Russia's Most Incredible Male Ensemble - Stretensky Monastery Choir

Wherever it goes, the world-renowned male choir leaves the audience clamouring for more

This article from our archives was first published on RI in October 2017
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Editor’s note: Russian Church music is known for its unbelievable beauty all over the world. Perhaps what differentiates it from other traditional Christian church music is how elegantly it applies the structures of secular classical music to spiritual prayer.  In the Russian Church, singing is always purely a cappella.  

Many people have been writing to us and asking for church music recommendations, so we are going to run a series about famous Russian choirs and/or compositions. While we are not music professionals, we will share with you the most famous--and our personal favourite--pieces of Russian Church Music. We will also try to provide recommendations for where to get CDs.

It’s not by accident that Sretensky Monastery Choir comes to mind first when people ask about Russian church music.

Wherever it goes, the world-renowned choir leaves the audience breathless; and then, a few seconds later, stomping for more.

 'Our Father'

The male choir is based in Sretensky Monastery, one of the most ancient and best-known monasteries in Moscow. The choir regularly sings services at the new stupendous church there, so on any given Sunday, the service at Sretensky Monastery will sound extraordinary.

The 40-man choir, directed by Nikhon Zhila, regularly travels around the world, giving concerts in Europe and the US. It has performed multiple times at Carnegie Hall and in the Library of Congress.

another folk song

Their choir sound is truly phenomenal, as all music critics tend to agree, and their performance is flawless. 

Although the choir sings more secular music (folk music, operas, and romances) during their international performances, when you hear them in church, you realize, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that their element, their natural habitat, is spiritual music.

Even when they sing the simplest hymns, the whole church fills with something incandescently light, but brisk and powerful, that sweeps you upwards, towards the domes, where there are no cares and no shadows. 

Just Listen To Them: 

1. This prayer is sung during Great Lent during the Eucharist. You can find the lyrics here

2. Easter Hymn. Lyrics here on the first page

3. For those of you who want a taste of folk music, here's the ultimate favourite Russian song, The Horse:

CD Recommendations: 

Cds can easily be found here on Amazon

Which Album Should You Choose? 

Favorite Russian Songs 2007 - this CD primarily contains folk songs. Some are heartbreakingly lyrical, others are full of uncontrollable Russian spirit, sparkle and soul

The Bright Resurrection of Christ 2007 - this CD contains hymns from Easter, so if you want Church music that is bright and triumphant, this is probably for you

Great Lent & Holy Week2007 - this CD contains hymns from Great Lent, so they are deeper, more melancholy, and very prayerful. My personal favourite.

Divine Liturgy 2007 - this wonderful cd contains a full recording of a liturgy sung by Sretensky Choir. You can listen to it here to see whether you like it.

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