Reaching Toward Heaven / Дотянуться до небес

Irina Shachneva, Artistic Director





This is our final 40th Anniversary year concert series!

Early next month, the Slavyanka Russian Chorus is giving a choral concert, Reaching Toward Heaven -- including an extraordinary and little known Russian masterwork, and selections from one of the most beautiful and beloved settings of the Russian liturgy.

Sergei Taneyev was Tchaikovsky’s star student, Rachmaninoff’s teacher, and perhaps Russia’s greatest master of counterpoint. His Opus 1, Ioann Damaskin (John of Damascus), is filled with all the spiritual depth and high drama of the Russian choral tradition.


The text is equally remarkable. It was written by the monk John of Damascus (hence the title) in the 9th century for the funeral of one of his brother monks. At most funerals, we the living pray for the soul of the departed, and the prayers and musical texts reflect this perspective. What John of Damascus did instead was to write as if inside the psyche of his dying brother – giving a personal and human voice to the inward experience of dying, passing through and beyond death into the heavenly kingdom. It’s a deeply moving piece, both musically and spiritually. Here’s a link to the third and final section of the piece – “When the trumpet sounds the end of the world, receive your servant into your Divine Abode”.

In addition to this piece, we will also be performing portions of Tchaikovsky’s masterwork, Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Its setting was a product of the deep emotional link that Tchaikovsky had with Orthodox worship, and though the work even today is still often considered as being too ‘Western’, in spirit it is truly Russian. In spite of the highly dramatic treatment to be found in some sections (the beautiful Cherubic Hymn and Tebe Poem, both among the most solemn moments of the celebration, are good examples) and the typically Russian doubling of octaves and fifths, the choral writing is in general characterized by simplicity and transparency, as is demanded by the primacy of the text in Orthodox worship. In such numbers as the Creed and The Lord’s Prayer, Tchaikovsky makes use of a rapid choral recitative which is typical of the Russian tradition. The bright, ethereal clarity of his writing is a deeply Russian invocation of a heavenly and divine mystery, completely unlimited by boundaries of space and time.

Two concerts only – the first on November 8th at 8:00pm at Mission Dolores in San Francisco (3321 16th Street), and the second on November 10th at 4:00pm at First Congregational Church (2345 Channing Way) in Berkeley. Tickets are available via Facebook and Eventbrite (links above).

Here’s hoping you can join us!

November 08, 2019 at 8:00pm
Mission Dolores Basilica
3321 16th St, San Francisco


Click here for the Facebook concert event

November 10, 2019 at 4:00pm
First Congregational Church
2345 Channing Way, Berkeley

Click here for the Facebook concert event

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