Category: Alexander Lingas

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:

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

Concert Tickets & Information

A Note from the Executive Director

Mark Powell_Cappella-Romana_Board and StaffDear friends,

Cappella Romana just successfully completed one of its largest seasons ever. Last month the ensemble recorded Steinberg’s Passion Week, the remarkable work performed complete for the first time in April, with Grammy-award winning producer Steve Barnett.

This coming season is the ensemble’s most ambitious, with 13 performances in the Pacific Northwest series: 5 programs performed on Fridays in Seattle, and Saturdays and Sundays in Portland. We’re thrilled to be able to offer you more of “the Northwest’s leading chamber choir” (Oregon ArtsWatch).

The first program of the season is performed on Labor Day Weekend, an unusual time for certain for a classical concert. However the performances in Seattle and Portland of “The Fall of Constantinople” are given just prior to the ensemble’s first appearance at the Utrecht Early Music Festival in the Netherlands, the most important Early Music festival in the world. The concert given there (on September 7) will be broadcast on all the major European broadcasting networks, including the BBC, Radio France, and German Public Radio.

Here in the Northwest, there’s still time to subscribe: you can save a lot if you buy all five concerts!

I look forward to seeing you at Cappella Romana this coming season.

Yours Sincerely,

Mark Powell

Alexander Lingas Gives Presentations at Yale and King’s College

Alexander Lingas gives academic presentations at the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University and the Institute of Classical Studies at King’s College London:
Alexander Lingas_Cappella Romana_Board and Staff

King’s College London

Eastern-Western Motet: Liturgical Music in Byzantium and the West

The Musical Codification of Byzantine Hymnody

See the Full Two-Day Colloquium Schedule Here

Yale University Institute of Sacred Music

Competing Imaginations: Byzantine Chant and the Search for Usable Pasts

This presentation will survey major points of contention that have arisen over the past 150 years as authors writing from a variety of vantage points have competed to imagine pasts for Byzantine chant that were, as Yiorgos Anagnostou would say, ‘usable’ within particular ecclesiastical, political or social contexts. Some of these pasts were imagined in such a way as to complement the aspirations of peoples in Eastern Europe and the Middle East seeking to build distinct national cultures upon the ruins of the multi-ethnic Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. These locally imagined pasts fostered especially virulent debate when colliding with the supranational ideologies of Western Orientalism and Orthodox anti-Westernism, manifestations of which may be seen in competing claims to the musical inheritance of the Late Antique and early medieval Christian oikoumene.

Find out more here!

Alexander Lingas Performs The Kontakion in Service of Thanksgiving for the Life and Work of Sir John Tavener

Sir John Tavener

Μετὰ τῶν Ἁγίων ἀνάπαυσον, Χριστε, τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ δούλου σου, ἔνθα οὐκ ἔστι πόνος, οὐ λύπη, οὐ στεναγμός, ἀλλὰ ζωὴ ἀτελεύτητος.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of your servant, where there is no toil, nor grief, nor sighing, but everlasting life.

Cappella Romana Artistic Director, Alexander Lingas, served as one of the cantors at the Service of Thanksgiving for the Life and Work of Sir John Tavener at the Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, June 11. The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr. John Hall, and featured music by Tavener both beforeand during the Service. Highlighting the tribute to one of Britain’s most celebrated composers was The Prince of Wales, who attended the service in a personal capacity as a friend of Tavener and his family.

For more information on the service:

The Telegraph
The Telegraph Blog
Church Times

Alexander Lingas Talks Passion Week Cycle on the Orthodox Arts Journal

2013-14-Season Cappella Romana

Alexander Lingas has a new article on the Orthodox Arts Journal on the re-discovery of Maximilian Steinberg’s Passion Week Cycle, Op. 13! The article, “Passion Week, Opus 13 by Maximilian Steinberg (1883–1946): The Recovery of a Neglected Musical Contribution to the Russian Religious Renaissance” traces the history of the Russian Religious Renaissance and the story of how Dr. Lingas rediscovered and is now premiering the work with Cappella Romana.

Read it Here!

