2nd San Francisco Festival of Russian Choral Music

Masterpieces from Russian Greats

(including West Coast premiere performances)

Irina Shachneva, Artistic Director

Click on the PDF document for the official Festival press release:

"Reaching Toward Heaven"

October 20, 2017 at 8:00pm
Star of the Sea Church
4420 Geary, San Francisco

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"Russia's Bach"

October 22, 2017 at 4:00pm
Mission Dolores Basilica
3321 16th St, San Francisco

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"Russian Roots"

October 15, 2017 at 4:00pm
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
2300 Bancroft, Berkeley

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In October 2017, the Slavyanka Russian Chorus hosted the 2nd San Francisco Festival of Russian Choral Music -- introducing Bay Area audiences, singers and directors to some of the greatest choral works of the Russian choral tradition.

This year’s Festival presented masterworks from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of the most remarkable periods of Russian choral composition (the "Silver Age"), and included works by Tchaikovsky, Sergei Taneyev (often called “the Russian Bach”), Rachmaninov, and Pavel Chesnokov. Tchaikovsky was Taneyev’s teacher, and Taneyev was in turn Rachmaninov’s and Chesnokov’s teacher. But while Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov are well known for their orchestral work, apart from Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil their exquisite choral music is not widely known. The works of Taneyev and Chesnokov, while honored in Russia, remain even more unknown in the West.

The Festival included two West Coast premieres by Taneyev -- his monumental, full orchestra-backed choral cantata, Ioann Damaskin, and his choral work, Sunrise. Acclaimed Russian countertenor Andrej Nemzer performed a selection of works for voice and piano by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Glinka, and seven ensembles -- including various West Coast Slavic choral groups and Russian church choirs from San Francisco, Burlingame and Santa Cruz -- shared the stage with the Slavyanka Russian Chorus in presenting a vast selection of Russian folk songs and sacred music from Russia's Silver Age.


Russian Roots: The festival began on Sunday, October 15 at 4pm at St. Mark's Church, Berkeley with "Russian Roots" -- a selection of Russian secular music that focuses on the folk traditions of the Moscow region. Four vocal ensembles participated, including Oakland's renowned female vocal ensemble, Kitka; Kostroma, of the non-profit organization Russian House Kedry (Cedars) in San Jose; the Slavic-language Iskra Etno Vocal Group, of Silicon Valley; and Pava, the Seattle-based vocal group that sings ancient Russian folk songs.

Reaching Toward Heaven: The middle festival concert took place on Friday, October 20 at 8pm at Star of the Sea Church in San Francisco. Four choruses -- the Slavyanka Russian Chorus (San Francisco), the Church of All Russian Saints Choir (Burlingame), the Holy Virgin Cathedral Pontifical Choir (San Francisco), and the St. Lawrence Orthodox Christian Church Choir (Santa Cruz) -- performed works by A. Taneyev, S. Taneyev, Chesnokov, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Nikolsky, Kastalsky, Grechaninov, Lvovsky, and Bortniansky.

Russia's Bach: The Festival culminated in a final concert on Sunday, October 22 at 4pm at Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco. The Slavyanka Russian Chorus opened with selections from Taneyev's repertoire, including 'Serenada' and 'Vecher' (Evening), as well as sacred works by Tchaikovsky and Chesnokov. Renowned Russian countertenor Andrej Nemzer then offered a potpourri of works for voice and piano (by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Glinka), together with Slavyanka Russian Chorus soloists Litz Plummer and Elena Stepanova-Gurevich (sopranos), pianist Donna Stoering, and the Festival Orchestra (conducted by Slavyanka Russian Chorus Artistic Director Irina Shachneva; one piece guest-conducted by Eric Kujawsky). The highlight of the performance was the West Coast premieres of Taneyev's monumental and rarely-heard choral cantata, Ioann Damaskin, featuring the Festival Chorus of nearly 100 voices and full Orchestra -- and Taneyev's joyful celebration of life, simply titled Sunrise.


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