­cert Seat­ing for the donor and up to 4 guests
    5. A com­pli­men­tary copy of the con­cert CD and a wooden icon print of St. Seraphim of Sarov
    6. A com­pli­men­tary copy of the book from which the ‘Life of St. Seraphim’ Can­tata was adapted, ‘An Extra­or­di­nary Peace: Flame of Sarov’
    7. A framed copy of the orig­i­nal hand­writ­ten finale, auto­graphed by the composer.

Update: The Opening Troparion of the St. Seraphim Cantata

A snapshot of the Opening Troparion of the St. Seraphim Cantata

Another snap­shot of the Open­ing Tropar­ion of the St. Seraphim Cantata

Com­pos­ing dur­ing Lent, and espe­cially Holy Week, poses lots of logis­ti­cal and time con­straint issues, but slow progress is being made in the pro­logue.  The extract fea­tured here shows the Tropar­ion set in ‘Greek Tone 4′ with a gen­tly mod­i­fied melody and har­monic col­oration.  Since this part of the com­po­si­tion func­tions as a type of over­ture, styl­is­tic ele­ments fore­shadow the those used through­out the entire com­po­si­tion, as well as form a sym­me­try with the exact mid­dle and finale.   In a mat­ter of weeks, the pro­logue will be com­plete and it will enter the edit­ing phase with the entirety of the com­po­si­tion.  Check back often to fol­low the progress of the St. Seraphim Can­tata and share this with your friends!

The Opening Troparion of the St. Seraphim Cantata

A Segment from the Setting of the Opening Troparion

A Seg­ment from the Set­ting of the Open­ing Troparion

It was joy­fully reported in the last update that the first com­plete draft of the St. Seraphim can­tata was com­pleted and has gone into edit­ing phase.  After thor­ough reex­am­i­na­tion of the whole piece, total bal­ance has been enhanced by incor­po­rat­ing the Tropar­ion, and set­ting it in the same poly­phonic dou­ble cho­rus  tex­ture as move­ment 11, ‘St. Seraphim and the Bear’ in the mid­dle, and the ‘Glo­ri­fi­ca­tion’ at the finale.  As a styl­is­tic ele­ment, the open­ing tropar­ion echos the famil­iar Greek styled Tone 4 Res­ur­rec­tion apoly­tikion in the exposition.

 Tropar­ion of St. Seraphim, Tone 4

Thou didst love Christ from thy youth, O blessed one, and long­ing to work for Him alone thou didst strug­gle in the wilder­ness with con­stant prayer and labor.  With pen­i­tent heart and great love for Christ thou wast favored by the Mother of God. Where­fore we cry to thee: Save us by thy prayers, O Seraphim our right­eous Father.

 Kon­takion of St. Seraphim, Tone 2

 Hav­ing left the beauty of the world and what is cor­rupt in it, O saint, thou didst set­tle in Sarov Monastery.  And hav­ing lived there an angelic life, thou wast for many the way to sal­va­tion.  Where­fore Christ has glo­ri­fied thee, O Father Seraphim, and has enriched thee with the gift of heal­ing and mir­a­cles. And so we cry to thee: Rejoice, O Seraphim, our right­eous Father.

The First Complete Draft of the St. Seraphim Cantata

St. Seraphim Cantata Title Page Concept

St. Seraphim Can­tata Title Page Concept

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

The first com­plete draft of the St. Seraphim Can­tata has been assem­bled and all of the move­ments are listed in the extract of the table of con­tents, below.  Esti­mated per­for­mance time is 2 hours and 10 min­utes. The image on the right is a con­cept design of a pos­si­ble cover for the pub­li­ca­tion. Other beau­ti­ful images are being con­sid­ered and sev­eral cov­ers will be devel­oped in the near future. Sug­ges­tions welcomed!

Sec­tion 1: Youth

  1. Open­ing Kon­takion 1
  2. The Fall from the Bell Tower
  3. *The Child Prokhor is Cured by the Kursk Root Icon
  4. A Mother’s Bless­ing to be a Monastic

Sec­tion 2: Monastic

  1. The Elder Dositheus Dis­cerns a Voca­tion for Prokhor
  2. The Novice Prokhor is Cured again by the Most Holy Theotokos
  3. The Novice Prokhor is Ton­sured and Given the Name ‘Seraphim’
  4. The Dea­con Seraphim is given a vision of the Lord Jesus and the Angels dur­ing Divine Liturgy
  5. The Dea­con Seraphim is Ordained a Holy Priest

