This beautiful Communion chant, sung during the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, is taken from Psalm 148:1 (“Praise ye the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the highest. Alleluia”). The chant is sung here by the Vocal School Choir of the historic Novodevichy (“New Maidens”) Convent in Moscow.
This lovely video, uploaded to YouTube on October 16, 2012 by Mr. Nigel Fowler Sutton, features beautiful photo images of this ancient convent where, for centuries, beginning with its founding in 1524, many of the Grand Duchy of Moscow’s noblewomen lived out their days in prayerful contemplation, attending divine services and composing many beautiful choral pieces.
One famous nun at the convent, committed against her will by her vengeful half-brother Tsar Pyotr I (known to the West as Peter I “the Great”), was Princess Sophia Alekseyevna Romanova (1657-1704). Unique as the only woman to rule Russia as Regent in the time before Peter I’s great reforms, Sophia’s regency as the power behind the throne from 1682-89 outraged conservative Muscovite boyars (nobles) and Church leaders at a time when most Russian noblewomen lived secluded in the upper chambers of their homes.
Factions of nobles eventually conspired with her brooding teenage half-brother Peter to restore the young Tsar to his full powers. When the streltsy, the armed guards of the Palace, heard of the Tsar’s plan to disband their corps in favor of a modern, Western-style imperial regiment, they attempted to rise in the Princess’ name. After crushing the streltsy revolt, Peter I had hundreds of them publicly executed, hanging some of their bodies outside his horrified sister’s convent window. She never again conspired against her half-brother’s rule.