Advancement Office News • By Deborah (Malacky) Belonick
St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary is pleased to announce it has received a $40,000 special planning grant from the Henry Luce Foundation that will assist the seminary in laying the groundwork for a collaborative project with the famed Orthodox Christian Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt. The seminary envisions the “Arvo Pärt Project” as including a unique concert and lecture venture as well as publications about the composer’s life and works. The Program Director for Theology at Luce Foundation, Lynn Szwaja, recommended the funding of the project and informed the seminary of the Luce Foundation’s support in a letter dated May 1, 2012.
Chancellor/CEO of the seminary, Archpriest Chad Hatfield, acknowledged the Luce grant with gratitude, saying, “Our seminary has been shifting and rebuilding our musical program, including special events, over the last few years. We have achieved amazing things and learned much in the process. Now, with this generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation we are well on our way to fulfilling our dream of special ventures centered around the life and work of Arvo Pärt.”
Pärt is one of the world’s most celebrated and performed living composers, and his uniquely developed musical genre, known as tintinnabulation, has proved itself universally compelling; it has extended beyond the circles of classical music and has included admirers in the pop and rock music worlds. Moreover, there exists an inextricable connection between Pärt’s musical methodology and his inner creative impulse—with Orthodox Christian spirituality at its core—and it is this connection that St. Vladimir’s Seminary will explore and promulgate as it develops the project.
The project was initiated by two faculty members of St. Vladimir’s: Dr. Peter C. Bouteneff, associate professor of Systematic Theology, and Dr. Nicholas Reeves, assistant professor of Liturgical Music. Both have been meeting personally with Pärt and his wife and manager, Nora, to develop the project.
Remarking on the inspiration for the project, Dr. Bouteneff said, “On the one hand, this collaboration makes such perfect sense. Yet the fact that it is actually happening, that Arvo Pärt has welcomed us with enthusiasm, feels like a miracle, and it is a profound honor to the seminary.”
Dr. Reeves spoke further about the development of the project, noting, “Many concert goers know Arvo Pärt‘s music, and some realize a connection between his works and the spiritual life while others sense instinctively an otherworldly character inherent in his compositions.
“This project with Arvo Pärt seeks to make clearer for all admirers of these pieces their religious and, many times, Orthodox underpinnings, which remain virtually unknown to the general public,” he concluded.
Both professors expressed their gratitude to the Luce Foundation, with Dr. Bouteneff saying, “The Luce Foundation’s support of theological education is some of the most creative and finely-tuned in the landscape of philanthropy. With this grant they have helped put us squarely on the road to a project of far-reaching significance and of great beauty.”
Note: In the past, the Henry Luce Foundation has generously supported St. Vladimir’s Seminary in the area of sacred music, including a $225,000 grant in 2000; that grant allowed the seminary to hire faculty, catalog a music collection, present seminars and workshops, and publish both liturgical and historical music books and also CDs. As well, the Luce Foundation was instrumental in funding the seminary’s Library Developmental Project in 1999, with an award of $115,000, which allowed the seminary to purchase a UNIX server to handle its database, and to make significant progress in cataloging its collection and developing an on-line search program for the library’s holdings.