More Photos from Utrecht

Many thanks to concert attendee Marnix van B. for sharing these wonderful photos from our Utrecht Early Music Festival performance last Sunday!

Alexander Lingas: Music, Acoustics, and Ritual in Byzantium

Enjoy the following video from an Alexander Lingas presentation in the Stanford Seminar Series “Aural Architecture” given in 2013:

Leitourgeia kai Qurbana reviews Arctic Light

Arctic Light Finnish Orthodox Music_Cappella Romana_Classical CDsRichard Barrett reviews the Cappella Romana Arctic Light recording on his Leitourgeia kai Qurbana blog:

“Where there is an intriguing religious culture, one hopes there will also be an intriguing culture of religious music, and Fr. Ivan Moody, conducting Cappella Romana, makes the case for the music of the Orthodox Church of Finland on the disc Arctic Light: Finnish Orthodox Music. … it’s an aural treat in every way, with the vowel-rich language sparkling in the voices of Cappella’s singers. One can hear the Finnish language “in dialogue” with the ecclesiastical past of its country… Fr. Ivan as the conductor gets Cappella Romana singing this kind of polyphonic repertoire as well as they have in years; the choir sounds bright, clear, and musical. … The result is that Fr. Ivan and Cappella Romana are able make some beautiful, engaging music within that context, and provide a fascinating snapshot of an Orthodox musical culture that is developing its own very strong voice. Recommended.” —Richard Barrett

Read the full review at

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Utrecht Festival Photos

Sound check, concert and post-concert photos from Cappella Romanana’s nearly sold-out Oudemuziek Early Music Festival concert in Utrecht, Netherlands:

CityArts Reviews Seattle Fall of Constantinople

Seattle Pre-Concert Lecture | The Fall of Constantinople | Alexander Lingas

The Alexander Lingas Pre-Concert Lecture before The Fall of Constantinople in Seattle

CityArts Magazine reviews Cappella Romana’s Seattle performance of The Fall of Constantinople:

“In Cappella Romana’s latest program Friday night at St. Joseph Parish, “The Fall of Constantinople,” we heard some thoughts of the defenders in music of the era—from the Byzantine side in Greek, and the Catholic side in Latin. … the sound is hypnotic, drawing the listener in to a relaxed and absorbing place. … This concert was a preview of Cappella Romana’s upcoming performance of “The Fall of Constantinople” at the Utrecht Early Music Festival in early September. … Utrecht is in for a fascinating concert.” —Philippa Kiraly, CityArts Magazine

Read the full review at!

ArtsWatch Reviews Fall of Constantinople

Portland Fall of Constantinople Concert 2014Oregon ArtsWatch reviews the Portland performance of The Fall of Constantinople, saying “Portland vocal ensemble excels in hometown performance before major European festival appearance”:

“Just past what the Greeks called ‘dog days of summer,’ Cappella Romana shone like Sirius in our Portland sky. Saturday night the premier choral ensemble presented a thoughtful, dramatic performance of Greek and Latin compositions written before and after the fall of Constantinople, the title of the concert. … All ten voices in Cappella Romana were remarkable. Jon Boyer, Mark Powell (and conductor/artistic director Alexander Lingas) were first rate in lead roles as Priest or Deacon. Mel Downie Robinson and Catherine Van der Salm were pristine, mellow in their intermittent roles. … Kudos to Cappella Romana, which last month received a $90,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation. And bravo to the Foundation for recognizing that Cappella Romana is a worthy ensemble led by one of the world’s leading scholars in Byzantine music, a Portland treasure, Dr. Alexander Lingas. My pew-mate for the concert, a Portland visitor from a small town of 5,000, said hearing this music was like going back in time, being immersed in an era – a period- piece concert. The only thing missing, she said, was a stone cold church and a gentle snowfall. OK. I get that. Transported is good.” —Bruce Browne, Oregon ArtsWatch

Read the full review at!

Notes for the Utrecht OudeMuziek Festival!

