"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Orthodoxy in Estonia

Overshadowed as it is by its hulking and often hegemonic neighbor to the East, and more recently by the conflict in Ukraine, the country of Estonia rarely captures the attention of the world, or even of most of the world's scholars. And yet there is a significant Orthodox population there which has been little studied, at least recently and in English. In particular, Orthodoxy in Estonia, to the extent it is known at all, is likely known through its most famous musical spokesman, Avro Part (on whom see this collaborative initiative between him and St. Vladimir's Seminary, organized by Peter Bouteneff). But in December some of that will change with a new study, Jeffers Engelhardt, Singing the Right Way: Orthodox Christians and Secular Enchantment in Estonia (Oxford UP, 2014), 304pp.

About this book we are told:
Singing the Right Way enters the world of Orthodox Christianity in Estonia to explore musical style in worship, cultural identity, and social imagination. Through both ethnographic and historical chapters, author Jeffers Engelhardt reveals how Orthodox Estonians give voice to the religious absolute in secular society. Based on a decade of fieldwork, Singing the Right Way traces the sounds of Orthodoxy in Estonia through the Russian Empire, interwar national independence, the Soviet-era, and post-Soviet integration into the European Union. Approaching Orthodoxy through local understandings of correct practice and correct belief, Engelhardt shows how religious knowledge, national identity, and social transformation illuminate how to "sing the right way" and thereby realize the fullness of Estonians' Orthodox Christian faith in context of everyday, secular surroundings. Singing the Right Way is an innovative model of how the musical poetics of contemporary religious forms are rooted in both consistent sacred tradition and contingent secular experience. This landmark study is sure to be an essential text for scholars studying the ethnomusicology of religion.

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