of the EADMC
George Johnson converted to Orthodoxy with his family in 1986.
Having been a singer and choir master in Episcopal parishes for his
prior adult life, immediately after his Baptism, he was put to work to
help initiate the program of English services at St. John the Baptist
Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, D.C. by directing the choir
and preparing all the music. A policy of weekly rehearsals was
Nearly simultaneously with Father George's conversion, the Synodal
Liturgical Music Advisory Board commission of ROCOR (principally Peter
Fekula and Nicolas Schidlovsky) organized the first Russian Orthodox
Church Musicians choir conferences for the mutual help and inspiration
of Russian Orthodox choir directors. Father George participated
in the first few of these and, with the knowledge gained there and
from personal study, he imbibed the foundational elements of Russian
Orthodox musical and liturgical practice. At the time, English
settings were not plentiful, especially according to ROCOR translation
usage, so Father George set about arranging, setting or marking all
the hymn texts as they were needed, initially by hand, eventually
through the use of software. During this time, he was advanced
in the clerical life, becoming a priest in 1994. The choir work
then fell to his Matushka, Deborah.
In 1998, with encouragement by Peter and Nicolas, the ROCM conference
was held at St. John's and was entirely in and about English.
Father George's Vespers volume was introduced at this conference.
This was the first volume of a projected series in which a significant
part of Orthodox hymnody in English translation will be set to music.
The purpose of the series is to provide for parishes at all levels.
Most of the music, therefore, consists of simple harmonizations of
melodies from the body of Russian liturgical chant. The harmonic
usage is based on long-used principles promulgated at the initial ROCM
conferences. Regarding text setting, the guiding principle is to
set and perform the hymns in such a way as to preserve the natural
articulation and rhythm of English, so that the message sung is the
Father George was the assistant Pastor at St. John's from 1994 through
the first part of 2001. In that year, he and a few others
founded Holy Apostles Orthodox mission parish in the Maryland suburbs
of Washington, D.C. Even though the mission is small, the parish
maintains a choir that rehearses regularly under the direction of
Father George's son, Reader Christopher, carrying on the principles
that Father George established and maintained.
Even with the Pastoral duties, Father George continues to arrange and
compose music, with special attention to the needs of the mission,
because he sees the clear and articulate proclamation of the message
as a main means of teaching. For him, the message is the message
and the music is the means.