Concerts

Sun of Justice: A Two-Fold Offering – Part Two

Sun of JusticeWith this two-fold offering of traditional Byzantine Music, we seek to give the listener two distinct yet complementary experiences: first, that of being in a traditional Orthodox church somewhere in the Middle East, wherein one choir sings in Greek and the other in Arabic; and second: that of being in a traditional Orthodox church in the United States with highly trained and proficient chanters singing traditional Byzantine Music in straightforward, clear, properly translated English. The first experience is not uncommon today; the second is less common, but we have hope that it will soon become the liturgical standard—hand-in-hand with the continued development of Byzantine Music in Greek and Arabic—for Orthodox Christian parishes in America. Presented in liturgical sequence, each disc jumps from one moment to another, giving a taste of the entire experience of praying the Great (Royal) Hours on Christmas Eve morning, Vesperal Liturgy on Christmas Eve, and Orthros (Matins) and Divine Liturgy on Christmas morning.

Back in the United States…

I have written elsewhere concerning my general approach to the composition of Byzantine Music
in English. For this project, I was blessed to have the opportunity to set the excellent translations of my late spiritual father, the Very Reverend Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash) (+ 2016). In rendering his translations, I focused on three areas: first, setting the medium-textured Idiomela (through-composed hymns) in the most traditional way possible; second: rendering the syllabic-textured Troparia in traditional forms that lend themselves to memorization and congregational singing; and third: metering Fr. Ephrem’s translations to fit the melodies of the Greek Eirmoi for the Odes of the Canon. Each of these tasks is comparably challenging, vastly different, and equally important.

In composing the Idiomela, I may choose to follow the general contour of the Greek prototypes, but more often than not I simply allow the text to direct me where to go. Sometimes this yields a result much like the Greek, other times the result is very different. At its heart, however, are the structure and content of the text itself. I departed from the middle texture of Petros’s Doxastarion for the double-choir Doxastikon of the Ninth Hour, opting for a style closer to the slow or “old” sticheraric genre. This showcases a more melismatic style in English, for which I sought to emulate the works of Stephanos Lambadarios, Konstandinos Protopsaltis, and the newly released Doxastikarion of the Athonite monastery of Vatopaidi.

The syllabic Apolytikion and Troparia of the Prophecies in general require a process similar to that of the Idiomela: compose for the text. However, I also make an attempt to create melodies that will linger in the listener’s mind and lend themselves to memorization.

The Canon melodies, being modeled after the Eirmos of each Ode, require a metered translation in order to be sung correctly; otherwise, the Ode loses its strophic melodic pattern, and the whole structure falls away. Having been given free reinby the late Fr. Ephrem to adapt his translations as I see fit, I dedicated significant time and energy to the metering process. Rather than attempting to find the most polysyllabic synonyms possible for each translated word, I rather erred on the side of elaboration, clarification, and paraphrase—while staying within the spirit and content of each hymn text and within the bounds of Orthodox theology—and worked toward a text that is clear and theologically sound, sounds like proper English, and fits the given melody.

In undertaking these three main compositional challenges, I strove to create a series of hymns that not only would complement their Greek originals and Arabic counterparts, but that would stand also on their own merits.

John Michael Boyer (Read Part One)

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Sun of Justice Concert Series

Cappella’s Associate Music Director John Michael Boyer directs exhilarating Byzantine chants for Christmastide in Greek, Arabic, and English. Featuring Lebanon-born guest soloist, Rev’d Deacon John (Rassem) El Massih, and the release of a new CD of the program.

With performances in Seattle, Portland, Salem, and Sacramento.

SALEM

Thu 14 Dec, 7:30pm
Greek Orthodox Mission Church of Salem
at Blanchet High School
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SEATTLE

Fri 15 Dec, 8:00pm
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
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Sun of Justice: A Two-Fold Offering – Part One

Sun of JusticeWith this two-fold offering of traditional Byzantine Music, we seek to give the listener two distinct yet complementary experiences: first, that of being in a traditional Orthodox church somewhere in the Middle East, wherein one choir sings in Greek and the other in Arabic; and second: that of being in a traditional Orthodox church in the United States with highly trained and proficient chanters singing traditional Byzantine Music in straightforward, clear, properly translated English. The first experience is not uncommon today; the second is less common, but we have hope that it will soon become the liturgical standard—hand-in-hand with the continued development of Byzantine Music in Greek and Arabic—for Orthodox Christian parishes in America. Presented in liturgical sequence, each disc jumps from one moment to another, giving a taste of the entire experience of praying the Great (Royal) Hours on Christmas Eve morning, Vesperal Liturgy on Christmas Eve, and Orthros (Matins) and Divine Liturgy on Christmas morning.

