A couple weeks ago I happened upon David Drillock’s My Life in Church Music which was a talk he gave at the St. Vladimir’s Summer Institute 2004. I was searching for information about church music of some kind, I can’t remember exactly what or why, when I happened upon this incredibly fascinating article. It is very long but well worth the read if you are interested at all in Church music. It is about his life and how he came into the church and became head of the music department at St. Vladimir seminary. There is a part that stood out to me in particular and I want to share it with you.
When I first met Father Sergei, I was a student at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, and he was a visiting professor of music. But he was more than just a musician. He was, and remains for me, a pastor, a preacher, a teacher, a confessor, and a righteous spirit made perfect in Faith. Through that faith in God, Father Sergei continues to inspire so many of us in the most Christian of ways – through his love and humility. How often have we heard him say, “Hello, my beloved…” and immediately thought of the accounts telling of Saint Seraphim greeting people in a similar manner with “Christ is risen!” The love which Father Sergei freely shares with us comes from a spirit of joy which is also very apparent in his musical compositions.
Father Sergei would often challenge his students to consider the notion that all major chord melodies are happy, and all minor melodies are sad. If that’s the case, he would say, “then why does our Common Chant setting of “Christ is risen” begin on a minor chord?” Father Sergei would then challenge his students to think even more about how we perceive joy, taking the example one step further, asking his students to identify the difference between a “happy” and “sad” melody in Byzantine chant. Raising his hand, he would say, “Aha! You see? The joy of Christ is present in all things.” In this way, Father Sergei would accurately point out that our sacred texts are the source of our joy – whether they be psalms or poetic prose – and the music is beholden to those sacred and saving words bestowed on us by the Church.
“The love which Father Sergei freely shares with us comes from a spirit of joy…” This spirit of joy he speaks about is my very quest. May we all find a spirit of joy that is apparent to all around us. One that spreads easily.
Have a blessed day, my joys!