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Re: Why do we have choirs?

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  • Stan Takis
    ... this ... church music ... end to ... singing an ... Dear Kevin: Maybe so, but the sudden end came in the 18th Century from the reforms of Peter the Great,
    Message 1 of 46 , May 15, 2007
      --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, kjlawrence@... wrote:

      > In the same way the Russians of the 17th century were influenced by
      > Western
      > European musical tradition; once they were exposed to it their
      church music
      > changed.
      > (Alexandros, please be aware that this change did not "put a sudden
      end to
      > their 700
      > year long tradition of monophonic chant," as they had already been
      singing an
      > indigenous
      > style of harmony for around 100 years.)

      Dear Kevin:

      Maybe so, but the sudden end came in the 18th Century from the reforms
      of Peter the Great, who in a few years time, built a new capital in
      the West and
      Westernized the culture. He banned the old music and hired Church
      composers trained in Italy and patterned the music after the
      Catholics. He and his successors pursued and persecuted the Old
      Believers until, by the end of the 18th Century, they were almost out
      of the country. The change was so sudden and complete and the old
      chants were completely exterminated, that when, in the latter part of
      the 19th Century a Slavic council sat down to correct the music and
      install an eight-tone system, no one knew how the old modes sounded,
      and they came up with an octoechos based largely on the Ukranian form
      of chant. The reforms of Peter were indeed a sudden end and far from a

      > Similarly, Sakellarides and Roubanis
      > show the
      > influence of Western European common musical practice, which had
      > the
      > cultural life of Greece during their time.

      Yes, but they did not do away with the Byzantine octoechos. Desby
      points out that Sakellaridis, with Tillyard in tow, tried to comb out
      the "Turkish" trills, and Roubanis carefully wrote out the Byzantine
      Orthros music into staff notation, neume by neume.

      > I think the real questions which should occupy our energy, as
      opposed to
      > questions which are
      > more a dead end, would be along the lines of: how can we help our
      people to
      > appreciate and
      > assimilate the great inheritance of Byzantine chant, and what music
      can we
      > provide, truly in
      > keeping with the larger Orthodox tradition, to those who lack the
      skills and
      > resources to sing
      > the Byzantine chant we may regard as ideal.

      I agree with this, and that's exactly what we trying to do on
      newbyz.org. Not just with the sheet music, but also with the articles
      explaining to Americans the basic structure of the daily cycle of
      services, the octoechos, and the hymnody. I know you are doing this as
      well in most of your more recent arrangements which use less triadic
      harmony and more drones.


    • dananetherton
      ... (Responding late, sorry) Still assimilating ... could be, could be. At the same time, of course, Nia Vardolos fought off Hollywood attempts to change My
      Message 46 of 46 , Jun 1, 2007
        --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stan Takis" <takistan@...>
        > --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "dananetherton" <dana@>
        > wrote:
        > > 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.

        (Responding late, sorry)

        "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
        IMDB, <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0176073/>).

        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
        "American" part.

        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
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