behind the


Orthodox Sacred Music
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Russian liturgical music experienced a great flowering, much of it emanating from the Moscow Synodal School of Church Singing, a vital center for liturgical music and choral innovation. Konstantin Nikolaevich Shvedov (1886–1954) was one of the younger members of the New Russian Choral School that formed around the School. Like his better known contemporaries Alexander Kastalsky, Pavel Chesnokov and Sergei Rachmaninoff, he worked to reinvigorate Russia’s ancient choral and spiritual traditions and give them new contemporary expression.

This period of musical experimentation came to an abrupt and tragic halt with onset of the Russian Revolution, and shortly thereafter Shvedov moved to America, where he directed a church choir and continued to write choral works, including a number of arrangements for the famous Don Cossack Choir, directed by his fellow Synodal School alumnus, Serge Jaroff.

Unlike Rachmaninoff who used massive chord structures in his sacred music, Shvedov’s Liturgy focuses instead on rich textures and shimmering choral movement, using a harmonic vocabulary quite new to traditional sacred music. Some of the harmonic shifts are startling indeed and would certainly cause heads to turn in a liturgical celebration. Irina Shachneva, Slavyanka Chorus Artistic Director and Conductor has introduced this historical Shvedov Liturgy to the Chorus for concert premiere performances in America.
Irina remarks, “I still remember vividly the moment that my dear professor entrusted to me the photo negatives of Shvedov’s “Liturgy” score and told me, ‘I know that no one will perform this, but I know you will.’  These words stayed with me for years and it became one of my lifelong pursuits not only to safeguard one of the most magnificent Russian sacred works of the early 20th century, but to be a part of its rediscovery. When we step onto the stage for these historic performances, we will remember and honor everyone that helped to preserve this piece at significant risk, and enabled us to bring it here for American audiences. It is of great personal joy to be able to fulfill the hope and faith of that long chain of people and for this score to become living music once again for a whole new generation of listeners.” 

1000 Year History
In September 2021, Slavyanka hosted an evening presentation by one of the world’s most respected musicologists and publisher of Russian liturgical music, Dr. Vladimir Morosan. He is the Founder and President of Musica Russica, and one of the leading experts outside Russia in the fields of Russian choral music and Orthodox liturgical music.
His topic for the evening was “The Sacred Music and Spiritual Legacy of the Russian Emigration”. This presentation was a unique opportunity to learn more about a fascinating and relatively unknown part of the 1000-year-old Russian sacred choral music tradition, which suffered tremendous setbacks after the Russian revolution of 1927. But against all odds, due to the courage and perseverance of Russian composers who continued to compose during and after the emigration, the legacy survived and has continued to bear new fruit. Dr. Morosan discussed in detail and demonstrated this sacred music, which has only recently drawn the attention of performers and audiences. Slavyanka is pleased to provide access to a complete video recording here: Dr. Morosan's Presentation.