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The Divine Liturgy as a Musical Work

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  • Stan Takis
    Hi, all. Sorry about the inactivity. I hope this gets out to everyone on the list. When I first became involved in Greek Orthodox music, I approached the
    Message 1 of 32 , Sep 8, 2005
      Hi, all. Sorry about the inactivity. I hope this gets out to everyone
      on the list.

      When I first became involved in Greek Orthodox music, I approached the
      liturgy as a "musical work," like an oratorio, cantata, or opera. All
      I saw were "the Roubanis liturgy," "the Desby liturgy," "the Bogdanos
      liturgy," etc. I even purchased recordings of the "Tchaikovsky
      liturgy" and the "Rachmaninov liturgy." In Lansing, our choir
      basically used the Gallos II liturgy every Sunday, but our director
      used to substitute various Cherubic, Consecration, and Communion
      Hymns. Some members of the parish council denounced this practice and
      said that the music of only one composer should be used for the entire
      liturgy in order to achieve "artistic consistency."

      I found I totally disagreed with this and realized that my conception
      of the liturgy had changed. Now I do not look upon it as a musical
      work from the first Amen to the last. It is a service, actually a
      series of services, of the church.

      Even the masses written by Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven were not
      complete musical works. They were just the ordinary parts of the mass,
      not the proper mass, which I assume used simpler music.

      I now think that certain parts of the Divine Liturgy must ALWAYS be
      chanted monophonically. It's a bit ridiculous to me to create several
      grand, 4-part polyphonic Kyrie Eleison's for the litanies. These
      should be simple, chanted responses to the petitions of the priest or

      Similarly, any hymn that tells a story or sermon, such as O Monogenis
      Ios, apolytikia, kontakia, etc. should also be chanted. The antiphons,
      which have a verse-short refrain (trope) format should be chanted.

      However, and here is where I disagree with strict traditionalists, I
      think it is entirely appropriate for the choir to sing a 4-part hymn
      at the normal "papadic" parts of the liturgy, where the music creates
      an atmosphere while the priest silently performs his sacred duties.
      Providing that the music is harmonically in the spirit of the tone of
      the week, I see no reason why trisagion, cherubic, victory,
      consecration, megalynarion, and Communion hymns cannot have 4-part
      choral arrangements and be inserted into the liturgy between the
      chanted parts. After all, the papadic forms of chant were once
      innovative elaborations to extend the time of the hymn. Why can not
      4-part choral writing also be an elaboration for the same purposes?

      I also believe that the 4-part amateur church choirs of America would
      benefit from not having to learn and rehearse a 4-part liturgy from
      beginning to end, and rather concentrate on a few pieces each Sunday.

      Of course, this does not mean we shouldn't use chant versions of the
      papadic hymns. I believe they should also be in the repertoire and
      performed often.

      I have just assumed the directorship of a church choir in Detroit. We
      have instituted Nancy's plagal fourth (major diatonic) liturgy as a
      base liturgy. I intend to add a first/fifth tone (minor diatonic)
      liturgy, a third tone (enharmonic) liturgy, and a plagal second
      (chromatic) liturgy to this. I want to use the minor diatonic liturgy
      for first tone and plagal first tone Sundays, the chromatic liturgy
      for second and plagal second tone Sundays, the enharmonic liturgy for
      third and grave tone Sundays, and the major diatonic for fourth and
      plagal fourth tone Sundays.

      In addition to these basic chant liturgies, I would like to insert
      some 4-part choral works for some of the papadic hymns. For example,
      on eighth tone Sundays, I may use the Bortniansky Cherubic Hymn #7. On
      chromatic Sundays, I may use the Maragos cherubic or the Desby Enite
      ton Kyrion. On minor diatonic Sundays, I may insert the George Raptis
      trisagion or Se Imnumen, etc. There is a long list of choral music by
      many composers that would be appropriate.

      Just because all the music was not written by the same composer, or
      that chant and choral music are mixed, does not mean that the liturgy
      cannot an uplifting service that sanctifies the priest and the people
      and prepares them to receive the Holy Gifts.

    • dananetherton
      ... I think I understand. It can be hard to talk with one group of people while one is checking his back, on the lookout for someone else! As I mentioned
      Message 32 of 32 , Sep 12, 2005
        --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stan Takis"
        <takistan@y...> wrote:
        > Dear Dana and Fr. Ephraim:
        > Dana, don't worry too much. I'm mostly just wondering right now.
        > This is really from my conversations with Georgios. <snip>

        I think I understand. It can be hard to talk with one group of
        people while one is checking his back, on the lookout for someone

        As I mentioned earlier, I think that *in the long run* Orthodox chant
        here will simply be called "American Chant", in the way that we speak
        of "Romanian Chant" or "Antiochian Chant" (which are heavily
        influenced by Byzantine Chant). In that setting, Georgios's "pure"
        terminology will probably work well.

        However, in the present day, we in the GOA must (IMHO) make
        distinctions between what our "chanting" composers make, and what
        our "harmonizing" composers make ... if only so that we can give the
        faithful a simple explanation if they happen to notice the
        different "sounds" of these two kinds of compositions.

        Also, we in the GOA must (IMHO) make distinctions between what our
        GOA composers make, and what other Orthodox composers in the US make
        (in the OCA, in the Antiochian Archdiocese, and in the many other
        jurisdictions here).

        For one thing, in the OCA and other jurisdictions that use Russian-
        style music, they are using "harmonizing" music in a different spirit
        than we use "harmonizing" music in the GOA. In the GOA, it's a
        recent break from tradition and is seen only in the U.S. In the OCA
        and elsewhere, the break occurred several centuries ago (in the late
        1600s), and the resulting music was brought *to* this country from
        the Old Country by the faithful in those jurisdictions.

        As a result (I think) of that history in those jurisdictions, when I
        follow mailing lists like OrthoPSALMS, whose members are *much* more
        likely to be from OCA-type jurisdictions, the posts from people who
        want to reverse their Church's use of "harmonizing" compositions come
        almost entirely from the GOA. I've only seen two or three people
        there who have been exploring or trying to revive the use of pre-
        harmonizing chant in that musical tradition ... and, come to think of
        it, one of them is an Old Believer whose Church never abandoned that
        form of chant.

        Which of course was one reason why you needed to start *this* list:
        because the discussions among us GOA folks were bewildering the non-
        GOA folks!

        So (IMHO) we need to be able to speak of the "traditional"
        harmonizing in the OCA etc, and the "untraditional" harmonizing in
        the GOA. Which means that we need a name for a "traditional" musical
        approach, in English, in the GOA. Georgios doesn't need such a name,
        but then he's not in the GOA any more.

        > Also, I know it doesn't seem like it, but I have praised Frs.
        > Seraphim and Ephraim's English work, among others, including
        > Jessica and David Melling. <snip>

        Glad to hear it, and thanks to our face-to-face conversation a few
        months ago I am glad to be able to say that I believe you!

        All that I'm doing *here* is to offer some feedback on your
        effectiveness in getting that across *here*: your good opinion of
        them isn't always as evident to Folks Out Here as it might feel
        like. :-) And, alas, the perception of Folks Out Here about that
        could color their readiness to respond favorably to suggestions.

        Yours in Christ,

        Dana Netherton
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