Like students of religion seeking truth, Russian Patriarchate Choir founder Anatoly Grindenko looked to the east. And like many 20-year-old musicians seeking inspiration, he looked to the spirit of rock.
But unlike most, Grindenko spent years decoding ancient manuscripts of Orthodox Church music with his choir. He searched for a combination of religion and inspiration in a time when the Soviet government strictly banned this type of music.
“Despite our imperfect present-day view, what emerges is a unique soundscape that musically expresses a prayerful and spiritual reality,” Vladimir Morosan wrote of the Patriarchate Choir in a note to the press.
In his search for this reality, Grindenko spent the later decades leading up to the collapse in 1991 uncovering ancient manuscripts on liturgical music that lay dormant for centuries before. His influence, though, extends beyond older manuscripts and into to the contemporary realm of King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes.
Today, Grindenko joins 12 members of his all-male choir to bring the sounds that were outlawed in Communist Russia to the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Ann Arbor.
With the eventual demise of the Soviet Union came the opportunity for the Russian Patriarchate Choir to bring its performances to the public, touring internationally, attracting a growing fan base worldwide and creating a resurgence of the buried art of Russian Orthodox chant.
Reviews of past performances suggest audiences do not have to share the same religious spirit to fall under the hypnotic spell of the choir’s ethereal voices.
The choir has a variety of ways to capture its audience. With folk songs, chants or hymns, the Patriarchate pulls the listener in with overlapping tones that bellow from deep within the choir. The sounds resonate like bells, creating an unearthly atmosphere.
While the first part of the all-Russian program will include performances from the decoded hymns, there is a strong representation of Russian liturgical and folk music by composers Rachmaninoff, Bortniansky and Grechoninov.
Regardless of one’s inclinations, the Patriarchate Choir promises to leave its audience with small echoes of something unworldly, the spine-tingling sense that Grindenko and the Patriarchate Choir have found and decoded the truth they were looking for.
Russian Patriarchate Choir
Tonight at 8 p.m.
At the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church