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Adaptation of Byzantine chant to different languages

FULK NERA

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It sounds to me like a cross between Byzantine and Gregorian chant.
Romanian vowels are rounder and the language doesn’t have much in common with Greek so they’ve adapted the chant form to actually fit their needs, unlike a lot of English settings which violently abuse English to cram it into the rigid and outdated metrical structure byzantine music demands. Romania, having so many more orthodox people than the entire Ecumenical Patriarchate by magnitudes, has always had a vast pool of talent to rework the chant to suit their language; we English speakers do not have that demographic resource.
It is my opinion that to effect adequate rendering of the Byzantine music alert into English, the target language must be respected far more deeply than any of the frankly awful settings now promoted by the Greek Archdiocese. I find Fr. Seraphim’s to be completely unsingable. The reliance of the art on meter places extreme restraints on the target language that require departure from Greek melodic settings. I gather Arabic Slavonic and Romanian chant has effected this a long time ago, and their melodies diverge from Greek originals but remain true to the musical theory.
 

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Romanian vowels are rounder and the language doesn’t have much in common with Greek so they’ve adapted the chant form to actually fit their needs, unlike a lot of English settings which violently abuse English to cram it into the rigid and outdated metrical structure byzantine music demands. Romania, having so many more orthodox people than the entire Ecumenical Patriarchate by magnitudes, has always had a vast pool of talent to rework the chant to suit their language; we English speakers do not have that demographic resource.
It is my opinion that to effect adequate rendering of the Byzantine music alert into English, the target language must be respected far more deeply than any of the frankly awful settings now promoted by the Greek Archdiocese. I find Fr. Seraphim’s to be completely unsingable. The reliance of the art on meter places extreme restraints on the target language that require departure from Greek melodic settings. I gather Arabic Slavonic and Romanian chant has effected this a long time ago, and their melodies diverge from Greek originals but remain true to the musical theory.
Byzantine chant in Romania is still not as widespread as you’d think. I’m no musician, but it’s mostly confined to certain areas, especially the cathedrals, monasteries and some urban parishes in those areas ( in Bucharest is common).
The rest of Romania is very diverse. Where the ByzChant is the local standard in actual practice, in the village church’s a very simplified type of chant is practiced, that barely sounds Byzantine . I’ve been told that they only use modes 1 and 8, but of course, in practice it can devolve even lower. To just some bellowing noises which I once heard in a skate and had to walk out being seized with hysterical laughter.
min Transylvania and south and west of it there are older, vernacular plain chants, and quite a number of them.
 

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Byzantine chant in Romania is still not as widespread as you’d think. I’m no musician, but it’s mostly confined to certain areas, especially the cathedrals, monasteries and some urban parishes in those areas ( in Bucharest is common).
The rest of Romania is very diverse. Where the ByzChant is the local standard in actual practice, in the village church’s a very simplified type of chant is practiced, that barely sounds Byzantine . I’ve been told that they only use modes 1 and 8, but of course, in practice it can devolve even lower. To just some bellowing noises which I once heard in a skate and had to walk out being seized with hysterical laughter.
min Transylvania and south and west of it there are older, vernacular plain chants, and quite a number of them.
Glad to hear that there is a natural diversity in Romanian church singing. Romania is the second biggest Orthodox nation amd has huge cultural resources. I know they have composers and sing harmonic music but there is this presentation of the Byzantine chant as the classic ne plus ultra. Personally I find this a kind of imperialism of Byzantine that denigrates other musical art to be alien to the spirit of Orthodoxy as a faith and to be more about culture, history and ‘classicism’, which have their place by must not be allowed to trample all over the immediate needs of actual worshippers.
 
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I mean, just looking at it briefly it looks more or less comparable to what I've seen in the rare American Antiochian convert parishes to attempt to use Byzantine chant-- the challenges of Byzantine chant in English I kind of feel are insurmountable. But, because of the linguistic and cultural differences, it winds up not being exactly the same as any of the norms in terms of church music in the Middle East, which is only natural.

All that said, yours and the Ukrainian Catholic parish in Toronto are the two examples of Eastern Catholics being very liturgically close to Orthodoxy that always get brought up online.
What challenges are insurmountable in English or convert Byzantine chant? I'm a Protestant convert and some people in my parish are learning Byzantine chant. I've learned the tuning (even soft chromatic) and am able to sing the ornamentation flutters, slides, etc by listening to only Byzantine music for several months.
 

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What challenges are insurmountable in English or convert Byzantine chant? I'm a Protestant convert and some people in my parish are learning Byzantine chant. I've learned the tuning (even soft chromatic) and am able to sing the ornamentation flutters, slides, etc by listening to only Byzantine music for several months.
There is a certain quality of voice that is required for chant to sound like it has the proper style (this is called hyphos/ὕφος in Greek, and might as well be a technical term that students of Byzantine chant should learn), which consists of many elements like treatment of rhythm, the kind of vocal production used, how one attacks certain notes, how one performs certain ornaments, how and when one slides with the voice, etc. The end result is that if one is lacking some of the factors which make up the traditional hyphos of chant, he will still sound off. The challenge is increased by the fact that 1) there are many people out there who do not chant in English with traditional hyphos, so that hearing good examples live is rare, 2) the market for recordings in English is likewise saturated with groups that lack the traditional hyphos, and 3) many people who fancy themselves teachers never picked up a good hyphos themselves (and therefore cannot transmit it). However, the number of recordings and teachers with good hyphos is increasing in America, so unlike Samn!, I don’t think the challenges are necessarily insurmountable.
 
