NEW Double CD | BYZANTIUM IN ROME: Medieval Byzantine Chant from Grottaferrata

NEW Double CD
BYZANTIUM IN ROME: Medieval Byzantine Chant from Grottaferrata

Click here to order.

Sound samples: Teleutaion Alleluia | Prosomoia for St. Benedict | Kontakion for St. Bartholomew | Communion for Pentecost

This release by Cappella Romana is a breathtaking collection of Medieval Byzantine Chant sung from manuscripts made at the Abbey of Grottaferrata in the suburban hills of Rome, which has operated continuously in the Byzantine rite since its founding before the Great Schism in 1004. During the Middle Ages, Grottaferrata was the site of an important scriptorium, the surviving manuscripts of which bear precious witness to musical repertories sung in Constantinople before the Crusader sack of 1204.

Click here to order.

Led by virtuoso cantor Ioannis Arvanitis, Cappella Romana recaptures on this recording the artistic vibrancy of medieval Italy’s Greek minority with ecstatic 13th-century chants. Disc one is devoted to the life and work of the monastery’s founders St. Neilos and St. Bartholomew, including kontakia in their honor, and an excerpt of a kanon for St. Benedict that was very likely composed for a Greek-rite all-night vigil at the Benedictine community at Montecassino in Sicily. Disc two features music for Pentecost, beginning with excerpts of its two kanons, the alleluiarion, and the communion verse for the feast. The central work on disc two is the Teleutaion (Final Antiphon) of the kneeling vespers in the medieval cathedral rite, featuring extended psalmody and ecstatic settings of the angelic refrain “Alleluia,” foreshadowing the beautified (“kalophonic”) chant of St. John Koukouzeles.

The booklet features a substantial essay on the music and its context by musicologist and Cappella Romana artistic director Dr. Alexander Lingas, and complete original texts in Greek with English translations by Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash). Beautiful photography of the Byzantine Abbey of Grottaferrata, taken on Cappella Romana’s tour there in May 2006, illustrates the booklet, as well as a sample of medieval Byzantine notation (as opposed to contemporary notation in the received tradition) drawn from the opening verse of the Teleutaion in the Grottaferrata manuscript Psaltikon Ashburnamensis 64. The CDs combined feature over 82 minutes of music.

Two CDs (CD1: The Founders of Grottaferrata; CD2: The Feast of Pentecost).

Click here to order.

Review of A TIME FOR LIFE

Today’s Oregonian posted an excellent review of Cappella Romana’s program, A Time for Life. A PDF of that review can be viewed here:

Review of A Time for Life, The Oregonian, November 5, 2007

Full text also here:

‘Time’ cries out for planet’s salvation

Monday, November 05, 2007

DAVID STABLER

The Oregonian Staff

A tenor walked slowly down the aisle of the church, between pews crammed with listeners. He sang softly to God, as if he were praying alone and we were invisible.

As he sang, something in his voice, a quality located somewhere between speculation and belief, said: We are all dying. Look at our brokenness.

Robert Kyr’s new environmental oratorio — I can’t think of another way to describe it — shimmered through St. Mary’s Cathedral on Friday, a twig trembling on the lip of the falls. Kyr’s music wept for the Earth. It shuddered and then grew stronger, blooming into beauty before evaporating in silence.

In our vast and seemingly hopeless effort to save the planet, “A Time for Life” is a tiny note in a bottle, reminding us that we are here but momentarily — “trembling with joy,” as soprano LeaAnne DenBeste sang on a brief, stabbing, ecstatic G. Or, as Robert Bly put it, “Like a note of music, you are about to become nothing.”

And yet, “A Time for Life” also suggests that we, the living, are survivors. We have crawled out of a sea of amino acids and although we have stained our altar stone of land, we can fix it. Kyr, as we’ve heard in his anti-war symphonies, is an optimist, a gentle witness of conscience, and this chanting piece is as much about spiritual recovery as it is about loss. “A Time for Life” begs us to remember and restore the Earth’s grandeur.

How Portland. How Northwest. That’s not a putdown, but an acknowledgement that, faced with our “paper or plastic” ethics, our choked roads and a Superfund, polluted Willamette River, in our hearts we believe that our air will one day be fresh again, our fields green, our rivers clean, our streets filled with bicycles, and Mount Hood will forever watch over our idealic valley.

We hear from politicians about global warming all the time. We read about going “green” until we’re blue in the face. Now, composers such as Kyr are putting the message into music.

