Old Believers' choir «Grezn»

The Old. Believers' choir «Grezn» came into being in May 16, 1993, when its first rehearsal took place. The word ''grezn'' in Old Russian means "a cluster of grapes" and it is the best way for showing and explaining the essence of the choir.

Despite the absence of a roof over the heads, it was decided to start rehearsals in the open air and to continue to look for premises trusting in God's help. The first activity took place on Sunday afternoon when there was clear, sunny weather which was calling upon leaving the city vanity, and the lovers of the olden time singing chose their location in one of the green, but not crowded, areas of Riga. The olden time chants filled the neighborhood and they were maintained with trills of nightingales out of the bushes and chatter of grasshoppers in the grass.

Several rehearsals were done at this already familiar place, although the weather was not always favorable to the singers. But even a cool summer rain was not able to chill a good gust of the initiative group.

Choristers diligence was noticable, so when a month of their activities in the open air had passed, a rehearsal room was given by doctor Maksimova courtesy and the Old Believers' choir "Grezn" went there for choir practice during almost five years. Valentina Aleksandrovna's good will was a significant contribution to the choir. The choir is sincerely grateful for Valentina Alexandrovna Maximova's support and virtue, and it is constantly praying for giving her health, strength, and long life.

The choir members devoted all their personal time to rehearsals every Sunday during whole summer. Rehearsals were held in a good-natured, benevolent atmosphere, because from the first days of life of the community trust, family relationships were established at once. These relationships are being maintained for more than fifteen years and they are one of the main components of the choir's success.

At the very beginning of its work the initiative group announced the main purpose of the team - to promote the revival of forgotten traditions, revival of interest in own roots, because the Old. Believers' choir "Grezn" was created to continue the work that was begun in the 30's by the Circle of Adherents of the Olden Time which was founded by Ivan Nikiforovich Zavoloko.

Only after the fall of atheistic regime, as soon as the opportunity to guide a spiritual and moral work appeared, the descendants of the pre-war members of the Circle which were brought up in the Old Believers educational traditions of the pre-war Latvia, created the choir "Grezn". Adherents of the olden time, I. N. Zavoloko associates, as well as their descendants provide connection of times and continuity of generations.

Michael Avksentevich Obushev supported and actively started to participate in the work of the choir from the first days of the newly created group. He went a glorious way with the Circle of Adherents of the Olden Time from its creation in 1927 until its closing in 1940.

Many adherents of the olden time including Makar Ivanovich Jevlev, sisters Volodins - Euphrosyne Ivanovna, Antonina Ivanovna, Irina Ivanovna - and others as well admitted successors and followers of the pre-war Circle in the new choir.

The choir was first brought to the audience in November 14, 1993 in the conference hall of the Riga Grebenshchikov Old Believers' Community (RGOBC). This performance was possible due to support of the chairman of the community father Aleksey Karataev and the rector of the church father Georgy Podgursky, and for this the choir is immensely grateful. Previously unknown group was warmly received by the audience and highly appreciated by the Board of RGOBC, which invited the chorus at the meeting dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the Grebenshchikov Theological School. This invitation was accepted with large gratitude. The choir "Grezn" repeatedly performed for the audience in Riga in the following years and it was never deprived of attention and love from his listeners. The singers tried to give as good as they got and always loved back and constantly supplemented their repertoire.

The next, 1994, year brought the first performances of choristers outside the Grebenshchikovsky temple. And at the feast of the Dormition, on August 14, the choir was presented to the audience in the Moskvinskaya Old Believers community.

The choir published two collections of spiritual poetry in 1994 and 1995 continuing publishing activities of the Circle of Adherents of the Olden Time.

In 1997 the collective was actively involved in the organization and management of important celebrations in Riga, the 100th anniversary of I. N. Zavoloko, the founder of the Circle activities and educational work in Latvia.

The first trip abroad to the Republic of Belarus was made in October 2004 on the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God when the choir "Grezn" took part in the events dedicated to the 10th anniversary of restoration of Bobruisk Staroforshtadskaya community and it also performed olden time chants for Old Believers in Minsk and Borisov.

