Cantor's Workshop

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Jackson, CA - “Excellent!”  “A revelation!”  “A great learning experience!” These were but a few of the comments provided by the participants in the Third Cantors’ Workshop in Serbian Chant held October 19 and 20 in Jackson, California, with Fr. Milos Vesin again as instructor.

The focus of this year’s study was the Vespers service, Tones 5-8, thus completing a cycle begun in 2005.  Many of the attendees (from St. Herman Monastery, St. Sava-Jackson, and St. Andrew-Redding) had been prior participants; a new face this year was that of Reader James Morgan from the OCA parish of Holy Resurrection in Tacoma, WA.

The workshop began early Friday morning with an opening prayer followed by an introductory lecture by Fr. Milos on “The Theology of Chanting.”  After Fr. Milos’ overview of the four tones to be studied, we eased into Tone 5 with the Troparion, and then plunged in with “Lord I Call.”   In the past, we studied by segment of the service (e.g., “Lord I Call,” Aposticha); this year we studied all elements of the Vespers by tone.  A materials packet was created using music from Dr. Nikola Resanovic’s website (, specifically the Anthology of Serbian Chant and the Osmoglasnik.

After lunch the group was surprised to find themselves singing for Fr. Milos’ weekly live radio broadcast on Chicago Serbian Orthodox Radio.  By the end of the afternoon we had worked through all four  tones and were ready to head over to St. Sava Church to sing the Vespers service.  After Vespers and dinner, Fr. Milos led an informal question and answer session.

We met again on Saturday for a half day when we reviewed and completed all the music, with particular focus on the Dogmatika.  Throughout the entire workshop there was an excellent balance between singing and Fr. Milos’ teaching, anecdotes, and inimitable jokes.   In their evaluations the participants expressed unanimous praise for Fr. Milos, describing him as   “inspiring” and “a fabulous instructor,” noting especially “his amazing ability to interject theology into the music.”

The workshop ended with a discussion of “What next?”  -an informal brainstorming and planning session for the program in 2008.  Many felt that a review of the Vespers music, Tones 1-8, would be valuable, but then we should move on to new material, specifically the Divine Liturgy and the changing parts (Troparia, Kontakia, Prokeimena, Alleluia in all tones) as well as music from the Book of Needs, in particular the Slava, Wedding, Parastos, and Funeral services.  We might also include some selections from the Matins service since a few of our parishes do serve Matins.  

The success of these workshops is due in large part to the enthusiastic and unfailing support of Fr. Abbot Gerasim of St. Herman Monastery, Fr. Michael Boyle of St. Andrew Fool-for-Christ in Redding, and Fr. Steve Tumbas of St. Sava-Jackson.   We extend our heartfelt thanks to these clergy, as well as to Chef Roy Ratkovich who donated both his time and much of the food for the week-end.

Anyone interested in the 2008 workshop (scheduled for October 16-18, 2008) should contact Popadija Betsy Tumbas (e-mail:

These cantors’ workshops are offered through the Central Church Standing Committee in Liturgical Music.  There also will be a workshop at St. Elijah in Aliquippa, PA, in June 2008.

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