Archive | October, 2012

The journey of a nation’s soul through music: The Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir

22 Oct

The Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir ( Sretensky Choir) is touring to celebrate the “5th Anniversary of the Reunion” of the Russian Orthodox Church. There is a complex intertwining between history, the Russian Orthodox Church, the military and the Russian people. According to Country Studies:

The Russian Orthodox Church has a thousand-year history of strong political as well as spiritual influence over the inhabitants of the Russian state. After enduring the Soviet era as a state-controlled religious facade, the church quickly regained both membership and political influence in the early 1990s.

Art often conveys in an emotional sense the history of a nation. Guernica by Picasso is not just an artfully done painting, it conveys a point in time in Spanish and world history. So, it is with the Sretensky Choir.

Meany Hall at the University of Washington was the appropriate venue to focus attention of the vocal gifts of the Sretensky Choir. There is a large Russian and Eastern European emigre community in Seattle and the surrounding area. Much in the way Evangelicals are drawn to a Sunday picnic, the emigre community seemed to be drawn to this concert. There were many children in attendance, who were as well-behaved as they were attentive. A couple of Russian Orthodox clergy were spotted in the crowd. Meany was almost full.

Before discussing the concert, a bit of information about the Sretensky Choir:

The Choir of the Moscow Sretensky monastery has existed for over 600 years – since the monastery was founded in 1397. Break of its activity occurred only in the years of persecution of church in Soviet era.

Moscow Sretensky Monastery

Sretensky monastery had been founded in 1937 in memory of a miraculous event of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, described in chronicles. Tamerlane the Great went towards Moscow after the devastation of Ryazan and Yelets in 1395. Then Cyprian, the Primat of Moscow, ordered to move the great Orthodox Sanctuary, Patroness of the Russian land – Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God from Vladimir to Moscow.

Residents of Moscow met the icon with hope and prayed for deliverance. As the chronicles narrate, Tamerlan, laid siege Moskow, fell asleep in his tent and saw the terrible appearance of the Sovereign Lady, who commanded him to abandon the plan of capturing Moscow. The invincible conqueror, as he had woken up in the morning in horror, went away from the bounds of Moscow, leaving the defenseless city intact.

Sretensky monastery had been found on the spot, where the miraculous icon of Virgin Mary was greeted by the Muskovites (“Meeting” in the Old Church Slavonic language is  “Sretenie”) in memory of the deliverance from the enemy.

The choir gradually started to acquire its modern features in a reviving monastery about 10 years ago.

In 2005, with a blessing of Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), the choir was headed by its current regent — Nikon Stepanovich Zhila, graduate of the Gnesins Russian Academy of Music, son of a priest. Being a child Nikon Zhila sang in the choirs of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. The choir started to work on recording studio albums and maintain an active concert tours along with the monastery Divine Services.

The basis of the choir is the seminarians, seminary students and graduates of the Moskow Sretensky Seminary and Academy. No less important part of the collective is the  vocalists from the Moscow Academy of Choral Art, Moscow Conservatory, the Gnesins Russian Academy of Music.

There are 30 choir members in the choir, each of them is a real godsend for the creative collective. There are talented composers and arrangers among them: Fedor Stepanov, Alexander Amerkhanov, Andrey Poltorukhin, Roman Maslennikov. First-class soloists: Dmitry Beloselsky, Mikhail Miller, Mikhail Turkin, Ivan Skrilnikov, Petr Gudkov,  Alexander Korogod, Alexey Tatarintsev. Dmitry Beloselsky is often put by critics above other world-famous Russian artists. But each member of the choir is an obedient instrument in the regent Nikon Stepanovich Zhila’s hands, converting the consonance of voices in the living organ.

In adition to regular Divine Services at the Sretensky monastery, the Sretensky monastery choir sings in the most solemn Patriarchal Services in the Moscow Kremlin, participates in international music competitions and missionary journeys of Russian Orthodox Church.

The initial observation of the choir was these guys don’t look like monks. They were sharply dressed in dark gray suits, white shirts, and dark ties. They were all business when when it came to providing a thoroughly enjoyable concert experience.

The program was a mix of sacred music, folk tunes, contemporary songs, and military music. Nikon Zhila conducted with the crispness, precision and control of the former military man that he was. Solo duties were handled by tenor Alexey Tatarintsev and bass Dmitry Belosselskiy. The program was performed in Russian and there was no translation. Both Tatarintsev and Belosselskiy have theatrical training, Tatarintsev at the Kolobov Novaya Opera Theatre and Belosselskiy at the Bolshoi Theatre. The theatrical training is crucial for conveying mood to those in the audience who are not native Russian speakers.