Programme Notes for ‘The Fall of Constantinople’

Cappella Romana – Utrecht Early Music Festival 2014

Hapsburgs borrowing the double-headed eagle from the last Byzantine dynasty, the Palaiologan emperors

Hapsburgs borrowing the double-headed eagle from the last Byzantine dynasty, the Palaiologan emperors

The Palaiologan double-headed eagle

The Palaiologan double-headed eagle

The creation of a re-imagined ‘Holy Roman Empire’, an entity which centuries later would be ruled by the Hapsburgs, was initially the response of Frankish kings and a resurgent Papacy to the retreat of Roman imperial power to Eastern Mediterranean lands ruled from Constantinople. Originally called Byzantium, this ancient city was christened ‘New Rome’ by its re-founder Emperor Constantine I and is known today as Istanbul. The political tensions with the Eastern Roman (‘Byzantine’) Empire that followed Charlemagne’s imperial coronation in 800 AD were heightened by religious disputes that eventually led the bishops of Rome and Constantinople to excommunicate each other in 1054 AD. The Fourth Crusade attempted to force reunion in 1204 by sacking Constantinople, the occupation of which lasted until the Emperor Michael Palaeologos recaptured the city in 1261. Later Palaeologan emperors oversaw a shrinking state that was artistically and spiritually rich but financially and politically weak as Western powers retained strategically important colonies on former Byzantine lands.

This concert offers a musical reconsideration of relations between Greeks and Latins during the twilight of Byzantium. Its texts speak from various perspectives of faith, tradition, division, hopes of reunion, and a final sense of loss. An Entrance Rite for a Sunday Divine Liturgy (Eucharist) as it would have been heard by Constantine XI Palaeologos, the last Roman Emperor of Constantinople, demonstrates continuity with the past, combining ancient hymns and acclamations with a new composition by imperial cantor and theorist Manuel Chrysaphes. Two motets composed by Dufay for the Malatesta family testify to continuing Western involvement in the East after the Crusades: Vasilissa ergo gaudecelebrates the 1421 marriage of Cleofe Malatesta da Pesaro to Theodore Paleologos, Despot of the Morea (Peloponnesus) and son of the Emperor Manuel II (1391–1425); while Apostolo glorioso commemorates the patron saint of Patras, the Peloponnesian city for which Pope Martin V had appointed Cleofe’s younger brother Pandolfo as Latin Archbishop in 1424. The 15th-century manuscript Athens 2401 also witnesses to cultural interchange in Patras with curious additions to the standard repertories of Orthodox chant including Greek examples of cantus planus binatim—including the polyphonic Hymn for Great Compline by Manuel Gazes sung on this concert—and a Gregorian Kyrie transcribed in Byzantine neumes with unusually long note values and signs denoting vocal ornaments.

Desperately seeking Western aid against the rising power of the Ottoman Turks, Emperor John VII led a Byzantine delegation seeking to reunite the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438–39) presided over by Pope Eugenius IV. This event was later praised by John Plousiadenos (ca. 1429–1500), a theorist and composer from Venetian-ruled Crete who converted to the Church of Rome.  The concert concludes with Greek and Latin laments marking the fall of Constantinople to Sultan Mehmed II on Tuesday, 29 May 1453: a setting of verses from Psalm 78 by Manuel Chrysaphes and the Lamentatio Sanctae Matris Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae by Guillaume Dufay.

#ThrowbackThursday — Fall of Constantinople Gramophone Review

fallofconstantinopleBefore this weekend’s presentations of The Fall of Constantinople, here’s a look back at Gramophone Magazine’s review of our recording of this repertoire:

“English-speaking audiences commonly associate Greek Orthodox plainchant with the music of John Tavener, whose work draws substantially from its ethos. This recording confronts plainchant with the compositions of another Western composer, albeit one from the 15th century, when the two Christian churches were nearly reunited after a thousand-year split. It’s even likely that Dufay’s singers and their Eastern counterparts had a chance to hear each other in Florence. But these attempts at reconciliation came to nothing, and in 1453 came the event after which this disc is named, and to which Dufay devoted a commemorative lament, which concludes this recital very movingly.

