Fall of Constantinople Reviewed in Gramophone

The CD of Cappella Romana’s most popular and critically acclaimed program, The Fall of Constantinople, has received a review in the April 2009 edition of Gramophone magazine. [Link to Cappella Romana’s CD Store]

The review hasn’t yet appeared in the Gramophone online reviews, but do find it in print at your local music or magazine shop.

The review gives the disc a “G – Star” rating and features a sidebar interview with Dr. Alexander Lingas by Gramophone’s Editor, James Inverne.

A few quotations from the review:

“Cappella Romana: when East meets West”
“A captivating recital as Greek Orthodox chant confronts Western Polyphony”
“The meeting between the churches [Greek and Latin] must have been fascinating and that sense of occasion is conveyed here.”
“An intriguing new light is shed on Dufay’s motets.”
“Dufay[‘s] lament concludes this recital very movingly.”
“[a] sense of pleasurable unfamiliarity”

and from the interview:

“Byzantine music has lagged behind other medieval repertoires in the early music movement, so there is a real thrill in discovering music that hasn’t been heard for 500 years. Recording the album, our very experienced producer asked, ‘Is there more of this?’ We said, ‘Thousands and thousands of manuscripts, each with many folios. This is a fraction of a percent of the total repertory!’ It also means that when we give concerts, that traditional dynamic of presenting a work to an audience is far more fluid – we’re still discovering the music, just as they are”
–Dr. Alexander Lingas.

Review of the Concord Ensemble

The Concord Ensemble’s February 28 concert has been reviewed on Portland’s Classical Music Blog, Northwest Reverb.

Click here to join the grass-roots campaign to support Cappella Romana’s guest presentations (the gift amount doesn’t matter; like Obama’s campaign, we are looking for high participation with any size gift!)

Events at City University London

Contact: Louise Gordon, Concerts Manager, +44 (0) 20 7040 8271, louise.gordon.1@city.ac.uk

City University Brings ‘Voices of Byzantium’ to London

‘robust and intriguing music’—The Washington Post, 2 DEC. 06
‘sung with such strength and commitment’ —Los Angeles Times, 12 DEC. 06

London. [12 February 2009] — In March 2009, the Department of Music at City University London presents ‘VOICES OF BYZANTIUM’, a two-day exploration of the sacred music of the Greek Middle Ages featuring the internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble Cappella Romana (www.cappellaromana.org). Founding Artistic Director Alexander Lingas, a Senior Lecturer in Music at City University, will first lead the American-based group of six male cantors in a concert of virtuosic medieval Byzantine chant sung amidst the icons of St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, as well as an afternoon of free events at City University London. ‘Voices of Byzantium’ is supported by the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange (lcae.org.uk) as part of ‘Byzantium Comes to Britain’, a series of events to accompany the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition ‘Byzantium 330–1453’, which closes on 22 March.

Moscow Road, Bayswater London W2 4LQ
Under the resonant dome of London’s St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Cappella Romana sings virtuoso Byzantine chant from medieval manuscripts held at St Catherine’s Monastery, Mt Sinai, Egypt. Previously presented to sold-out audiences at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles—which commissioned the programme for its exhibition ‘Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai’—and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, this programme features selections from the Vigil for St Catherine and Byzantium’s only liturgical drama: The Service of the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace (see the description below). Tickets are £15 (£10 Concessions), payable at the door. Since capacity is strictly limited, places should be reserved in advance to avoid disappointment. This may be done online at www.city.ac.uk/concerts or by calling 020 7040 8271.

This concert is presented in co-operation with ‘Wonderful Things: Byzantium through its Art’, the 42nd Spring Symposium of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies (http://www.byzantium.ac.uk/frameset_symp42.htm)

Department of Music Performance Space, College Building, Northampton Square EC1V 0HB.
Free admission, but please reserve places in advance online at www.city.ac.uk/concerts or by calling 020 7040 8271.
1. Workshop (2–4 PM): Byzantine Chant as Early Music and Living Tradition
An exploration of the past and present of Byzantine singing with expert cantors Ioannis Arvanitis (Universities of Copenhagen and Athens) and John Michael Boyer (Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco).