The Sretensky Choir performs a cappella which is in keeping with the cannon of the Byzantine church. Wayne Jackson writes about the importance of a capella music to the church in the article, What Is A Capella Music?

Professor Everett Ferguson, one of the premier historians of church history alive today, has noted that the non-use of the instrument in worship was the “majority tradition of Christian history” until “comparatively recent times” (83).

Between 1708-22, Joseph Bingham, an Anglican cleric, produced his magnificent ten-volume work titled, The Antiquities of the Christian Church, a prodigious effort that required 20 years in composition. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church depicts this work as that which “has not been superseded” (Cross, 173). Regarding the use of instrumental music in church worship, the celebrated English scholar wrote:

Music in churches is as ancient as the apostles, but instrumental music not so: for it is now generally agreed by learned men, that the use of organs came into the church since the time of Thomas Aquinas, anno 1250. For he in his Sums has these words, “Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to judaize” (I.315).He then catalogs considerable testimony from ancient writers of the post-apostolic age to sustain the point.–a-cappella–music

The concert built to a conclusion in the second half.

Many of emigre audience members, sang along and clapped to songs from their childhood or those that they knew as part of their history and tradition. The crowd particularly responded to “The Song of the Volga Boatman,” “White Acacias,” “The Horse,” and “Katyusha.” Because of the skill of the orchestra, the conductor, and the soloists, it was not a handicap to not be a native Russian speaker. There was enough vocal clarity, subtle and effective theatricality and soul to keep one engaged. One expects sacred music to have a certain amount of soul, but what the choir successfully conveyed was the historical journey of the Russian soul through sacred, folk, and military music. The Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir is emblematic of the intertwined threads of church, military, and populace which run through Russian history.

More Information about the Choir:

The New York Times review

The Wall Street Journal review


Nikon Zhila choir regent bio

Fedor Stepanov choir director bio

Dmitry Beloselskiy soloist bio

Alexey Tatarintsev soloist bio

Dr. Wilda gives a thumbs up to The Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir . This group is recommended for those who appreciate a capella choral music and for those souls who just appreciate well performed music.

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Review of Darigold’s magazine ‘FRESH’

21 Oct

Moi gets many press releases and offers to review books and other items. Darigold’s magazine, “FRESH” really appealed to moi because Darigold is a local cooperative and moi supports the local food movement. See, According to the letter sent to moi by Kristen Hamilton:

FRESH is produced and created by Darigold. You may already know us for our milk, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese and other dairy products found at your local grocers. What many people don’t know, is that we’re also one of America’s largest dairy co-ops, in operation and farmer owned since 1918.

We represent more than 500 family farms throughout the Northwest to bring Seattle residents the delicious world of dairy. We look forward to sharing our story with you through FRESH magazine, and we plan to send you complimentary issues as they are launched throughout the year.

Here is some information about Darigold:


How are Darigold Ingredient products packaged?
All Powder products are available in 25kg bags except for the MPC 70 (20kg). Cheese is packed in a 40 pound box. Butter (Salted) is available in 68 pound and 25kg cubes . Butter (Unsalted) is available in 25kg cubes

Are Darigold Ingredient products rbST free?
Beginning January 1, 2009 all Darigold products will be produced with milk from cows not treated with rbST

Are Darigold Ingredient plants USDA approved?

Are Darigold Ingredient products Kosher?
All products (except Cheese) are Kehilla Kosher approved and recognized by the Orthodox Union.

Are Darigold Ingredient products Halal approved?

Are Darigold Ingredient products European Union (EU) approved?
Darigold Ingredient plants are registered as approved exporters to the EU.

What type of coding does Darigold use for their Ingredient products?
All Darigold Ingredient products are coded with production plant identification, Julian code date and calendar date of manufacturing.

How can I obtain more information about a specific Darigold Ingredient product?
Please click on the “Contact Us” button (located on the navigation sidebar) for information requests.

The particular issue of FRESH sent to moi is glossy with beautiful pictures and great recipes.

The issue begins with stories about the cows describing the nature of the cows, grooming, and how they eat their food. This is really interesting stuff. Believe it or not, there is a fascinating discussion about cottage cheese and how it is made. Next, the issue provides portraits of the families involved in dairy farming. There is also a great piece about the Nelscott Cafe in Lincoln City, Oregon and the fabulous pancakes and French toast.

The magazine opens with stories about the cows, farmers, and restaurant to build to the conclusion of recipes. The food is not only beautifully photographed, but for a foodie will make one salivate just reading the ingredients. There are coupons in the back of the magazine for tasty Darigold products. You can order FRESH by clicking this link

Dr. Wilda gives a thumbs up to FRESH Magazine

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Review of 2012 SACNAS National Meeting in Seattle

20 Oct

Moi received an invitation to apply for press credentials to the 2012 SACNAS National Meeting in Seattle and she applied. She knew nothing about the organization and as far as she was concerned as long as she could end the experience without saying “well that’s ___ hours that I will never get back,” the experience would be a success. The experience turned out to be enlightening and uplifting as well. This is an organization founded on the premise that there is much that we can do and we will focus on that.

