Something you do with your choir that others might find bizarre or strange!
Funny noises and rhythmic chanting! When we really get into rehearsing
rhythms or working on brightness and buzz, things can get pretty strange! We also incorporate physical movements into rehearsing.
Choir Name: Slavic Chorale
Location: Sacramento, California, USA
Style: Classical, A cappella, Worship, Orchestral
Number of singers: 35
See what we’re up to on our website!
What kinds of physical motions do you do with your choir?
Stretches, shoulder massage, leaning forward and standing back up as you take a breath. We also do some expressing the music with gestures, “pulling a ribbon out of a box” as we sing legato, “throwing a tennis ball” as we need to sing a high staccato note, etc.
Do you have a favorite quote?
Yes – from Rudyard Kipling: “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run…” This one reminds me that we need to live life to the fullest, give it our all, our best effort – that no minute should go to waste.
What has been effective in growing your choir? Any tips for other choirs?
Growing the choir is a tough subject, difficult to do. Personal connections help, and advertising auditions or openings too. But often it comes down to speaking to people individually. At concerts and when we visit churches, I will announce that we are accepting new singers. Then I will talk to people individually after the concert, pretty much whoever I run into. Even if they aren’t interested or available to sing, they might know someone who is. I try to remember to always ask for referrals. “You aren’t available Wednesdays? You need to find two people to take your place! Who do you know who might be available and interested?”
A turning point in the life of your choir?
The very first concert. It was a make-or-break moment, because we had set a really high goal with the music and scale of the production, so it was either going to be a success or a disappointment. We were very blessed though, and it was a success! The choir has been on a trajectory since then.
Any productions that you will never forget?
Definitely our “Judgment Day” concert, which we have done twice so far- once in Sacramento and once in Seattle. The concert was themed based on the ‘Judgement Day’ that is to occur at the end of the world according to biblical text. The program’s message made it a memorable event, and it included everything from medieval chant to modern worship music and left an unforgettable mark in our memories.
What was your repertoire like for these concerts?
We started with the classic “Dies Irae” chant, then went to Arkhangelsky’s “I Think Upon the Fearful Day,” then Karl Jenkins’ “Dies Irae” from his Requiem, then excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem. We then transitioned via a solo+guitar contemporary piece called “Isaiah’s Lament” and into more pop-style modern Christian songs and into a final worship music set ending with the songs “Jesus is the Lord” and “When the Stars Burn Down.” It was a pretty big production, with full concert lighting and sound, pre-recorded video with readings from the Bible regarding Judgment Day (very dramatic), and the choir entering through the audience while singing the chant, etc…
What would you say was the most moving part of the Judgement Day production?
The text was particularly important in Arkhangelsky’s “I Think Upon the Fearful Day.” The emotions of the music are linked to the words very closely, so we discussed this meaning before we started learning individual notes, which helped the choir become committed to the music and the rehearsal process because they felt the emotional impact that the piece was going to have.
How did your choir tackle the difficult music?
We anticipated the challenge, so we planned ahead and printed memorization help sheets. Singers were studying them in the car, during dinner, at home, at work, wherever they went. I guess you could say, this concert and the idea took over our lives for a while!
Memory Sheets! Can you tell us more about these?
Well, we printed the text in order and made some notes on who is singing what, to help with memorizing the form of the pieces. See Example:
I like giving the choir the overall structure, and attaching an image to each section has been very helpful for singers. So the Mozart Confutatis is something like “Men: nations coming to the judgment seat. Women: Call me among the blessed. (Repeat) All: I pray, I bow, be with me at the end..” That’s the piece summarized in three sentences!
How does your choir bond as a group?
Once every six months, we meet together at home for food, mostly Slavic foods, and fellowship. Sometimes we pre-order from local caterers. One husband/wife pair in our choir grilled awesome hamburgers for us recently, we loved that!
Additionally, we find traveling together is a great way to connect as well as taking time to share our struggles and successes with each other during rehearsals. Though, for us, performances above all provide the best bonding experiences.
An interesting fact about a composer/arranger you love to share with your choir:
Rachmaninov wrote some great Russian Orthodox music, Classical choral
masterpieces, and he was the last great Russian Romantic, but he died in Beverly Hills, California of all places.
Any funny rehearsal moments?
There has to be at least one at each rehearsal! One that comes to mind at the moment is the hilariously impassioned argument that the Sopranos and Altos had about the correct shade of black that their uniform should be!
Another favorite inspirational quote?
As a general motto for everything I do with Slavic Chorale, I repeat in my mind this mantra taken from the prayer Our Father: “May Your Kingdom come, may Your will be done.”
Aside from the Judgement Day program, what other performances will you never forget?
In the song “Just Simply”: text by Andrey Logvin, music by Irina Denisova, there are powerful words about love and forgiveness. There was a performance when we truly were united in expressing the meaning of those words, and everyone felt the powerful emotions of that moment.
Special thanks to Director Pavel Kravchuk for his contributions to this interview!
Pavel Kravchuk was born in Ukraine and attended music school there. He studied at the University of Washington, CSU Sacramento, and the Moscow Academy of Sacred Music. Pavel started and directed chamber choirs and orchestras at Slavic churches and holds a Master’s Degree in Conducting. In 2010, he founded Slavic Chorale and went on to perform with the choir in Sacramento as well as nationally and internationally.