St. Silouan, also known as Silouan the Athonite is one of the most prominent and noteworthy Eastern Orthodox church figures of the previous century. The monk’s deep devotion to his service and his legacy of wise writings continue to resonate in the hearts of orthodox believers and inspire artists around the world. Joining in a collaboration, the Latvian Radio choir, its artistic director Sigvards Kļava, and the chamber orchestra Sinfonietta Rīga present the concert programme The Prayers of St. Silouan which coincides with the important Christian holiday of Good Friday and discusses eternal themes important to the whole humanity through the words of Silouan the Athonite. All of the compositions in this programme have been written, based on the heartfelt prayers, ethereal poetry or spirited sermons of St. Silouan. Alongside two world-famous opuses by the Estonian master Arvo Pärt – Adam’s Lament and Silouan’s Song, the vaults of the Riga Cathedral will also resound with Ēriks Ešenvalds’ recently premiered I Write as well as completely new pieces by two brothers in faith – Georgs Pelēcis and Andrejs Selickis.
Arvo Pärt’s piece for chamber orchestra Silouan’s Song was written in 1991 and dedicated to the archimandrite Sophrony who used to be a disciple of St. Silouan in the Monastery of St Panteleimon. The other piece, Adam’s Lament, written for choir and strings, was composed in 2009, and six years ago its recording conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste brought the Latvian Radio Choir and Sinfonietta Rīga the prestigious Grammy award. It drapes in sound the writings of the famous ascetic and “most authentic monk of the 20th century” St. Silouan. Pärt elaborates: “For me, the name Adam is like a collective term which comprises humankind in its entirety and each individual person alike, irrespective of time, epochs, social strata and confession. And this “Total Adam” has been suffering and lamenting for thousands of years on earth. Adam himself, our primal father, foresaw the human tragedy and experienced it as his personal guilt. He has suffered all human cataclysms, unto the depths of despair.”
When discussing the opus I Write, premiered by the Latvian Radio Choir last year, Ēriks Ešenvalds reveals: “Silouan wrote: ‘My thoughts emanate from years of living. Forgive me for my writings, for the mistakes, for everything! But when I write a word, I still do not know the next one – I write what is born within me.’ As his pencil scribbled on paper, thoughts were born and became words. As long as I write, I live,” says Ešenvalds. He continues: “The composition is like a small episode from Silouan’s long life. But this episode was repeated almost every day, because he wrote copiously. And it is precisely this act of writing that seems to have been like a medium for him to grasp something from the divine universe. The universe – ethereal and fleeting. A person’s soul also grasps thoughts fleetingly, but that is all, because the earthly forces demand time, paper and pencil. And this writing and contemplation as Silouan held the paper and wrote, paints him in my imagination as a true brother in Christ.”
Discussing his new piece for mixed choir and chamber orchestra Svētā Atonas Siluāna vārds (The Name of Silouan the Athonite), Georgs Pelēcis says this: “We shall exist while the divine liturgy and saints among men shall exist. Among the saints of the 20th century, Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938) is a very prominent figure. The relevancy of his prayers and sermons today and for the people of coming generations, regardless of ethnicity, age and social strata, cannot be overstated. With my composition, I am inviting the audience to not only get acquainted with some of Silouan’s thoughts, but join them spiritually and emotionally, and experience them in your hearts.” With this work, the composer invites us to depart from the endless worries of everyday and turn to thoughts of God, prayers on the Holy Trinity and God’s love.
Andrejs Selickis and the Latvian Radio Choir with its conductor Sigvards Kļava are joined through a long-standing creative friendship. The Eastern Orthodox composer comments: “Everything he had ever written, regardless of the content of the writings, was the either the highest, most complete expression of Happiness, or cries and desperate weeping for God; a longing or thirst for the lost fatherland of Heaven; or an overcoming of the tragedy of separation. I hold very dear his expressions of ecstasy; his longing for the perfection of the Higher; his estrangement from “this world”; the sometimes nearly unbearable blaze of his soul; how discretely, personally and directly he addresses Him, Whom he loves so much! So I shall try to overcome myself, my lowliness and insignificance, and will put my faith and humility in Lord to help me sing this song, honouring God and honouring St. Silouan