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Hear This: Slavyanka at Grace Cathedral 

Wednesday, Aug 19 2015

Most of us feel fairly chipper if we make it past the age of 50 without replacement parts.Imagine the condition of Sergei Rachmaninoff'sAll-Night Vigil(Vespers), a 100-year-old war horse of Russia's golden age of sacred music with 1,000-year-old parts. Performed by over 90 voices and led by Bay Area Russian choral ensemble Slavyanka and Artistic Director Irina Shachneva, there's a three-night, three-location party to celebrate the composition's 100th anniversary. Casting a reverential mood, the multisectioned choral work begins without voices. Instead, Shachneva has authentic Russian church bells chase away demons before Georgi Sviridov's original composition, set to a Pushkin poem, suggests the onset of twilight. Rachmaninoff kicks in when three Orthodox services show off ancient chants, six-, seven-, eight- and even one 11-part harmony reveal Slavyanka's command, and a hymn of blessing sends the audience floating home on a cloud of choral bliss. A sign on the door should read, "Enter aged, exit ageless."


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Lou Fancher


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