Passion Week

Portland
8:30pm, Fri., Apr. 11, St. Mary’s Cathedral (NOTE LATER TIME)

Seattle
8pm, Sat., Apr. 12, St. Joseph’s Parish, Seattle

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The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom by Tikey Zes

Dr. Zes first published in 1991 The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom recorded on this disc. In 1996 he reissued it in an expanded edition that he dedicated to Cappella Romana, which had presented the concert premiere of the work in 1992. It is a collection of choral settings intended for Orthodox liturgical use and, like many other such publications (for example, Tchaikovsky’s All-Night Vigil, op. 52), includes more music than would ever be required for a single service. One and, in some cases, two choral settings are provided for all the ordinary chants and responses of the Divine Liturgy. It also includes music for services celebrated by a bishop, the Liturgy of St. Basil, and numerous texts proper to particular days or seasons. (Two older items that Dr. Zes incorporated into the 1996 Liturgy—the Cherubic Hymn #1 and the Sunday Communion Verse #2—may be heard, respectively, on Cappella Romana’s discs When Augustus Reigned and Tikey Zes: Choral Works.)

The present disc offers the music required for a celebration of the Divine Liturgy by a priest and deacon on the Second Sunday after Pentecost. The Greek text sung here is—with the exception of the dialogue preceding the Alleluiarion, which is fully restored to its ancient form—that of The Divine Liturgy of Our Father Among the Saints St John Chrysostom, 2nd ed. (London: Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, 2011). The space limitations of the CD format required us to make a number of abbreviations to portions of the service not set to music by Dr. Zes. The Prokeimenon (Gradual) and Apostle (Epistle) reading are thus omitted, as are the Litanies of the Catechumens and the Faithful following the Gospel, and the bulk of the Nicene Creed. In addition, the presidential prayers of the celebrant are generally limited to their concluding exclamations, a usage that prevails in churches where these prayers are read silently. (The complete text of the Divine Liturgy may be heard on Cappella Romana’s 2-disc recording The Divine Liturgy of Our Father Among the Saints John Chrysostom in English in Byzantine Chant.)

For a listener approaching this recording from the perspective of the Greek American choral traditions surveyed above, Dr. Zes’s 1996 Liturgy will probably seem like a radical departure from prevailing norms. Although the music often echoes Byzantine chant in Modes 1, Plagal 1 and, less often, Plagal 4, the vast majority of its melodies are original. Indeed, only three of the movements recorded on the present disc are based on pre-existing melodies. The Apolytikion of the Resurrection presents a traditional chant with some rhythmic and melodic modifications, while the Introit “Come, let us worship” sets only the first half of the chant before reprising the original tune heard earlier as the refrain to the Second Antiphon. The only melody by Sakellarides occurs in the Communion Hymn “Of Your Mystical Supper,” which is a Greek retroversion of the English setting previously recorded by Cappella Romana on the disc Tikey Zes: Choral Works. Musical unity is provided instead through various formal devices. One such device is the recurrence of invertible counterpoint (exchange of vocal parts) in the antiphons, Trisagion and Communion Verse. Another occurs in the Litany of Peace, the opening unison melody of which is subsequently heard in different voices as its polyphonic texture builds.

Despite the paucity of recognizable chant melodies, the 1996 Liturgy bears the marks of a composer long engaged with the traditions of Orthodox worship. Choral responses uttered in musical dialogue with the deacon or celebrant are, in keeping with their liturgical function, generally short, homophonic and unaccompanied. Vocal textures in antiphons and hymns are often sparse, consisting of one or two parts with organ accompaniment. Only at liturgically or textually significant points does the musical texture thicken as parts multiply in passages of homophonic declamation or dense counterpoint (examples of the latter may be heard in the musical evocations of angelic worship of the Trisagion, Cherubic Hymn, Sanctus (“Holy, Holy, Holy”), Megalynarion and Communion Verse). Cumulatively opulent in its variety, level of difficulty and ecstatic polyphonic climaxes, this Liturgy achieves a balance of splendor with restraint that is, its inculturated musical idiom notwithstanding, thoroughly Byzantine.

