Archpriest Daniel Skvir Awarded Order of Saint Romanos the Melodist

[Princeton, NJ] - On March 5, 2023, His Eminence Archbishop Michael celebrated the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy in the Chapel of the Transfiguration on the campus of Princeton University.  Serving with His Eminence were Archpriest Daniel Skvir, University Chaplain, Priest Alexander Smida, Assistant Chaplain, Deacon Stephan Karlgut, along with students and visiting Sub-Deacons and Altar Servers.  The Chapel Choir was prayerfully conducted by Carmen Mateiescu, a retired professor of composition at Westminster Choir College.  The traditional procession of icons and recitation of the Synodicon concluded the service.  Afterward, Chapel members and guests enjoyed a splendid repast of Georgian Lenten delicacies prepared by  Marina Nozadze.  Also, the Fr. John Turkevich Memorial Awards were presented by the Archbishop to OCF members Jamil Fayad ’26 and Yacoub Kahkajian ’26 for their faithful attention to responsibilities as Altar Servers.

The celebration also included the awarding of this year’s OCA Order of Saint Romanos the Melodist to Father Daniel for his many years of service as choir director (East Meadow, NY, and Jersey City, NJ), musical arranger and keeper of the Orthodox musical legacy, especially that of old Russia. The 400+ piece Skvir-Buketoff Liturgical Music collection was donated to the library of St. Vladimir’s Seminary by Father Daniel and Matushka Tamara for use by present and future musicologists and practicing choir directors. The bulk of this collection contains printed scores of pre-revolutionary Russian composers, in particular those of Pavel Chesnokov.

The Skvirs were particularly blessed to be the preservers of Passion Week, a collection of magnificent hymns by Maximillian Steinberg written in 1923,
but never performed due to restrictions imposed by the new Communist regime. A copy of this music was entrusted to Igor Buketoff, who in turn entrusted it to Matushka Tamara, his niece, with the instruction, “see that this gets performed.” It is not a piece written for a typical parish choir, but by the Grace of God, Alexander Lingas, founder and conductor of the renowned Cappella Romana, spent a sabbatical semester at Princeton and sang in the humble chapel choir. When told of the piece, he excitedly agreed to tackle the project with his choir. In 2014 in the Pacific Northwest, Passion Week had its world premiere; some 90 years after its composition, the Skvirs’ task was fulfilled. A professional CD was produced a year later. (More details available in Jacob's Well's Summer/Fall 2014 issue.)

Aside from the usual Orthodox church services, choirs led by Father Daniel performed at the annual Memorial Day Pilgrimage at St. Tikhon’s, at special American Bicentennial celebrations, and in huge and magnificent venues such as the Princeton University Chapel and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in NYC. The Skvirs also arranged the English musical libretto of Rachmaninoff’s unfinished opera, Monna Vanna, which premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center with soloists from the NY Metropolitan Opera.

On the local scene, for many years, a combined choir of Chapel members and Father Daniel’s Russian students at Princeton Day School sang traditional kolyadki (Christmas carols) for patients at various nursing homes and hospitals, to the delight of audiences and singers alike.

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