Dear Stan, I m glad you are raising this important question. As you pointed out in your post, the majority of music used today in the Greek Orthodox churces ofMessage 1 of 5 , Jul 13, 2005View SourceDear Stan,
I'm glad you are raising this important question.
As you pointed out in your post, the majority of music used today in the
Greek Orthodox churces of America clearly exhibits a break from
tradition. Whenever a small part of the Orthodox Church suddenly breaks
away from the received traditions of our holy Church, we should be very
suspicious that such innovations are not from the Holy Spirit but from
men, especially when that minority is criticized by spiritual
authorities (such as saints and synods). As I have elaborated in the
introduction to my music book (see
http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/music/Intro_2.htm ) Western-style
polyphony was subject to such criticism. Although this polyphony has
been around in America for enough decades for people to think it is
traditional, those of us who are aware of the historical reality should
not let such an erroneous attitude prevail.
In the webpage of mine I mentioned, I have also quoted Dr. Constantine
Cavarnos and Dr. Dimitri Conomos, who express their concern regarding
polyphony's spiritual drawbacks. But I think the strongest argument
against polyphony is this: Saints and synods have condemned the use of
Western-style polyphony, but no saint or synod has ever condemned the
use of traditional Byzantine-style homophony. I think this fact alone
should make any Orthodox supporters of Western-style polyphony uneasy.
On Thu, 14 Jul 2005 02:08:51 -0000, "Stan Takis" <takistan@...>
> Dear List Members:--
> Over the next few weeks, I would like to discuss the propriety of the
> music we use in American Greek Orthodox Churches. What is appropriate
> music for the American Greek Orthodox Church? Tradition is an
> important tenet of Orthodoxy, and the Greek Orthodox Church has a
> clearly defined traditional music. Other Orthodox jurisdictions have
> veered from that tradition, but the Greek Orthodox Church in America
> has more than veered away. Some say that in the last 90 years or so,
> the GOA has obliterated the traditional music. Traditional melodies
> were replaced by the simplified lines of John Sakellarides in the
> early 20th Century. These melodies were then used as a basis for
> richly harmonized polyphonic arrangements for mixed choirs with organ
> accompaniment. This music has become the standard music in America for
> the Divine Liturgy and a few other well-attended services. The
> addition of the English language has caused a further musical
> separation from the old music. Interestingly enough, the traditional
> music continues to live in the less-well-attended services, such as
> Vespers and Orthros. Since it is obvious that this music, if properly
> performed, is indeed traditional and appropriate, I will direct my
> comments to the subject of the aforementioned choral music used mainly
> in the Divine Liturgy.
> Until I began actually listening to the music of the Church chanters,
> I identified the music of the mixed choirs and organ as the only Greek
> Orthodox music. I accepted as fact that the music of the chanters and
> the music of the choir were two completely different things. I had no
> idea that the latter originated with the former, and that somehow the
> two became disconnected. In most American churches, this disconnection
> has become a chasm. In some ways, the choral music of the American
> church has become a tradition itself. Efforts to return to an older
> Greek tradition are often met with resistance and indignation that a
> tradition is being supplanted.
> ***The question is this: Is the polyphonic music of the American
> Church appropriate enough to become a tradition worthy of the ideals
> and doctrines of the Greek Orthodox Church?***
> I do not have a predetermined answer to this question, which is why
> I'm bringing it up. Therefore I would like to examine a SINGLE aspect
> of this music at a time until all of the controversial aspects have
> been discussed. The purpose of this discussion is not to come up with
> any kind of answer or solution, but just to help everybody who is
> involved in the music of the Greek Orthodox Church, including myself,
> to come up with his or her own understanding that may contribute to a
> future consensus on what our music should be. The next post I send
> will be about a single topic and we can see where it goes from there.
> Yahoo! Groups Links
Hello, Interesting way to approach this controversial subject. I actually wanted to reply to the general opener because of some interesting things that youMessage 1 of 5 , Jul 13, 2005View SourceHello,
Interesting way to approach this controversial
subject. I actually wanted to reply to the general
opener because of some interesting things that you
said as a "cradle" Orthodox when viewed from my
perspective as a convert to Greek Orthodoxy (I was
raised Southern Baptist--I'm from Kentucky
> Other Orthodox jurisdictions have veeredFirst, I'm still unclear as to why and how this
> from that tradition, but the Greek Orthodox
> Church in America has more than veered away.
happened. Sakellarides and his musical descendants,
from what I can tell, had the blessings and
encouragements of the Archbishops. If they were
Westernizing the original Eastern Byzantine chant,
then why was this moving away from tradition supported
and embraced? Was it simply the case of a new
immigrant group trying to blend in and assimilate into
the American culture? Similarly, was it in part
because the chanting was in Greek and the chanters
that emigrated to the US weren't native speakers of
English and therefore were perhaps not comfortable
improvising a translation in such an important and
sacred context? Or because they continued to chant in
Greek, while the children in the parish were growing
up learning and speaking English?