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There is a certain quality of voice that is required for chant to sound like it has the proper style (this is called hyphos/ὕφος in Greek, and might as well be a technical term that students of Byzantine chant should learn), which consists of many elements like treatment of rhythm, the kind of vocal production used, how one attacks certain notes, how one performs certain ornaments, how and when one slides with the voice, etc. The end result is that if one is lacking some of the factors which make up the traditional hyphos of chant, he will still sound off. The challenge is increased by the fact that 1) there are many people out there who do not chant in English with traditional hyphos, so that hearing good examples live is rare, 2) the market for recordings in English is likewise saturated with groups that lack the traditional hyphos, and 3) many people who fancy themselves teachers never picked up a good hyphos themselves (and therefore cannot transmit it). However, the number of recordings and teachers with good hyphos is increasing in America, so unlike Samn!, I don’t think the challenges are necessarily insurmountable.
What do you think of the chanting of Samuel Herron and Gabriel Creemens? Of English chanters that's primarily the model the Byzantine music class I'm in is using.
 

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Ok, apparently I can't post individual videos. Here's the parishes youtube channel. I am now interested to hear from Orthodox if they see anything in our liturgy that would tip them off that it is not an Orthodox parish.


Well, now I'm also seeing you can click the Watch on YouTube link to go to the video from Pascha.
I picked a random orthros service to listen to up to the 50th psalm. I would say that your parish has a similar sound to a lot of Antiochian convert parishes. The music used deviates to a certain extent from the traditional melodic formulae (called theseis) which make up Byzantine chant (this is also true of the AANA’s Kazan project, which is why very slowly it is being dropped down the memory hole). The practice of intoning the 50th psalm struck me as strange. Usually it is sung either in 2nd mode on Sundays or simply read on other days. All that being said, purely focusing on the technical aspects of the chant, it is not quite the style you’d hear in say, Greece or Lebanon.
 
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What do you think of the chanting of Samuel Herron and Gabriel Creemens? Of English chanters that's primarily the model the Byzantine music class I'm in is using.
Both of them have certificates from Holy Cross, and I believe Samuel Herron is pursuing a diploma from the Scholeion Psaltikis folks in Greece. They were some of the people I had in mind when I wrote that the number of teachers of traditional hyphos is increasing in America, but as a disclaimer, I should mention that they are also personal friends. :) If you are taking courses through the Trisagion School, you might even hear a few recordings I did for them (I recorded one set of prosomoia, one of the dogmatic theotokia, and a few papadic pieces).
 
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Both of them have certificates from Holy Cross, and I believe Samuel Herron is pursuing a diploma from the Scholeion Psaltikis folks in Greece. They were some of the people I had in mind when I wrote that the number of teachers of traditional hyphos is increasing in America, but as a disclaimer, I should mention that they are also personal friends. :) If you are taking courses through the Trisagion School, you might even hear a few recordings I did for them (I recorded one set of prosomoia, one of the dogmatic theotokia, and a few papadic pieces).
I'm taking classes from a chanter in a Greek Orthodox Church that is a few hours away. He just provided us with Samuel Herron's recordings to listen to (although I had heard about him prior to the beginning of this class). I also have The Mystic Pascha.

Hopefully the group, even though mostly composed of former Protestants will be able to adapt eventually to proper Byzantine chant..
 

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I'm taking classes from a chanter in a Greek Orthodox Church that is a few hours away. He just provided us with Samuel Herron's recordings to listen to (although I had heard about him prior to the beginning of this class). I also have The Mystic Pascha.

Hopefully the group, even though mostly composed of former Protestants will be able to adapt eventually to proper Byzantine chant..
I should add that I don’t mean to write any of this to discourage you. Listen to as many recordings of good chanters as you can, and if you’re able to follow along in Greek scores, look for recordings of good Greek chanters as well (if you want universally accepted examples of good chanting, it’s hard to go wrong with the chanters at the ecumenical patriarchate, minus Floikos). There are indeed a good number of converts who have learned the art to a very high degree of proficiency, so it’s not impossible, but they’re probably not so well-known because the chant scene is still very small in America.
 
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I should add that I don’t mean to write any of this to discourage you. Listen to as many recordings of good chanters as you can, and if you’re able to follow along in Greek scores, look for recordings of good Greek chanters as well (if you want universally accepted examples of good chanting, it’s hard to go wrong with the chanters at the ecumenical patriarchate, minus Floikos). There are indeed a good number of converts who have learned the art to a very high degree of proficiency, so it’s not impossible, but they’re probably not so well-known because the chant scene is still very small in America.
I'm listening to a chanter named Nektarios Adam (Νεκτάριος Αδαμ) and he seems to have very clear intervals and good recordings. I'm not sure if he is considered universally excepted but there doesn't seem to be too much of him online.
 

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Lots of interesting comments on this thread; I had a big post about them but it exceeds the character limit of the forum.

Focusing specifically on Byzantine Chant.....

I've heard my share of bad Orthodox chanters. This seems more a case of individual lack of talent than anything.
Yeah, agreed with this - it depends by person and by temple. My best inter-temple sample was visiting over a dozen parishes in the Metropolitanate of Thessaloniki and Mount Athos over the course of a few weeks many years ago. I was not really impressed with the chanting at Mount Athos outside Vatopedi and Simonpetra

(natually, since both monasteries have issued lots of excellent recordings over the past several decades. Father Maximos, formerly of Simonopetra, told me that Vatopedi poured a LOT of effort into a program of chanting, and it shows as IMO they are the reference for Byzantine chant. Visiting Vatopedi was worth the whole trip in and of itself - the famous icons, e.g. of the Passion outside the katholikon, are even more stunning in real life. The chant sounded like a high-definition playback of the CDs, though of course the texts were different).


I picked a random orthros service to listen to up to the 50th psalm. I would say that your parish has a similar sound to a lot of Antiochian convert parishes. The music used deviates to a certain extent from the traditional melodic formulae (called theseis) which make up Byzantine chant (this is also true of the AANA’s Kazan project, which is why very slowly it is being dropped down the memory hole). The practice of intoning the 50th psalm struck me as strange. Usually it is sung either in 2nd mode on Sundays or simply read on other days. All that being said, purely focusing on the technical aspects of the chant, it is not quite the style you’d hear in say, Greece or Lebanon.
The intonation of the 50th psalm (and the hexapsalmoi) is the habit at that parish; that being said it used to be that when Ἀνάστασιν Χριστοῦ θεασάμενοι and Psalm 50 were intoned everyone in attendance intones together and lines up to kiss the Gospel - a pastorally intended attempt to increase the level of popular participation.

