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Voices from 12th century

Festival of Orthodox Chants gathers best in Grodno
People travel thousands of kilometres to participate in the Kolozhsky Blagovest Festival of Orthodox Chants. The event received its name in 2008, wishing to show unbreakable ties with the Grodno Region’s most ancient relic: the Church of St. Boris and Hleb (Kolozha) which dates back to the 12th century. In 2011, the festival received international status and, since then, has gathered full houses. All tickets for the opening ceremony and the closing gala concert sell out on the first day of release.

Festival participants in Grodno

The Director and Artistic Leader of the Kolozhsky Blagovest Festival, Vladimir Lebetsky, comments that the holiday primarily aims to present a week of spiritual celebration. “We’re delighted that veteran-teams, which performed at the festival 15 years ago, continue to attend, as well as new performers. Young people are making time not only for work and study but for church, participating in the revival of church culture. There are many secular choirs performing Orthodox motifs. Spirituality combined with professional singing is so uplifting. We still recall the student choir from the Moscow State Conservatoire, which won several years ago. They were unforgettable,” he says.

This year, the festival was held for the 15th time and received a record number of applications. Ten teams were eager to come from Russia alone, obliging organisers to strictly select participants. This ensured a very high level of mastery. Nine countries were represented, including France and Uzbekistan.

Russia’s Ivanovo State Chemical-Technological University Chamber Choir took part, led by Yevgeny Bobrov. He has attended many festivals of Orthodox music and notes that they are always well attended. He comments, “The present success can hardly be compared to that of the 1980s-1990s. This year, our team is celebrating its 30th anniversary and we sang church music in Soviet times — when it wasn’t particularly welcome. There were few churches at that time but people did their best to attend our performances, to hear prayer at least at a concert hall. Modern festivals are mostly aimed at lovers of professional singing.”

While visitors warmly welcomed all contestants, the jury had the task of choosing winners, and gave the Grand Prix to Romania’s Aleteia Choir, from Yassa’s St. Peter and Paul Church.

Participants have made the final decision on how to approach the event in future. A poll was unanimous in deciding that Kolozhsky Blagovest should take place every year.

By Katerina Charovskaya
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