Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1940, and raised in the Lutheran faith, Richard Toensing
converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1997, the end of a long journey begun when he was
a teenager. Initially drawn to Orthodoxy through its holy art - the gold-leafed icons of Byzantium
and the sonorous choral music of the Russian church - Toensing early became fascinated with
Orthodoxy’s rich traditions, centuries-long continuity, and ultimately, its teachings.
The Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ, written for Cappella Romana in 2007, is the most
Orthodox of all Toensing’s works. The traditional tonal formulas of the Russian “Greek” chant,
the mystical nature of St. Romanos’ text, at once both intimate and powerful, and the Orthodox
tradition of double-choir writing combine with 21st-century choral textures to create a deeply felt
work rooted in the tradition, yet new in many significant ways.
Toensing is currently Professor Emeritus of Composition in the College of Music at the
University of Colorado in Boulder.
He lives near Boulder and is a member of St. Luke’s Antiochian Orthodox Church of Erie. CO,
where he is Choir Director Emeritus.