And yes, every setting that parish uses from the Horologion IIRC is taken from some Melkite setting from the 80s or somesuch - their own proprietary effort to do what Kazan (and many others) did*. The people are used to it and sing it throughout liturgy and orthros; I doubt anyone will change it.

* (as an aside, the amount of multiplactive efforts in various Greek-tradition eparchies to make indifferently translate, and make accompanying pseudo-byzantine chant settings, from the 80s-10s is incredible. We are fortunate that we now mostly have proper translations with more and more much-more-proper settings).


All this is IMO.
 

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Lots of interesting comments on this thread; I had a big post about them but it exceeds the character limit of the forum.

Focusing specifically on Byzantine Chant.....



Yeah, agreed with this - it depends by person and by temple. My best inter-temple sample was visiting over a dozen parishes in the Metropolitanate of Thessaloniki and Mount Athos over the course of a few weeks many years ago. I was not really impressed with the chanting at Mount Athos outside Vatopedi and Simonpetra

(natually, since both monasteries have issued lots of excellent recordings over the past several decades. Father Maximos, formerly of Simonopetra, told me that Vatopedi poured a LOT of effort into a program of chanting, and it shows as IMO they are the reference for Byzantine chant. Visiting Vatopedi was worth the whole trip in and of itself - the famous icons, e.g. of the Passion outside the katholikon, are even more stunning in real life. The chant sounded like a high-definition playback of the CDs, though of course the texts were different).




The intonation of the 50th psalm (and the hexapsalmoi) is the habit at that parish; that being said it used to be that when Ἀνάστασιν Χριστοῦ θεασάμενοι and Psalm 50 were intoned everyone in attendance intones together and lines up to kiss the Gospel - a pastorally intended attempt to increase the level of popular participation.

And yes, every setting that parish uses from the Horologion IIRC is taken from some Melkite setting from the 80s or somesuch - their own proprietary effort to do what Kazan (and many others) did*. The people are used to it and sing it throughout liturgy and orthros; I doubt anyone will change it.

* (as an aside, the amount of multiplactive efforts in various Greek-tradition eparchies to make indifferently translate, and make accompanying pseudo-byzantine chant settings, from the 80s-10s is incredible. We are fortunate that we now mostly have proper translations with more and more much-more-proper settings).


All this is IMO.
Is there a source for a synopsis of the Antiochian Kazan thing? I've never heard of this (I'm not a reader, so I wouldn't be familiar with it anyway), but it sounds interesting and I'd like to learn about it. Particularly what its purpose was, and how and why it differs from "ordinary" Antiochian chant. I'm wondering if maybe my parish's chant is based off of it in any way.
 

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Is there a source for a synopsis of the Antiochian Kazan thing? I've never heard of this (I'm not a reader, so I wouldn't be familiar with it anyway), but it sounds interesting and I'd like to learn about it. Particularly what its purpose was, and how and why it differs from "ordinary" Antiochian chant. I'm wondering if maybe my parish's chant is based off of it in any way.
In the late 1970s through the 1980s, Metropolitan Philip commissioned Basil Kazan to set propers from the Sunday Oktoechos (that is, the resurrectional hymns for Saturday evening Vespers and Sunday Matins), major feasts from the Menaia, the Triodion, and the Pentecostarion to music (in Western Notation) using traditional melodies from Byzantine Music as a guideline. The project was ground-breaking at the time, because nothing of its scope in the English language existed, but it unfortunately had many deficiencies. The English translations used could be stilted at times, many of the translations seem not to have been done with any reference to the Greek originals, no attempts were made to meter the prosomoia (prosomoia are texts composed to fit the music of a preexisting hymn, and having metered prosomoia is of crucial importance for translations to be usable with Byzantine Music), and musically, the settings of idiomela (which have uniquely composed melodies to fit the text) did not conform to the principles of how melodic figures (called theseis) are crafted in Byzantine Music, leading to awkward melodies and misaccentuated text.

The Antiochian Archdiocese seemed somewhat content to rest on its laurels after the completion of the Kazan project, even after some major developments occurred. The first was the publication of the Twelve Menaia and of the Pentecostarion with metered prosomoia by Holy Transiguration Monastery. Despite these publications, knowledge of prosomoia and their importance remained very uncommon. The second was a renewed interest in the art of composition in America around 2005-2015. During that time, a new generation of composers came about, largely in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Probably the most significant figure was Fr. Ephraim of St. Anthony's Monastery in Arizona who catalogued thousands of melodic figures (the aforementioned theseis) used in idiomela and how they relate to text, and who wrote a brief description of his method of composition. This in turn influenced other composers like Gabriel Cremeens and Samuel Herron, who are still actively composing. At present, the quality of newer English-language compositions is near that of the Greek originals. The newest generation of composers is also venturing into other kinds of hymns which Basil Kazan never attempted to compose, like highly melismatic papadic hymns (mainly settings of Cherubic Hymns and Communion Hymns, but also things like long settings of Lord I have Cried for vespers, long settings of God is the Lord, and settings of the dynamis of the Trisagion/Anti-Trisagion for liturgy), old sticheraric hymns (melismatic idiomela for use at feasts), and metered canons (something which HTM typically avoids doing).

The Antiochian Archdiocese basically sat out on these developments until after Metropolitan Joseph's election, so they have a good deal of catching up to do. At present, they have some very highly skilled composers of their own, namely Chadi Karam who is probably their most prolific and (in my opinion) their most creative contemporary composer, and Fr. John (Rassem) El Massih who is not quite so prolific, likely because of his responsibilities as a priest. There does seem to be a bit of weird insider politics in the music department of the Antiochian Archdiocese (some people who essentially made their names promoting the Kazan project as the gold standard are feeling quite threatened by these recent developments), but I suspect that the old guard who cling to Kazan will slowly fade into irrelevance.
 

