Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman, Strategic Mission Developer and Area Music Program Coordinator for LCMS Eurasia, recently toured western Russia May 21-25, 2015, performing recitals, leading masterclasses, and preaching on the Feast of Pentecost. Dr. Ahlman worked with colleagues from The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) sister church body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR).
Immediately upon arriving in St. Petersburg, Dr. Ahlman traveled with translator Aleksei Zubtsov to the historic city of Vyborg, where he delivered a masterclass on May 22 for a local high-school-aged piano studio on the organ keystroke techniques of Johann Sebastian Bach—a particular point of interest for the teacher and her students, given their background in modern piano coupled with their desire to expand their keyboard facility and repertoire to include that of the organ.
Along with discussing highly technical aspects of keyboard performance on the organ, opportunities presented themselves to reference the creedal content of the Christian faith, upon an analysis of the compositional nature of Bach’s Wir glauben all an einen Gott, BWV 681 and its resonance with the confident and assertive nature of Christian creedal expressions of faith. Following the keystroke masterclass, Dr. Ahlman led a brief masterclass during a Parish Choir rehearsal at Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Cathedral on proper performance practice of Psalm chanting in the form of Gregorian chant. To conclude the rehearsal, Dr. Ahlman gave a brief devotion centered on the Holy Spirit and his work in reminding us of all that the Lord Jesus has spoken, and thus bringing us into all truth.
On May 23, Dr. Ahlman and Mr. Zubtsov traveled with Ms. Darya Shkurlyatyeva to the town of Primorsk, the largest Russian port on the Gulf of Finland, where Dr. Ahlman performed a slightly-abbreviated version (on account of the particular limitations of a beautifully-constructed Swedish organ) of his full-length tour recital at St. Mary Magdalene Lutheran Church, focusing upon Bach’s early-stage works of the Orgelbüchlein that were oriented toward the Lenten, Easter, and Pentecost seasons.
With the venue being rather quaint and intimate, the opportunity for a large audience could not present itself. Nevertheless, approximately 25 people were in attendance, with approximately half of those in attendance being completely new to the congregation and its pastor, Rev. Sergei Gerasimov. Dr. Ahlman was received warmly, and several new connections were made between the congregation and residents of Primorsk.
Following the recital in Primorsk, Dr. Ahlman returned with his colleagues to Vyborg for a recital performance at Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Cathedral, where Dr. Ahlman performed his full-length recital, which also included the Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Choir under the direction of Ms. Darya Shkurlyatyeva, for a full house. The recital began with a brief Pentecost-themed homiletical address, advancing the Gospel utilizing the framework of theOrgelbüchlein. Following the performance of the recital, the audience responded enthusiastically, so much so that the encore piece, Fuge in D, BWV 532, ensued. This was the second time Dr. Ahlman performed in Vyborg in two years.
Later that evening, Dr. Ahlman boarded the train with Mr. Zubtsov to the resort town of Zelenogorsk, where on the next day, May 24, he preached on the Festival of Pentecost at Transfiguration Lutheran Church in the morning and performed his full-length recital, together with the Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Choir in a marvelous acoustic where upwards of 80 to 90 musical events are held per year. Here, the recital was well-attended by tourists and well-received, with the invitation to return as soon as possible.
“Western Russia never fails to provide endless opportunities to engage and collaborate with serious musical artists in mutually-beneficial ways and, at the same time, provide endless opportunities to confess Jesus Christ in winsome and natural ways, to everyone’s benefit and appreciation,” says Dr. Ahlman. “I feel extraordinarily privileged to serve the Church in this special way, and I pray for the Holy Spirit’s continued blessing upon this activity and those who participate in it, that Jesus Christ may be trusted and confessed, that the Church may grow under God’s blessing, and that the gift of music may be aggressively pursued and cherished, to the advancement and delight of many.”
- Learn more about Dr. Ahlman’s previous tours in Russia, including video.
- Pray for those who attended, that they would be strengthened in their faith or brought to faith in Jesus Christ.