Christ the Saviour Choir
/ Music / Christ the Saviour Choir
Choir Director Sergei Riabtchenko

Sergei Riabtchenko was born in Zhukovsk (Moscow region) and studied music first at the Zhukovsk School of Arts, then at the College of Music in Pushkino (Moscow region) and, finally, at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music in Moscow, where he studied cello with I. I. Gavrysh and minored in composition.

My early childhood memories of my family life are packed with song: Russian songs, Ukrainian songs and the popular songs of the day. Big family gatherings would bring together 20 - 25 people and all of us would sing in two or three parts. These were my first vivid musical experiences. From about 10, I wanted to write music. The first results were piano pieces, and then soon after pieces for guitar. In high school and the conservatory I wrote lots of pieces for various instruments and vocal music, which given my age were naturally at first romantic, then experimental.

A fundamentally new direction, both musical and spiritual, emerged when I started attending church.

In 1990 he moved to San Francisco, California. In 1996, he began to study sacred music with the Reverend Bazyl Kalinowski, rector of Christ the Savior Church on Anza Street, who previously had served for thirty years as choirmaster of the Orthodox Cathedral in Warsaw (Poland) and lectured at the Warsaw Theological Academy.

When I became acquainted with the singing of Troitsky-Sergeev Lavra, and the Kiev Caves Lavra, and works of Arkhangelsky, Kastalsky, Trubachev and Chesnokov, I felt an irresistible desire to put my knowledge and professional experience to the test of church music of a spiritual character.

Starting at the end of the 1990s, I wrote a great many pieces for the Liturgy, the Vigil service, for major feasts; troparia and kontakia for major saints, works for the Great Fast, Pascha, Christmas and other feasts. These fall neatly into two categories: concert music and music for the services. Each of these large groups contains diverse works for various resources, and are written in various styles and traditions of church music.

From the time I finished the conservatory in 1990 to the present, I have kept up my professional work as a cellist, as a performer and teacher, drawing on my now extensive experience and knowledge. I was a founding member of the “Arlekin” Quartet in 1987, and have been the quartet’s cellist ever since.


“The sight of a church in the distance is a most welcoming sight! Is it the light in the windows, or the intonation of the priest, or the singing floating towards you in the light darkness? To me it has always been the music. . .

Over a life-time of past eighty years, one can find oneself used to the church services. After all, by then we know what comes next. That has never been the case with our church music! It always elevates and brings me to a new sense of worship. How fortunate are the few who do have a choir of such worth!

We are now in our Golden Period. Current (and may he last forever!) choir director Sergei Riabchenko, spoiled us all! Not only has he gathered a group of fine professionals but he has written numerous works to challenge their voices and to keep the parishioners attuned. Upon hearing one of his latest creations, I stand in wonder as I absorb every note and very verbal nuance. And then, it is once again time to give thanks to God for sharing that moment with us.”

— Lana Thompson

“It is unlikely that I will ever forget the day when my mother and I first went up to the choir in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. And although I was still an 11-year-old girl, even then, standing next to Matushka Zinaida and listening carefully and singing the words of prayers, I understood what a great joy it was to sing in a church choir. Now, when everyday problems seem to be countless, I just can’t imagine my life without a choir. This is a unique opportunity, for which we are grateful to God as a whole family, as well as to the founders of this parish, to all the rectors, parishioners, and choir members. But a very special thanks goes to Sergei Riabtchenko for his incredible work, patience and talent, and for the fact that thanks to him we can participate in this good work. Imagine that you have joined our choir for the first time and, as directed by the choir director, you stand your music stand. You may have previously studied music, singing, sang in other choirs, but here everything is new for you. But, as soon as the service begins, you immediately begin to feel a special warmth, and the soul becomes calm and joyful. If you sing a wrong note out of lack of practice, out of excitement, or just because you can’t help but listen to the sound of the choir, Sergei will just look at you with a kind smile – you know … you need to be more attentive. On Saturday, he will definitely call you and will urgently ask you not to be late for choir practice before the Liturgy ... And before the big feast days, he arranges additional rehearsals in the evenings. When the choir members are late, he meekly waits and greets everyone with a sincere, kind smile. 

And, most importantly, Sergei Riabtchenko is a talented composer having written a large collection of sacred choral music. We have sung some of them at divine services, others have listened to then performed by the male voice choir Diakonia. If new compositions do not immediately sound as intended, then our unique director will rehearse each part for a long time with patience, whilst still managing to joke and cheer us up. Sergei is the central core of the choir; he shows great love and respect for each choir member, inspiring us to be kind to others as well. As a result, each service is a holiday for all of us, and singing in the church choir has become our united cause in the cycle of our everyday life. It is standing in the choir that we can feel the beauty and power of the Orthodox faith more deeply and closely, feel our weakness in front of the He whom we are addressing in prayer, and at the same time gain great comfort, joy and spiritual strength.”

— Liza Tremsin

Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church
2040 Anza Street
San Francisco, CA 94118
Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church
2040 Anza Street; San Francisco, CA 94118