Moscow's Sretensky Monastery Choir embarks on US tour

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MOSCOW — The Sretensky Monastery was founded more than 600 years ago in honor of Moscow’s miraculous deliverance from invasion by Tamerlane. The Bolsheviks closed it in 1925, and the secret police used its grounds as an execution yard during the years of Stalinist terror.

About 30 members of the all-male Sretensky Monastery Choir are embarking on a tour of the United States this week, starting in Washington with a performance Saturday at the Library of Congress for invited guests and a public appearance at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Monday.

While the choir’s repertoire is rich with church music, said director Nikon Zhila, the American audience also will hear a selection of Russian folk songs, robust pieces from the beginning of the 20th century and even some from the Soviet period.

Russian Orthodox church music, said Father Tikhon, the monastery’s abbot, came from ancient chanting and singing and has one goal. “It helps your soul break through from our world to God,” he said. “It’s a very important instrument and can’t compare to anything in the outside world. From an aesthetic point of view it’s simply beautiful.”

On its American tour, nine cities in 20 days, the choir will also sing the great African American spiritual “Go Down Moses,” with its resonant “let my people go” refrain. “We really like it,” the abbot said. “It’s wonderful the way our guys sing it.”

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