— Alexander Lingas

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The Divine Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom — Liner Notes Part Three

A Second Generation of Greek American Church Musicians

After the Second World War a second generation of Greek American church musicians emerged, some of whom had received training in Western art music at American universities. The composers among them soon began to recast the legacy of Sakellarides by rescoring his harmonized works idiomatically for mixed chorus, and dressing his melodies in more sophisticated harmonic and contrapuntal garb. A seminal figure in the advancement of these trends throughout the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America was Frank Desby (1922–92). Based at the newly opened St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles, Dr. Desby drew on knowledge gained from academic study of chant, the liturgical music of Western Europe, and Russian choral music to create settings inspired by Renaissance, Russian, and modern prototypes. In 1951 the Society for the Advancement of Greek Orthodox Ecclesiastical and Greek Folk Music (today Greek Sacred and Secular Music Society), co-founded by Dr. Desby, published his Choral Music to the Divine Liturgy for Mixed Voices, a collection combining reworked versions of Sakellarides with a modicum of original material located mostly in the service’s short responses (“Amen,” “Lord, have mercy,” and so on).

Disseminated through regional music conferences of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese at which a massed choir accompanied by an organ was prepared, often by Dr. Desby himself, to sing the Sunday morning Divine Liturgy, this collection influenced the subsequent development of Greek American liturgical music in a number of ways. Dr. Desby’s Liturgy provided composers with a precedent for the composition or compilation of complete choral settings of the Orthodox Eucharist comparable in scale to those of such earlier Russian composers as Tchaikovsky, as well as an institutional framework for their performance (the regional choir conference). Its copious and audibly recognizable use of material by Sakellarides helped not only to perpetuate the hegemony of his work in the Greek Orthodox churches of America, but also to secure the rapid acceptance of Dr. Desby’s arrangements by clergy and laity.

Like Desby and Peter Michaelides (whose own setting of the Divine Liturgy Cappella Romana has previously recorded), Tikey Zes (b. 1927) was trained professionally in music at the University of Southern California. Although active as a composer of Greek Orthodox choral music since the 1950s, his first complete setting of the Divine Liturgy was published only in 1978 by the Greek Sacred and Secular Music Society. This work finds Dr. Zes adhering to Sakellarides for the melodies of its major hymns, but also including features that were unusual or innovative in Greek American liturgical music. In it the tunes of Sakellarides are frequently disguised: they are absorbed into polyphonic textures; secondary dominants and other characteristics of Romantic harmony are avoided; organ parts not infrequently do more than double the voices (independent writing for organ is also to be found in settings by Anna Gallos [b. 1920], a Greek Orthodox church musician who worked primarily in the Eastern United States); and original melodies occasionally appear. 

—Alexander Lingas

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The Divine Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom — Liner Notes Part Two

John Sakellarides and Greek American Choral Music for the Divine Liturgy

The first notated examples of polyphonic music for the Byzantine rite—that is, music employing more than one vocal part intended for worship by Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic Christians—appeared shortly before 1453 among the works of singers who served at the courts of the last Byzantine (East Roman) Emperors. Over the following centuries, liturgical singing by Orthodox Christians living under Ottoman rule was generally monophonic, consisting of a single vocal line of chant supported ad libitum by a vocal drone or “ison.” Elsewhere, however, many Orthodox Christians developed traditions of polyphonic singing that were influenced to varying degrees by Western European music. In some traditions singers have spontaneously harmonized chant melodies, a practice still found today in Serbia, Romania, and on the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Kephalonia. Better known is the creation of notated musical settings featuring advanced techniques of Western harmony or counterpoint, an approach pursued by Ukrainian and Russian composers from the Baroque era onwards.