“A Time for Life” contains no roaring river of sound in the style of Philip Glass or John Adams. With his Quaker background, Kyr combines tender, sometimes rapturous, lyricism with a whiff of Byzantine incense. Sophisticated canons and double choruses synthesize both modern and ancient modes, and Western and Asian musical traditions. And yet, his best music sounds artless.

During an hour of music, the eight excellent voices of Cappella Romana (sopranos DenBeste and Stephanie Kramer, altos Jo Routh and Tuesday Rupp, tenors John Michael Boyer and Leslie W. Green, baritone Mark Powell and bass David Stutz) lapped the walls with words from Sioux and Eskimo prayers, biblical psalms and Greek Orthodox texts. Three Renaissance stringed instruments (played by the superb Margriet Tindemans, Shira Kammen and David Morris) summoned the ancients while grounding the singers’ voices in rolling chords. A useful musical reference here may be the mystical music of Arvo Part and Henryk Gorecki.

Slants of melody set the mind adrift. If a million solar systems are born every hour, how many may have burst into being during the five-lined Navajo chant “Restore my feet for me?” as voices overlapped in canon?

A moment of beauty arrived with an Ojibwa prayer: “In all creation, only the human family has strayed from the Sacred Way.” We had just heard Green and Powell howl at the shepherds who neglected their flocks — a rousing duet, expertly sung — when the mood shifted to supplication, as all eight voices pleaded for compassion “so we may heal the Earth.” The music broadened like a river delta with DenBeste’s bell-like voice again soaring on high.

By the end of the piece, with an inventory of crimes stacked against us, Kyr let us off gently. Flooding the church in a confluence of voices and instruments, the music swelled in homophonic splendor as the singers turned to the audience, singing, “Beauty before me, beauty behind me.”

It’s not a mystery, Kyr was saying as the singers walked slowly back up the aisles. The music tells us how to behave.

David Stabler: 503-221-8217; davidstabler@news.oregonian.com; http://blog.oregonlive.com/classicalmusic/

Oregonian Classical Blog

David Stabler blogged on his experience of the dress rehearsal for A Time for Life:

http://blog.oregonlive.com/classicalmusic/2007/11/i_never_attend_rehearsals_exce.html

Music Criticism for Dummies

Posted by David Stabler November 01, 2007 11:09AM

Categories: News

Olivia Bucks

One of the rules in “Music Criticism for Dummies,” just below “10 Tricks to Stay Awake at Concerts” and “100 Cliches to Sneak Past Your Editor” is “How to Attend Rehearsals.”

Rule No. 1: Leave your Big Gulp at home.
Rule No. 2: Don’t laugh and scribble things in your notebook.
Rule No. 3: Don’t raise your hand to point out that the flute keeps coming in late at letter N.

This is touchy ground. When a critic shows up at a rehearsal, the musicians think we’re tallying up their wrong notes, missed entrances and personality failures, when all we want to know is, are we in 4/4?

One of the hardest things to write about is a brand-new piece, so I often ask for a score and permission to sit in on a rehearsal. I’ve never had a composer bar the door, but I am forbidden from attending first rehearsals at the Oregon Symphony. I understand that having a critic in the house can be unsettling. They’re unsettled, I’m unsettled, so everybody smiles a lot.

Anyway, I went to a rehearsal last night of Cappella Romana, the Portland choir that is premiering Robert Kyr’s new piece on the environment, “A Time For Life.”

Whoa. I’ve been listening to Kyr’s music for many years, and some of it has stirred me and some of it hasn’t. But even through the stops and starts last night, something powerful, perhaps extraordinary, came through. Eight singers, accompanied by the group, Medieval Strings, sing and drone and chant music from Eskimo, Ojibway, Pawnee, Navaho, biblical and Eastern Orthodox texts and prayers

Much beauty, much lyricism. The concert is at 8 p.m. Friday, St. Mary’s Cathedral.

A TIME FOR LIFE Now in Rehearsal


A TIME for LIFE: Music for the Environment

Cappella Romana is in residence this week working on Robert Kyr’s innovative new work on the theme of living in harmony with nature, “A TIME FOR LIFE.” (Click here for a sound sample of music by Robert Kyr).

Artistic Director Alexander Lingas is shown above, conducting, with composer Robert Kyr at the keyboard, rehearsing at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Portland on Saturday, October 27, 2007.

Click here to order tickets.

