What is an All-Night Vigil?

An All-Night Vigil is a service in the Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic Church consisting of a combination of Vespers, Matins, and the First Hour. This service is celebrated at sunset on Saturdays, which is technically the dawn of the new Liturgical day. The Propers at Vespers and Matins introduce the themes for the Sunday morning Divine Liturgy. In addition to being celebrated on Saturday evenings, All-Night Vigils are also celebrated on the eves of major Liturgical Feast Days.

Without question, the most famous and beloved musical setting of the All-Night Vigil is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Op. 37, which was composed in less than two weeks in January and February 1915. It was premiered on March 10, 1915 by the Moscow Synodal Choir under the direction of Nikolai Danilin, a colleague and friend of Rachmaninoff.

Kappella Kyrie chose to program Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil this year for a variety of reasons, yet with two specific intentions in mind. First, Kappella Kyrie is celebrating its 5th Anniversary. The choir had its first rehearsal in mid-June, 2010.
Second, since the All-Night Vigil was both composed and premiered in 1915, this year marks the 100th Anniversary of this monumental choral composition of the 20th century.

The phrase “All-Night Vigil” may cause some people to question if this is an event requiring them to pack a toothbrush and sleeping bag. Singing Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil as an actual church service has likely never been done before in Canada and possibly even in North America. Consequently, we do not have a precise timing; however, our goal is to complete the service within a similar duration of a choral concert; accordingly, around 2 to 2.5 hours. Of course since this is a church service there is no intermission. As is characteristic of Eastern Christian Churches, the singing is continuous. Come and celebrate with us and awaken your senses.