Review: Sretensky Monastery Choir

In a performance spanning religious chants and folk songs from their homeland, the rich voices of Moscow’s Sretensky Monastery Choir bring over 600 years of choral tradition to Adelaide Festival.

In a program of two distinctly themed parts, the all-male choir focuses firstly on sacred choral works reflecting centuries of monastic liturgical tradition, while after the intermission is a collection of often rousing folk songs with Russian, Ukrainian and Cossack origins.

The most exhilarating pieces are the sacred chants, from the masterfully melismatic Kiev chants to the stunning opener, Now All The Heavenly Powers, an ancient chant that builds in entrancing harmonic layers, carrying its centuries, with the bass parts hitting such low frequencies they seem to test the boundaries of tone and sheer vibration.

Similarly enthralling is the contemplative and transcendent journey of Georgy Sviridov’s Having Beheld A Strange Nativity, while the folk songs in the more jovial second half of the performance see the choir blazing out in full force, by turns playful and earnest, showcasing the extraordinary range of the singers and some rather captivating arrangements.

Throughout the program, tenor, baritone and bass soloists take centre stage, backed by the low, precise, swelling hums of the choir that at times assume an amazing likeness to stringed instruments. While there is awe at the crescendos, there is magic in some of these quieter moments.

Sretensky Monastery Choir performed at Adelaide Town Hall on March 3

Sretensky Monastery Choir
Sunday, March 3 – Monday, March 4
Adelaide Town Hall

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