Circumstances congenial to the cultivation of liturgical polyphony on the Greek mainland emerged only gradually after the founding in 1832 of an independent Kingdom of Greece by a Westernizing cultural elite. In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, royal patronage and changing musical tastes stimulated the founding of polyphonic choirs in Athens and the larger provincial cities of Greece to sing the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feasts. Alexandros Katakouzenos (1824–1892) and Themistokles Polykrates (1863–1926) led the creation of a repertory of four-part music for male chorus modeled after Russian prototypes that was employed in the Royal Chapel and certain urban churches. Much more popular, however, was the music of John Sakellarides (ca. 1853–1938), an Athenian cantor who proffered a simplified version of the received repertory of Byzantine chant that he claimed to have purified of oriental decadence. Sakellarides published in both Byzantine neumes (musical signs) and Western staff notation collections that included not only unadorned chant, but also melodies harmonized in two, three, and (rarely) four parts.

The ascent of Western musical styles in the churches of Athens coincided with the rise of Greek emigration to the United States. The immigrants brought to the New World both traditional Byzantine chant and the new Athenian liturgical music, but found that their new cultural environment was more hospitable to the latter. Russian-style works were not unheard in America, but it was the music of Sakellarides that soon came to be accepted as “traditional” in its Greek Orthodox churches. This was evidently due in part to its simplicity, the ready availability of its frequently reprinted staff-notation editions, and its frequent close melodic resemblance to more traditional forms of chant. Also important was its active cultivation by prominent musicians and clergy. Several disciples of Sakellarides emigrated to the United States and assumed key musical posts: George Anastasiou (Washington, DC and later Tarpon Springs, Florida), Angelos Desfis (Los Angeles), and Christos Vryonides (1894–1961; the first professor of Byzantine chant at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, the archdiocesan seminary now located in Brookline, Massachusetts). Continuity in musical development along Western lines was assured by the support of Archbishops Athenagoras (1931–49), Michael (1949–59), and Iakovos (1959–96), all of whom promoted mixed choirs with organs. 

—Alexander Lingas

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“The Green Patriarch,” Cappella Romana, And a Time For life

Robert Kyr: A TIme for LifeBefore climate change became a pressing item on the global agenda, signs of human abuse of the natural environment had prompted efforts in religious communities throughout the world to recover spiritually grounded notions of human stewardship within creation. For Orthodox Christianity, this process began in earnest during the second half of the tenure of His All-Holiness Dimitrios I as Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (1972–1991). Theological inquiry was succeeded by public engagement in 1989 when Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios set aside September 1st, New Year’s Day in the liturgical calendar of Eastern Orthodox Churches, as an occasion for Christians under his jurisdiction to offer prayers annually for the protection of the environment.

September 1st was chosen as liturgically suitable because themes of supplication and thanksgiving for creation were already present in the existing medieval service texts for this day (albeit with emphasis on preserving the city, imperial government and church of Byzantine Constantinople). Common prayer specifically “for our environment and for the welfare of all creation” was facilitated the following year by the commissioning of a new liturgical office in Greek from Fr. Gerasimos of the Skete of Little Anne on the Holy Mountain of Athos (1905–91), a prolific poet who had been previously recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate as “Hymnwriter of the Great Church.” In 1992, at the request of the World Council of Churches, Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash) made a slightly expanded English version of this new office, the full text of which is available on his personal website.

The present Ecumenical Patriarch, His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, has made the preservation of the environment a focal point of his ministry. Described elsewhere in this booklet by the Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, his efforts have led the international media to dub him “the Green Patriarch.” One of their recurrent themes, sounded also by other Eastern Orthodox writers, has been that maltreatment of the natural environment rests ultimately on human distortions of relationships with God and nature that are most properly ordered by love and thanksgiving.

Some years ago Robert Kyr, having become aware of and admiring the environmental initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, approached me with the idea of composing an oratorio for Cappella Romana that would address some of the same issues. This led to further conversations between us exploring past and present perspectives on the relationship between divinity, humanity and the environment. These discussions served as a background for the creation of his libretto for A Time for Life, in which Professor Kyr sensitively incorporates excerpts from the Bible, the worship of Eastern Orthodoxy, and the prayers of indigenous peoples. As set to music, these texts movingly render the loss of ancient wisdom regarding responsible stewardship of creation, its horrific consequences for our environment, and the potential offered by the recovery of spiritual tradition for re-establishing a harmonious relationship with nature.

—Alexander Lingas

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