On Friday St George’s Cathedral Consort will give the Australian premiere of British/Russian composer Alexander Levine’s Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.

Director Joseph Nolan gives the work a big wrap: “It is a modern masterpiece… like Rachmaninov’s Vespers only better!

Joseph Nolan

“I would seriously doubt that anything quite so difficult chorally has ever been attempted in Australia.  This will mark a serious milestone in the choral life of Australia, as well as introducing a living composer of real worth to these shores.”

Alexander Levine photo Sasha Gusov

Written after a powerful spiritual experience, Levine’s 2006 setting of the Russian Orthodox liturgy blends old and new. The composer says, “ I thought about this journey as the spiritual experience of a person who one day comes to the church to participate in a liturgical service, where prayers and music would cast upon him the joy of unification in spirit with the divinity of God through Jesus Christ.”

John Chrysostom (347-407) was renowned for his preaching and public speaking and rose to the position of Archbishop of Constantinople. The epitaph Chrysostom means literally golden-tongued. His beautifully refined version of the liturgy became normative liturgical form in the churches within the Byzantine Empire.

Levine has adapted the Liturgy so that there is no solo part for the priest and instead the choir sings throughout. This moves the work towards being a concert piece rather than an act of worship.

The score is currently being couriered to my address – I am looking forward to getting to know it before I review the concert on Friday.