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Re: A Reader in the Orthodox Church

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  • mskgz
    Thank you for posting this. I found it to be very interesting. I am curious about the groups views of one of his points, being point 6 in Section II. Fr.
    Message 1 of 11 , Feb 22, 2011
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      Thank you for posting this. I found it to be very interesting. I am curious about the groups views of one of his points, being point 6 in Section II. Fr. Geoffrey suggests that the chanting of a reader should be done in relative monotone so as not to glorify the voice and distract the listener. While I certainly agree that the reader should not be "performing" I have found the reading in a monotone to be quite distracting and not conducive to the teaching of the word.

      What are other people's thoughts on that? I am going to be conducting a session on the reading of the Epistle for some of the younger members and would be interested in your views.

      Michael

      Michael S. Khoury
      St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church


      --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "pravoslavney" <pravoslavney@...> wrote:
      >
      > Saw this in a serch.
      >
      > http://www.asna.ca/resources/readers-guide.pdf
      >
      > Rdr Timothy Tadros
      >
    • Theophan Dort
      ... I think almost any style of reading can be done in a way that is distracting or essentially the same style can be done in a way that helps the words come
      Message 2 of 11 , Feb 22, 2011
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        > I have found the reading in a monotone to be quite distracting and not conducive to the teaching of the word.
        >
        > What are other people's thoughts on that?
        >


        I think almost any style of reading can be done in a way that is distracting or essentially the same style can be done in a way that helps the words come across. I've heard people read in a monotone that almost sounded computer-generated, almost as if designed to try to lull you to sleep, but I think that when reading with attention to the meaning of the holy words on almost entirely a monotone with rather subtle changes such as a half-step higher or lower pitch just to make clear the phrasing, the "punctuation," if you will, things you'd have picked up from the printed page but might miss in "robotic" reading, is close to ideal.

        I've heard a few individuals read with a simple sort of recurring melody where it enhanced the text, helping one focus on the meaning of the words without "interpreting" it, but I'm afraid that in my own opinion, anyway, the great majority of the time even a simple melody in reading, especially when applied "on the fly," winds up distracting from the meaning of the words. To take a very common example, in many churches the Epistle is read starting on a very low pitch, and very slowly by half-step increments rising at the end to a much higher pitch. This is great IF the reading happens to naturally build to a climax on the last line. But that's not always the case! Sometimes the last line is NOT the most important line in the reading, and this style of reading then forces a climactic emphasis on a place where the holy words do not naturally put it, which is a distortion of the holy words.

        A similar, though usually more subtle, thing can happen with even the simplest melodies in reading. Melodies have a "shape," often starting at a relatively restful pitch, then moving up or down to a pitch that feels somehow "farther from home," sort of "off balance," leaving the listener waiting for it to "resolve" to the home note. Well, IF that happens to parallel the "shape" of the movement of ideas in the text, that can be wonderful! But way too many times I've heard a reader trying to read in a "beautiful" way allow a melody to unwittingly link concepts that are logically separate, stress concepts that logically should have been unstressed, de-emphasize more important concepts, all by applying even a very simple melody to the text. Skillfully done, music can add beauty and enhance understanding, but composers take time outside of the services to sort out how to do that, and readers using their "usual reading melody" and applying that "on the fly" are very likely to wind up sacrificing clarity of the presentation of the holy words for intended beauty of the delivery.

        This (http://www.roca.org/OA/157/157k.htm) is an article I found helpful when I was beginning to read, in which it says, in part,

        "One must read in one's natural voice, and not in an assumed one. One should not read in low pitches: The reading then turns out muffled, inaudible, and the reader quickly becomes tired. For reading, one needs to take the pitch of the tone closest to the pitch of his natural voice while singing. One should read simply, evenly, in a chanting voice (as if half singing), on one pitch, with small raisings and lowerings of the voice (one tone or half tone). This has been the manner of reading in the Orthodox Church from earliest times."

