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Sun of Justice: Byzantine Chant for Christmas in Greek, Arabic, and English

scamandrius

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Rev. Dcn. John El Massih of the Antiochian Archdiocese and Protopsaltis for the AANA and John Michael Boyer, Protopsaltis for the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco and a member of Capella Romana were classmates at Holy Cross seminary and were often paired together for Vespers and Orthros which began a long time of chanting together which formed the impetus for this project coming to fruition almost 20 years later.  Together they formed Proto which means first (it is the Greek dual form) as they are both first chanters in their respective jurisdictions.

This is a 2 CD set.  The first CD are hymns for Royal hours of Nativity and for the feast itself chanted in either Greek or Arabic.  The Greek settings are generally from Peter the Peloponnesian and the Arabic settings are generally from Mitri El Murr, though some other composers including Dr. Ioannis Arvanitis are also included. The second CD contains all the same hymns as on the first, but strictly in English.  The English text used are the translations of the late English priest, Fr. Ephrem Lash who died a few years back and was also John Michael Boyer's spiritual father.  The musical settings are the compositions of John Michael Boyer who has established himsel as a preeminent composer of traditional chant for the English language.  Comparing the hymns in Greek/Arabic and English side by side will give the listener exposure to how these languages used by Orthodox Christians interact with the music.  This will also allow listeners, especially those who may be chanters themselves, an avenue to appreciate and bridge the "gap", as  Alex Khalil describes in his notes, between "old world" chanting and that of the new world.

There is also an extensive packet included of notes on the text including the original Greek and Arabic with English transliterations. John MIchael Boyer also pens an introduction describing his methodology when composing chant in the English language.

This is a wonderful CD for so many reasons.  The lack of English, authentic English, recordings of chant is only something that has begun to be remedied.  Much of the work done by St. Anthony's in Arizona is key to that, but with Rev. Dcn. John now in a position of some authority in the AANA, particularly in its sacred music division, it is the hope that more authentic Byzantine chant in English will be generated instead of relying on Kazan which many regard past its prime or even obsolete.  The chanting itself is well done and very easily understood especially the English. I do not know enough Arabic to critique its pronunciation in a chanted fashion but I'm assuming that since everything Rev. Dcn. John touches is of good quality, such is the case here.  The selections include some of the more "popular" hymns of this particular feast.

My only complaint about the recording is that the selections alternate between John Michael Boyer and Rev. Dcn. John and that there is no "choir".  I'm more a fan of choir recordings than individuals, but that's just personal preference.  There is a very strong isonkratima provided by four individuals whom I believe are also members of Capella Romana.

This is a great Christmas gift for the chanter you know. You can order it from Capella Romana's website.  It costs $24.99.

Also, there may be a possibility that John Michael Boyer will make his English chant compositions available sometime soon.  John is an acquaintance of mine through professional circles so if anyone is interested, I'll pass that along to him.
 
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