Why We Sing
Why We Sing
Art and culture are the treasure houses of our deepest and best dreams - not the fleeting and illusory dreams of power and empire, which can never satisfy what is best in us, but our deep soul-dreams, from which generation after generation has drawn healing, strength and renewed determination to change our world for the better.
For more than forty years, our Slavyanka Chorus here in San Francisco has performed music from the varied choral traditions of Russia and Eastern Europe to help Americans better understand and appreciate the cultural history behind these traditions. We’re proud to have contributed in a small way to intercultural understanding between East and West through the special language of choral music.
Once again, there's a wall between Russia and America. Like other Americans, we are horrified by the war in Ukraine, call urgently for its end, and have raised money to offer help for its victims. But just saying what we're against isn't enough. Beyond raising money to help, what are we called to do now?
When our governments are at odds, ordinary people like us have an even greater responsibility to keep alive the threads of human connection between the people of our different countries. History shows us all too clearly what happens when people begin to treat the “other” as no longer worthy of empathy or respect - and what darkness people are capable of once that line is crossed.
We are a small musical organization. But size is not the important thing. What matters is that we act through our musical efforts with the same degree of compassion, creativity, courage and commitment that we ask and expect of our leaders.
The music we sing gives us an important way to do so.
More than most Americans, we’ve been privileged to catch a glimpse of Russian soul-dreams – dreams that through the poetry and music of Russia’s great artists bring the unreachable within reach for all of us. Through such art, for a moment we are again in the presence of the truly universal truths of human life – beauty, nature, suffering, loss, grief, divine love, joy, human love - all the deep realities that we share as human beings, and the truest source of our hope and renewed determination to create a brighter and better future for both of our countries.
We don't sing this music because it's Russian. We sing it because in singing, we bring our audiences with us once again into the presence of those primal mysteries, made richer by their uniquely Russian expression. Those mysteries also call us to remember that even in agonizing times like these with all our real differences - in good times and equally in the hard times - we are to keep alive the bonds of human connection with people halfway around the world.
That’s our mission as an organization, the dream we share - and why we continue to sing.