Mixed Choir at the Patriarchal Cathedral “St. Alexander Nevsky”

History of the Patriarchal Acappelle Choir

The living benevolence of the house of God – the majestic Patriarchal Cathedral, the stauropegic “St. Alexander Nevski “- this is his choir. Since the consecration, there have been melodies and chords typical of the sacred, Orthodox church-acappelle choral music.

In this temple the daily worship service was always sung choral-harmonic rather than monodic. The monodic “eastern singing” is practiced in all the other temples of the capital and in the province of the dioceses. Here, in the temple, this kind of singing is performed rarely as an exception. The very acoustics of the monument temple predispose more to harmonic-chorus singing than to the monodic. In the summer of 1925, Apostol Nikolaev (conducting people from 1925 to 1936), with the composer’s nickname “Strumski”, formed a mixed choir for the temple. The chorus of the Sofia Seminary used to sing at the temple since its consecration up until the time of Apostol Nikolaev formed his choir.

After Apostol Nikolaev conductor at the temple became Prof. Dobri Hristov (1936-1941). From this time are also his compositions of St. Zlatoustova liturgy and his original Heruvian: 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on.

The Makariopol bishop Nicholas, as a Hierodeacon, served at the temple during the time of Prof. Dobri Hristov. After Professor Dobri Hristov, conductor at the temple became his disciple and assistant Mr. Angel Popkonstantinov. During the period of Mr. Popkonstantinov part of the choir was also the world famous bass Boris Hristov, who’s singing career started from the choir balcony of the cathedral under the conduction of Prof. Dobri Hristov and from the podium of hall, Bulgaria with Choir Nusla.

In 1976, Boris Hristov made a gramophone record with Balkanton. This desire was led by the memory of the beginning of his singing career, which began with the choir of the temple. Therefore, in the presence of first-rate state choirs of that time, he preferred to use the temple choir for the record.

In 1965, Boris Hristov was in the country because his brother Nikolay had passed away. He came to the temple to light a candle, and in the memorial book of the Patriarchal Cathedral he wrote: “with spiritual devotion and tenderness to the temple of God St. Alexander Nevsky where my Christian faith was forged together with my musical training in the clerical Slavic music” Signature – Boris Hristov, July 19, 1965.

Currently the choir at the Patriarchal Cathedral is headed by docent Dimitar Dimitrov. For 35 years he has been the conductor of the St. Alexander Nevsky choir and for 45 years the co-founder and conductor of the chamber ensemble John Koukouzelis – the angel voiced.

Dimitar Dimitrov was born on 20.01.1943 in Sofia and from an early age he grew up with the Orthodox church chants, as his parents – strong believers and musically gifted – took part in the brotherhood choir of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Sofia St. Nedelya. He graduated the Sofia Spiritual Seminary in 1963 and the Spiritual Academy (now part of Sofia University) in 1969. He began his creative and professional development in church music at an early age. From 1965 to 1975 he was part of the choir in the cathedral church St. Nedelya and later became assistant conductor of the male choir at the temple. Between 1966 and 1970, in parallel with his studies at the Spiritual Academy, he studied as an extraordinary student at the State Music School in Sofia, and from 1972 to 1977, he studied at the Faculty of Theory of the Bulgarian State Conservatory, specializing in Music Pedagogy. In 1968 he became co-founder and artistic director of the chamber ensemble John Koukouzelis – the angel voiced, and during the years 1971-1977 he was part of the Bulgarian State Conservatory chamber choir.

In the beginning of 1978, Dimitrov is appointed as a professor of Church Music at the Spiritual Academy and as chief conductor of the mixed choir at the Patriarchal Cathedral St. Alexander Nevsky with a decision from the synod of the BOC. He is still holds the position to this day.

From 1977 to 1990 he led the Representative mixed choir of the Vratsa holy metropolis. In the period 1999-2002 Prof. Dimitrov is a lecturer in church music at the Plovdiv University, the Luben Karavelov branch in the town of Kardzhali and from 2001 to 2004 he is a lecturer at the State Music Academy, Sofia. In 1991, during the First Culture Festival in Bad Wörishofen (Bavaria), Assoc. Prof. Dimitar Dimitrov became co-founder of the International German-Bulgarian Cultural Society, integrated in 1995 with the International Forum “European Forum”. He is co-founder and chairman of the jury at the International Orthodox Music Festival St. Mary – Axion Estin , Pomorie. As a conductor of the mixed choir at St. Alexander Nevsky during these 35 years, he continues the work of his prominent predecessor, Dobri Hristov. Under the direction of Assoc. Prof. Dimitrov, the choir has had a significant share in the liturgical life of the cathedral and contributes to the Bulgarian choral church art.

