In the 10th century a chant had been sung before the Holy image of Mother of God, for the very first time, and it was further integrated into the rite of the Sacred Liturgy. And every day It has been being interpreted so far throughout the Orthodox world.
The accurate rendition of that event was written in the 16th century by an Athonite monk of that time who occupied the first rank: the hieromonk Seraphim who reported the following:
“In proximity to Karyes, the capital of the Holy Mountain, there is a valley which later became known as the Valley of the Chant, where some monastic cells, located at a distance one from another, are inhabited by monks leading an ascetic life. There were two monks who lived in one of the cells: a venerable old monk named Gabriel and a novice of the same name. Once the old monk, going to hold vigil in Karyes, said to his disciple: “My child, I` m going to hold vigil, and you have to stay here and hold the Matins by yourself in our cell church“.
That same night, a knock at the cell door was heard. When the novice opened the door, he saw a unknown caloyer. The disciple invited the stranger to enter the cell and hold the Matins together with him. When the unknown man came to the chant: “More honorable than the Cherubim …”, he went on reverentially singing with an angelic voice, facing the Image of the Most Holy Theotokos: “It is truly right to bless thee, O Theotokos, thou the ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God.” Subsequent to the last words, the Icon of the Mother of God, – placed in the cell, where both of the men, facing it, were raising up their prayer, – suddenly shone in an astonishing splendor; and the notice, filled with spiritual joy, burst into tears of compunctions and turned to the strange monk, saying the following words: “Father, we have never heard any of the ancestors sing this chant. Please, write it down for me, for a keepsake!”
The unknown monk asked to be given some ink and paper. As it turned out, there was nothing of that kind in the cell. Then the stranger said to the novice: “Bring me a stone slab!” After getting it, the monk, with his own hand, inscribed on it, as effortlessly, as if he wrote on wax, the words of the chant and ordered to his junior fellow-priest: “From now on, all of you, Orthodox believers, do sing so!” After pronouncing that, at once, he became invisible.
When the monk Gabriel came back from the vigil service, his novice told him about the strange mysterious guest and showed to the venerable old monk the stone slab with the text of the prayer inscribed on. The old cleric, being a man of experience, immediately realized: that was the Archangel Gabriel himself who visited their cell, being sent down, to the Earth, to herald to the Christians another wondrous chant in the glory to the Mother of God. Both the cohabitants of the cell took the stone slab along with them, carried it away to the Protaton and then narrated in details to Council of the Venerable Clergymen about the miraculous event. Then all the brethren with one mouth and one heart glorified Christ Lord who performed such a miracle giving glory to His most blessed Mother, and sang the new chant brought down to the Earth by the Archangel Gabriel.
That same stone slab, with the letters of the Theotokion inscribed on, was sent to Constantinople and delivered to the Patriarch Nicolas the Second Hrisoverg as a testimony of the miracle that had occurred. The icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, before which that new prayer had been sung for the first time, was taken away from the Hagioritic Fathers` cell to the Katholikon: the Protaton of Karyes – where it is still placed – and since that time it had been called “Axion Estin (It Is Truly Meet)”.
Thus the cell, since the time of that miraculous event, has been called “Axion Estin” and become known throughout the Mount Athos under that name.
The Orthodox Church marks that wondrous event with a particular solemnity on the Day of Commemoration of the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel and the revelation of the hymn “It Is Truly Meet”, celebrated on June 11th, as well as on the Second Paschal Day when the representatives of all the Athonite Monasteries carry the Icon of the Theotokos in the festal cross procession imploring the Mother of God to bless all who contend for the Faith and venerate the Theotokos in Her Garden of the Virgin on Mount Athos.
ORGANISERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL ORTHODOX MUSIC FESTIVAL “SAINT MARY – AXION ESTIN” – POMORIE
The International Orthodox Music Festival “Saint Mary – Axion Estin” was conceived in 2003 and its realisation started in 2004; in 2015 will be its 12th edition in Pomorie.
Main organisers of the Festival are the Sliven Eparchy and Pomorie Municipality.
The Festival is held under the aegis of the Right Reverend Bishop of Sliven Ioanikiy and the Mayor of Pomorie Municipality Ivan Aleksiev.
The Sliven Eparchy actively participates in the realisation of the forum. Besides his personal contribution, the Right Reverend, the Festival would have been impossible to organise without the warm welcome of the Pomorie church “Birth Blessed Virgin Mary”. Thanks to the efforts of the Chairman of the Church Board – Oeconomus Ivan Stoykov, the church choir – Female Choir “Blagovestie”, conducted by Yordanka Pancheva-Tudscharova and other board members the festival programme takes place in a wonderful atmosphere. Over a few June days the festively decorated church turns into a unique spiritual centre of Pomorie, of the Sliven Eparchy and of Orthodox Christians from tens of different countries. The shroud of the Mother of God protects and gives strength to all who have somehow been a part of the celebrations.