The performance of Wester polyphony with voices trained in, or inflected by, Eastern chant is not unfamiliar — Ensemble Organum have been doing it for years. To do so, it’s not necessary to invoke a context within which the two might have commingled; as Alexander Lingas observes in his informative note, it’s likely that the Greeks found Dufay’s polyphony “incomprehensible”. But it must have been a fascinating confrontation, and it’s that sense of occasion that’s conveyed here. The range of performance options for the plainchant itself is surprisingly diverse, and an intriguing new light is shed on Dufay’s motets: the five-voice Apostolo gorioso is particularly striking, although Ecclesiae militantis is a touch less sure. The singers are miked more distantly than is usual nowadays for polyphony, but this only adds to the sense of pleasurable unfamiliarity.” —Fabrice Fitch, Gramophone Magazine

Concert Information

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This Weekend — The Fall of Constantinople!

St. Mary's 2006 Fall of Constantinople Cappella Romana

2006 Cappella Romana The Fall of Constantinople performance in front of a full house at St. Mary’s Cathedral

Fri. 29 August: Seattle


Sat. 30 August: Portland

Concerts at 8pm
Pre-concert talks at 7pm

Program Notes
Preview on Oregon Live

Review of the recording in Gramophone
Buy the recording from CR, iTunes or Amazon

Explore the musical legacy of Byzantium just before the ensemble’s European tour!

This program has been performed in such venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Yale University, and Princeton University.

The Fall of Constantinople — Program Notes

Constantinople | Cappella RomanaGreeks and Latins had lived uneasily together in the Eastern Mediterranean ever since the sack and occupation of Constantinople (1204–61) by crusader knights. During the 14th and 15th centuries, however, the shrunken Byzantine Empire and the remaining Western colonies were often forced to cooperate in desperate attempts to defend themselves against the Ottoman Turks. This situation is reflected by the music on this evening’s concert, which begins with music that would have been heard by Constantine XI, enthroned in 1448 and the last Roman Emperor of Constantinople. Even though his realm consisted of little more than the capital and the Peloponnesus, the majestic liturgy continued to pray for him and his Empire with many of the same forms employed during Byzantium’s apogee a millennium before. This may be seen in the solemn texts and music of the Entrance Rite for a Divine Liturgy celebrated by a bishop. After a series of processional antiphons, the clergy would enter the sanctuary as the Introit was sung. A hymn in honor of Christ’s resurrection from the weekly cycle of the eight modes was followed by acclamations to the reigning emperor (taken here from the manuscript Athens 2401) and one or more seasonal hymns known as kontakia. The kontakion selected for this program was probably written after Constantinople’s deliverance from an Arab siege in the seventh century and recalls the Mother of God’s role as chief protectress of the City.

The choirs and clergy would then sing in alternation the traditional version of the ancient “Thrice-Holy” (Trisagion) hymn, the melody of which is taken from the manuscript Iviron 1120. Dated 1458, this MS is an autograph of Manuel Chrysaphes, a prolific theorist and composer who served as a lead singer in Constantine’s chapel. The setting for “Glory to the Father…” is relatively elaborate and was meant to accompany a blessing given by the celebrating bishop. The Trisagion concludes with a ‘Dynamis’ coda, in which Chrysaphes subtly elaborates upon the hymn’s traditional melody.

Bereft of significant financial or military resources, the last emperors attempted to consolidate their remaining territory while balancing the competing interests of Italians and Ottomans through diplomacy and dynastic marriages. These concerns are reflected in Vasilissa ergo gaude, a Latin motet by the Franco-Flemish composer Guillaume Dufay (ca. 1400–74). Written while Dufay was employed by the Malatesta family’s Rimini branch, the work celebrates the marriage in 1421 of Cleophe Malatesta da Pesaro to Theodore Paleologos, Despot of the Morea (Peloponnesus) and son of the Emperor Manuel II (1391–1425).