Sec­tion 3: Her­mit & Wonderworker

  1. The Holy Priest Seraphim becomes a Hermit
  2. The Holy Priest Seraphim befriends a Bear
  3. A Liv­ing Saint is Cured again after being attacked by men pos­sessed by Demons
  4. 1OOONights of Prayer upon a Rock.
  5. The Tsar seeks Coun­cil of the man of God
  6. The First Miracle

15B. *The Sheep find a Shepherd

15C. The Virgin’s Well-spring of Miracles

  1. Those who have truly decided
  2. The Most Holy Theotokos and the Angels appear to Holy Priest Seraphim and Sis­ter Eupraxia
  3. A Con­ver­sa­tion in the Snow

Sec­tion 4: Saint

  1. Holy Priest Pre­dicts his own Death.
  2. A Liv­ing Saint Dies
  3. Glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of a Saint and Holy Man of God

The Completion of the First Draft of the St. Seraphim Cantata!

A Snapshot of the Closing Text Setting for the Finale of the St. Seraphim Cantata

A Snap­shot of the Clos­ing Text Set­ting for the Finale of the St. Seraphim Cantata

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

It brings me great plea­sure to share that after almost 2 years of daily work, the first draft of the entire St. Seraphim Can­tata has been com­pleted.  I have been com­pos­ing the finale since the begin­ning of Jan­u­ary 2015, and to my great relief and joy, the clos­ing bars have been sketched.  It has been asked, “What is the next step in the process…?”  Now that the entire ‘first draft’ is com­plete, the edit­ing will com­mence, and sub­se­quent revised drafts will emerge with cleaner voice lead­ing, and hope­fully a grad­u­ally dimin­ish­ing errata page! 

Already, the con­clu­sion of the finale has inspired a improve­ment to the open­ing of the whole can­tata, and these mod­i­fi­ca­tions will be reflected in the sec­ond draft. Thank you for your con­tin­ued sup­port, and please check back often to fol­low the progress of the edit­ing, and watch the whole Can­tata come to life as it is pre­pared for pub­li­ca­tion and performance. 

Another Preview of the Finale of the St. Seraphim Cantata

A Snapshot of the Penultimate Text Setting for the Finale of the St. Seraphim Cantata

A Snap­shot of the Penul­ti­mate Text Set­ting for the Finale of the St. Seraphim Cantata

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

It’s been almost a full month since I’ve begun com­pos­ing the finale of the St. Seraphim Can­tata.  The tex­ture for this set­ting incor­po­rates many of the tex­tures pre­vi­ously intro­duced through­out the entire com­po­si­tion and jux­ta­poses robust polyphony for a full dou­ble cho­rus at one extreme, to a gen­tle tenor solo with sotto voce accom­pa­ni­ment at the other.  The seg­ment shown in the above fig­ure high­lights the return entrance of the the dou­ble choir singing the penul­ti­mate text “Singing praises at thy glo­ri­fi­ca­tion, we bless thee, O Saint”, begin­ning at the 5th minute.

I have been asked by many why I haven’t posted a sound sam­ple yet, and the answer is two-fold.    At the present time, the offi­cial web­site of the Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project is under­go­ing an upgrade, and that fea­ture isn’t cur­rently installed. How­ever, even when that fea­ture becomes avail­able, I am only going to post rehearsal sam­ples (rather than MIDI play­back), so that the lis­tener can enjoy a truer rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the music.

Thank you for your sup­port, and please check back often to fol­low the progress of the finale, and watch the whole Can­tata come to life!

A Preview of the Finale of the St. Seraphim Cantata!

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

The open­ing mea­sures of Move­ment 21,
‘The Glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of St. Seraphim of Sarov’ com­posed by Robert Sirico.  (Orig­i­nal score and composer’s notes.)

It brings me great plea­sure to share that the finale of the St. Seraphim can­tata is well under­way, and after nearly two years of con­tin­u­ous writ­ing (and six months of prior his­tor­i­cal research), the entire first draft is nearly fin­ished!! By God’s Grace, your prayers, and the inter­ces­sion of the Most Holy Theotokos and St. Seraphim him­self, this intense labor of love will enter the next phase of pro­duc­tion when the entire can­tata will be thor­oughly edited and made ready for its first per­for­mance and pub­li­ca­tion (which will be joy­fully announced!!).  While yet still unfin­ished, the entire can­tata is just over two hours in dura­tion and promises to beau­ti­fully carry the lis­tener through the life of our beloved ‘Batiushka’ (‘lit­tle Father’) from his child­hood through his glo­ri­fi­ca­tion, with spe­cial atten­tion to the quotes from the mas­ter, del­i­cately pre­sented in touch­ing set­tings for Tenor solo and cho­rus.  The rich­ness of the choral tex­tures and har­monic lan­guage through­out will stir the heart to draw more deeply into the life of St. Seraphim.       

