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November 14, 2003

American Folklife Center Presents Concert by Russian Vocal Ensemble

Svetilen Performs on November 19

Ancient Russian music will resound throughout the first floor lobby of the Library's James Madison Building, at noon, Wednesday, Nov. 19, when the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress presents the North American debut of Svetilen, Vocal Ensemble of Ancient Russian Music, in Madison Hall. The program is free of charge and open to the public.

This concert is presented by the American Folklife Center and the Public Service Collections Directorate of the Library of Congress as part of Beyond Borders, a series of lectures and demonstrations showcasing traditional performance from worlds beyond the borders of the United States.

The word Svetilen is from Old Church Slavonic, the language of Russian Orthodoxy. It means a short prayer for the souls enlightenment, performed during the lighting of candles in ancient Russian Orthodox churches. Svetilen, the Vocal Ensemble of Ancient Russian Music, took this term as its name in 1989, when it was formed to preserve and promote vocal traditions of early Russian sacred choral and secular folk song.

Early Russian sacred and secular songs spring from a common cultural and musical ancestor and share textual references to religious stories, themes and deities, both Christian and pagan. They share a common heartfelt vocal style which attempts to express the essence of Gods word. Svetilens unusual repertoire includes very old liturgical and folk songs as well as modern compositions, including a set of spiritual chants that were arranged by Svetilens artistic director.

As musical scholars and performers, members of Svetilen strive to raise the awareness of contemporary audiences about Russias early choral legacy and to preserve this legacy as part of

Russias cultural memory and the national identity of the new Russia. Stylistic authenticity is the guiding principle of Svetilens artistic director, Dimitri Garkavi, and is one of the reasons for the ensembles critical acclaim. Members of the ensemble use scholarly ethnographic resources to research the authentic choral voices, rhythmic patterns and harmonies that reflect the character and form of early sacred and secular folk music.

The vocal quality used to perform early Russian sacred music has a distinctive open character, because old Russia had no access to western academic choral traditions. Musical compositions are usually performed a cappella, sometimes accompanied by the ancient Russian instruments gusli and koliosnaya lira. The ensembles costumes are based on the traditional Russian clothing of medieval Russia and designed by professional costume designer N. Mizonova.

Svetilen has performed in the major concert halls of Russia as well as at the Kremlin, the Moscow Conservatoire, the Russian Culture Foundation and the Choir Chapel of St. Petersburg. The group has produced recordings both in Russia and abroad. This concert at the Library of Congress marks their first performance in the United States.

The Library's James Madison Building, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., can be reached from Metrorail stops at Capitol South (orange and blue lines) and Union Station (red line).

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to preserve and present American folklife through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.

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PR 03-200
11/14/03
ISSN 0731-3527

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