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Anchiskhati Choir (Gelati School)



 A shared love of Georgian folk song brought a group of Conservatoire students together in 1987. Their aim was to study Georgian traditional song, both well-known and lesser known examples. Malkhaz Erkvanidze, Davit Zatiashvili, Guram Gagoshidze, Rezo Kiknadze, Davit Shughliashvili are the first five members of the choir; some time later, three other members joined the group. Zaal Tsereteli (mathematician and programmer by education), Temur Imnadze and Alexandre Khakhishvili – Conservatoire students. 

  A very important priority for the young singers was to select their repertoire from recordings of old folk singers, where they could find a number of examples, not performed by any contemporary folk groups. A large place in the repertoire of the choir was occupied by songs of renowned folk singer Benia Mikadze (from the village of Kulashi, Samtredia District) and his choir "Sanavardo", as Malkhaz Erkvanidze, "Anchiskhati’s" young leader and Benia Mikadze shared the same village roots. 

  Alongside learning songs, an interest in learning old, forgotten traditional polyphonic church hymns soon emerged. This became possible thanks to several collections of transcriptions of Georgian chants published at the end of the 19th century and preserved at the Georgian Folk Music Department of Tbilisi State Conservatoire. From these very collections, the group of students (yet to give themselves a name,) started to learn Easter chants. Very soon they were given the opportunity to chant in services at the church. The choir went toBetania Monastery on April 10, 1988 to chant the Easter liturgy.Despite their début, there was an amazing atmosphere at the church. Everybody was enchanted by the tunes glorifying God, so strange to their ears, but so close to their hearts, memory traces of which had been left by the ancestors. That Easter day can be marked as the return of Georgian traditional church chanting to Georgian liturgy. 

  A week laterPatriarch Ilia II of Georgia, invited the young choir to his place of residence. The first chant that was chanted for their esteemed host was Kriste Aghsdga from the Shemokmedi School of chant. At this point in time, Pentecost was approaching. For this holiday the blessing and opening of Anchiskhati - the oldest church in Tbilisi was planned. At this very meeting it was decided that the young choir be appointed as the Anchiskhati church choir. From that day on, the choir acquired the name "Anchiskhati Church Choir". 

  The revival and renaissance of Georgian church chant, neglected over several generations due to Soviet atheistic censorship, started with the study of thousands of chant transcriptions at the initiative of the young Anchiskhati Church Choir; this initiative was supported both by the Head of the Georgian Church and by the clergy of the newly opened Anchiskhati church, which greatly contributed to the success of this initiative. 

  Anchiskhati Church Choir started a new stage of its activity after it was joined by a group of friends: Gocha Giorgadze (iconographer), Davit Megrelidze (architect), Levan Veshapidze (ethnomusicologist), Gocha Balavadze (artist), Nikoloz Beriashvili (geographer). This initiative of Malkhaz Erkvanidze - the choir leader was driven by the wish to perfectly present Georgian folk song repertoire and its diversity. This expanded choir of 12 singers, was then able to revive and learn a number of Georgian folk music examples, such as "Naduri" a variant of the village Dutskhuni , "Khasanbegura" a variant of the Khukhunaishvilis, together with a number of city songs, such as "Gvimgheria", "Gazapkhuli", etc.

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