*A won­der­ful anec­dote to share about the com­po­si­tion of the finale includes an episode of writer’s block that seemed impas­si­ble.  When review­ing the text of the finale, ‘some­thing felt like it was miss­ing’.  After deep reflec­tion and prayer, the ‘miss­ing text’ pre­sented itself dur­ing the chant­ing of the prokeimenon:  “Pre­cious in the sight of the Lord is the Death of His Saints!”  This formed the cru­cial link between the antecedent and con­se­quent phrases com­plet­ing the descrip­tion of St. Seraphim’s depar­ture and his sub­se­quent glorification. 

Check back often to fol­low the progress of the finale, and watch the whole Can­tata come to life! 

 

The Glorification of St. Seraphim of Sarov

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

umoshcey

Uncov­er­ing of the Relics of the Monk Seraphim, Won­der­worker of Sarov

It brings me great joy to announce today, on the Feast of the Repose of St. Seraphim of Sarov, that the com­po­si­tion of the finale was offi­cially begun, and that the first draft of the St. Seraphim Can­tata is nearly com­plete after the first notes were writ­ten on March 29, 2013. 

Since the last update in August 2014, seven more move­ments were writ­ten which com­pleted the life story of our beloved saint.  Some of the events depicted on the bio­graph­i­cal icon include the blessed vision when the Most Holy Theotokos and the Angels appear to the Holy Priest Seraphim and Sis­ter Eupraxia (Mvt. 17) set in poly­phonic SATB treatment.  

I took the lib­erty to include another poly­phonic SATB set­ting for  ‘A Con­ver­sa­tion in the Snow’ and assign it as move­ment 18.  Even though this event does not appear in the cir­cum­fer­ence of the source icon, I felt that it was too impor­tant to pass over with­out a thor­ough treatment.  

Move­ments 19, 20a, and 20b depict the Saint’s pre­dic­tion of his own death, fol­lowed by the akathist kon­takion on his pass­ing. These move­ments form a trip­tych and were set for TTBB in darker modes to con­vey the grav­ity and mys­tery. The quote, ‘When I am Dead’, set for Tenor solo and SATB accom­pa­ni­ment is sand­wiched between the tense male cho­rus sec­tions to tran­si­tion the lis­tener through one of the most somber sec­tions of the cantata.  

By God’s grace, and your prayers, I hope to have the Finale com­pleted in the next few months.  After that, the project will move into its next phase of devel­op­ment. Please check back often for updates! 

 “When I am dead, come to me at my grave, and the more often the bet­ter. What­ever is in your soul, what­ever may have hap­pened to you, come to me as when I was alive and kneel­ing on the ground, cast all your bit­ter­ness upon my grave. Tell me every­thing and I shall lis­ten to you, and all the bit­ter­ness will fly away from you. And as you spoke to me when I was alive, do so now. For I am liv­ing and I shall be forever. ”

A Blessed Discovery

The Biographical Icon depicting significant events in the Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov

The Bio­graph­i­cal Icon depict­ing sig­nif­i­cant events in the Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov

 

St. Seraphim giving Spiritual Counsel to a young Monk

Excerpt of lower left cor­ner of Bio­graph­i­cal Icon:  St. Seraphim giv­ing Spir­i­tual Coun­sel to a young Monk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

The event that I am about to relate in today’s post hum­bles me, and encour­ages me to con­tinue in all earnest­ness com­pos­ing the can­tata ‘The Life of St. Seraphim’, of which I have been ded­i­cated for nearly the past two years.   

As can be seen on the cir­cum­fer­ence of the full length icon of our beloved Elder, there are 20 unique life scenes depict­ing note­wor­thy events in the life of this great Saint.  I have been musi­cally set­ting each scene, often with a uniquely com­posed text of orig­i­nal hymnog­ra­phy that include essen­tial details that are con­veyed by the music, and are not found in the ser­vice texts.

For the past two weeks, I have been reeval­u­at­ing my research on the scene in the lower left cor­ner, not being con­vinced that I had accu­rately por­trayed the event.   I reached out to many an icono­g­ra­pher, com­poser, and Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian church musi­cian seek­ing to iden­tify who was in that scene, and what event was tak­ing place.  Unfor­tu­nately, the old Slavonic writ­ing at the top of each icon scene is illeg­i­ble, and this has thwarted the best efforts to deci­pher it.  Other ver­sions of this bio­graph­i­cal icon show a dif­fer­ent scene in that posi­tion, and we could not rely on those for ref­er­ence.   Many vol­un­teers sym­pa­thetic to my cause had offered valid sug­ges­tions based on posi­tion, and other clues in the image.  

