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Voices of Russia ring out

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

For the first time in five years, the Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir returns to the United States for a monthlong, nine-city tour that begins with a performance at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theatre on Monday evening. Critics and audiences are once again eagerly awaiting the much-anticipated event.

This 35-voice men's choir, under the direction of Nikon Zhila, will pay tribute -- not just to Russia's rich choral tradition -- but also to the fact that its chorus has become synonymous with religious freedom in post-Soviet Russia.

"It is appropriate that this extraordinary choir is beginning its American tour with sacred music, since the 600-year-old Monastic oral tradition represented the beginning and the basis for Russia's distinctive musical tradition," noted Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, the distinguished scholar of Russian literature.

Onstage
The Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir
Where: Kennedy Center Terrace Theatre, 2700 F St. NW
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Info: Sold out at press time, but tickets may be available through resellers; 800-444-1324; 202-467-4600; kennedy-center.org

Indeed, the choir, in addition to performing, has taken on the task of extensive researching, arranging and interpreting early Russian music that was banned under the Soviet regime. The group's permanent base, Sretensky Monastery, was founded in Moscow in 1395 in honor of the city's victory over Tartar invaders. The halls fell silent after 1917, when the holy clerics were arrested and sent to prison camp.

It wasn't until 1994, when the monastery was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church, that the Sretensky Choir was organized. The men continue to sing Divine Services several days each week, their ancient Byzantine and Russian chant once again resounding throughout the hallowed walls.

Recognized worldwide, the choir has given concerts in locations that include Belgrade, Serbia, Istanbul, the Vatican and Paris.

Monday's program, in addition to featuring sacred mystical chants, will also include modern secular vocals.

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