2. Public Lecture (5 PM): The Heavenly Liturgy — Byzantine Psalmody 330–1453
Alexander Lingas leads Cappella Romana in a musically illustrated survey of Byzantine sacred music from its origins in the Late Antique basilicas of Hagia Sophia, Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and Jerusalem to its mystical twilight in the monasteries of the Holy Mountain of Athos. This is a reprise of the sold-out lecture that Dr Lingas gave for the Royal Academy of Arts at King’s College, London in November 2008.

Between 548 and 565 the East Roman (Byzantine) emperor Justinian I constructed the Holy Monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai, a place already revered by pilgrims as the site of God’s appearance to Moses in the Burning Bush. Monastic life and pilgrimage have continued through the centuries without significant interruption at St Catherine’s, bestowing on its living community a rich inheritance of spiritual traditions and material treasures, including an invaluable library of over 3,000 manuscripts, many of which contain Byzantine musical notation.
For this concert, we have selected a group of chants from the late 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries edited for modern performance by Ioannis Arvanitis. The program will include works by composer, editor, music theorist and Saint John Koukouzeles (late 13th–early 14th c.), who pioneered a new idiom of ‘beautiful sounding’ (‘kalophonic’) chant that spread quickly throughout the Orthodox world. This style was characterized by vocal virtuosity, the addition of new texts to existing chants (‘troping’), highly florid melodies, and even textless vocalizations on nonsense syllables (‘teretisms’).
The programme begins with medieval chants for Vespers—including psalms, hymns, and doxologies—that would have been sung for the monastery’s feastday of St Catherine of Alexandria, who is commemorated on 25 November. It continues with music from the Service of the Furnace, the only medieval Greek example of a liturgical drama comparable to the Visitatio sepulchri and other such plays of the Latin West. The Service of the Furnace was sung on the Sunday before Christmas, which commemorates Old Testament saints and features the reading of the genealogy of Christ. The Service, which is no longer used in worship, augmented this celebration with a quasi-dramatic rendering of the Song of the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace, a set of canticles found in the Septuagint (Greek) version of the Old Testament book of Daniel. In a fully staged version, the canticles would be sung in alternation between the choirs and three soloists representing the holy youths Ananias, Misael and Azarias (Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego). The three singers would stand on a raised platform representing the furnace, over which an icon of an angel would be lowered at the climactic moment of the angel’s descent to cool the furnace and save the children.
‘Voices of Byzantium’ is supported by the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange (lcae.org.uk) as part of ‘Byzantium Comes to Britain’, a series of events to accompany the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition Byzantium 330–1453. Additional support is provided by the City Research and Enterprise Unit and the School of Arts of City University London..

Its performances ‘like jeweled light flooding the space’ (Los Angeles Times), Cappella Romana is a vocal chamber ensemble dedicated to combining passion with scholarship in its exploration of the musical traditions of the Christian East and West, with emphasis on early and contemporary music. Founded in 1991, Cappella Romana’s name refers to the medieval Greek concept of the Roman oikoumene (inhabited world), which embraced Rome and Western Europe, as well as the Byzantine Empire of Constantinople (‘New Rome’) and its Slavic commonwealth. Each program in some way reflects the musical, cultural and spiritual heritage of this ecumenical vision.
Flexible in size according to the demands of the repertory, Cappella Romana is based in the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America, where it presents annual concert series in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. It has previously toured in five countries, appearing at such venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the J Paul Getty Center, the Pontificio Istituto Orientale in Rome, Princeton University, and Yale University. Cappella Romana has been featured on twelve compact discs, including Byzantium 330–1453 (the official companion CD to the Royal Academy of Arts Exhibition), Byzantium in Rome: Medieval Byzantine Chant from Grottaferrata, The Fall of Constantinople, Richard Toensing—Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ, and The Divine Liturgy in English: The Complete Service in Byzantine Chant. Its 2001 CD Music of Byzantium was produced in cooperation with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and sold over 12,000 copies. 
Forthcoming recordings include 15th-century Byzantine and Latin music of Cyprus.
Website: http://www.cappellaromana.org
Photos in digital format available upon request


