Patriarchal Choir

The consecration of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 1883 took place with the participation of the legendary choristers of the Chudovsky Monastery (Choral director: P. Skvorzov), and the no less illustrious Imperial Court Capella under the direction of M.A. Balakirev and N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov. The year 1901 saw the actual founding of the Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral. The directorship was entrusted to M.V. Karpov, a graduate of the Imperial Court Capella in St. Petersburg. One of his successors was A.V. Alexandrov, the composer of the national hymn of the USSR and of present-day Russia. After the reconstruction of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 1998, the Choir was newly founded as well, allowing the traditions of the art of church singing of the Cathedral under the direction of the Moscow choral directors N.S. Georgievsky and S.V. Krivobokov to come to life again. In 2000 with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, the Choir received the status of the «Patriarchal choir of the Cathedral». Since 2007 the Cathedral Choir has been directed by Dr. Ilya Borisovich Tolkachev.

Ilya Borisovich Tolkachev, born into a family of Orthodox priests, gained early experience in the founding and conducting of a choir group when he gathered together the children in the church community of his father, Boris Tolkachev, Archpriest of Trinity Cathedral of Uspensky Monastery in the city of Alexandrov. Later on he worked in Moscow Cathedral in honour of the Icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All that Mourn” under the famous twentieth-century choirmaster N.V. Matveyev. It was through the personal recommendation of Matveyev that Tolkachev became the director of the Cathedral choir. Ilya Borisovich Tolkachev is not only a conductor but also a well-known composer of liturgical choir works, which explains his continuing interest in contemporary music. Based on its classical background, the Choir invites leading Orthodox liturgical composers of Russia to collaborate with them — which is important on a missionary level. Works by contemporary composers are presented during the liturgical celebration, which adds freshness to the sound of ancient prayers. The Choir creates a soft tonal aura which supports clergy and visitors in their concentration on prayer. Thus the excellent professional performances of spiritual choral works continue to preserve the spirit of prayer in Orthodox liturgies.

Today the Patriarchal Choir of Christ the Saviour Cathedral represents the full range of contemporary Orthodox music as it reaches an audience of millions through the Patriarch’s liturgical celebrations via television and due to frequent concert activities within and outside of Russia. The Choir acquired significant success through their performances in Milan (Milan Cathedral) and in Rome (Saint Peter’s Basilica).