February 25, 2012
Philadelphia, PA: An Original Concert by the Eastern American Diocesan Youth Choir was held

On Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th of February, the Eastern American Diocesan Youth Choir met in Philadelphia, PA at the Church of the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow. About 60 talented young men and women came from across the East Coast and Canada to take part in the singing of the divine services and conclude the weekend with a concert centered around the life of the Wise Thief.

The organizers of the event, Nicholas Kotar, Dimitri Doohovskoy, and Ilya Dubelshtein, were joined by singers coming not only from an array of musical backgrounds, but also a variety of Orthodox jurisdictions, turning this into a pan-Orthodox event. The choir included singers from Canada, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania Massachusetts, and even Florida, as well as students from multiple seminaries: Holy Cross Greek Seminary in Boston, MA, St. Tikhon’s OCA Seminary in South Canaan, PA, and Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY.

The choral gathering involved several warm-ups prior to the start of Saturday’s Vigil and Sunday’s Liturgy. The Diocesan Youth Choir sang the majority of the All-Night Vigil at Joy of All Who Sorrow Church in English and Slavonic under the direction of Alex Cooley, though several portions of the service were sung by the Holy Trinity Seminary Choir under Nicholas Kotar’s direction and the hymn "O Gladsome Light" was even sung by Greek chanters. Additionally, a small group of singers went to sing Vespers at a small mission, St. Paul’s Antiochian Church in Emmaus, PA, just outside of Philadelphia.

In gratitude for their wonderful singing at the Saturday service, the parish invited the youth to a bountiful feast of blini.

Some of the participants noted the atmosphere of warm relations, and expressed their joy at the participation of their Orthodox brothers and sisters from various jurisdictions.

"I think it’s a wonderful experience! It’s good that so many different communities were pulled together in order to do this," remarked Ignatius Gauvain, second-year seminarian at St. Tikhon’s Seminary.

Rachel Loeb, parishioner of Holy Resurrection Bulgarian Church in Allston, MA, echoed the sentiment: "It’s amazing that so many young people can get together and just instantly sound so beautiful and have a pan-Orthodox experience together and really contribute something from all different backgrounds to glorifying God."

The culmination of the missionary choral weekend was an original concert entitled "Two Paths Diverged at the Wood," performed on Sunday at St. Michael the Archangel Church (MP). The concert, prepared by Nicholas Kotar and Dimitri Doohovskoy, consisted of several ancient musical pieces from the Russian, Greek, and Georgian traditions, and music from Renaissance England, as well as readings of short excerpts from Holy Scripture, the writings of the early Church Fathers, and 20th century poetry and prose. The performance began with an introduction by conductor Nicholas Kotar, who explained the idea behind the concert: a dramatization of the life of the Wise Thief, beginning with a joyful childhood, to a youthful trauma, a prodigal life of crime and, finally, the wood of the cross, where he would face a choice between good and evil, and where in the final moments of his life he would receive forgiveness from God.

"It’s always good to get exposure to Orthodoxy through music: people hear these pieces, it piques their interest, and they want to ‘come and see,’" Subdeacon George Goodge, parishioner of St. Paul’s Church remarked.

140 audience members were in attendance.

Available below is a video news report and a full-length video recording of the concert.

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