During the week of August 3-10th, 2014, San Francisco will be host to the West Coast’s first Russian Choral Festival – a week of musical activities highlighting the Russian choral tradition through concerts, workshops, international performers, and a great ensemble concert as finale. Russian choral music is a treasure house of musical material, yet much of it remains unexplored by Western musicians. The Russian language and alphabet are unfamiliar; Russian culture is not well known by Westerners; and the Russian Orthodox tradition, a critical source of Russian choral music, is a spiritual legacy almost unknown to Western audiences.
The purpose of the Russian Choral Festival is to give audiences a taste of what Russian choral music can sound like at its best; to significantly raise the awareness and appreciation of the Russian choral music tradition within the San Francisco Bay Area musical community as a whole; to introduce this music to participating singers in new depth; to educate audiences about Russian music; and to make this music more readily accessible to music professionals.
The core of the Festival will be a series of Bay Area concerts during the week of August 3-10. Over the course of a single week, participating choral groups will present a panorama of Russian choral music in a wide variety of styles – from ancient monastic chants to traditional four part and more modern sacred works – and from pagan folk songs all the way to modern secular choral compositions. Singers from around the country will augment local singers and musicians, and visiting artists from Russia will bring a truly international flavor to the gathering. Many of these singers will be from Orthodox choirs, and were previous participants in two recent and highly successful Russian music festivals in Boston under this Festival’s director, Irina Shachneva. World class soloists will also be featured as part of the program. The week will culminate in a major Russian choral work presented on the final weekend by the Russian Festival Chorus of some 100 voices.
While the performances will be the core of the Festival, there will be many other activities as well. There will be extensive program notes at each concert; workshops on Russian repertoire for choirs and choruses; background on the Russian Orthodox church and church music; tips for choral conductors on how to introduce Russian repertoire, including pronunciation guides; discussions with local scholars and teachers about Russian composers, Russian music and musical styles; and online activities connecting the Festival with wider audiences and participants. All this will enable the Festival to present a unique musical event, and a lasting educational contribution to the Bay Area musical community.