By the decision of the St. Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as a sign of attention and faithful service to the Church, and on his 70th anniversary, Assoc. Prof. Dimitar Dimitrov was awarded the Church Order “St. St. Cyril and Methodius “- 1st degree.

Mixed Choir at the Patriarchal Cathedral “St. Alexander Nevsky”

In 1927, three years after the consecration of the patriarchal cathedral St. Alexander Nevsky the church composer and conductor Apostol Nikolaev Strumski (1887-1971) created a mixed choir to the temple and became his conductor. A very large part of his remarkable church choral work has been written and published during the years when Strumski was a conductor at the temple.

In 1935, Professor Dobri Hristov (1875 -1941), who with his overall work as a composer, musical theoretician and choir conductor was the most important figure in the Bulgarian musical culture during the first two decades of the 20th century. Most of his inspirational church works have been written for this choir and are today in its main repertoire.

At first Angel Popkonstantinov (1905-1981) was appointed as assistant conductor, and after the death of master Dobri Hristov, became composer and pedagogue as the chief conductor of the mixed choir. He held the position for 36 years – from 1941 to 1978. During this period Angel Popkonstantinov wrote especially for the choir many church chants and his Zlatoustova liturgy, which is still being played to this day. It is with the mixed choir of the patriarchal cathedral St. Alexander Nevski the great Bulgarian bass Boris Hristov made his first most exciting recordings of church-Slavonic music in Bulgaria in 1976, under the direction of Angel Popkonstantinov.

In 1978 Angel Popkonstantinov passed the conductor’s baton to Dimitar Dimitrov – professor of church music at the Faculty of Theology of the Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski and conductor of the world famous chamber ensemble St. John Koukouzelis – the angel voiced. Maestro Dimitrov continues the traditions of his predecessors. He has maintained and enriched the huge repertoire of the choir and has been leading them for 40 years with dedication and professional mastery.

In 2001, a second conductor of the ensemble became Tatyana Kotseva – Hristova – conductor in the Vladimir Mayakovski ensemble from 1977 to 2004 and the vocal ensemble Orthodoxy from 1996 to 2006; conductor and lecturer at Lyubomir Pipkov National Music School.

Since 2013, the conducting team includes Dr. Georgi Elenkov – a music producer at the Bulgarian National Radio and a part-time assistant at the State Music Academy Pancho Vladigerov.

Since 2013, the conducting team includes Dr. Georgi Elenkov – a music producer at the Bulgarian National Radio and a part-time assistant at the State Music Academy Pancho Vladigerov.

The conductors, choristers and soloists at St. Alexander Nevski preserve and develop the rich heritage of this 91-year-old choir. It is a true school for the performers in it. Many famous Bulgarian opera singers started their musical career here.

The specificity of acapella performance and the wonderful acoustics of the temple make the sound of the choir exciting and unique. The patriarchal choir has been intimately connected with the history of the temple St. Alexander Nevsky. They participate in all church events and festive days of the great Christian feasts. The choir has made numerous recordings, produced LPs, CDs, DVDs, as well as many concert tours in Europe. The choir has participated in prestigious music festivals such as: Thessaloniki – European Capital of Culture, Lisbon – The Two Oceans Festival Voices from the Sky, Wratislavia Cantans – Wroclaw, Third Christmas Festival of Church Music in Moscow – 2013, the celebration of the 600th anniversary of St. Cyprian – Metropolitan bishop of Moskow and all over Russia.

The choir wears the gold medal of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church St. Cyril and Methodius.

Releases:

  • Gramophone records – 1976 г. with the famous Boris Hristov; 1983 г.; 1984 г.
  • CD – for DUOPHON- Germany;
  • 1999 г. CD celebrating 2000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ and the 70th anniversary of the choir;
  • 2000 г. CD – double album with The Pashal Zlatoustova St. Liturgy for the first time in Bulgaria;
  • 2005 г – DVD – Film – Impression „А Touch of Eternity“;
  • 2007 г. CD „Easter“ – published by the Trud newspaper;
  • 2017 г. CD – compilation double album for the 90th anniversary of the mixed choir at St. Alexander Nevsky