During the whole history of the choir "Grezn" it participated in the Days of Russian Culture, in the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Old Believer church in Jekabpils (2003) and the celebration of the 275th anniversary of the Moskvinskaya Old Believer community (2004), it performed in many cities of Latvia: Rezekne, Preili, Liepaja, Daugavpils, Ilukste, Jekabpils and of course in Riga.

The choir "Grezn" went on tour to the Old Believers of Poland and Estonia in 2005. This collective performed in the most prestigious halls in the Houses of the Brotherhood of Blackheads in Riga and Tallinn. All the activities of the I.N. Zavoloko Old Believers' Society are being accompanied by the choir's "Grezn" performances

The repertoire of the choir consists of spiritual poetry and liturgical raspevnye hymns of wondrous beauty. Unfortunately, when performing for Old Believers, the choir usually has to be limited with religious poetry, because these meetings are always held on premises, which are not related to the Old Believers' church, and singing liturgical chants in these halls is considered to be impossible by the choir.

The unifying force of the singers is Maria Evlampievna Selushinskaya, the chief initiator of the Old Believers' choir "Grezn" and its permanent head. Maria Evlampievna is the granddaughter of Ivan Nazarov, the famous expert in razdelnorechnoye singing, a preacher of the Grebenshchikovskaya community, the head of the boys' choir at the Circle of Adherents of the Olden Time. M. E. Selushinskaya is very serious about implementing inherited responsibilities and she enjoys the unquestioned authority and respect among the choristers. Maria Evlampievna's knowledge about singing is supplemented with the gift from God - a voice of rare beauty of tone that is a decoration of the choir.

The whole creative way with the collective went Iraida Vasilyevna Tsvek, one of the initiators of the choir.

Another initiator of the choir was the P. P. Alekseev, the son of Pyotr Alekseev, one of the members of the pre-war circle and a clerk at the Grebenshchikovsky temple.

It's a pity, that in recent years Agripina Zakharovna Alekseeva, the wife of Pyotr Ivanovich, abandoned her activity, she also went creative way together with the choir from almost the very beginning.

Next time in different years Nina Serafimovna Pashinina, Andrey Petrovich and Mary Feopentovna Ivanovs, Tatiana Zeltina, Vasily Volkov, brothers Zhilko: Domentian, Ilya and Ivan, Viktor Sitnikov, Nikolai Nazarov, Olga Matrosova, Tatyana Stepanova sang in the choir.

During the existence of the choir it was impossible to avoid losses. An irretrievable loss was the tragic death of Serapion Vasilyevich Vasilyev at the end of March 1994. He came to the collective in one of the most difficult moments, when the fate of the choir was being decided. His appearance gave the choir the second breath, and then the confidence in the future success appeared. The untimely death of Serapion Vasilyevich is an incurable wound in the choir life.

Some special contribution to the choir made Anna Behchanova and Julia Nedved, and Anna Arkadyevna Shapavalova organically joined the collective in 2009, being today a substantial support for the choir director.

During these years all choir members who were associated with the collective gave and are giving also now all their energy for the benefit of the choir do not taking into account personal time, material costs, or any other personal problems.

At the beginning a substantial support for the chorus was Nikolay Timofeyevich Ivanov's activity, and the choir is grateful and thankful to him for it.

Unfortunately but for the sake of justice it should be noted that during these years there were some attempts to destroy the choir. Only due to the internal cohesion of the collective all these initiatives were doomed to failure.

In the following the I. N. Zavoloko Old Believers' Society was established with the direct participation of the Old Believers' Choir "Grezn".

At the regular meeting of the I. N. Zavoloko Old Believers' Society were summed up the intermediate results of the choir' activity, and completely changed its symbols.

Today the choir "Grezn" using the accumulated experience outlined the next goal, made a plan for the future and is continuing its way to new unconquered creative heights.