This is how SACNAS describes itself:

Our History

The Creation Story

Legend says that SACNAS was founded in an elevator at an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in the early ’70s. At that time, there were only a handful of Native American and Chicano scientists in the U.S., and most of them had converged to attend the AAAS meeting. After attending a networking event, they all got into the elevator together. One looked around and joked, “If this elevator crashes, it will wipe out the entire population of Chicano and Native American scientists!” Since 1973, our SACNAS family has grown from the number of people who can fit into an elevator to over 25,000 SACNISTAs (members, partners, and friends).

SACNAS Founders

Nearly 40 years ago, the founders of SACNAS were trailblazers. Many of them were the first people in their communities to receive PhDs in science, the first Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans to be hired in their departments, and the first mentors for a new generation of Hispanic/Chicano and Native American scientists. Over the years, SACNAS and its founders have flourished. Founders are now leaders at federal scientific agencies, tenured full professors, and university deans. Along with early conference attendees, former presidents, and past board members, a significant number of founding members are actively involved in the work of SACNAS today.

Historical Context

SACNAS emerged alongside the Chicano and American Indian movements. At that time, advanced science degrees were few and far between. Over 15,000 PhDs in science and engineering were granted in 1975, but only 151 were granted to Hispanics and 13 to Native Americans. Early initiatives included nationwide networking, securing funding, and organizing the first SACNAS conference in 1978.

Awards and Recognitions

SACNAS was recognized as the nation’s premier minority science organization when it was awarded the 2002 National Science Board’s Public Service Award for our contribution to the scientific community. In 2004, the organization also received the national Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) for our mentoring work and ability to effectively increase underrepresented minority participation at all levels in science, math, and engineering.

This is how SACNAS described the National Conference in Seattle:

National Conference

“If I were to describe the conference in one word, I would have to say it would be OPPORTUNITY.”
 – Edwina Gutierrez, Undergraduate Student, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

SACNAS National Conference

As one of the largest annual gatherings of minority scientists in the country, the interdisciplinary, inclusive, and interactive SACNAS National Conference motivates and inspires. Registration includes:

Showcasing cutting-edge science by the nation’s leading minority scientists and offering a supportive community is what makes the annual meeting a transformative event for all participants. Join us to connect with professionals and students in all disciplines of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering from across the country.

Upcoming National Conferences

Our annual conference takes place every fall. Upcoming conferences are scheduled for:

Previous National Conferences

First, the conference was very well organized and this was no little achievement as there were about 3700 attendees. The program was clearly delineated and the attendees often had to make some tough choices about which sessions to attend. There were incredible speakers giving keynote talks at all the meals. Even though SACNAS focuses on Chicano, Latino, Hispanic, and Native communities, moi noticed that the conference was a rainbow and that those “serious” about business, career, and science were there. This is definitely a group focused not only on individual achievement and success, but a group asking what can “I” do to help my fellow traveler on life’s roadl. Moi attended a great presentation about Entrepreneurship which do not gloss over the challenges, but offered support and encouragement for those willing to follow that path. Among the other great sessions attended by moi were “Institutionalizing Diversity Programs: Challenges and Opportunities for Colleges and Universities,” and the Native Community Reception.

As an example of how giving the stars of this community are with their time, Moi was able to discuss the importance of diversity and the case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court with:

Lee Bitsoi, (Navajo) EdD SACNAS Secretary, Bioethics at Harvard

SACNAS Board Members:

Luis Echegoyen, (Cuban) PhD        Chemistry, University of Texas at ElPaso

Juan Meza, PhD                            Dean of Natural Sciences,

                                                    Professor of Applied Math, UC at Merced

Gabriel Montano,PhD                     Nanotechnology/Membrane Biochemistry

                                                    Los Alamos National Laboratory

Not only do these gentlemen do research and attend conferences in addition to teaching and other activities, they see their roles as MENTORS to those who will attempt to fill their shoes.

What moi observed is SACNAS is an organization focused on excellence and success. There is a “can do” ethos and ethic about the organization. Moi’s observation is that many of those, with whom she spoke, attend the conference year after year. They see the meeting as a time to reflect, replenish, and renew. Both undergraduates and graduate students who are “serious” about their career and their future are encouraged to join SACNAS and attend the 2013 National Meeting in San Antonio.

Dr. Wilda gives a thumbs up to the 2012 SACNAS National Meeting in Seattle. This is a highly recommend.

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