Somewhere in the Middle East…

Not showcasing particularly extravagant or virtuosic music, Disc One of Sun of Justice is a selection of standard, traditional settings of hymns from classical musical sources in both Greek and Arabic. The main source for the material in Greek is the Doxastarion of Petros Peloponnesios, the Archon Lambadarios (leader of the left choir), of the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Constantinople in the mid-18th century. Considered a modern father of Byzantine Music, his “New Sticheraric” genre and texture—simpler and more elegant than much of what came before—became the standard repertoire in the Greek Orthodox Churches from the 18th century on; it also served as the model for how most Byzantine Music would be adapted to other languages. In some cases, there is slight discrepancy between the hymn texts in the Doxastarion and those in the standard Menaion of the Greek Orthodox Church; where they differ, we opted to favor the Doxastarion, as this was clearly what was in use when Petros was composing.

Mitri El Murr, the composer of most of the Arabic selections on this record, emulated and evoked the style of Petros in many ways. He also incorporated some less conservative elements, however: modulations, chromaticism, and some melodic turns all his own; yet his style remains firmly within the received tradition.

In addition to these two main compositional sources, Disc One includes work in Greek by Stephanos the Lambadarios and Ioannis Vyzantios the Protopsaltis, who both emulated the style of Petros into the 19th century; the Monk Chrysostom Agiographos, a composer on Mt. Athos in the early 20th century; and my teacher and friend, Dr. Ioannis Arvanitis, who composed the Prokeimenon at the end of the disc and also the Kalophonic Eirmos which closes Disc Two.

The Arabic melody for the Kontakion is a composition by the Very Reverend Father Romanos Joubran, Dean of St. George Cathedral in Beirut, and emulates the traditional Greek melody beautifully. In addition, our own Deacon John Rassem El Massih took it upon himself to compose both the Prophecy Troparia and the Troparia of Ode I of the Canon; he also masterfully adapted Arvanitis’s melody for the Prokeimenon to the Arabic text. All in all, shifting back and forth between Greek and Arabic feels virtually seamless, and the two languages—as well as their respective melodies—complement each other beautifully.

John Michael Boyer (Read Part Two)

Order the Recording

Sun of Justice Concert Series

Cappella’s Associate Music Director John Michael Boyer directs exhilarating Byzantine chants for Christmastide in Greek, Arabic, and English. Featuring Lebanon-born guest soloist, Rev’d Deacon John (Rassem) El Massih, and the release of a new CD of the program.

With performances in Seattle, Portland, Salem, and Sacramento.

SALEM

Thu 14 Dec, 7:30pm
Greek Orthodox Mission Church of Salem
at Blanchet High School
TICKETS Add to Calendar

SEATTLE

Fri 15 Dec, 8:00pm
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
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Why “Sun of Justice”?

Sun of Justice

John Michael Boyer explains the meaning behind the name of our Sun of Justice concert series and the new PRÓTO ensemble recording:

Sun of Justice The ecclesiastical feast day celebrating the Nativity of Jesus Christ—which came to be called simply “Christ’s Mass,” or “Christmas” in English—was added to the calendar in the Eastern Church somewhat later than were other major feasts. Originally Christ’s Nativity and Baptism were celebrated on the same day: Epiphany (January 6th). Much has been written concerning what influences—Pagan, Persian, or Christian—led to December 25th becoming the feast day of the Nativity of Christ. All three—the late Roman Pagan holiday of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, the ancient Persian celebration of the birth of Mithras (the “Sun of Justice”), and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ—were each in the mind of the Roman populace to one extent or another during the development of the Christian calendar. This may explain why one of the main hymnological themes for Christmas is light in general and the sun specifically: Orthodox hymnography refers to Christ “dawning from a Virgin,” to his Nativity making “the light of knowledge dawn on the world,” and to him as the “Dayspring from on high,” or “Dayspring from the East.” The hymns even apply the title “Sun of Justice” to Jesus Christ. Christians seemed to say, “You all worship the sun in the sky or call this false god Mithras the ‘Sun of Justice,’ whereas we worship the true God, the spiritual, noetic ‘Sun of Justice’: Jesus Christ, the Son of God and true giver of light and life.”