Was it a lack of qualified chanters immigrating
to the US? Was it a lack of emphasis and effort to
produce effective training schools, workshops, and
study materials to teach Byzantine chant in the US?
Was it a lack of money? Was it all of the above and
something else I haven't mentioned?
I'll post my other questions separately.
Justin "Chrysostomos" Bates
Hello again, ... I guess my question would be even more general than that: how does something become an official tradition of the church? Does a councilMessage 1 of 5 , Jul 13, 2005View SourceHello again,
> ***The question is this: Is the polyphonic music ofI guess my question would be even more general than
> the American
> Church appropriate enough to become a tradition
> worthy of the ideals
> and doctrines of the Greek Orthodox Church?***
that: how does something become an "official"
tradition of the church? Does a council have to meet
about it? Does it just gradually develop?
To a lesser degree, there are other unofficial
traditions that are alive and well in American Greek
Orthodoxy. Fasting and receiving communion are two
good examples. As a convert who would ask questions
of the Greek Orthodox people I knew, both young and
old, I heard all kinds of practices when it came to
fasting and when and how often someone should receive
communion. As I understand it, part of this
divergence of practice is due to the disruption for
centuries of appropriate religious education for
clergy AND laity by various Islamic regimes.
Nevertheless, if fasting rules are laid out in the
church cannons, who are we to alter them? Similarly,
if the church cannons, of which I am ashamed to admit
almost complete ignorance, specify certain musical
forms as appropriate, then who are we to change
At the same time, there is the well know Psalm that
says, "Make a joyful noise to God," (Psalm 66:1, RSV).
Psalm 33:1-3 talks about shouting praises to God
accompanied by a lyre. Other similar Psalms that make
reference to using various instruments in praising God
include Psalm 81 and Psalm 98.
So what is the Orthodox understanding of these Psalms
as they relate to...
A) Church cannons
B) Worship music generally
and C) the Divine Liturgy specifically?
... I ve noticed a sort of animosity between chanters and choirs in many different parishes. As a convert, one of the things that drew me to Orthodoxy was theMessage 1 of 5 , Jul 13, 2005View Source
> Until I began actually listening to theI've noticed a sort of animosity between chanters and
> music of the Church chanters, I
> identified the music of the mixed choirs
> and organ as the only Greek Orthodox music.
> I accepted as fact that the music of the
> chanters and the music of the choir were
> two completely different things. I had no
> idea that the latter originated with the
> former, and that somehow the two became
> disconnected. In most American churches,
> this disconnection has become a chasm.
choirs in many different parishes.
As a convert, one of the things that drew me to
Orthodoxy was the beauty and simplicity of Byzantine
chant. As I enter the sanctuary during Orthros
(usually after the chanters have already started
because although a non-Greek I have innate "Greek
time"!), and I hear (good) chanting, I feel like I am
not only stepping into a holy place, but I also feel
like I am stepping back into history.
Contrast this to my parents' Southern Baptist church
in Kentucky. Growing up we had instrumental
music--piano and organ--and a choir of men and women.
Today, the Sunday worship service is usually led by a
youth praise band standing in front of the
congregation (where our iconostasis and alter would
be) playing guitars and drums. If it helps, picture
your parish's GOYA doing auditions for the TV show
American Idol. :) It seems so much less reverent
than traditional chant.
The congregation is supposed to sing along with the
band to songs which have their lyrics projected onto a
screen behind the band (where our giant icon of the
Holy Theotokos would be). Although there is a piano
and organ and hymnals, they are rarely used. While
some older songs are still sung, most songs are
popular Christian music songs. I guess you could say
that growing up Southern Baptist has left me a little
uneasy about polyphony in Orthodoxy, because I can see
where we can end up 200 years from now. I wonder
which icon in the iconostasis they will place the drum
set in front of?
My alternative hope for the future would be a Divine
Liturgy with an actively participating congregation
(reading and chanting along with the chanters) and a
group of male chanters on one side of the iconostasis
and a group of female chanters on the other side of
the iconostasis. During the liturgy, particularly
during the Antiphons, they would alternate responses.
But hey, it's late (midnight) as I'm typing this here
on the East Coast, so maybe I'm becoming delusional
I look forward to reading your responses.