        Theophan

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Philip Silouan Thompson
        ... I suspect that has less to do with a canting voice and more to do with approaching the text without preparation. I hope we re all reading the texts
        Message 3 of 11 , Feb 22, 2011
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          On 2/22/11 8:02 PM, Theophan Dort wrote:
          > ...But way too many times I've heard a reader trying to read in a
          > "beautiful" way allow a melody to unwittingly link concepts that are
          > logically separate, stress concepts that logically should have been
          > unstressed, de-emphasize more important concepts, all by applying even
          > a very simple melody to the text.

          I suspect that has less to do with a canting voice and more to do with
          approaching the text without preparation.

          I hope we're all reading the texts *before* the service: planning where
          to pause, where to breathe, and which phrases to connect. Trying to
          sight-read a complicated text -- especially when St Paul waxes
          parenthetical -- will make the reading confusing to the hearers. And
          when that happens, it only reveals my casual lack of preparedness as a
          reader.

          The parish community who have gathered to hear the scriptures and use
          them in worship deserve better than me showing up and "winging it."

          Just my experience,

          Silouan
        • James
          As with anything else in the services, if you have a question about what you are to do or sing, ask your priest! I thought that was the first directive for
          Message 4 of 11 , Feb 24, 2011
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            As with anything else in the services, if you have a question about what you are to do or sing, ask your priest!
            I thought that was the first directive for readers, but perhaps I was mistaken?

            Rdr. James Morgan
            Olympia, WA

            PS If your priest doesn't know, he should ask the bishop, eh?

            --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "mskgz" <mskgz@...> wrote:
            >
            > Thank you for posting this. I found it to be very interesting. I am curious about the groups views of one of his points, being point 6 in Section II. Fr. Geoffrey suggests that the chanting of a reader should be done in relative monotone so as not to glorify the voice and distract the listener. While I certainly agree that the reader should not be "performing" I have found the reading in a monotone to be quite distracting and not conducive to the teaching of the word.
            >
            > What are other people's thoughts on that? I am going to be conducting a session on the reading of the Epistle for some of the younger members and would be interested in your views.
            >
            > Michael
            >
            > Michael S. Khoury
            > St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church
            >
            >
            > --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "pravoslavney" <pravoslavney@> wrote:
            > >
            > > Saw this in a serch.
            > >
            > > http://www.asna.ca/resources/readers-guide.pdf
            > >
            > > Rdr Timothy Tadros
            > >
            >
          • mskgz
            Of course I always discuss these issues with my priest. I was asking for people s thoughts on this article s suggestion that a monotone chant is best.
            Message 5 of 11 , Feb 25, 2011
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              Of course I always discuss these issues with my priest. I was asking for people's thoughts on this article's suggestion that a monotone chant is best.

              --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "James" <rdrjames@...> wrote:
              >
              > As with anything else in the services, if you have a question about what you are to do or sing, ask your priest!
              > I thought that was the first directive for readers, but perhaps I was mistaken?
              >
              > Rdr. James Morgan
              > Olympia, WA
              >
              > PS If your priest doesn't know, he should ask the bishop, eh?
            • mshorthose
              As a reader-designate in our convert parish, I find that our Priest interferes very little in reader/choir matters and I will only bother him about an issue
              Message 6 of 11 , Feb 25, 2011
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                As a reader-designate in our convert parish, I find that our Priest "interferes" very little in reader/choir matters and I will only bother him about an issue if I really have doubt.
                Moderation in everything is key I think - pare down your ideas of melody as much as possible unless a specific melody is called for, such as the 'special melody' for the reading of 'Dry Bones'.
                Have a search on the interweb for such melodies as many will have been shared.

                I am also choir leader and I find that in this capacity as well as that of reader it is good assist the Priest as much as possible - especially if they are perhaps less musical.
                Thus, choose a reciting note which is comfortable for the reader as well as the Priest.
                If, for example, the Trisagion Prayers at Vespers are pitched too high, the Priest might struggle to match the reader at the end of the Lord's Prayer. He might pitch in a totally abstract key as a result and completely baffle the choir who are searching for a chord for the Amen.
                This is developed over time but as it is the Reader's responsibility to serve the Priest, he should be the one who fits in with the Priest's lead.
                It is quite satisfying if it all works!