This imagery permeates the feast’s hymnography, which also explores the paradox of God becoming man and the Virgin giving birth; the humility of the Son of God in his Incarnation; and the sanctifcation of the earth, the deification of humanity, and the reconciliation of God and Man in the God-Man Jesus Christ. The hymns culminate in creation’s universal exaltation: “Shout with joy, to the Lord, all the Earth!” “Glory to God in the highest!”

John Michael Boyer

Order the Recording

Sun of Justice Concert Series

Cappella’s Associate Music Director John Michael Boyer directs exhilarating Byzantine chants for Christmastide in Greek, Arabic, and English. Featuring Lebanon-born guest soloist, Rev’d Deacon John (Rassem) El Massih, and the release of a new CD of the program.

With performances in Seattle, Portland, Salem, and Sacramento.

SALEM

Thu 14 Dec, 7:30pm
Greek Orthodox Mission Church of Salem
at Blanchet High School
TICKETS Add to Calendar

SEATTLE

Fri 15 Dec, 8:00pm
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
TICKETS
Add to Calendar

Cappella Romana Sings Carols at The Grotto

Cappella Romana Caroling at Pioneer Courthouse Square

Sunday, November 26th at 9pm, Cappella Romana will perform carols at “The Largest Christmas Carol Festival in the World”, The Grotto Christmas Festival of Lights!

Presenting the sights, sounds and sensations of the season, The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights is the largest Christmas choral festival in the world. The festival features nearly 160 indoor holiday concerts performed by many of the region’s finest school, church and civic choirs. Offering a family-oriented blend of traditional celebration and serene reflection, the festival theme reflects the special season of hope that Christmas offers to many thousands of families from around the Pacific Northwest.

Five indoor concerts are scheduled each evening in The Grotto’s 600-seat chapel, known for its cathedral quality acoustics. Continuous family entertainment in The Grotto’s plaza area includes outdoor caroling, puppet shows and a live petting zoo.

Holiday foods and beverages are also available, as is seasonal shopping in The Grotto Gift Shop.

Cyrillus Kreek: Blessed is the Man – Live

Cappella Romana performs “Blessed is the man” by Cyrillus Kreek with renowned Finnish choral director Timo Nuoranne during the Arctic Light II: Northern Exposure concert at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, Washington on November 17, 2017.

Cappella Romana Rehearses Arctic Light II

Cappella Romana rehearsing “Psalm 84” by Cyrillus Kreek with renowned Finnish choral director Timo Nuoranne.

The Psalms of Estonian composer Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962) take a pride of place in “Arctic Light II.” Kreek and his family converted from the Lutheran church to the Orthodox faith in 1896, when Kreek was just seven years old. His psalm settings follow Orthodox forms, which each include a traditional selection of verses along with refrains familiar to Orthodox faithful. Verses from Psalm 84 (LXX 83) heard in the video above are usually sung for a dedication of a church (“How lovely are your dwelling places”).

Kreek also has a special connection to Cappella Romana’s prior work, in that he was a student of composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory when one of his teachers would have been Maximilian Steinberg, student and son-in-law of Rimsky-Korsakov and composer of the now celebrated Passion Week, of which Cappella Romana gave the world premiere performances and world premiere recording in 2014. Echoes of Steinberg’s compositional voice can be heard in Kreek’s setting of Psalm 137 (LXX 136) “By the waters of Babylon,” which you won’t want to miss on this weekend’s program!

Arctic Light II: Northern Exposure

Renowned Finnish choral director Timo Nuoranne returns to direct glimmering sacred works from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Estonia. With selections from Cappella Romana’s celebrated recording Arctic Light: Finnish Orthodox Music, and a Trisagion in Estonian, Slavonic, and Greek by Erkki-Sven Tüür.

