Theodora Gramkow, Choir Director
“O sing unto the Lord a new song; I will sing praises to him as long as I live!” (Ps. 149)
In celebrating the 50th Anniversary of our Parish I am the only Nehrebecki child who has had the privilege of being a lifelong member of Christ the Saviour Church. As the youngest of the six, I was born and baptized in Paramus; in fact, my baptism took place in the “Legion Hut.” So it is with great humility that I recently accepted the position of choir director.
It is awe-inspiring to follow Professor David Drillock, +Father Nicholas Solak, +Father Michael Irwin, Father Stephen Kopestonsky, Father Paul Kucynda, Matushka Eugenia Nehrebecki, and our own Michael Ciavaglia.
Our choir has made a recording every five years for the past forty years. Nine recordings is quite an accomplishment, and we thank Matushka Eugenia for instituting this practice. I pray that we can continue with this tradition and the more recent traditions introduced by Michael Ciavaglia. Although they have both left a legacy that will be difficult to follow, I pray that God will guide me along the same path they have so devoutly paved.
Above all else, only with the joined efforts of the choir members at Christ the Saviour can we continue to joyously sing praises to our Lord surrounded in our beautiful church by the company of His Saints. May He Bless us to do so!
“Praise the Lord for He is good; It is delightful to sing psalms to His Name!” (Ps. 134)
Michael Ciavaglia, Choir Director, 2006–2010
The singers of the choir of the Orthodox Christian Church of Christ the Saviour take to heart the Lord’s mandate to use their talents for the glory of God. The choir’s responsibility is great: to lead the assembly in liturgy, offering adoration and supplication; praise and petition. Every Orthodox service includes singing, whether melodies are sung by a group of singers or one person reads a psalm. When we make our offerings of song to God in corporate worship we enter the ancient tradition of the early Christian and pre-Christian church. We recall and reenact the songs of the Hebrew people who crossed the Red Sea, “For He has been greatly glorified”; of the three faithful young men in the furnace “Praise the Lord! Sing and exalt Him throughout all ages”; and of our Lord and His Apostles, who “sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives” before His passion (Matthew 26:30, NIV).
In our current practice, on Holy Tuesday, when we go with Christ to participate liturgically and spiritually in the acts of His passion, the assembled people of God sing this hymn, found in Holy Tuesday Matins:
Come, O faithful, let us work zealously for the Master,
for He distributes wealth to his servants.
Let each of us, according to his or her ability increase the talent of grace:
let one be adorned in wisdom through good works;
let another celebrate a service in splendor.
The one distributes his wealth to the poor;
the other communicates the word to those untaught.
Thus we shall increase what has been entrusted to us,
and, as faithful stewards of grace, we shall be accounted worthy of the Master’s joy. Make us worthy of this, Christ our God, in Thy love for mankind.
—The Bridegroom Services of Holy Week, Department of Religious Education, OCA.
At the climax of our yearly worship cycle, we hear this important call to engage in Christian ministries. In our parish’s fifty-year history, God has blessed us with so many individuals who have performed these sacred actions to the benefit of our community and to the church as a whole, often excelling in more than one of the holy tasks enumerated above. These have been clergy and laypersons. They have been laborers who fell asleep in the Lord decades ago and those who continue their service today. Some were known to all, some were known to a few, and there were some whose works were known only to God. By the grace of God, among our choir singers and leaders were those called to various other vocations in the church: clergy, teachers at all levels, workers of charity. Always, among all vocations and activities, liturgy remains at the center of our Christian life, and liturgical music is central to liturgy. As all Christians belong to God and are members of God’s royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), all are also members of God’s heavenly choir. Our prayer, set forth as incense before God in this holy year, is that he will strengthen us as Christians: in prayer and worship, in good works and charity, in liturgy and music.