                I think to record oneself in action and listen back critically is a good idea.
                Maybe hide a video camera under the choir desk for this purpose and listen at home afterwards.
                In this way I determined that my reading of prayers was too fast.
                While it was perfectly understandable, it sounded rushed and I really wasn't aware of this and the Priest had made no comment.

                Finally, as has already been said.
                Prepare, prepare, prepare.
                Read through everything - you never know when some weird name is going to take you by surprise at the very least.

                In Christ,
                The inadequate and sinful reader,
                Martin
                --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "mskgz" <mskgz@...> wrote:
                >
                > Of course I always discuss these issues with my priest. I was asking for people's thoughts on this article's suggestion that a monotone chant is best.
                >
                > --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "James" <rdrjames@> wrote:
                > >
                > > As with anything else in the services, if you have a question about what you are to do or sing, ask your priest!
                > > I thought that was the first directive for readers, but perhaps I was mistaken?
                > >
                > > Rdr. James Morgan
                > > Olympia, WA
                > >
                > > PS If your priest doesn't know, he should ask the bishop, eh?
                >
              • Deacon Michael Bishop
                Personally I think that asking on the list is as good as asking one s priest or bishop in many cases. The bishop does not have time to answer many of these
                Message 7 of 11 , Feb 25, 2011
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                  Personally I think that asking on the list is as good as asking one's
                  priest or bishop in many cases. The bishop does not have time to answer
                  many of these questions. Some times it is a matter of preference.

                  It seems to me that the idea of these lists is to exchange ideas. If we
                  always answer "Ask your priest," then there is no exchange. I once had
                  a discussion with my priest on something and neither one of us knew the
                  answer, so with his blessing I posted the question on a list and
                  specifically stated that my priest ask me to post the question.
                  Somebody immediately responded "Ask your priest."

                  Plus the priest might have wrong or incomplete information and asking on
                  the list could be an avenue of learning for the priest. I am really
                  grateful that I have been able to ask many questions on the lists and
                  there have been some wonderful discussions for some of these questions.

                  Deacon Michael

                  On 2/25/2011 9:35 AM, mskgz wrote:
                  > Of course I always discuss these issues with my priest. I was asking for people's thoughts on this article's suggestion that a monotone chant is best.
                  >
                  > --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "James"<rdrjames@...> wrote:
                  >> As with anything else in the services, if you have a question about what you are to do or sing, ask your priest!
                  >> I thought that was the first directive for readers, but perhaps I was mistaken?
                  >>
                  >> Rdr. James Morgan
                  >> Olympia, WA
                  >>
                  >> PS If your priest doesn't know, he should ask the bishop, eh?
                  >
                  >

                  --
                  Deacon Michael Bishop
                  PO Box 422
                  Baltimore MD 21203
                  http://www.Michael-Bishop.com

                  See you at the Russian Festival
                  14-16 October 2011
                • James
                  You make some good points here, especially in your second paragraph, on choosing the reciting notes. Problem arises (as I have experienced!) with
                  Message 8 of 11 , Feb 26, 2011
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                    You make some good points here, especially in your second paragraph, on choosing the reciting notes. Problem arises (as I have experienced!) with tone-challanged clergy who land on whatever pitch is handy, regardless of what choir is singing! Can get almost anarchic at times. But shrug and go onward and upward!

                    Also, might help if choir rehearses with priest and vice versa, from time to time...Personally I've found that that helps a lot.