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Yeah, agreed with this - it depends by person and by temple. My best inter-temple sample was visiting over a dozen parishes in the Metropolitanate of Thessaloniki and Mount Athos over the course of a few weeks many years ago. I was not really impressed with the chanting at Mount Athos outside Vatopedi and Simonpetra

(natually, since both monasteries have issued lots of excellent recordings over the past several decades. Father Maximos, formerly of Simonopetra, told me that Vatopedi poured a LOT of effort into a program of chanting, and it shows as IMO they are the reference for Byzantine chant. Visiting Vatopedi was worth the whole trip in and of itself - the famous icons, e.g. of the Passion outside the katholikon, are even more stunning in real life. The chant sounded like a high-definition playback of the CDs, though of course the texts were different).
One thing to keep in mind is that many monasteries will have several groups of people who chant. I think to them, rotating the responsibility of chanting services is more important than having the services sound good all the time.
 

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In the late 1970s through the 1980s, Metropolitan Philip commissioned Basil Kazan to set propers from the Sunday Oktoechos (that is, the resurrectional hymns for Saturday evening Vespers and Sunday Matins), major feasts from the Menaia, the Triodion, and the Pentecostarion to music (in Western Notation) using traditional melodies from Byzantine Music as a guideline. The project was ground-breaking at the time, because nothing of its scope in the English language existed, but it unfortunately had many deficiencies. The English translations used could be stilted at times, many of the translations seem not to have been done with any reference to the Greek originals, no attempts were made to meter the prosomoia (prosomoia are texts composed to fit the music of a preexisting hymn, and having metered prosomoia is of crucial importance for translations to be usable with Byzantine Music), and musically, the settings of idiomela (which have uniquely composed melodies to fit the text) did not conform to the principles of how melodic figures (called theseis) are crafted in Byzantine Music, leading to awkward melodies and misaccentuated text.

The Antiochian Archdiocese seemed somewhat content to rest on its laurels after the completion of the Kazan project, even after some major developments occurred. The first was the publication of the Twelve Menaia and of the Pentecostarion with metered prosomoia by Holy Transiguration Monastery. Despite these publications, knowledge of prosomoia and their importance remained very uncommon. The second was a renewed interest in the art of composition in America around 2005-2015. During that time, a new generation of composers came about, largely in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Probably the most significant figure was Fr. Ephraim of St. Anthony's Monastery in Arizona who catalogued thousands of melodic figures (the aforementioned theseis) used in idiomela and how they relate to text, and who wrote a brief description of his method of composition. This in turn influenced other composers like Gabriel Cremeens and Samuel Herron, who are still actively composing. At present, the quality of newer English-language compositions is near that of the Greek originals. The newest generation of composers is also venturing into other kinds of hymns which Basil Kazan never attempted to compose, like highly melismatic papadic hymns (mainly settings of Cherubic Hymns and Communion Hymns, but also things like long settings of Lord I have Cried for vespers, long settings of God is the Lord, and settings of the dynamis of the Trisagion/Anti-Trisagion for liturgy), old sticheraric hymns (melismatic idiomela for use at feasts), and metered canons (something which HTM typically avoids doing).

The Antiochian Archdiocese basically sat out on these developments until after Metropolitan Joseph's election, so they have a good deal of catching up to do. At present, they have some very highly skilled composers of their own, namely Chadi Karam who is probably their most prolific and (in my opinion) their most creative contemporary composer, and Fr. John (Rassem) El Massih who is not quite so prolific, likely because of his responsibilities as a priest. There does seem to be a bit of weird insider politics in the music department of the Antiochian Archdiocese (some people who essentially made their names promoting the Kazan project as the gold standard are feeling quite threatened by these recent developments), but I suspect that the old guard who cling to Kazan will slowly fade into irrelevance.
Thanks! What is available now is much better than ~10 years ago.

Random comments:

It would be very nice if there was an English setting of the complete hymns for Great Friday Orthros (the 12 Gospel service) before folks launch into super-papaditic stuff and metered canons, but that's a side issue. (and it's a VERY big ask of course).

The AGES inititative seems to be the writ of the land in GOARCH, I hope that doesn't win out because IMO the translations are frequently awful.

@melkite: there was a similar (parallel and IMO duplicative) initiative in the Melkite church in the US around the same time, yielding the standard hymns you generally hear in Melkite parishes with many of the same problems. Cavaradarossi mentions. That said, Holy Transfiguration used Kazan for Vespers "O Lord I Have Cried" and Othros Praises, at least when I was there.

Here's a comparison:

God is the Lord, Kazan setting:

God is the Lord, Revised setting which is supposedly standard among Antiochians these days.
 

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One thing to keep in mind is that many monasteries will have several groups of people who chant. I think to them, rotating the responsibility of chanting services is more important than having the services sound good all the time.
Correct, and even the best singer will have (hopefully few!) days when he sounds like an electrocuted cat-frog. I will controversially say that it does not matter: how nice the singing is has no bearing on the holiness of the monastery, etc. The most important thing is the interior disposition and prayer of those in attendance. Good singing is nice though. :).
 

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It would be very nice if there was an English setting of the complete hymns for Great Friday Orthros (the 12 Gospel service) before folks launch into super-papaditic stuff and metered canons, but that's a side issue. (and it's a VERY big ask of course).
As a matter of fact, this already exists (with the canon metered, I believe). https://www.theliturgicalarts.org/news/tlaa-holythursday-textandscores

I should say though that even if this didn’t exist, I think it would be a lower priority to have music for a service done once a year versus having music which is done at almost every liturgy (like the cherubic hymn). It is not true to our musical tradition to do the cherubic hymn in any style but papadic.

Concerning canons, we are at a point musically now where giving attention to things like metered canons is possible precisely because so many of the idiomela for major feasts have been composed by skillful composers, leaving little other work to be done other than metering the canons.