Alexander Lingas, Cappella Romana’s founder and artistic director, is a Senior Lecturer in Music at City University in London and a Fellow of the University of Oxford’s European Humanities Research Centre. Formerly Assistant Professor of Music History at Arizona State University’s School of Music, Dr Lingas has also served as a lecturer and advisor for the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies at the University of Cambridge. He has received a number of academic awards, including Fulbright and Onassis grants for musical studies with Lycourgos Angelopoulos, a postdoctoral fellowship from the Canadian government for theological study under Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, and a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship held at St Peter’s College, Oxford. His publications include articles for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies. He is currently working on a study of Sunday Matins in the Rite of Hagia Sophia for Ashgate and a historical introduction to Byzantine Chant for Yale University Press.

Ioannis Arvanitis, a researcher in Music at the University of Athens, is completing a doctoral thesis for the University of Copenhagen on rhythm in medieval Byzantine music. He has sung with Marcel Pérès and his Ensemble Organum and is a member of the International Musicological Society’s Cantus Planus Study Group, publishing on topics from the tenth to the twentieth centuries AD. Since 2001, Mr Arvanitis has been a frequent collaborator with Cappella Romana, directing the ensemble for two CDs (Epiphany and Byzantium in Rome) and frequently providing it with editions of medieval Byzantine chant. An accomplished performer on various Greek folk instruments (tambura, oud and laouto), Mr Arvanitis has taught at the Experimental Music Gymnasium and Lyceum of Pallini, the School of the Society for the Dissemination of National Music, and the Philippos Nakas Conservatory.

John Michael Boyer was appointed Protopsaltis (First Cantor) of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco in 2006, for which he develops educational and performance programs in the liturgical arts as director of its Koukouzelis Institute (www.koukouzelis.org). A graduate in music of the University of California, Berkeley, Mr Boyer is artistic director of the Bay Area-based ensemble The Josquin Singers and associate conductor and assistant director of Bay Area Classical Harmonies. He began learning Byzantine chant with Alexander Lingas and later deepened his knowledge of the tradition with study in Athens under Lycourgos Angelopoulos and Ioannis Arvanitis. He recently coached Chanticleer and the Minnesota Symphony for world première performances and recordings of works by John Tavener, including the Grammy-Award-winning CD Lamentations and Praises. He is the lead adaptor of chants for Cappella Romana’s Byzantine Divine Liturgy in English project.

Louise Gordon, Concerts Manager, School of Arts, City University, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB;
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7040 8271; E-mail louise.gordon.1@city.ac.uk

Mark Powell, Executive Director, Cappella Romana: mobile +1 503-927-9027; msg line +1 503.236.8202; E-mail mark@cappellaromana.org

Program for the Concord Ensemble

Music for Holy Week from the New World

Vexilla Regis
Gaspar Fernandes after Rodrigo de Ceballos
(Portugal, ca.1565-ca. 1629) and (Spain, c.1525-1581) respectively

Memento Mei Deus
Hernando Franco
(Guatemala and Mexico, 1532-1585)
Peccantem me quotidie


Lamentatio Hieremiae Prophetae
Francisco Lopéz y Capillas
(b. Mexico City, c. 1605-8; d. 1674)

(Brazil, 16th c.)
Sanctus (Benedictus from T.L. de Victoria’s Missa Quarti toni)
Agnus Dei

Ego enim accepi
López Capillas

Vadam et circuibo
Tomás Luis de Victoria
(Spain, 1548-1611)


Juan de Lienas
(Mexico, fl. c. 1617–54)

Pasión según San Mateo
(Mexico, 17th c.)

Vexilla Regis
T.L. de Victoria

Kontakion on the Nativity reviewed by a POP MUSIC CRITIC!