In the fifteenth century, the Peloponnesian port of Patras was (as it remains today) an important meeting-point between the Greek East and the Latin West. As Gregorios Stathis has recently noted, the Byzantine musical manuscript Athens 2401 is an important witness to the vibrancy of cultural interchange in the city of the Apostle Andrew’s martyrdom. Its contents include works by Patras’ Protopsaltes (first cantor) Andreas Stellon of Cyprus (one of which is a composition honoring St. Andrew) and examples of efforts by Byzantine musicians to employ some of the simpler and (usually unnotated) types of polyphony practiced by their Italian colleagues. One of these is the two-part Hymn for Great Compline by Manuel Gazes the Lampadarios, the homorhythmic texture and open sonorities of which reflect the contemporary Western tradition of cantus planus binatim (“plainchant twice”).

Despite their absence from Athens 2401, elite forms of mensural polyphony were not unknown in the eastern Mediterranean, having been cultivated most notably at the court of the Lusignan Kings of Cyprus. Shortly before Patras reverted to Byzantine rule, Pandolfo Malatesta served as the Latin archbishop of Patras and presided over the rededication of a church honoring St. Andrew. Dufay marked the event with his radiant Italian motet Apostolo glorioso/Cum tua doctrina/Andreas Christi.

The ubiquity of the Latin rite is further indicated by the transmission in Byzantine neumes of the Gregorian Kyrie Cunctipotens genitor in Athens 2401. Discovered in modern times by Michael Adamis, it further demonstrates the interest of Byzantine cantors in the music of their Western colleagues. Perhaps of greater significance is the way in which the scribe translated what he heard into Byzantine notation, providing valuable information about the way contemporary Gregorian chant was being performed. For this performance, this chant is sung both unadorned and with unwritten extra voices reflecting contemporary techniques of polyphonic improvisation.

While the separation of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches is mentioned only briefly in Dufay’s motet for St. Andrew, negotiations for reunion became more urgent as the Ottoman threat grew. This movement climaxed under Pope Eugenius IV (1431–47) with the Council of Florence, at which a small Byzantine delegation of bishops and theologians assented to union with the Roman Catholic Church on 5 July 1439 in return for military aid. Dufay was a member of the papal chapel during the 1430s and it has recently been proposed that his imposing 5-part motet Ecclesiae militantis was written not for Eugenius’s coronation, as generally believed, but to commemorate the search for union at Florence.

At all events, the aid promised by the West at Florence was never delivered and public opposition prevented the official promulgation of the union—the terms of which were viewed as total capitulation to Papal supremacy and other Latin doctrines—in Constantinople until December of 1452, after which most Orthodox refused to attend services at St. Sophia. Nevertheless, there remained a number of prominent Byzantine converts to the Latin cause, among whom was the composer and theorist John Plousiadenos (ca. 1429–1500). Later consecrated bishop of Venetian-held Methone, Plousiadenos displayed his uniate sympathies in a number of literary works including the Canons in honor of Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Florence. Both canons are set to melodies from well-known works by John of Damascus, transcribed here from the manuscript Vatopedi 1529. Like Gazes’ compline Hymn, Plousiadenos’ Communion Verse is related to the Western tradition of cantus planus binatim. This setting for Mid- Pentecost is from a manuscript presently located in the Athonite monastery of Dochiariou (MS 315), in which the upper part is labeled “τὸ τενώρει” (“the tenor”) and the lower part is described as “τὸ κείμενον” (“the text”).

This program concludes with two threnodies for the fall of New Rome to Mehmed the Conqueror on 29 May 1453. The first is Chrysaphes’s setting of verses from Psalm 78, transcribed by Markos Vasileiou from MS Iviron 1120. The Lamentatio Sanctae Matris Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae by Dufay is the only one to survive of the four laments he composed to mark this event. These works were probably written in 1455 as part of an effort to convince Pope Callixtus III to mount a crusade against the Turks, one of many such schemes that was never realized.

—Alexander Lingas

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