Gethsemane convent hosts a concert by the Moscow Synodal Choir
On Bright Saturday, May 7, 2016, for the first time in history, the Moscow Synodal Choir sang at a divine service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Equal-to-the-Apostles, in Gethsemane Convent in Jerusalem, after which it gave a concert of liturgical music. Despite the fact that the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem has existed since the mid-19th century, Orthodox choirs from Russia had never visited the Holy Land.
Archimandrite Roman (Krassovsky), Chief of the REM, one of the initiators of the event, recalled that several decades ago, the Synodal Choir of Our Lady “of the Sign” sang in New York. This concert by the Moscow choir turns a new page in the history of Palestine.
During the Paschal period, some 1,000 pilgrims a day visit Gethsemane. In addition to Russians, visitors include Romanians, Serbs, Greeks and other Orthodox Christians. St Mary Magdalene Church is unique in that it became the home of the relics of New Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizabeth and her devoted aide, Nun Barbara; it was built on donations from the Imperial Family in honor of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, spouse of Emperor Alexander II. Grand Duchess Elizabeth attended the consecration of the church on October 1, 1888, and expressed her wish to be buried in Jerusalem. Exactly 30 years later, the sister of the last Russian Empress was martyred in Alapaevsk, Russia. In 1921, her relics were interred in the church in Gethsemane.
Alexei Puzakov, Director of the Moscow Synodal Choir, said: “We have been granted a great honor. Here, among the holy relics, we sense that Heaven itself unites with Earth—eternity is manifested in parallel with the fleeting moments of time. The feeling is overwhelming and inspiring. The profundity of Russian church music of Pascha was the focus of the concert’s program. We presented the compositions of the Moscow School, for which the Synodal Choir is renowned throughout its history: works by Bortniansky, Chesnokov, Kastalsky, Rachmaninoff and Golovanov. The singing, which included a composition by His Eminence Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev), filled the holy space of this remarkable church and revealed the legacy of our great ancestors. We tried to express the sensitivity of the composers of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries to the spirit of the Gospel, and how the Russian heart responds to it.”