During our concert, we'll have four short readings describing Russian Easter celebrations; here's a bit of background to set the scene.
The faithful gather in the darkened church, and at midnight the everyone lights candles and exchanges the Easter greeting "Christ is Risen", "He is risen indeed", the doors in the icon-screen to the church sanctuary are thrown open, and the Vespers service then begins. Although in English, Rachmaninov's setting for the vigil service is often known as "Vespers" (and we have called it that to avoid confusion, although the Russian words on our poster give the work its full title, "All-Night Vigil"), the vespers part in fact ends at movement six - Bogoroditise Devo - the Hail Mary, probably the best-known movement as it's often performed at Christmas.
The service then continues with Matins, with long passages of psalms and Bible readings stretching the service out through the night. The night ends with the Gloria and three Resurrection hymns - in Rachmaninov's setting you can feel the first beams of Easter sunlight breaking above the skyline in the quietly radiant rising phrases at the beginning of each. Then it's time to celebrate with traditional Russian paskha - a rich cheesy cake, baked in a mould with the letters ХВ (the Russian letter for Khristos Voskres - Christ is Risen) - and of course painted eggs.