“Birth of Blessed Virgin Mary” Church – Host of the Festival.
Throughout all these years Pomorie Municipality have given its full support for the realisation of this project – it has provided not only financial support but the dedicated participation of its employees for the organisation of the festival and its programme. They have contributed to ensuring excellent conditions for the Festival participants and visitors.
Patrons of the Festival are the Right Reverend Bishop of Sliven Ioanikiy and Ivan Aleksiev – Mayor of Pomorie Municipality.
The Right Reverend Bishop of Sliven Ioanikiy is one of those persons whose blessing started the organisation of this forum. Since the first edition of the Festival he has played a key role in the organisation, carrying out and the normal development of the Orthodox Song Forum in Pomorie. Every year Bishop Ioanikiy opens the forum with a Blessing of water, together with clerics of the Sliven Eparchy he has delivered celebratory services on the Sundays and on 11th June – the Day of Virgin Mary – Axion Estin. Everyone who has met the Sliven Bishop personally has felt the strictness and charm of this Archpriest of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Bishop Ioanikiy attends the Festival with all the dignity of his rank without any ostentation. As a connoisseur of church music and of the Eastern traditions in service singing, he not only blesses the participants but with his devotional presence in the church helps them. At the same time they await impatiently for him to hear his warm, encouraging words and to receive his blessing.
Ivan Aleksiev – Mayor of Pomorie Municipality
Ever his assumption of office in 2011 the Mayor of Pomorie Municipality Mr. Ivan Aleksiev decided that the Festival has to continue “to live” because “…This is an incredible celebration of church song. For a few days Pomorie turns into a meeting place of orthodoxy and the atmosphere the participants create is indescribable – you just have to experience it. Whoever attends the concerts feels the music with their heart.”
Ivan Aleksiev was born on 25.07.1965 in Pomorie. Higher education: Food Technology University Plovdid, engineer-technologies, specialty: “Technology of microbiological and fermenting products”.
Between January 2008 and July 2009 he was deputy mayor, responsible for tourism in Pomorie Municipality.
Since 27.07.2009 is a member of parliament in the 41st Parliament, Deputy-Minister of the Parliamentary Environment and Waters Committee.
Yordanka Pancheva-Tudzharova – musical director
Yordanka Tudzharova is one of the initiators of this unique forum. Since its foundation to this day she has made efforts and has worked tirelessly to realise the Orthodox Music Festival in Pomorie.
For many years Yordanka Tudzharova has been a teacher of fundamental theoretical disciplines in the National School for Music and Stage Arts “Prof. Pancho Vladigerov” – Burgas; she has been awarded the “Silver Lyre” by the Bulgarian Music and Dance Workers Union – Sofia and a plaque and honorary diploma by the Ministry of Culture. Since 1999 she has been the conductor of the Female Choir “Blagovestie” at the “Birth of Blessed Virgin Mary” Church – Pomorie, which has successfully participated in many church music festivals in Bulgaria and abroad.
She is writing chants for her choir which are sung during the Festival.
Associate Professor Dimitar Dimitrov – honorary chairman of the festival secretariat.
For many years Associate Professor Dimitrov has been the chairman of the Selection Committee, a professor in the Theological Department of the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, conductor of the church choir of “St. Alexander Nevski” Church in Sofia and the “Ioan Kukuzel” Choir.
With his authority, knowledge, deep connection to the church and his open and noble nature, he is one of the most sought-after people during the Festival.
Almost all conductors – Bulgarian and foreign – want to hear his opinion for their performance.
Archpriest Kiril Popov – Chairman of the Festival Secretariat
Archpriest Kiril Popov was born in 1955. He graduated the Sofia Ecclesiastic Seminary and Ecclesiastic Academy. During 1982-84, following the decision of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, he was sent as a post-graduate student in the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy where specialised in choir conducting and defends a post-graduate (PhD) dissertation. There he individually studied harmony and composition with the eminent Russian composer and pedagogue Vladimir Martinov. After his graduation he started teaching Eastern Church choir singing in Bulgaria (1985-89) in the Sofia Ecclesiastical Seminary, he conducted the church choir of the “St. Nedelya” Cathedral Church in Sofia (assistant conductor 1985-90 and conductor 1991-2000) and during 1989-90 he worked as a research assistant in the Church Historical and Archival Institute. In 1878-88 he graduated a qualification course in the State Music Academy “Pancho Vladigerov” – Sofia in the conducting class of Professor Vasil Arnaudov. Since 1986 he has been the conductor of the Sofia Priests Choir. In the summer of 2000 he received a rank.
