Music Ministry

St. Athanasius Orthodox Church Choir

Almost every word of every Orthodox Church service is sung or chanted, hence leading the people in song, in prayer, becomes an indispensable ministry of the Church. Singers even are mentioned specifically in the Great Litany chanted in the Divine Liturgy. We pray for "...those who serve and those who sing".

We sing so much in part because of the ability of music to go where the mere spoken word cannot. Speaking primarily communicates cognitive ideas to the rational mind, but music takes the same words through the mind and continues deep into the heart and soul. There the hymns and prayers of the Church touch the inner core of a person, provoking and nourishing his or her passion to know God. Leading music in an Orthodox Christian worship service is, therefore, a heady responsibility to be taken with both joy and solemnity.

At St. Athanasius Church the congregation is encouraged to sing along on the "responsorial" and "Ordinary" parts of the services (the dialogue with the clergy) following the lead of the choir or chanters.  

The mixed choir currently sings for all Sunday Liturgies, Feast Days, Vespers for feast days, and many of the services of Holy Week and Pascha.  Rehearsals take place on Thursday evenings and once a month on Sundays after Liturgy.  We also have a growing group of chanters who chant at Saturday Great Vespers, Sunday morning Matins, and other special weekday prayer services.

Choir members are expected to attend 75% of all services and rehearsals and to take their responsibilities as “Music Ministers” in the parish very seriously.  Those who are called to this ministry would:

  • Have some musical background and preferably know how to read music, or be willing to learn;
  • Have a pleasant voice;
  • Be able to match pitch and hold a voice part when singing 4-part music;
  • Be open to instruction on Music Theory, Vocal Production and Liturgical Theology (all very important aspects of the Music Ministry);
  • Be able to commit to at least 75% attendance;
  • Feel a calling from God to participate in this important ministry of the Church.

Anyone interested in joining the choir is asked to discuss it with the pastor, Fr. Nicholas, and then with the Music Director, who will assess your skill level and availability.

OUR MUSIC DIRECTOR

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Valerie Yova joined the staff of St. Athanasius (Antiochian) Orthodox Church in January of 2010 as Music Director and Parish Administrator. Prior to moving to Santa Barbara, she was Music Director for St. Anthony’s (Antiochian) Orthodox Church in San Diego (2004-2009) and Director of Public Relations and Communications for Project Mexico.  In the spring of 2009 she organized and conducted a pan-Orthodox choir which sang for the Sunday of Orthodoxy combined Vesper service in San Diego.  She also co-founded the Academy for Orthodox Church Singing in San Diego in autumn of 2008 with Dr. Vladimir Morosan.   The academy offered a ten-week course in music theory and vocal technique for 30 Orthodox musicians from 11 different parishes in the San Diego area.

Before moving to California in 2003, Valerie was Music Director at St. George Romanian Orthodox Cathedral (OCA) in Southfield, Michigan, for 14 years and was a member of the voice faculty at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was a founder and the Artistic Director of the Orthodox Christian Chorale of Metropolitan Detroit, and served as Chairperson of the Music Committee for the Council of Orthodox Christian Churches in metropolitan Detroit for five years.  The Chorale recorded two CDs and did extensive community outreach and evangelization through public concerts and workshops.

Valerie received the Master of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from New England Conservatory and a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance from Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory. While pursuing a performing career and studying in New York in the 1980’s, she served as a paid section leader at Holy Trinity (Greek) Cathedral in New York City and later as interim choir director at Holy Trinity (OCA) parish in Yonkers, New York. Valerie has served as the President and Chairman of the Board for PSALM, Inc., (a pan-Orthodox, national organization for church musicians) and coordinated PSALM’s first national conference in 2006.

While living in Michigan, Valerie was employed full-time for eight years by the Lyric Chamber Ensemble with responsibilities in non-profit management, fund raising, grant writing, concert production/promotions, and board development.  She sang regularly with the ensemble, which was comprised of principal players of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, from 1990-1998, and performed as a soloist with many other local and regional orchestras and performing organizations.  In 1981, Valerie was a national winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, competing against over 3,000 other vocalists nationwide.

Valerie grew up in Akron, Ohio and was raised in the Romanian Orthodox (OCA) Episcopate of America.  Her father, Paul, was a protodeacon at the time of his death in 1997, and one of the first late-vocations deacons in the Romanian Episcopate.  Her brother, Gregory, is the Founder of Project Mexico and lives in San Diego.  Her sister, Stephanie, is a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Seminary and is married to Fr. Anthony Yazge, Director of Camps for the Antiochian Village.