Cultural Association of Saint-Sergius Hill

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Liturgical Tradition and Musical Heritage

Mikhaïl M. Ossorguine founded the parish choir (originally a mixed choir), then the male choir of students of the Institute of Theology, which he directed during weekly services according to monastic practice, with “two choirs”, in collaboration with Metropolitan Benjamin Fedchenkov. In this function he was also helped by a student, choir director Serafim Alekseevitch Rodionov. Under his guidance, the students learned to sing the liturgical texts according to the eight tones, harmonized in four voices, directly "from the book", without score.

With Mikhail M. Ossorguine, the “kliros” did constitute a real chair of theology. Indeed, on the liturgical books, Menae and Triodes, Mikhaïl M. Ossorguine wrote remarks such as “how beautiful! "in the margin, or underlining text with a pencil for passages which he admired as revealers of the Truth. In this he became, at Matins as at Vespers, a transmitter of theology to his students!

In addition to this oral transmission, Mikhail M. Ossorguine transcribed from memory the melodies he had heard in Russian monasteries before emigrating and thus introduced them to the repertoire of the choir of Saint Sergius. His manuscripts thus bear witness to the tradition of Russian monastic chanting as it was practiced in Russia before the tragic events of 1917.

Manuscript of the troparion of the nativity of Christ

Song of the Pre-Feast of the Nativity of Christ, tone 2

In his work of transposing works composed for mixed choir in Russia for the St. Sergius Choir, Mikhail M. Ossorguine is assisted by Dr Alexander Porphyryevich Javoronkov. During the late twenties and thirties, Mikhaïl M. Ossorguine willingly gives ways as choir director, on Sundays and public holidays, to eminent musicians, such as Alexander Grigoryevich Tchesnokov, then Ivan Kouzmitch Denissov.

Many monastic songs that Mikhail M. Ossorguine thus "brought back" from Russia were published in a collection published in London in 1962. This one (which also contains works by many composers from the diaspora) occupies a special place among the sheet music libraries of different parishes in Western Europe, and even nowadays in Russia..

As cantor, Mikhail M. Ossorguine introduces, during the matins of Holy Saturday, the "reading - sung" of the prophecy known as "of the bones" of Ezekiel. This type of narrative declamation, rare in Russia, was thus discovered by many faithful from parishes in the Paris region, who came especially to Saint-Serge to listen to Mikhail M. Ossorguine interpret it. He gave this reading a particularly appreciated dramatic tone.

Reading sung by Mr. Ossorguine senior of Ezekiel's Prophecy (1949)

In addition to his activities as a psalmist and choir director, Mikhaïl M. Ossorguine taught liturgical sections at the Saint Sergius Institute from 1930 to 1945, a discipline for which he published a manual for the attention of his students which was a guide. much appreciated.

He also teaches liturgical song there. During the 1930s he organized and supervised courses in Paris for future psalmists and choir directors of churches in the Russian diaspora. Currently, the teaching of liturgical singing continues.

Nikolai Mikhailovich Ossorguine

Photo famille Ossorguine

Nikolai Mikhailovich Ossorgin was born on Saint Serge Hill on September 8, 1924. He is the second son of Mikhail Mikhailovich senior.

His whole life has been linked to this place. The very first service celebrated in the newly consecrated church was his baptism.

Like his two brothers, Nikolai Mikhailovich benefits from the practical education provided by his father Mikhail Mikhailovich, at the "kliros" of the Saint Serge Church. He was ordained reader by Metropolitan Euloge Gueorguievsky in 1939 and graduated from the Saint-Serge Theological Institute in 1949.

Nikolai Mikhailovich did not study music but had a particularly fine ear and an angelic first tenor voice, light and very pure, "made to sing to God".

In 1950, Nikolai Mikhailovich took over from his father as head of the kliros of Saint Serge Church. There, he performed the functions of psaltist and choirmaster, directing all the services celebrated in the church.

Interview in French with Nikolai Mikhailovich Ossorguine on the history of the Saint Sergius choir, excerpts from liturgical songs (radio broadcast on France Musique recorded on 01/27/1980, duration 27 minutes)

He also took up the missionary work initiated by Léon Zander in the mid 1930s who had formed a male choir that allowed Western Europe to discover Orthodoxy. He performed concerts in many countries including Holland, Switzerland, Scotland, Scandinavia….

From the 1970s to the 1990s, his choir, expanded to include around twenty choristers, recorded two discs which present the bulk of the choral repertoire of the Colline Saint Serge.

The enthusiasm of the young choristers for this charismatic conductor and the unwavering support of his wife Irina Vitoldovna, launched the choir on the roads of France. Abbeys, prestigious cathedrals, but also modest country parishes, all welcomed the choir to discover Russian monastic song.