As a conductor he has released gramophone records and a total of eight compact discs with the Sofia Priests Choir (1992, 1999, 2010 and 2012), the Male Choir at the “St. Nedelya” Cathedral Church (1999 and 2000), the Male Choir “St. Ioan Rilski Miracle-worker” (1994) and the Male Choir “St. Kiril and Metodiy, equal to the Apostles” (1997). His compositions and arrangements of church songs can be heard in many of these records, as well as in other choirs’ records. He is performing in Bulgaria and abroad with different choirs. He has participated as a judge in the International Choir Festival-Competition “Chamber Choir Siberia” – Russia. He also undertakes musicologist work. He has won many national and foreign compositors awards.
Associate Professor Dr. Vesela Geleva
Vesela Geleva graduated the National Music Academy “Pancho Vladigerov” – Sofia with Prof. Vasil Arnaudov and Prof. Virginia Atanasova. Since 1994 she has been teaching choir conducting and course choir in the Academy for Music, Dance and Fine Arts, Plovdiv where she is currently an Associate Professor. In 2006 she defended a Ph. D. dissertation with the title “Specifics and cultivation if the singing voice in children and youths and problems in its application in the choir”. She has published scientific articles and papers, as well as the monograph “Petar Dinev and his church choir legacy”. Since 2006 she has been a choir conductor at the “St. Trinity” Church Plovdiv, which she has taken to the 4th and 5th Orthodox Music Festival “St. Mary – Axion Estin” Pomorie and has recorded a CD with the music of Petar Dinev on commission of the Bulgarian National Radio. In October 2006 she founded the Academic Mixed Choir Gaudeamus at the Academy for Music, Dance and Fine Arts, Plovdiv. The choir has won many distinctions and awards at international choir forums and is actively participation in the realisation of choir workshops in Bulgaria and abroad.
Trayanopolski Bishop Kipriyan (Ognyan) Dobrinov Kazandzhiev
Trayanopolski Bishop Kipriyan (Ognyan) Dobrinov Kazandzhiev was born on 08.03.1976 in Kazanlak – in the Stara Zagora Eparchy. He received his secondary education in Kazanlak, as well as his secondary music education in 1995. On 01.09.1996 he was ordained as a monk in the Rila Monastery with a spiritual leader the Stara Zagora Bishop Pankratiy of blessed memory.
Bishop Kipriyan is a graduate of the choir school of PEtya Pavlovich – Kazanlak, alumnus of the Theological Department of the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” where he studied choir music and conducting under Associate Professor Dimitar Dimitrov. Since 2000 he has been appointed by the Vratsa Bishop Kalinik as a conductor of the Representative Choir of the Vratsa Eparchy “St. Sophronius, Bishop of Vratsa” – Vratsa. He has received many awards from International festivals and competitions – the first prize of the international competition “Singing Soul” – Bialystok, Poland, from the International Festival of Russian Church Song 2002/2003 – Sofia, a bronze medal from the International Choir Festival “St. Mary – Axion EStin” Pomorie and the special prize for best performance of Orthodox music from the International Choir Competition in Perveza, Greece (4 – 7 July 2013).
As the conductor of the Representative Choir of the Vratsa Eparchy “St. Sophornius, Bishop of Vratsa” he has performed at concerts in Crotone, Catanzaro, Calabria, Italy with the Requiem by Mozart – 2012.
He has received a jubilee badge – medal “St. Sophornius, Bishop of Vratsa” for special merit in the development of the church-public and cultural-musical life in the Vratsa Eparchy and the Vratsa District, as well as the award of the District Governor of Vratsa District.
Tanya Nikleva-Vladeva was born in Pomorie. She graduated choir conducting in the National Music Academy in Sofia in the class of Prof. Liliya Gyuleva. She is the conductor of famous groups: Female Choir “Hristina Morfova” at the National Library “Dr. Petar Beron – 1926” (since 1996) and Mixed Choir “Ave Muzika” (which she founded in 1998). She has 11 years of experience as a choir conducting professor in the National Music Academy.
She has won first prize at the first international competition for young choir conductors in Budapest, Hungary 2001, as well as many other personal and choir distinctions from national and international festivals and competitions.
In the last few years she has been working as an initiator, leader and organiser of a number of music events, such as celebrations of imminent Bulgarian musicians, charity concerts, performances at national and international cultural events, etc.
Oeconomus Ivan Stoykov – chairman of the Organisational Secretariat and chairman of “Birth of Blessed Virgin Mary” Church – Pomorie.
Oeconomus Ivan Stoykov is one of the main “culprits” for the existence of the Festival.
He is a young priest with many virtues, which make him a respected and sought-after advisor, interlocutor and friend for a large part of the participants in this Orthodox forum.
His hospitality, as a chairman of the hosting church, is manifested in many different ways. The church under his charge, always festively decorated during the festival days, turns into a place which everyone who has participated in the Festival always longs to come back to. The role of Father Ivan in organising and carrying out of this international forum is very significant.