The AGES inititative seems to be the writ of the land in GOARCH, I hope that doesn't win out because IMO the translations are frequently awful.
The inconsistent quality of the work at GOA DCS (renamed after the GOA acquired AGES) is incredibly unfortunate. One can only hope that the translator who made such idiosyncratic decisions while translating will retire soon.
 

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Romanian vowels are rounder and the language doesn’t have much in common with Greek so they’ve adapted the chant form to actually fit their needs, unlike a lot of English settings which violently abuse English to cram it into the rigid and outdated metrical structure byzantine music demands.
Could you elaborate on what you mean by the "rigid and outdated metrical structure Byzantine music demands"? If by this you mean the system of automela and prosomoia, I cannot agree that they are "outdated" when new prosomoia are still being produced in the 21st century. If by this you mean something else, I am not sure I can quite think of what it might be.

It is my opinion that to effect adequate rendering of the Byzantine music alert into English, the target language must be respected far more deeply than any of the frankly awful settings now promoted by the Greek Archdiocese. I find Fr. Seraphim’s to be completely unsingable. The reliance of the art on meter places extreme restraints on the target language that require departure from Greek melodic settings. I gather Arabic Slavonic and Romanian chant has effected this a long time ago, and their melodies diverge from Greek originals but remain true to the musical theory.
Have you spoken to people who are actively working to compose Byzantine Music in English? I think you will find that most are critical of Fr. Seraphim's musical compositions and of the many liberties he takes when composing and translating. I have seen, however, high quality metered texts for prosomoia produced elsewhere, so I'm not convinced that it's impossible to translate prosomoia to fit the melodies of the existing automela.
 

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Could you elaborate on what you mean by the "rigid and outdated metrical structure Byzantine music demands"? If by this you mean the system of automela and prosomoia, I cannot agree that they are "outdated" when new prosomoia are still being produced in the 21st century. If by this you mean something else, I am not sure I can quite think of what it might be.



Have you spoken to people who are actively working to compose Byzantine Music in English? I think you will find that most are critical of Fr. Seraphim's musical compositions and of the many liberties he takes when composing and translating. I have seen, however, high quality metered texts for prosomoia produced elsewhere, so I'm not convinced that it's impossible to translate prosomoia to fit the melodies of the existing automela.
Something similar to what Arab and Romanian translators did must be done in English. Dedes' and HTM's are no good. The English language is far more important than extant melodies. This is a basic precept of translating music; melody serves the text. English does not scan naturally into the ANTIQUATED PROSODY OF GREEK HYMNS. The melodies must be reworked or jettisoned when they harm the linguistic expression of the hymns in the target language.
 

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Something similar to what Arab and Romanian translators did must be done in English. Dedes' and HTM's are no good. The English language is far more important than extant melodies. This is a basic precept of translating music; melody serves the text. English does not scan naturally into the ANTIQUATED PROSODY OF GREEK HYMNS. The melodies must be reworked or jettisoned when they harm the linguistic expression of the hymns in the target language.
Restating yourself in all caps doesn’t help to clarify your point further, it just makes you look childish. Again, could you clarify what antiquated elements of Greek prosody you believe modern translators are attempting to emulate?

To the other assertion that we must jettison pre-existing melodies, already with Dedes and HTM, they do not make metrical translations of idiomela. Other composers like Lash and Ware do not make any attempt at metering in any genre of hymns. Composers of Byzantine music in English essentially hold the unanimous opinion that it is necessary to recompose the music for idiomela to fit the language. It is only with prosomoia that special consideration is given to metrical properties, because these hymns’ texts in Greek are already designed to fit the melody of another hymn, meaning that melodic considerations were already given more weight than textual considerations in the source language.
 

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Restating yourself in all caps doesn’t help to clarify your point further, it just makes you look childish. Again, could you clarify what antiquated elements of Greek prosody you believe modern translators are attempting to emulate?

To the other assertion that we must jettison pre-existing melodies, already with Dedes and HTM, they do not make metrical translations of idiomela. Other composers like Lash and Ware do not make any attempt at metering in any genre of hymns. Composers of Byzantine music in English essentially hold the unanimous opinion that it is necessary to recompose the music for idiomela to fit the language. It is only with prosomoia that special consideration is given to metrical properties, because these hymns’ texts in Greek are already designed to fit the melody of another hymn, meaning that melodic considerations were already given more weight than textual considerations in the source language.
Prosody means stressed syllable count. English poetry does not sound good in this Procrustean bed. Even rhymes sound hokey and forced in modern English. Dedes and HTM frequently ignore grammatical sense breaking a phrase across musical lines as dictated by melodic or rhythmic concerns. Good translation does not hobble the sense of a phrase to fit formal schema. Anyone familiar with the typical English translations of Byzantine music available in English, who cares about language ought to be able to notice this common abuse. It never occurs in settings of other chant types where recitativo is available.

I cited no British English translators, though their work is typically better than Dedes’. I think he doesn’t speak English as his first language. His word choice, besides the issue I cite above, along with most being used by American exarchates singing Byzantine music, lacks elegance.
 

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Prosody means stressed syllable count.
I thought by antiquated prosody perhaps you meant classical prosody which is not based on tonic stress. Thank you for the clarification. Given that English also uses patterns of stress in its own prosody, can you clarify what exactly makes the prosody of prosomoia antiquated?

English poetry does not sound good in this Procrustean bed. Even rhymes sound hokey and forced in modern English.
Fortunately, hymns do not typically feature rhymes, so I don’t think that is an issue. As for the issue of meter, the vast majority of English poetry historically has employed metrical schemes. I’m not sure how one can say Shakespeare is bad because of his love of iambs


Dedes and HTM frequently ignore grammatical sense breaking a phrase across musical lines as dictated by melodic or rhythmic concerns. Good translation does not hobble the sense of a phrase to fit formal schema. Anyone familiar with the typical English translations of Byzantine music available in English, who cares about language ought to be able to notice this common abuse.
Dedes does this a lot, to the point where it seems he does not particularly care to keep logical pauses aligned with musical pauses. I use HTM regularly at church, and in my opinion, it is far more unusual for HTM to do the same thing. They seem more or less to avoid it on principle except when completely necessary. I do not think HTM and Dedes’ work are comparable in quality this way.

