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.”   

 

1000 Nights of Prayer Upon a Rock

St Seraphim in Prayer on a Rock for 1000 Nights

Fire of Love: Encoun­ter­ing the Holy Spirit, Paint­ing By Don­ald Goergen

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

I am very excited to share that the draft of 13th Move­ment of the ‘Life of St. Seraphim’ has been com­pleted! The tex­ture of this set­ting is for SATB choir with soli.  We are blessed with a rich hymno­graphic tra­di­tion which draws our atten­tion to the virtues of God’s Holy Saints for our ulti­mate encour­age­ment in the spir­i­tual life.

For your edi­fi­ca­tion, I present to you the fol­low­ing hymn from the Akathist to St Seraphim (with orig­i­nal hymn-text appended in italics):

A strange won­der do we behold in thee, O holy one, for though a weak and fee­ble old man, thou didst con­tinue in prayer kneel­ing on a rock for a thou­sand days and nights [*as a sym­bol of the rock of Peter’s con­fes­sion upon which Christ would build his church. 

Recall­ing that with the Lord a day is like a thou­sand years, and a thou­sand years are like a day, thine ascetic strug­gles sym­bol­ized Christ’s descent into hades as He rose again vic­to­ri­ous on the third day.]  

Who can tell of the pains and strug­gles thou didst endure in thy hades, O blessed father, lift­ing up thy holy hands to God, con­quer­ing the spir­i­tual ene­mies of the pas­sions and chant­ing to the Lord: Alleluia!

Introducing the Original Hymn ‘St. Seraphim and the Bear’ for the 11th Movement of the St. Seraphim Oratorio

14-serafim-sarovsky-i-bear

St. Seraphim and the Bear

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

I am very excited to be begin­ning the 11th Move­ment of the ‘Life of St. Seraphim’ ora­to­rio. The tex­ture of this set­ting will be for Dou­ble SATB choir with dou­ble SATB soli. After much research, I have not dis­cov­ered a tropar­ion describ­ing the rela­tion­ship of ‘St. Seraphim and the Bear’. It is here that I have taken on the task of com­pos­ing an orig­i­nal hymn text for this icon scene in the spirit of the great Hymno­g­ra­phers of the past. For your edi­fi­ca­tion, I present to you the fol­low­ing hymn: 

11. The Holy Priest Seraphim befriends a Bear (Orig­i­nal hymn text)

Mvt 11

Open­ing Mea­sures of the Draft of the 11th Move­ment of the St. Seraphim Can­tata
’St. Seraphim and the Bear’

*** “Whilst thou wast in seclu­sion from the world immersed in the rig­ors of prayer and the asceti­cal life, 

the ani­mals of the for­est, drawn by their innate sense of the Cre­ator within thee, befriended Thee, and kept watch as thou con­versed with the Lord of Hosts and the Holy Theotokos. 

Fero­cious beasts would pros­trate them­selves before thee; 
the mighty bear would sur­ren­der her honey, and the wolf her prey,
in exchange for bread blessed by thy hands, O Saint. 

The calm­ing of their for­mi­da­ble natures 
showed the vic­tory of Christ over the wolf, that nat­ural preda­tor of the lamb, and of the bear who fiercely pur­sues the bul­lock, 
as mys­ti­cal sym­bols for the ene­mies of the Gospel. 

Thy holy and peace­ful life gives us a fore­taste of the divine rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of heaven and earth,
When Christ, Our God, will make all things new. ”

Wanted: Unique Images of St. Seraphim of Sarov, his Relics, and Diveevo Monastery.

St Seraphim's stoleDear Friends of the OCMP,

Wanted: Unique Images of St. Seraphim of Sarov, his Relics, and Diveevo Monastery.

As many have already read from my recent post­ings, I am com­pos­ing an ora­to­rio on The Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov accord­ing to the scenes from his bio­graph­i­cal icon. I have been research­ing and com­pos­ing since Sep­tem­ber 2012 and am already half way through the first draft. The dura­tion of the first half is already an hour and I look for­ward to com­plet­ing the entire draft this year. Count­less hours have already been devoted to this project, with many more to go!

After the ora­to­rio is drafted, and edited, and made ready for per­for­mance, I plan on pre­mier­ing it as a glo­ri­ous trib­ute to our beloved Batiushka. More details will fol­low on this site, and the OCMP offi­cial web­site, when I am ready to announce the con­cert information.

One ele­ment of this project will include a slide-show of Unique Images of St. Seraphim of Sarov, his Relics, Diveevo Monastery, His glo­ri­fi­ca­tion etc.

I am reach­ing out to any­one who is will­ing to donate images that can be used in this slide-show. I respect copy­rights, and will credit all sub­mis­sions accord­ing to the most cur­rent stan­dards of cita­tion. NONE of the donated images will be sold or for­warded. This is STRICTLY for the slideshow which will play simul­ta­ne­ously dur­ing the per­for­mance of the oratorio.

If you are inter­ested in mak­ing these image dona­tions, please send them as .JPEGs of .GIFS attached to an e-mail addressed to OCMP33@gmail.com with “St. Seraphim Images” in the sub­ject line. Please include a descrip­tion of the images in the email body, ad how they should be credited.

I have already col­lected some beau­ti­ful pics donated by pil­grims to holy sites asso­ci­ated with St. Seraphim, and I would like to thank all those who have whole­heart­edly sup­ported my efforts in devel­op­ing what may be the first-ever, bio­graph­i­cal Ora­to­rio about St. Seraphim of Sarov.

I wel­come ALL cor­re­spon­dence and inquiries into this and any other OCMP project.

Yours in Christ,
Robert Sirico, Com­poser & Founder
Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project

ocmp33@gmail.com

Akathist to the Kursk Root icon

Monks from the Holy Cross Monastery (ROCOR)   in Setauket, New York  with guest chanters,  pose with the orig­i­nal Kursk Root Icon

It was a bless­ing to join the monks of Holy Cross Monastery singing the Akathist to the Holy Theotokos and ven­er­at­ing the Kursk Root icon as it vis­ited local parishes in the New York area.  Here Fr. Max­i­mos, rec­tor of the monastery holds the famed 900 year old mirac­u­lous icon of the ‘Kursk Root’.   Vis­it­ing choir mem­bers of other parishes were wel­comed to par­tic­i­pate in the Akathist ser­vice which drew hun­dreds of faith­ful to the monastery to ven­er­ate the aged icon.  Robert Sirico, Choir Direc­tor of the St. John the The­olo­gian Litur­gi­cal Choir  (right, front row) was among those invited to sing the sacred service.   

ORIENT: Sacred Song and Image, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chorale Sings in Concert

Dear Friends of the OCMP,

I am hon­ored to sup­port in prayer and action the St. Vladimir Sem­i­nary Chorale con­ducted by Mat’ Robin Free­man. I am encour­ag­ing you to attend this con­cert and to be enriched by the sacred music and images on this pro­gram. I am also excited to have a por­tion of my Parak­le­sis ser­vice music (Ode 9) included in the evenings musi­cal showcase! 

 I encour­age you to donate gen­er­ously to the music pro­gram at St. Vladimir’s Ortho­dox Sem­i­nary. Fol­low the link above to pur­chase your tick­ets and to offer a sup­ple­men­tary gift in thanks­giv­ing for the tal­ent of these fine musi­cians. Please help them con­tinue to develop the music depart­ment of the sem­i­nary as they sing the praises to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and intro­duce many to the ancient mys­ter­ies of Ortho­dox Christianity. 

Yours in Christ,
Robert Sirico
Founder, Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project