And the show is on!

Old-World Music at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Vladivostok

Published: March 17, 2015

Some of the more impressive structures that remain standing amongst the constant change brought along by modern man come in the form of churches. Beliefs aside, from a purely architectural standpoint these cultural time capsules, when well maintained, can transport us, if not to a different age, then at least into a different atmosphere. Key to this capacity is the unique acoustic environment provided by the often exceedingly vaulted ceilings and the particular material constructs of the interior. I should hardly think I am alone in having dreamt of hearing some of my favorite bands playing inside the walls of these peculiar soundscapes.

While St. Paul’s Lutheran church (for this denomination of church, Russian has a specific word (кирха), although the general word for church (церковь) is also permissible) is still a ways from hosting rock shows, their approximately monthly concerts are certainly a bit off the beaten path. My attention drawn by a locally posted ad, I snatched up a ticket for the next performance and awaited its arrival.

A street ad for the concert
A street ad for the concert

To my knowledge, mastery of the lute – an early predecessor to the guitar – is not a flourishing profession these days. Even rarer is to sport the exceptional likeness of a minstrel of the middle ages while doing so. Thus, needless to say the concert flier promised no ordinary experience. With expectations set aloft, I entered the already crowded church on a Saturday evening to listen to the concert entitled: Ensemble of Authentic Old-World Music (Ансамбль старинной (аутентичной) музыки) “Canto Vivo.”

Concert goers find their places

The 19-song “stroll through Old Europe” (прогулка по старой Европе) was performed by the virtuoso musician Andrei Chernishov (Андрей Чернышов), who played both lute (лютня) and what he referred to as a Spanish guitar (испанская гитара) with equally extraordinary adeptness in addition to singing, performing spoken word prose and providing historical background between numbers.  He was accompanied by the crystal clear vocals of Ekaterina Liberova (Екатерина Либерова) for several numbers as she ran the rapid trills of the strings note for note in an exasperating display of vocal control. The resulting whole was a short marathon of musical styles spanning several centuries. The combination of flawless musicianship, its impassioned execution and the unusual venue combined for a musical experience truly of its own kind.

The performance lasted about 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission (антракт) during which tea, coffee and pryaniki (пряники) were provided at no additional cost. This is also the best time to purchase tickets for the upcoming shows as they may be given to those present at a discounted rate. In such a manner I purchased a 300 ruble ticket to the following show for 240 rubles.

Not far from the base of Фуникулёр, the old church looms with a significant presence over its neighbors
Not far from the base of Фуникулёр, the old church looms with a significant presence over its neighbors

This site may be of further interest for those intrigued by architecture, as the inside of the church features a vast gallery of pictures documenting the restoration process of a building which was, not so long ago, as I am told, crumbling to the ground. This is in no small part thanks to the small German diaspora in Vladivostok who commissioned the work and brought a German specialist across the continent to oversee the renovations. If all of the above fails to spark your interest, it might be worth your while stopping in just to hear the pastor speak Russian with a German accent!

If not already obvious, there is much out of the ordinary to be seen, heard and experienced at this local landmark that reached its centennial celebration in 2007. Putting it simply, St. Paul’s is a cultural landmark with which familiarity is simply requisite for an inhabitant of Vladivostok (Владивостокчанин).

St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
(Евангелическо-лютеранская церковь Св. Павла)
ул. Пушкинская 14
Service every Sunday at 11; Concert times vary;
Tickets usually range from 300-500 rubles ($5-8)
Tel. 295-47-47 

About the author

Alexander Misbach

Alexander Misbach graduated from the University of Virginia in August of 2014 with degrees in Environmental Science and Russian and East European Studies. He is currently spending an academic year in Vladivostok enrolled in SRAS’s Russian as a Second Language program. Upon the year’s completion he would like to study Polish in its native land, and/or travel until the money runs out.

Program attended: Challenge Grants

View all posts by: Alexander Misbach