“A TIME FOR LIFE” features impressive full-voiced acclamations by all eight singers, contrasted with intimate solos, insistent duets and pensive trios sung by members of Cappella Romana and accompanied by two vielles and viola da gamba, played by Medieval Strings (Margriet Tindemans, director).

Shown to the right is Robert Kyr working with Cappella Romana singer Stephanie Kramer.

Kyr’s work is inspired by the Greek Orthodox Service for the Environment from Mt. Athos and invocations of Native American peoples.

TWO PERFORMANCES
Friday, November 2, 2007, 8pm St. Mary’s Cathedral, NW 18th & Couch
Saturday, November 3, 2007, 8pm Town Hall Seattle, 8th & Seneca

Click here to order tickets.

Jo Routh and David Stutz preparing to sing with Robert Kyr at the keyboard.

Pre-concert talks will take place at 7pm by Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, author of Beyond the Shattered Image: Insights into an Orthodox Ecological Worldview. Kyr hosts a panel of Northwest environmental leaders,including Peter Drury of the Sightline Institute, in post-concert discussions.

This program is made possible in part through support from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, the Oregon Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Collins Foundation, the Herbert A. Templeton Foundation, the Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust, and Town Hall Seattle. The Mark Spencer Hotel is Cappella Romana’s official hotel sponsor.

About Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, and his talks on November 2 and 3

Before the concerts of A TIME FOR LIFE, in a special introductory presentation that will assume the form of an ecological meditation, Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis will explore a sacred vision of the earth.

Through images and word, he will reflect on the relationship of spirituality to ecology, emphasizing the role of icons, liturgy and self-sacrifice through asceticism.

By providing a spiritual perspective on the sacredness and beauty of the natural environment, he proposes that heaven and earth interpenetrate, restoring communion between God and the natural world.

In icons and in liturgy, God becomes incarnate, while matter becomes a vehicle of the Spirit.

More about Dr. Chryssavgis:

The Dr. Rev. John Chryssavgis
Theological Advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarch
on Environmental Issues

The Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis was born in Australia (1958), where he matriculated from the Scots College (1975). He received his degree in Theology from the University of Athens (1980) and a diploma in Byzantine Music from the Greek Conservatory of Music (1979), and was awarded a research scholarship to St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary (1982). He completed his doctoral studies in Patristics at the University of Oxford (1983). After several months in silent retreat on Mt Athos, he served as Personal Assistant to the Greek Orthodox Primate in Australia (1984-94) and was co-founder of St Andrew’s Theological College in Sydney (1985), where he was Sub-Dean and taught Patristics and Church History (1986-95). He was also Lecturer in the Divinity School (1986-90) and the School of Studies in Religion (1990-95) at the University of Sydney. In 1995, he moved to Boston, where he was appointed Professor of Theology at Holy Cross School of Theology and directed the Religious Studies Program at Hellenic College until 2002. He established the Environment Office at the same School in 2001. He has also taught as professor of Patristics at Balamand University in Lebanon.

He currently serves as theological advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarch on environmental issues.

The author of several books and numerous articles on the Church Fathers and Orthodox Spirituality, Fr. John’s most recent publications include Soul Mending: The Art of Spiritual Direction (Holy Cross Press, 2000), In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers (World Wisdom Books, 2002), Letters from the Desert: A Selection from Barsanuphius and John (St. Vladimir’s Press, 2003), and Light Through Darkness: the Orthodox tradition (Orbis Books, 2004).

Married to Sophie, Fr. John has two boys—Alexander (19 yrs, a sophomore at the Catholic University of America) and Julian (17 yrs, a high school senior).

Sneak preview of “A TIME FOR LIFE”

Here are some of the texts from Robert Kyr’s A TIME FOR LIFE:

I.

“O Creator:
Look at our brokenness.

In all creation,
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.

O Creator:
Teach us love, compassion, and honor,
So we may heal the earth.
So we may heal each other.”

–Ojibway Prayer, adapted by Robert Kyr

II.

“O Creator:
Guide us to preserve your creation.
help us to protect the fullness of nature
In which we live and move and have our being.
Give us the breath of winds.
Give us the flow of waters.
Give us light.”

–Adapted by Robert Kyr from the Orthodox “Service for the Environment”

III.

“A time for war
And a time for peace;
A time to mourn
And a time to dance;
A time for silence
And a time for music–
A time for life
And only life.”