                    Rdr. James

                    --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "mshorthose" <treacleshouse@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > As a reader-designate in our convert parish, I find that our Priest "interferes" very little in reader/choir matters and I will only bother him about an issue if I really have doubt.
                    > Moderation in everything is key I think - pare down your ideas of melody as much as possible unless a specific melody is called for, such as the 'special melody' for the reading of 'Dry Bones'.
                    > Have a search on the interweb for such melodies as many will have been shared.
                    >
                    > I am also choir leader and I find that in this capacity as well as that of reader it is good assist the Priest as much as possible - especially if they are perhaps less musical.
                    > Thus, choose a reciting note which is comfortable for the reader as well as the Priest.
                    > If, for example, the Trisagion Prayers at Vespers are pitched too high, the Priest might struggle to match the reader at the end of the Lord's Prayer. He might pitch in a totally abstract key as a result and completely baffle the choir who are searching for a chord for the Amen.
                    > This is developed over time but as it is the Reader's responsibility to serve the Priest, he should be the one who fits in with the Priest's lead.
                    > It is quite satisfying if it all works!
                    >
                    > I think to record oneself in action and listen back critically is a good idea.
                    > Maybe hide a video camera under the choir desk for this purpose and listen at home afterwards.
                    > In this way I determined that my reading of prayers was too fast.
                    > While it was perfectly understandable, it sounded rushed and I really wasn't aware of this and the Priest had made no comment.
                    >
                    > Finally, as has already been said.
                    > Prepare, prepare, prepare.
                    > Read through everything - you never know when some weird name is going to take you by surprise at the very least.
                    >
                    > In Christ,
                    > The inadequate and sinful reader,
                    > Martin
                  • James
                    PS As to speed in reading things, one might ask various members of the congregation if they are comprehending what you are reading, particularly things like
                    Message 9 of 11 , Feb 26, 2011
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                      PS As to speed in reading things, one might ask various members of the congregation if they are comprehending what you are reading, particularly things like the six psalms and the epistle.

                      Rdr. James morgan

                      --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "mshorthose" <treacleshouse@...> wrote:

                      > ......I think to record oneself in action and listen back critically is a good idea.
                      > Maybe hide a video camera under the choir desk for this purpose and listen at home afterwards.
                      > In this way I determined that my reading of prayers was too fast.
                      > While it was perfectly understandable, it sounded rushed and I really wasn't aware of this and the Priest had made no comment.
                      >
                      > Finally, as has already been said.
                      > Prepare, prepare, prepare.
                      > Read through everything - you never know when some weird name is going to take you by surprise at the very least.
                      >
                      > In Christ,
                      > The inadequate and sinful reader,
                      > Martin
                    • Alex Langley
                      Remember, brothers, we know that our church reading and church singing are not a performance. As readers, we are co-servants with the other clergy and the
                      Message 10 of 11 , Feb 27, 2011
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                        Remember, brothers, we know that our church reading and church singing
                        are not a performance.

                        As readers, we are co-servants with the other clergy and the choir of
                        that parish to HELP PEOPLE PRAY and prepare to receive the Eucharist.

                        Some people just don't have the talent to tone-match. Musicians will
                        have to decide how much to let this be a bother.

                        One could certainly decide that tone-challenged clergy is not a big
                        issue in the grand scheme of things. God will sooner hear that which
                        is prayed with humility of heart than that which is proudly intoned
                        beautifully according to human ears.

                        Sometimes charity means "putting up" with clergy whose voices are less
                        than lovely....to us. For clergy, charity might mean putting up with
                        a reader who thinks he knows better.

                        When I have directed choirs, there have been times when I'ved tuned
                        the choir up or down to match the clergy. I find that causes less
                        frustration for those who find such dissonance frustrating. This
                        generally is during litanies, the conversational parts, and as a
                        musician, it's easy for me to do.

                        As for seeking feedback when reading, that's a good idea. I would
                        start with my priest, then choir director or other reader or clergy,
                        and friends. If all that seems to be unhelpful or the clergy seem to
                        lack knowledge or interest, then this group is a good resource, but we
                        are not here to learn something so that we can change the priest and
                        make him the priest we would like him to be.

                        God gives us the priest and parish we have, warts and all.

                        Serve all faithfully the best you can.

                        Rdr. Alexander


                        You make some good points here, especially in your second paragraph,
                        on choosing the reciting notes. Problem arises (as I have
                        experienced!) with tone-challanged clergy who land on whatever pitch
                        is handy, regardless of what choir is singing! Can get almost anarchic
                        at times. But shrug and go onward and upward!

                        Also, might help if choir rehearses with priest and vice versa, from
                        time to time...Personally I've found that that helps a lot.

                        Rdr. James
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