Check this out: http://localcut.wweek.com/2009/01/13/furniture-music-2-cappella-romana/

Furniture Music #2: Cappella Romana

January 13th, 2009 [6:11PM] Posted by: Robert Ham

furniture music!A cappella music is probably as safe a place as any for me to start my year of classical immersion. We’ve all heard music like this—a precise, polyharmonic choir singing songs of devotion to God—in some form before. And as classical music goes, it is a style that goes down the easiest, at least to these ears. Even if you don’t understand the intricacies of the composition, you at least get the message in their lyrics.

So, why did I still feel so daunted when I went to see Cappella Romana recently? Blame the location: An ornate, 83-year-old Catholic church with spotless, gleaming marble floors, 40-foot high ceilings and walls covered in icons and carvings of a martyred Jesus. It would be hard for anyone who didn’t grow up in that denomination to simply ease into this rarefied environment.

This is par for the course for Cappella Romana, a chamber group that has been active for almost 20 years, and who spend most Sundays singing to the devout in churches like this all over the city. They are also active members of the larger musical community, performing in concerts around the country and releasing CDs like the one they were celebrating on this evening, Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ.

Richard Toensing composed this expansive work, using ancient Orthodox texts regarding the birth of Jesus and age-old methods of choral composition to create an expansive and rather haunting work regarding this familiar story. True, the holiday associated with this event had come and gone by the time this performance went down but it was a perfect fit for the Catholic calendar, as by early January, they are just reaching the end of the 12 Days of Christmas. Which helped explain for me the wreaths and red bows that the church was still festooned with.

Christian or not, you’d have to have ice water in your veins to not be moved in some way by CR’s performance. 26 members strong, the group put on a commanding show, wending their voices together into harmonies that ached one minute and roared the next. The power of this long piece was really in the solo sections, particularly Blake Applegate, Aaron Cain and David Stutz’s humble turn as the Magi and the sublime combination of Kari Ferguson and Mark Powell as the Christ child (a soprano and a tenor singing together to emphasize Jesus’ dual nature).

Besides the unique locale, one of the few aspects of this show that I was taken aback by was the sheer precision of the chorus’ vocals. I imagine this is a result of having spent the last few years on a strict diet of American Idol-style histrionics and the throat-shredding antics of any number of rock bands. To hear such clarity of tone and pitch was, frankly, a little chilling at times. It was hard to make myself believe that those sounds were really coming out of the voices of the people in front of me.

As well, if classical music is actually going to have another 50 years of relevance, chances are it will be thanks to groups like Cappella Romana. The majority of the performers were a lot younger than I was anticipating (the mean age had to be no older than 35). I don’t think there will ever be a shortage of people who want to sing (see my American Idol reference above or go to a karaoke bar some Saturday night) but I was happy to see some youthful voices keeping these traditional songs alive, if only for one more night.

Cappella Romana

Furniture Music Logo by Casey Jarman

Review of Toensing Kontakion in the Seattle PI

‘Kontakion’ reflects the old, new

Full text of the article

The first half of the program was devoted to carols and hymns of all sizes and attitudes. Most were written in the past century, with texts in English and Greek. Although they may be familiar in Orthodox circles, they are not so known outside that universe. They should be. The variety was admirable and the effect astonishing — from music of sheer beauty to dramatic amplitude.

None of that would have been possible without the guiding hand of Alexander Lingas, who founded the group in the early 1990s in Portland, then mounted a second season soon after in Seattle. Currently a senior lecturer in music at City University in London, he is a scholar with all sorts of academic studies at prestigious universities in the United States and England. But there is nothing remotely pendantic about his approach.

It is lively and informed, often in difficult waters. The result is singing that is wonderfully blended, accurate in pitch and precise in ensemble. This is music-making on a very high order.

Read more

Toensing Kontakion preview in the Seattle PI

Full text of the article

Toensing’s ‘Kontakion’ gets local debut


From its first days in the early 1990s, Cappella Romana has cut a long, deep swath through music: from the Byzantine empire that ended in 1453 and its Slavic descendants to the modern world.

