Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Concert of Sacred Music for the Victims of Communism

Remembering the victims of communism with sacred music

Concert tonight at Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Church

Tonight the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation hosted A Concert of Sacred Music featuring the Choir of the Synodal Cathedral of the Icon of Our Lady of the Sign in New York at Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Washington, DC. 

In the program the conductor and choral director, Peter Fekula, provided a series of notes at the end where he explained the impact of the 1917 Revolution this type of music. "Russian Orthodox sacred music did not disappear" ... but continued to exist in a semi-underground state. Just as churches and monasteries were closed or destroyed, so too were the musical institutions and schools of the Russian Church dissolved or converted into secular institutions, no longer permitted to perform the role for which they were created."
 Fekula explained what happened to artists who refused to compromise. "Artists - composers, conductors, and singers - who did not submit to the demands of the atheist regime, or who simply failed to adapt to the new reality were publicly denounced, threatened and had their privileges revoked. Some were killed - the list of victims of Communist oppression in the Russian Orthodox Church contains he names of several composers who were martyred for their faith and activities."

The concert was both powerful and melancholic concluding with four selections from Alexander Dmitriyevich Kastalsky's Memory Eternal to the Fallen Heroes, dedicated to all fallen soldiers of the Allied nations in World War One. Published in 1917, this piece was one of the last religious works published in Russia before the Bolshevik revolution.

The final piece played tonight remembered the victims of communism:
"Grant rest eternal in blessed repose, O Lord, to Thy departed servants, the victims of Communist oppression throughout the world, and make their memory to be eternal."
Kastalsky's work is also a reminder of the link between World War One and its role in creating conditions that the Lenin and the Bolsheviks were able to exploit to usher in a century of mass murder and degradation with the emergence of the Soviet Union, the first communist regime.

There is an effort underway called The Kastalsky Requiem Project to revive one of his works as a way of commemorating the centennial of the end of World War One in 2018. The aim of the project is to "give the full seventeen-movement version of the work its world premiere performance and recording [it] in the fall of 2018, with performances in New York, Washington, and Kansas City."

Communist censorship of music would continue over the next century. In the case of Cuba popular and iconic singers were banned and censored for refusing to submit to communist rule and living abroad.

Reviving these pieces of Russian Orthodox Sacred Music not only remembers the victims of communism but in playing this music defy the censors who sought to permanently silence these compositions.

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