Every now and then we stumble across a work of sacred music that stops us in our tracks and reminds us of the vast and beautiful sacred musical traditions of Christendom. Today, we’re listening to this phenomenal Georgian Orthodox rendition of Kyrie, eleison.
This arrangement of the liturgical response (repeated again and again throughout the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom) was written by the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church himself, Ilia II of Georgia. The piece is remarkable for its tender melody, which is supported by an exceptionally composed choral section. The gentle approach to each recitation of the lyrics, which are simply “Kyrie, eleison,” is perfectly suited to their meaning: “Lord, have mercy.”
The way this group builds to the climactic ending verse is awe inspiring. When watching a YouTube video, if the viewer hovers the mouse over the time bar, they can see where the loudest moments of the video are. When hovering over this recording of the Kyrie, one can see that it consistently builds and grows the sound at an even and steady pace. This creates a tear-jerking ending that suggests the prayer has emboldened the singer’s plea for divine mercy.
The soloist for this performance was Anastasia Gladilina, who was just around 14 years old during the recording. Gladilina is best known for her stint on the fifth season of Russia’s The Voice Kids, where she earned 3rd place in the competition.
She was supported by the Sretensky Monastery Choir, which has existed in one form or another since the monastery’s founding in 1397. They note on their website that, in the six centuries of their existence, the choir has only broken from its activities during the Soviet-era persecution of Christianity. The choir has been recording since 2005, and they now take part in choral competitions and missionary journeys, as well as singing for the monastery’s weekly services.