There are other vocal groups in the United States and Europe singing works of the Byzantine era, Greek Orthodox chants and Russian music, but none that brings together in a single repertory all the diverse traditions linked by the Orthodox faith, said Mark Powell, Cappella Romana’s executive director and a veteran member of the ensemble. Thus its rise from modest beginnings in Portland and Capitol Hill to a national and international life with an impressive touring and recording schedule….

Read more

Receive “Byzantium 300-1453” FREE when you buy 2 or more CDs

Your FREE gift with 2 or more

With your order of 2 or more CDs, we will send you a FREE GIFT: a copy of our latest title, “Byzantium: 330-1453,” a compilation of Cappella’s “Greatest Hits” of Byzantine music.

CDs by Cappella Romana make great gifts.

Choose from among our growing discography, from our latest release for Christmas, “Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ” by Richard Toensing to recordings of medieval Byzantine chant, or our groundbreaking 2-disc set of the Divine Liturgy in English in Byzantine Chant.

Click here to order CDs.

New CD release from the Royal Academy in London

Our Third CD release since July, a “Greatest Hits” compilation

Byzantium: 330-1453
Cappella Romana announces the release of its 11th recording, the official companion CD commissioned for the exhibition, BYZANTIUM: 330-1453, at London’s Royal Academy of Arts (25 October ’08 to 22 March ’08. www.royalacademy.org.uk).

Receive this disc as a free gift if you order two or more other CD titles from our online CD store.
The Royal Academy calls this new CD “A glorious collection of choral music which traces the rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire, all sung by the world’s leading performers of Byzantine chant, Cappella Romana.”

The new CD, Cappella Romana’s third release in 2008, is a compilation of earlier recordings. It features tracks from Epiphany, Cappella Romana’s first full-length recording of Medieval Byzantine chant, as well as from the CD titles The Fall of Constantinople, Byzantium in Rome, and Music of Byzantium. The disc will initially be available in the UK and Europe exclusively through the Royal Academy.

The Royal Academy of Arts in London is the fourth major world museum to have engaged Cappella Romana for its expertise in Medieval Byzantine Chant, joining these three institutions:

• The Metropolitan Museum in New York (Byzantium: Faith and Power, 2004; with CD selling 12,000 copies)
• The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles (Byzantium and the West, 2004 and Icons from Sinai, 2006)
• The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (In the Beginning: Bibles before the Year 1000, 2006)

The first evening lecture of “Byzantium: 300-1453” was given by Dr. Alexander Lingas, Cappella Romana’s founder and artistic director, on 7 November 2008. Titled “The Heavenly Liturgy: Byzantine Psalmody to 1453, ” it was enhanced by sung demonstrations by Dr. Lingas, Cappella singer John Michael Boyer, and three cantors from Hagia Sophia Cathedral, London.

The Royal Academy’s exhibition has received major press coverage in the UK and throughout the world, including a review and photo essay in Time magazine (Fri., 24 Oct. 2008).

Singing Divine Liturgy at St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, Portland (A report)

Cappella Romana members John S. Boyer, David Krueger, Les Green, Mark Powell, John Michael Boyer, LeaAnne DenBeste, Catherine van der Salm, Christina Abdul-Karim, and Jo Routh sang the service of the Divine Liturgy at St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, Portland, Oregon, on October 5, 2008.

Byzantine chant in English formed the basis for the service music, the same chants sung on Cappella Romana’s recent recording of the Divine Liturgy, complete with the ecstatic setting of the Dynamis, arranged by John Michael Boyer and modeled after the Dynamis by Nileus Kamarados.

The choir also sang a selection of polyphonic works, including setting of the Great Doxology by Fr. Sergei Glagolev, a Cherubic Hymn and “Your Mystic Supper” in English by Tikey Zes.

The church was full, both with regular parishioners and with guests who came as a result of an open invitation sent to Portland-area Cappella Romana patrons and donors, giving the public a chance to experience Orthodox church music in its proper liturgical context.

We hope this pilot project will grow into a somewhat regular schedule of outreach performances and services to broaden Cappella Romana’s reach into the community.

Mark Powell
Executive Director