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Due to popular demand and the overwhelming positive response from our audience, The Esoterics has added an extra concert on precisely the 100th anniversary of All-night vigil‘s premiere! This concert will be informal, with a sing-along of a portion of the work at the end, followed by a reception. Admission for this special performance will be by donation. Time and location details below. 

Tuesday | 10 March 2015 | 700pm | Seattle
Queen Anne Christian Church | 1316 3rd Avenue West

BDENIE commemorates the 100th anniversary of All-night vigil’s first performance, which took place in Moscow on 10 March 1915. Rachmaninoff wrote the seventy-minute, fifteen‑movement work  over the course of less than two weeks in January and  February of 1915. The piece was first performed as a  fundraiser for war relief efforts, with WWI already seven  months underway in Russia. It proved to be so popular with  both critics and the public that it was performed five more  times within the month.

The All‑night vigil (Всенощное бдѣніе / Fsyenoshchnoye  bdenie) is a setting of the liturgical form of the same name from the Russian Orthodox Church. Sung in Old Church Slavonic, it comprises three liturgical sections: Vespers (an evening service), Matins (a pre‑dawn service) and Prime (the first hour of the day). Rachmaninoff based 10 of his 15 movements on existing chants from various traditional styles, including Greek, Kievan, and the Russian Znamenny style. The remaining movements were entirely of Rachmaninoff’s creation, although he admitted their style to be “a conscious counterfeit of the ritual.” Rachmaninoff dedicated the finished piece to Stepan Smolensky, the professor at the Moscow Conservatory who introduced him to much of the chant employed in the piece.  For this concert series, The Esoterics will intersperse Rachmaninoff’s movements with phrases of Slavonic chant; this will provide an occasional change of texture, alternating between a single melodic voice and the collected voices of the entire choir.

Though the work is religious in nature, there is debate as to whether it was intended primarily as a concert piece or as liturgy. At the time of All‑night vigil’s writing, Rachmaninoff had stopped attending church services. His relationship with the Orthodox Church had been strained by the Church’s refusal to condone his marriage to his cousin, Natalia Satina. His love of the church music, however, remained a powerful influence, as the melodies of chant and ringing of bells continued to factor prominently in his compositions.

All‑night vigil was among Rachmaninoff’s favorite of his own compositions, so much so that he requested the fifth movement be performed at his own funeral. At the end of this movement, a bass line gently rolls down the scale all the way to a low Bb. Rachmaninoff once recalled the reaction of Nikolai Danilin, the piece’s first conductor, upon first sharing the piece with him: “Danilin shook his head, saying, ‘Now where on earth are we to find such basses? They are as rare as asparagus at Christmas!’ Nevertheless, he did find them. I knew the voices of my countrymen, and I well knew what demands I could make upon Russian basses!”

In 1917, revolution brought significant changes to censorship of music in Russia. Performances of All‑night vigil were banned for their religious nature combined with their “bourgeois decadence.” Rachmaninoff himself moved to the United States that year, never returning to his native Russia. The group that first performed All‑night vigil was dissolved and merged with the Moscow Conservatory. It was not until 1965 that All‑night vigil was first recorded, and even then the recording was not sold in the Soviet Union, but available only for study and export. It has since regained popularity, and become one of Rachmaninoff’s most recorded and beloved works.

Although The Esoterics usually dedicates one concert series each year to a choral composer’s 100th birthday, it is seldom that the group reaches this far back into music history to perform an individual piece. For Eric Banks, this piece occupies a special place in choral music. “Rachmaninoff’s All-night vigil comes at the end of an era.  With its sweeping settings of chant, it is the pinnacle of Russian romantic choral music.” Banks is excited about the ensemble he has put together for BDENIE. Although the ensemble’s size is normally between 24 to 36 singers, Banks has expanded it to 48 singers for this project, including a powerful bass section that would make Rachmaninoff proud.

Please join The Esoterics for any of these four performances throughout the Puget Sound region:

Friday  |  6 March 2015 at 8pm  |  St Stephen’s Episcopal Church  |  4805 NE 45th Street  |  Seattle

Saturday  |  7 March 2015 at 8pm  |  Holy Rosary Catholic Church  |  4142 42nd Avenue SW  |  Seattle

Sunday  |  8 March 2015 at 3pm  |  St John’s Episcopal Church  |  114 20th Avenue SE  |  Olympia

Sunday  |  8 March 2015 at 7pm  |  Christ Episcopal Church  |  310 N K Street  |  Tacoma


Tuesday  |  10 March 2015 at 7pm  |  Queen Anne Christian Church  |  1316 3rd Avenue West  |  Seattle

TICKET PRICES: General admission is $25 at the door, or $22 when pre-ordered online. Student, senior, un(der)employed, and differently-abled tickets are available at $18 at the door, or $15 in advance. Admission for the Olympia and Queen Anne concerts is by donation.