It never occurs in settings of other chant types where recitativo is available.
Recitative isn’t available in Byzantine music though, so the point is moot.

I cited no British English translators, though their work is typically better than Dedes’. I think he doesn’t speak English as his first language. His word choice, besides the issue I cite above, along with most being used by American exarchates singing Byzantine music, lacks elegance.
I believe that Fr. Seraphim is in fact a native speaker of English.
 

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I thought by antiquated prosody perhaps you meant classical prosody which is not based on tonic stress. Thank you for the clarification. Given that English also uses patterns of stress in its own prosody, can you clarify what exactly makes the prosody of prosomoia antiquated?



Fortunately, hymns do not typically feature rhymes, so I don’t think that is an issue. As for the issue of meter, the vast majority of English poetry historically has employed metrical schemes. I’m not sure how one can say Shakespeare is bad because of his love of iambs




Dedes does this a lot, to the point where it seems he does not particularly care to keep logical pauses aligned with musical pauses. I use HTM regularly at church, and in my opinion, it is far more unusual for HTM to do the same thing. They seem more or less to avoid it on principle except when completely necessary. I do not think HTM and Dedes’ work are comparable in quality this way.



Recitative isn’t available in Byzantine music though, so the point is moot.



I believe that Fr. Seraphim is in fact a native speaker of English.
If Dedes is native English speaker, so much the worse for his poetic ability. Nobody writes Elizabethan verse in English as it sounds stilted. I think the OCA does an ok job with settings, and people like Fr. David Anderson did some creative work that engage the idiomatic strengths of the target language even to the point of diverging from the original text when necessary. Dedes doesn’t seem to notice how bad the complex phrases he writes sounds, the typical reliance on passive voice which I assume has some value in Greek but is awful in our language, and other things like that.
 

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If Dedes is native English speaker, so much the worse for his poetic ability. Nobody writes Elizabethan verse in English as it sounds stilted. I think the OCA does an ok job with settings, and people like Fr. David Anderson did some creative work that engage the idiomatic strengths of the target language even to the point of diverging from the original text when necessary. Dedes doesn’t seem to notice how bad the complex phrases he writes sounds, the typical reliance on passive voice which I assume has some value in Greek but is awful in our language, and other things like that.
FWIW transpations slavishly following g the original Greek the point of calque are rather the norm at least in Slavonic and Romanian. The Romanian psalter is ior used to be utterly incomprehensible in places because it translated the Greek text ( already problematic sometimes) word by word. They have fixed it somehow but the liturgical texts use the passive and the medial-passive wherever the Greek does. But I have to say, custom and usage have made these calques feel more normal than a transition following the norms of contemporary language, since this is the church style which many people expect and like even when they don’t understand it.
 

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Lord, have mercy.
 

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FWIW transpations slavishly following g the original Greek the point of calque are rather the norm at least in Slavonic and Romanian. The Romanian psalter is ior used to be utterly incomprehensible in places because it translated the Greek text ( already problematic sometimes) word by word. They have fixed it somehow but the liturgical texts use the passive and the medial-passive wherever the Greek does. But I have to say, custom and usage have made these calques feel more normal than a transition following the norms of contemporary language, since this is the church style which many people expect and like even when they don’t understand it.
Yuk. So sad.
 

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Wanted to emphasize my agreement with Cavaradossi particularly on these points (and as an aside thanks for the Great Friday Orthros Book):

Composers of Byzantine music in English essentially hold the unanimous opinion that it is necessary to recompose the music for idiomela to fit the language.

It is only with prosomoia that special consideration is given to metrical properties, because these hymns’ texts in Greek are already designed to fit the melody of another hymn, meaning that melodic considerations were already given more weight than textual considerations in the source language.
This is correct; many melodies have hundreds of different texts to them in Greek, so it's best that the English (or whatever other language) be rendered into the melodies.

HTM's translation work on this front is an enormous contribution to Byzantine hymnody that IMO will never be repeated again because of the sheer volume of what it entailed. As the intros to their books demonstrate, they put an enormous amount of thought into the translatons, to include text criticism (if they really did their diligence on this it's possible that their books are the most textually accurate books in any language?) and thought on English usage. The theological correctness and consistancy of the books are excellent - pretty good in the Menaion, IMO excellent in the Pentecostarion and Octoechos.

(this still doesn't mean that howlers appear every so often - e.g. the 2nd Mode Sunday Hymn of Ascent Conclusion - "Arouse Thyself O Lord My God...." presumably consistent with their Psalter. I imagine they'll defend the traditional literary correctness of this translation from the Greek; they may even be right, but in this case it does not matter and this phrase is unusable)

I use HTM regularly at church, and in my opinion, it is far more unusual for HTM to do the same thing. They seem more or less to avoid it on principle except when completely necessary. I do not think HTM and Dedes’ work are comparable in quality this way.
Agreed on this too, though sometimes I find weirdness in some prosomia - things that are idiosyncratic or otherwise off, sometimes even where a simple translation of the Greek would work better. (used HTM at church and at home)


Back to recomposing to fit the melody: @melkite the Praises at Orthros are an excellent example of Kazan vs. modern stuff. Kazan's settings of this and "O Lord I have Cried" (which your parish used last weekend and IME have always used) I believe were attempts to take one of the more standard Greek melodies and insert English words with minimal adjustment to the melody. I find them over complicated and a bit off.


In comparison, Father Ephraim of St Anthony's used HTM's Praises text for new compositions that he claims conforms to his studies of Byzantine formulae (theeses as Cavaradossi mentioned). IMO the compositions are much more elegant.


That said, IMO he's frequently inspired by various Greek melodies, especially for the Doxastica and Theotokia (text that accompany "Glory to the Father..." and "Both Now and Ever").
 

