Reverent is a word that comes to mind as I listen to “All-Night Vigil, Op. 37,” the latest recording from my favorite performers of sacred choral music, Gloriae Dei Cantores. Conducted by Peter Jermihov, an internationally recognized specialist in Russian and Orthodox liturgical music, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s deeply spiritual hymns, canticles and ancient chants achieve a level of beauty and mysticism that comforts and restores my soul, as the music of this choir as done for more than a decade.
“All-Night Vigil,” created from two divine services — vespers and matins — was first performed in 1915, two years before the composer fled his beloved Russia in the wake of the revolution. One hundred years later it has been given glorious new life by singers for whom Christian life is a daily practice, and that faith is heard, and felt, in every word.
Jermihov describes in program notes what makes this choir so different. “The key element in the search for authenticity is direct empathy with the word, not merely by accomplished professionals but by believing Christians. The word, imbibed through the mind and heart, leads the singer to find suitable tone and emotional underpinning. This process requires not only full comprehension of but also direct empathy with each word and phrase.”
“All-Night Vigil” is produced by Gloriae Dei Cantores’s director Richard K. Pugsley and was recorded in the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, MA. I have been gifted with many of this Cape Cod-based choir’s recordings over the years and was fortunate to hear them during a New York tour. I have always been touched by this spiritual quality. For this new recording they have been joined by The St. Romanos Cappella, The Patriarch Tikhon Choir and The Washington Master Chorale. Seventy-seven singers take part in this collaboration, including soloists Dmitry Ivanchenko and Mariya Berezovska of the National Opera of Ukraine in Kiev.
I like to listen to this recording before bed. It calms me and makes me feel I am praying the the choirs. What a blessing.