Re: Why do we have choirs?
- Dear Alexandros,
I appreciate your comments and would like to address your two analogies
besides proposing one of my own.
Iconoclasm was a heresy, of course. Use of an electronic organ, as much
as we both may dislike this, does fall into a different category. I agree that
in many or most parishes of the GOA it really should not be so difficult or
controversial to phase out the use of the organ. The Antiochians have
managed to take this step over the past few years. If this is not happening
in the GOA as a whole, we musicians can at least effect this change in our
own parishes, and politely tell people the many good reasons for doing so.
I've done my part in this regard for the past 20+ years.
As an aside, I can't adequately convey my amazement when I went to an
Antiochian church for the Passion Gospels service one Holy Week during the
1980s. There was an organist there who played mood music thoughout the
reading of the Gospels. (!!!) It couldn't ever get worse than that anywhere.
I was surprised that you regard Nikon as "fixing some of the Russian
divergences from tradition." Every scholar I'm aware of would say that Nikon's
reforms brought the Russians in line with current and more recent Greek
liturgical customs. Nikon was simply wrong in his contention that the practices
he advocated were more ancient and more "traditional" than those he replaced.
Today, in a charitable mood we might call Nikon's vision pan-Orthodox. Still, it's
hard to see any positive value in his ill advised actions.
Early in the 20th century the Carpathians were the majority Orthodox ethnic
group in the US, many having entered the Orthodox Church from the Unia.
These people were pushed by their Russian hierarchs to abandon their distinctive
musical traditions, which included robust congregational singing. This popular and
vital musical tradition was replaced by choirs singing the more prestigious choral
music of Russia. The change provoked much resentment, and weakened the
movement toward the Orthodox Church on the part of Carpathians in communion
with Rome. While this is only an analogy, I think it's very important that those who
advocate the eradication of choral music in the GOA in favor of exclusive use of
unharmonized chant with ison see that their approach could pose some pastoral
All the best!
See what's free at http://www.aol.com.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Stan Takis" <takistan@...>
>(Responding late, sorry)
> --- In email@example.com, "dananetherton" <dana@>
> > One practical benefit has to do with the shortage of skilled
> > cantors.
> > Another is (let's be frank) the opportunity it affords our devoted
> > ladies to take an active role in the worship of the Church.
> Dear Dana:
> True. And let's not forget the assimilation issue. We are still
> assimilating. The US is overwhelmingly Protestant and Catholic, and
> there are many in our Orthodox Church who do not see why we cannot
> be more like them.
"Still assimilating" ... could be, could be. At the same time, of
course, Nia Vardolos fought off Hollywood attempts to change "My Big
Fat Greek Wedding" into something Jewish, or Italian -- because by gum
she *didn't* want the distinctively *Greek-American* elements in her
story to be assimilated into the generic "Mediterranean immigrant" story.
And thanks to the clout that Rita Wilson (producer, and Tom Hanks's
Greek-American wife -- on whose behalf *he* became Orthodox) had built
up in Hollywood, she didn't have to.
And Michael Constantine (for one) could finally *play* a Big Fat Role
that is in his own ethnic background -- perhaps his 5th "Greek"
character in a 35+ year career with 164 appearances (according to
This is consistent with what's happening with other ethnic groups in
America: the byword is no longer "melting pot", getting melted into
"Americans"; the byword is "diversity" and "heritage".
So the assimilation process no longer has to go on to the point where
visible Greek-ness (and visible Orthodoxy) disappears. The "Greek"
part of "Greek-American" (and by extension the "Orthodox" part of
"Greek Orthodox") no longer has to disappear in favor of the
Perhaps it's the younger generation (like Nia Vardolos and Rita
Wilson) that recognizes this, and the older generation that still
clings to the old model of assimilation?
But it's true that assimilation has been part of the history. Back
when I was regularly on Usenet, a cynical Greek-American who also
regularly posted there asserted that the GOA would be gone in another
generation or two -- as the young bail out to join the Protestant
churches, while the old insist on using Greek-and-only-Greek.
That mindset *can* cripple a parish -- I know an OCA parish in my
metro area that nearly perished because of it (different ethnic, same
Perhaps the younger generation -- those members who stick with the
Church despite these frustrations -- will be the ones to break free of
the "assimilation" approach to Orthodoxy. That's certainly the age
range where I see interest in learning Chant. And it's certainly the
age range where (in my own little parochial patch) I see zero interest
in joining the choir.
-- Dana Netherton