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We also prolong vowels a lot when singing in Portuguese. I think it's much easier than doing the same in English because English vowels are so flimsy. Too much emphasis on consonants and too much difference in strength between vowels and consonants.

BTW, just a piece of curiosity: the reason why Ecclesiastical Latin sounds like Italian everywhere is that the French were so annoyed by the difficulties of adapting Gregorian chant to their particular language (which lacks stress and has an eyebrow-raising u-sound) that they pushed for Pope Pius X to ask everyone to pronounce Latin exactly as he would do it himself in Rome. It doesn't seem to have ever stuck (not before Latin was basically wiped out from the Mass), since in my researches I recall finding a book from the 1960's whose author complained that a lot of people were still using English sounds to pronounce Latin in the US.
 

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I should add that I don’t mean to write any of this to discourage you. Listen to as many recordings of good chanters as you can, and if you’re able to follow along in Greek scores, look for recordings of good Greek chanters as well (if you want universally accepted examples of good chanting, it’s hard to go wrong with the chanters at the ecumenical patriarchate, minus Floikos). There are indeed a good number of converts who have learned the art to a very high degree of proficiency, so it’s not impossible, but they’re probably not so well-known because the chant scene is still very small in America.
My teacher the first 2-3 years gave me tons of audio cassettes (yep I'm THAT old) to listen to, mostly recordings of Protopsaltes like Stanitsas and Theodosopoulos. I had to listen to them as a parallel assignment to my study, in order to acquire the correct ὕφος. Learning to chant, as he used to tell me, is 90% hearing and 10% personal study (just like learning a μάθημα (I don't know the word for it in English) is 90% parallagi and 10% melos)
 

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I'm listening to a chanter named Nektarios Adam (Νεκτάριος Αδαμ) and he seems to have very clear intervals and good recordings. I'm not sure if he is considered universally excepted but there doesn't seem to be too much of him online.
Yes he is good, but if you're starting now, better start with recordings of more traditional chanters, not that he's not traditional, but he does some stuff differently.
 

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FWIW here's Finnish adaptation. The chanter has subsequently become Hieromonk of Xenophontos monastery on Mt. Athos.

 

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My teacher the first 2-3 years gave me tons of audio cassettes (yep I'm THAT old) to listen to, mostly recordings of Protopsaltes like Stanitsas and Theodosopoulos. I had to listen to them as a parallel assignment to my study, in order to acquire the correct ὕφος. Learning to chant, as he used to tell me, is 90% hearing and 10% personal study (just like learning a μάθημα (I don't know the word for it in English) is 90% parallagi and 10% melos)
My first teacher learned much the same way, through studying many cassettes sent to him by his teacher and friends to acquire the proper hyphos. In America, at least, he was certainly not going to pick up good hyphos from most parish churches.
 

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My teacher the first 2-3 years gave me tons of audio cassettes (yep I'm THAT old) to listen to, mostly recordings of Protopsaltes like Stanitsas and Theodosopoulos. I had to listen to them as a parallel assignment to my study, in order to acquire the correct ὕφος. Learning to chant, as he used to tell me, is 90% hearing and 10% personal study (just like learning a μάθημα (I don't know the word for it in English) is 90% parallagi and 10% melos)
Thank you Apostolos. Do you have any links to recordings of those folk? (or anyone else you think does this well. @Cavaradossi would welcome any Greek recording you recommend too, in that the pool of good recordings in English is shallow enough they can easily be found - Dynamis Ensemble, Capella Romana, Romeiko, etc.).

For my part, the Vatopedi Great Week recordings have always been reference due to their performance and recording quality, the fact that they cover just about all the sticheraic and hirmologic forms of each mode, and the fact that it covers possibly the greatest texts of the so-called "Byzantine Rite".
 

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Thank you Apostolos. Do you have any links to recordings of those folk? (or anyone else you think does this well. @Cavaradossi would welcome any Greek recording you recommend too, in that the pool of good recordings in English is shallow enough they can easily be found - Dynamis Ensemble, Capella Romana, Romeiko, etc.).

For my part, the Vatopedi Great Week recordings have always been reference due to their performance and recording quality, the fact that they cover just about all the sticheraic and hirmologic forms of each mode, and the fact that it covers possibly the greatest texts of the so-called "Byzantine Rite".
Vatopedi are good.
Here a few samples of the aforementioned chanters:
Theodosopoulos
5th Eothinon (Matinal Doxastikon)
Great Prokeimenon of Great Lent "Turn not away Thy countenance"
Matinal Doxastikon for Great Friday "They have stripped me of my garments"
The Apostolic reading for the Feast of the Lord's circumcision
Stanitsas
His composition of Dynamis
Cherubic Hymn-Pl. 1st
His solo on the 'Trinity' during the Cherubic hymn👏
It is Truly Meet (Patriarchal)-Mode 1st
Trisagion Hymn & Dynamis; the left chanter is Taliadoros, the right is Stanitsas. A Synaxis of Giants.
 

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First wanted to correct something
Thank you Apostolos. Do you have any links to recordings of those folk? (or anyone else you think does this well. @Cavaradossi would also welcome any Greek recording you recommend too? [should have just cut it there]
Without the also it sounds really condescending/putting words into Carvadossi's mouth; I apologize for that. (I blame it on posting late at night without proofreading. Then I don't proofread most of my emails at work before I send.....maybe this is why I can't get promoted. :D )

Anyway, seriously, thank you @Apostolos. Will go through them. Interesting that it includes the 5th Eothinon; this has always been one of my favorites (in English) and I've never heard it in Greek. (the Triadi is also impressive, and I say this as one who generally doesn't like papaditic hymns - maybe because I'm just not used to them)



* For interested folks browsing this thread, 5th Eothinon lyrics:

Greek:
Ὢ τῶν σοφῶν σου κριμάτων Χριστέ!
πῶς Πέτρῳ μὲν τοῖς ὀθονίοις μόνοις,
ἔδωκας ἐννοῆσαί σου τὴν Ἀνάστασιν,

