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So powerful and so touching

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So powerful and so touching

July is one of those few warm and sunny days that the northern summer gives. Karelia, Valaam island. I sit on a high bank, not moving, for an hour, unable to tear myself away from the shining bright blue sky, glare on the water, the icy wind from Ladoga, wading through deceptively hot sun, stones, stones and pebbles, wooden cracked bridges, dark green thickness of the forest, descending to the lake, large white birds circling picturesquely above the water surface.

Silence is broken only by the humming of the wind and the sound of a “gurgle” of water on a rocky shore. Suddenly with sharp cries they slashed the silence of the seagull. Boats rumbled with noise, the water was agitated and clogged against stones, the smell of diesel fuel. Again, everything was quiet. But as if a free sound, split voices are rolling like a wave over the tops of fir trees, over rocks and waters – this is the beginning of the St. Vladimir’s festival of Orthodox singing.

In my opinion, I am here for the fifth time – and the festival is also the fifth: V International Valaam St. Vladimir festival "Enlightener". This year, singers and singers from Karelia, from Solovki, from Armenia, Serbia, and Bulgaria came to him. You can hear them when you climb onto a high toe near Monastery Bay and sit on a bench near the Pokrovskaya Chapel. You can hear them when you go to Nikolsky Island on a wonderful road, past the newly-built chapel of All Valaam Saints, past neat strawberry beds, to the old Nikolsky temple with an observation deck and railings, which are dangerous to lean on. I do not know anything more organically combined than island nature, monastic architecture, the Valaam chant and the Valaam original open-air festival.

The heat of 40 degrees can here every other day be replaced by a chilly strong unkind wind with a temperature of +13. Hoods on the Singing Field, where the festival takes place, interspersed with caps from the sun with the inscription "Enlightener". There aren’t enough chairs, and novices in armchairs, and workers in sweatpants, and the classic pilgrims, and resort-dressed divas in shorts are sitting on the grass – everyone has a place here. With umbrellas from rain or the sun, on bicycles, scooters, with children in wheelchairs; gray-bearded monks with a huge lens, climbing for a better view at all possible heights; modest policemen in caps; women in camping trousers with pacific on a T-shirt; bishop-governor, fluttering familiar boys on the head; strong tanned men with backpacks greeting each other with a fraternal kiss on the shoulder …

Fraternal choir of the Valaam MonasteryConcert Choir of the Valaam MonasteryDivna Lyuboevich and the Melody Choir

About the same elemental diversity (although, of course, built according to a pre-compiled program) is on the stage of the festival. Prayer spirit of the fraternal choirs of the Valaam and Solovetsky monasteries, first participating in the "Enlightener"; sudden pop splashes in the repertoire of the concert choir of the Valaam Monastery; Dmitry Pevtsov, touching singing from the stage a hymn to the Virgin; the famous Divna Lyuboevich with the Melody choir, which detained their luggage and who were forced to perform in a monastic cassock and branded monastic t-shirts – but how great it looked! Unlearned remarks from the stage, a general photo of artists and spectators at the end – all this is so touching and harmonious at this singing forum.

St. Vladimir ChurchTransfiguration CathedralOn the way to Nikolsky Skete

St. Vladimir's Skete, liturgy on the day of the memory of the prince-enlightener, in whose honor, in fact, the festival was invented and named. It seems that at this liturgy, when the brotherly choir of the monastery sings under the direction of Hieromonk David (Legeida), I could stand twice as long. That infrequent case when I feel in the service not only spiritual, but also aesthetic joy. “Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal,” – the brothers come on the choir powerfully, without sentiment. “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal” – echoes weaker, but no less harmonious, the fathers in the altar. It sounds antiphon, a feeling of unity; after the sacrament, the monks give out prosphora; “Ended!” One of them says embarrassedly, smiling when my turn comes. A good-natured monk from the choir meets acquaintances from the mainland in the midst of parishioners, they are talking animatedly next to me, out of journalistic habit, I also begin to question. “Tell me, here you are entering immediately, without pianissimo, it is so powerful and so touching! Is this your corporate identity? ”“ Well, what are you, we just don’t know how to do it differently. We are still just learning! ”The singer smiles and brings all of us, journalists, on the prosphora. Nevertheless, it was the Agni Parfene of the brotherly choir at the concert that touches me to tears. And it is the fraternal choir of the Valaam Monastery that receives the audience award.

We go back from the service on foot. Tree roots deeply biting into stone. Bridges and streams with water lilies. Green manicured fields, barley on the right, rye on the left, Moscow journalists are photographed fantastically using these fields instead of a chromakey. Five monks with bright faces, wide belts intercept too loose a cassock, joyfully and quickly go from the liturgy. On the boat, it’s fun, Armenian and Serbian speech is heard, the girls from the Bulgarian choir sing wonderful …

“If I forget you, Valaam, forget my right hand,” writes a fellow journalist on his blog. The heat, which exhausted us yesterday, is replaced by a strong icy wind. The sailor called by me yesterday, in order to save from stuffiness and open the window, is called today to save from the cold and splashes, and to close the window. Ladoga is worried, the ship is sailing ahead of time – as soon as all passengers come on board. Shakes heavily, worried with Ladoga and I: how do we get there? How do I fall asleep in such a pitching? Rev. Sergius and Herman of Valaam, pray to God for us!

To the indispensable melody of Tchaikovsky “Gloomy land, foggy land”, our ship departs, someone waves for a long time to us from the shore and shouts “Christ is risen!”, But it becomes painfully painful, it seems that I did not have time to finish something. I didn’t get to the Gethsemane monastery – yes, but I had to work. I did not have time for the all-night service in the Transfiguration Cathedral – yes, but in the morning I was at the liturgy. She walked a little, didn’t walk along the coast even near the ship — yes, but she walked from the St. Vladimir's Monastery, it is much longer! Well, what … Undershot, undersigned, undershot … what?

Most likely, I’m just sad to leave the Holy Island. But I will definitely be back, right?

Photo by Vyacheslav Kochnov, Marina Kurakina, Elena Kurakina

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