–Adapted by Robert Kyr from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

City University features Dr Alexander Lingas and Cappella Romana

City University London’s staff newsletter features Cappella Romana:

Click here

Cappella Romana presents a free open rehearsal for donors and subscribers, completes recording of Music for Christmas by Richard Toensing

For this remarkable project, Richard Toensing composed an ambitious new a cappella work for Cappella Romana, requiring two choirs (24 singers), three male soloists (the Magi), treble and baritone duet (Christ), and soprano soloist (the Mother of God).

Entitled “The Kontakion of the Nativity of Christ,” Toensing set an English translation of the majority of the famous poetic sermon by St. Romanos the Melodist.

The 35-minute work will form the cornerstone of a new Christmas CD for future release.

In the week prior to the recording sessions, on Thursday, August 30, Cappella Romana’s donors and subscribers were treated to a free private open rehearsal, which featured not only a true working rehearsal to show how Cappella Romana prepares its programs, but also a complete performance of the Kontakion.

Here Dr. Alexander Lingas is shown addressing the crowd of donors and subscribers:

Following the rehearsal and performance, the audience was treated to a wine and cheese reception, hosted by Cappella Romana’s board of directors.

The ensemble completed recording Dr. Toensing’s magnum opus on Thursday night, September 6, at 12:30am (technically Friday morning) after three full nights of sessions to record this challenging but very beautiful, exhilarating and satisfying work. Producer Steve Barnett captured a bit of the ensemble’s mood in the following photograph of the ensemble, taken at 12:35am.

Front row: Wendy Steele, Amy Russell Cathey, Catherine van der Salm, Dr. Alexander Lingas, Dr. Richard Toensing (composer), LeaAnne DenBeste, Stephanie Kramer, Heather Roszczyk, Maria Karlin, Tuesday Rupp. Back row: Gayle Neuman, Aaron Cain, Linda Tsatsanis, Cahen Taylor, Ben Kinkley, Adam Steele, Daniel Burnett, Kristen Buhler, Les Green, Mark Powell, Stephen Marc Beaudoin, Dr. Virginia Hancock, Paul Sadilek, Melanie Downie Zupan, Jim Rose, Brian Francis, and David Krueger. Not shown: Blake Applegate, Kari Ferguson, David Stutz, Steve Barnett (producer), Bill Levey (engineer).

On Friday and Saturday nights, September 7 and 8, a smaller ensemble of 14 recorded a number of carols, also by Dr. Toensing, for inclusion on the future CD. Printed scores of these works (generally in no more than four parts) may be found here.

The recording sessions took place in St. Agatha Catholic Church in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland.

The project was made possible through the support of a small number of private donors and a major grant from the Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund.

Cappella Romana’s Chant Ensemble Presents the New Photo


Photographer Bill Stickney has created a fantastic image of Cappella Romana as men’s chant ensemble. Hi-res versions are available for print.

Music from Mt. Sinai: Recorded!

Cappella Romana’s program “Mt. Sinai: Frontier of Byzantium” was recorded last week, from August 20 through August 25, in the extraordinary acoustics of Holy Rosary Church in West Seattle. Alexander Lingas (center) led a nine-member ensemble in chants from the monastery of St. Catherine at Mt. Sinai in Egypt, featuring music for St. Catherine followed by the medieval liturgical drama, “The Service of the Furnace.” The program was performed in late 2006 at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Smithsonian Institution, then again in January 2007 in Cappella Romana’s own series.

Among the singers were Stelios Kontakiotis, protopsaltis of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC; John Michael Boyer, protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco; and Constantine Kokenes, lampadarios of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Atlanta, GA. Mark Powell, David Stutz, David Krueger, and Thomas Thompson rounded out the ensemble, directed by Dr. Alexander Lingas, who also sang as a melodist.

Multiple Grammy-award winner Steve Barnett was producer, along with Bill Levey, our regular and excellent sound engineer. The ensemble faced serious challenges during the week, with external noise outside the church increasing each night (the sessions were scheduled from 8pm to 12 midnight). The final night a group of bikers on Harley-Davidsons were trolling the neighborhood. Fortunately they left after about 9:30pm, but the first hour and a half was spent on one page of music! Friday’s final session ended at 12:15am!

The over 70-minute disc is slated for release in 2008 or 2009. First to come out this autumn will be the disc “Byzantium in Rome: Medeival Byzantine Chant from Grottaferrata”, then later the double-disc “Byzantine Divine Liturgy in English.”

Needless to say, we were relieved to complete the music in time! Now we will record Christmas music by Richard Toensing just after Labor Day.