Λουκᾷ δὲ καὶ Κλεόπᾳ,
συμπορευόμενος ὡμίλεις,
καὶ ὁμιλῶν, οὐκ εὐθέως σεαυτὸν φανεροῖς;
Διὸ καὶ ὀνειδίζῃ,
ὡς μόνος παροικῶν ἐν Ἱερουσαλήμ,
καὶ μὴ μετέχων τῶν, ἐν τέλει βουλευμάτων αὐτῆς.
Ἀλλ' ὁ πάντα πρός τὸ τοῦ πλάσματος συμφέρον οἰκονομῶν,
καὶ τὰς περὶ σοῦ προφητείας ἀνέπτυξας,
καὶ ἐν τῷ εὐλογεῖν τὸν ἄρτον,
ἐγνώσθης αὐτοῖς,
ὧν καὶ πρὸ τούτου αἱ καρδίαι,
πρὸς γνῶσίν σου ἀνεφλέγοντο,

οἳ καὶ τοῖς Μαθηταῖς συνηθροισμένοις,
ἤδη τρανῶς ἐκήρυττόν σου τὴν Ἀνάστασιν,
δι' ἧς ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.

HTM English (quick and very approximate attempt to sync many of the English lines to the Greek):
O the wisdom of Thy judgments, O Christ!
For how is it that Thou gavest Peter to understand Thy Resurrection by Thy burial clothes alone,

Yet while accompanying Luke and Cleopas Thou didst converse with them,
And whilst conversing, didst not reveal Thyself straightway?
Hence, Thou wast reproached
As though Thou alone wert a stranger in Jerusalem,
Who knew not what had come to pass there of late.
But since Thou ordainest all things to the profit of Thy creation,
Thou didst expound the prophecies concerning Thee,
And in the blessing of the bread
Wast made known to them,
Whose hearts even beforehand
Were burning to know Thee.

Now they also, when the disciples were gathered together,
Loudly proclaimed Thy Resurrection;
Whereby do Thou have mercy on us.


And I guess as a bonus:

Presbytera Stacey Dorrance singing I believe HTM+St Anthony setting of the same Eothinon in English (this is the translation and setting I'm most used to)

Samuel Herron singing a slightlly different translation: (I think his hyphos is more "modern" while Theodosopoulos is older school on that front. But I admit I know very little about that.)
 

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And I guess as a bonus:

Presbytera Stacey Dorrance singing I believe HTM+St Anthony setting of the same Eothinon in English (this is the translation and setting I'm most used to)
The presbytera has a good voice but IMHO the tempo destroys her effort. The priest probably was in a hurry and waived to her to end it quickly, but the rushness is not appropriate to a Doxastikon (but we have all gone through that, what else can you do, the celebrating priest is the "boss" :rolleyes:).

Samuel Herron singing a slightlly different translation: (I think his hyphos is more "modern" while Theodosopoulos is older school on that front. But I admit I know very little about that.)
It seems to me that he's a follower of the Angelopoulos' school, with the invisible kentimata and all that (plus his tempo is almost impeccable, the late Angelopoulos was obsessed with tempo)
 

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The presbytera has a good voice but IMHO the tempo destroys her effort. The priest probably was in a hurry and waived to her to end it quickly, but the rushness is not appropriate to a Doxastikon (but we have all gone through that, what else can you do, the celebrating priest is the "boss" :rolleyes:).
I'm not going to say anything for or against her tempo.....

.... but it seems to me that the one person who can push back against the priest is presbytera. :D.


It seems to me that he's a follower of the Angelopoulos' school, with the invisible kentimata and all that (plus his tempo is almost impeccable, the late Angelopoulos was obsessed with tempo)
Cheater. You googled him. :D

In 2006, he spent three months studying under Lycourgos Angelopoulos, Archon Protopsaltis of the Archdiocese of Constantinople, Protopsaltis of Hagia Eirini in Athens, and director of the Greek Byzantine Choir, which Samuel performed with as an isokrates while living in Athens.
.

https://www.theliturgicalarts.org/samuel-herron

Just kidding of course.....seriously..... I've listened to several of his youtube videos and occasionally his parish livestream; I knew he spent time in Greece before but probably glossed over and forgot the Angelopoulos part. Either way, the instant you said "Angelopoulos", I thought to myself "yeah I'll believe that" - based on my recollection of the Angelopoulos recordings I have. And lo and behold that was the first result from a google search.


Anyway, to tempo: relistening to them last night, I do agree that Samuel's tempo is good - easy to sit down and hear and listen closely to the words and meaning. (I still prefer the HTM/St Anthony's setting though, even if it's only for the opening*) Is it a general rule that doxastika should be slower than the kekragaria or praises verses before? It makes sense (even from just reading the service books).

And do you have anything more (that's useful for someone who never met him) about Angelopoulos and his obsession about tempo?


* assuming you don't know much about the chaos that's Byzantine music in English, that setting is here for reference:
 

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And do you have anything more (that's useful for someone who never met him) about Angelopoulos and his obsession about tempo?


* assuming you don't know much about the chaos that's Byzantine music in English, that setting is here for reference:
I never met the man in person, from what I heard from friends who learnt the art under him, he was a gentle guy but very demanding as a teacher. And it's true, the correct tempo helps enormously in articulation. After all the music is there to help the people understand the theology, the text should have always supremacy over the music. Btw I have his theory (or rather Simon Karas' theory of Byzantine Music) in my library (two volumes of 300+ pages each):
Theoretikon.jpg
 

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This year I had a bless to be at Epiphany feast in Rila monastery with my Arab boyfriend. So, monks (and not only) were chanting in Church Slavonic (Bulgarian adaptations of Byzantine chant) and my boyfriend in Arabic (Arab adaptations), of course always the same tone - I mean not only that e.g once troparion was in this language and then in another one, but e.g Great Doxology: one line in Church Slavonic, second in Arabic and so on.

And it sounded really let's say, smooth.
 
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