Last week, I vis­ited Holy Cross Monastery in Setauket, NY, and inquired of Hierodea­con Parthe­nios Miller, who has been a dear friend and Litur­gics men­tor for many years.  He is inti­mately con­nected to this project because it was through his min­istry that I was intro­duced to St. Seraphim nearly 10 years ago.  I posed the dilemma to him, and we sat for nearly an hour going through dif­fer­ent resources that he had on hand.  Not being sat­is­fied with the lack of find­ings, he rec­om­mended that I read ‘St. Seraphim of Sarov’ by Valen­tine Zan­der (SVS Press).  Admit­tedly, I do not own every biog­ra­phy on St. Seraphim, and I jumped at the chance to acquire another source text.  ‘Iron­i­cally’, Fr. Parthe­nios just hap­pened to have that book on order to restock the monastery book­store, and as a cour­tesy he changed the ship­ping address to my home.  He said to me, you will have great joy when you dis­cover the answer to your quest.   The book arrived at my home on two days ago (Aug 20th), and I began read­ing it immediately.  

Today, August 22, 2014, I dis­cov­ered the mean­ing of the event in ques­tion, and Fr. Parthe­nios’ words that ‘I will have great joy’ were ful­filled dou­bly: the sec­ond way which I could have never imag­ined.   The mean­ing of the scene is sim­ply depict­ing the time when St. Seraphim ended his 5 year monas­tic seclu­sion, opened his door, and began to wel­come vis­i­tors, many of whom were monks.   Had this been all I learned I would have been been sat­is­fied and con­tented that my research yielded a solu­tion to the mys­tery, and  I could con­tinue with my composition.

 How­ever, after read­ing the pas­sage begin­ning on page 22, and con­tin­u­ing on to page 23, some­thing very strik­ing man­i­fested itself to me.  Zan­der chron­i­cles that on 15 August 1815, the Bishop of Tam­bov was denied and audi­ence with St. Seraphim, but “a week later” St. Seraphim opened his door for the first time in 5 years and blessed the Gov­er­nor of Tam­bov and his wife.  The next para­graph goes on to describe how the ‘time of enclo­sure had come to an end’, and that he was then heard singing ser­vices, teach­ing, and bless­ing vis­i­tors with an opened door.  

 Here is what made me shud­der in my core:  St. Seraphim opened his door to the world  “a week later”… August 22, 1815!   199 years ago TODAY

I hope that you are edi­fied by this story, and may we always remem­ber that we are NOT spir­i­tu­ally alone in our holy works, and that all things hap­pen in God’s time for his greater pur­pose.  I ask you to con­tinue to pray for the suc­cess of this project, that through it, the biog­ra­phy of St. Seraphim and the inter­ces­sor we have in him, may be pre­sented to the world in an unprece­dented way.  
  
May St. Seraphim bless us and help us to acquire the spirit of peace.    

 

Robert Sirico ,  

Founder:  Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project 

An overview of Composition Progress during Summer 2014

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

16a. Snapshot

The open­ing bars of Move­ment 16a:’ Those who have Decided’ from the Can­tata ‘The Life of St. Seraphim’ by Com­poser Robert Sirico

I am very excited to share that the drafts of Move­ments 14 a & b, 15 a, b, & c, and 16a of the Life of St. Seraphim’ have been com­pleted adding another 15 min­utes of beau­ti­ful music to this work in progress! Much of the hymnog­ra­phy in these sec­tions is com­pletely orig­i­nal and gives an unprece­dented musi­cal voice to the his­tor­i­cal depictions.  

*Move­ment 14 describes the Tsar’s encounter with St. Seraphim and how he sought the coun­cil of the Holy Elder. *Move­ment 15 high­lights the begin­ning of the rec­og­nized mir­a­cles and the appear­ance of the Virgin’s well spring, and describes how St. Seraphim achieved noto­ri­ety as a healer of woes.  * Move­ment 16a is another direct quote illu­mi­nat­ing the virtues of the Jesus Prayer.  Accom­pa­ny­ing this excerpt is a snap­shot of the musi­cal set­ting of these blessed words.

The Mas­ter Taught: “Those who have truly decided to serve the Lord God should prac­tice the remem­brance of God and unin­ter­rupted prayer to Jesus Christ, men­tally say­ing: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sin­ner.”