LAKE OSWEGO

Sun 19 Nov, 3:00pm
Marylhurst University

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With selections also by the Marylhurst University Chamber Choir
Justin Smith, director
 

Northern Exposure Rehearsals are underway!

Timo Nuoranne has arrived and Arctic Light II: Northern Exposure rehearsals are underway!

LAKE OSWEGO

Sun 19 Nov, 3:00pm
Marylhurst University

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With selections also by the Marylhurst University Chamber Choir
Justin Smith, director
 

How Timo Nuoranne is coming back to Cappella Romana

Audiences in the Pacific Northwest know Timo Nuoranne from his Cappella Romana debut with Arctic Light in 2014: a concert program that was almost scrapped, as the program’s original director (Fr. Ivan Moody) was forced to cancel his appearance due to a recent injury that prevented him from flying.

The project was a brilliant success, and Timo’s excellent musicianship, commitment, and rapport with the singers was on full display.

Because of Timo’s life-long commitment to the choral music of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016), we invited him to come back for a project this past January, Rautavaara’s completely peerless All-Night Vigil.

But it was not to be.

Timo had produced the definitive recording of Rautavaara’s All-Night Vigil with the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir, which he directed for many years.

Everything was in place for his second appearance.

But then we hit a major snag. His work visa became mired in a worldwide bureaucratic confusion at the State Department (and its embassies) following the presidential inauguration. After multiple attempts, three airfare rebookings, and personal calls to our government officials, Timo was not able to travel to the United States to direct the Rautavaara concert.

Undaunted, we quickly began to devise a new program that would bring Timo back to the States, directing music that he knows and loves. The result was Arctic Light II: Northern Exposure.

“I am absolutely thrilled that Timo will be leading this music for audiences in the Pacific Northwest,” said Mark Powell, Executive Director of Cappella Romana. “I am half Norwegian myself, and 25 years ago I had the privilege of performing some of this music with the great choral leader, the late Eric Ericson from Sweden.” At that time, Timo was completing his graduate studies with Maestro Ericson in Stockholm. “When Timo first came to work with Cappella Romana we became quick friends over our shared experience with Eric Ericson. I’m so happy that Timo will be back with us again.”

Timo Nuroanne arrives later this week to start rehearsals with Cappella Romana for “Arctic Light II: Northern Exposure.”

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SEATTLE

Fri 17 Nov, 8:00pm
St. James Cathedral
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LAKE OSWEGO

Sun 19 Nov, 3:00pm
Marylhurst University

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With selections also by the Marylhurst University Chamber Choir
Justin Smith, director
 

Rehearsing Tchaikovsky’s Nine Sacred Pieces

Benedict Sheehan, an emerging authority on Russian Orthodox singing and music director at St. Tikhon’s Seminary and Monastery in Pennsylvania, makes his Cappella Romana debut with selections from Tchaikovsky’s groundbreaking All-Night Vigil, Op. 52, and his transcendent Nine Sacred Pieces.

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Fall Festival Sneak Peek

Our Sunday matinée performance at St. Matthew’s in Hillsboro will be presented as part of the church’s Fall Festival. Here’s a preview of Tchaikovsky’s All-Night Vigil on YouTube:

Translation

Hail, gladdening Light, of his pure glory poured,
Who is the immortal Father, heavenly, blest,
Holiest of holies, Jesus Christ our Lord!
Now we are come to the sun’s hour of rest;
The lights of evening round us shine;
We hymn the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit divine.
Worthiest art thou at all times to be sung
With undefilèd tongue,
Son of our God, giver of life, alone;
Therefore in all the world thy glories, Lord, they own. Amen.

SPECIAL OFFER: Section A Ticket plus German Dinner for only $40. You may purchase a children’s ticket for free and pay for their dinner ticket at the door. You can enjoy your dinner either before or after the concert:

Hillsboro

Sun 22 Oct, 2:00pm
St. Matthew’s Church, Hillsboro
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(Concert has one 20-minute intermission and will end c. 3:45pm)