Arvo Pärt Project

December 2011 / May 2014 / April 2015

St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary near New York, USA, has taken a great interest in the work of the International Arvo Pärt Centre and has entered into a long-term collaborative relationship with the centre.

St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) is a centre for religious study founded in 1938 in Crestwood, New York State. SVOTS is one of the leading Orthodox Christian institutions in the western world and is committed to maintaining the connection between theology and fine arts and contemporary culture. It is also one of the world’s largest publishers of texts and translations on Orthodox Christianity.

The first contact with St. Vladimir’s came in December 2011 when Archpriest Dr Chad Hatfield, the Chancellor/CEO and Adjunct Professor of Missiology; Dr Peter C Bouteneff, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology; and Dr Nicholas Reeves, Assistant Professor of Liturgical Music, came to visit Arvo and Nora Pärt and the centre.

The aim of their visit to Estonia was to deliver in person the news that SVOTS would like to award the composer an honorary doctorate in sacred music, to celebrate this with an evening of the maestro’s music in New York’s Carnegie Hall, and to look into ways of setting up a creative partnership. Arvo Pärt welcomed the proposal, and everyone at the meeting soon found they had very much in common and many similar ideas. It was clear from the very first moment that continuous collaboration between the centre and SVOTS could be extremely valuable and could offer a great deal to both sides, and to members of the general public who are interested in their work. Various modes of collaboration came up spontaneously, the most exciting of which for the centre is SVOTS’ readiness to help present and understand the deep currents flowing through Pärt’s music, particularly its Orthodox spiritual foundations.

SVOTS is very aware of the importance of traditional early Christian texts as a source and in the structure of tintinnabuli music. Knowing that the centre is planning to make significant Orthodox texts available in its library, in early 2012 the seminary made the first of a planned series of book donations to the centre by sending a complete set of its Popular Patristics Series. Receiving this gift of more than forty volumes of writings by early Christians and the Church Fathers, translated into English and accompanied by copious notes, was a wonderful event for the centre.

In April 2012 Drs Bouteneff and Reeves met the Pärts again in England. At the three-day meeting it was agreed that the presentation of the honorary doctorate to the composer would happen in spring 2014 and would be accompanied by a series of concerts of Pärt’s music in New York and elsewhere, performed by Tõnu Kaljuste, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra as well as by other ensembles. The concerts will feature Adam’s Lament and Kanon pokajanen, with several other pieces in discussion such as Salve Regina and Te Deum. After such a major concert tour the project will focus on close collaboration between the two organisations in a wide range of areas. The partnership will offer great benefits to both sides and has been launched as the Arvo Pärt Project, with its own website, giving all the latest news about how the project is progressing.

The centre and the seminary are looking forward to continuing to plan the future with shared goals and interests, widening the centre’s range of activities and helping give a better understanding of Pärt’s music in a spiritual context. The seminary succeeded in getting significant financial support for the early preparatory work for the project, receiving a special planning grant of 40,000 dollars from the Henry Luce Foundation for the Arvo Pärt Project. The Project also received support in America from the Estonian ambassador Mrs. Marina Kaljurand, who met with St. Vladimir’s faculty in person, and also from the Minister of Culture of Estonia, Mr. Rein Lang. The President and the Prime Minister of Estonia were also notified and invited to attend the Carnegie Hall concert.

From May 27 to June 2, 2015, the concerts indeed took place in renowned concert halls in Washington DC and New York and received extensive media coverage both in Estonia and in US. The President of the Republic of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves attended the Kennedy Center concert and Estonian Minister of Culture Urve Tiidus was present at Carnegie Hall. On May 31, Arvo Pärt was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Sacred Music degree by the St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.

In April 2015, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary press presented a new book by Peter Bouteneff “Arvo Pärt: Out of Silence”.

You can follow the activities of the St. Vladimir’s Seminary related to Arvo Pärt from their website under Arvo Pärt Project.