Recordings

Ivan Moody Talks Akáthistos Hymn With iClassics

“The harmonies are lush and dark in Russian style, though periodically the shadows disperse as in a cloud-break and the sound brightens. The effect over the whole hymn is of a slow revelation of light and warmth over an ancient musical ground.” (Willamette Week)

“Something new, substantial, and profound” (Sunday Oregonian)

Standing Room Only — Ivan Moody’s Akáthistos Hymn

Interview originally published on iClassics.com:

Ancient melodies and a sixth-century poetic meditation form the ground of Ivan Moody’s setting of The Akáthistos Hymn, one of the most beloved devotional hymns in the Orthodox tradition of Christianity.

The Akáthistos Hymn is a meditation in 24 stanzas (one for each letter of the Greek alphabet) on the cosmic role of the Virgin Mary as mother of the incarnate Word of God. The popularity of the devotion is especially associated with the raising of the siege of Constantinople in the sixth century, a miracle attributed to the intervention of Mary as the protector of the city. In gratitude, the citizens of Constantinople gathered in the Holy Temple of Saint Sofia and sang the hymn while standing (hence the name Akáthistos, which means “not sitting”).

Moody’s setting makes use of a celebrated contemporary English translation by Bishop Kallistos Ware and Mother Mary; the refrains are sung in Greek to traditional Byzantine chant, with its characteristic microtonal ornaments. Moody is the first to compose music for the entire hymn since the Middle Ages.

iClassics.com: What was the genesis of this composition?

Ivan Moody: Having worked with Cappella Romana in the past – they gave the North American premiere of my oratorio, Passion & Resurrection, for example – I wanted to write a large-scale work especially for them. The Akáthistos Hymn is one of the great poetic compositions of the Orthodox Church, and I see that it is increasingly used in the Roman Catholic Church too. It is full of astounding imagery that just cries out for music.

Much of your music comes out of your interest in the traditions of the Orthodox church.

I’m a practicing Orthodox Christian; when I set words from our liturgical tradition, I’m always keenly aware of the historical riches we have stored up in musical terms. As a performing church and concert musician I’ve researched a number of Orthodox musical traditions, and feel privileged to be in a position to absorb all this.

However, I’m not Russian, or Greek, or Serbian: I was born in London, England. I think that the challenge for me is to reconcile all those musical traditions, which I love, with my own heritage and my own voice. I don’t do this consciously – if I may say this without sounding too pompous, there’s a period during the course of composition when one is just “digesting,” thinking subconsciously, and then all these things come together really quite spontaneously. If it doesn’t work that way, then it’s a sure sign that I should throw what I’ve written away…

How did you go about setting the Akáthistos Hymn? What were some of the special challenges?

Liturgically, nowadays most of this is intoned by a priest or deacon, the choir singing just the opening and closing sections and the refrains (“Rejoice” and “Alleluia”). However, it was not always thus: there are some extant mediaeval settings of the entire hymn in Byzantine chant. So, I bit the bullet and decided to set the whole text. The finished piece lasts for more than 90 minutes, making it the largest piece I’d ever written.

The first and biggest challenge was simply finding musical notes to correspond to the richness of the text! It’s so full of images that one can hardly find music for each idea – that would simply become tediously madrigalistic. It was a question of responding, simultaneously, to words, spiritual “ambience” and long-range architecture.

The second was how to structure the piece: it’s divided into four sections, and that helped me organize a harmonic scheme, but there are numerous sub-divisions, so one strategy that I adopted right from the beginning was the alternation of three inter-related styles. One was audibly related to Russian mediaeval music, the other was clearly Byzantine, and the third was, well – me. And that “me” is, in part, a result of those other two.

How did the recording come about?

Alex Lingas thought initially that I was nuts to undertake such a project, but once he had the score in his hands, he programmed it for Cappella Romana and made it a real success. I was present at the world première, in Portland OR, and it was quite one of the most extraordinarily moving occasions of my life. It was repeated in a subsequent concert season, and enthusiasm was then running at such a high level that the idea of recording it came about. If anyone was going to record it, Cappella was the choir.

CONCERTS

Gramophone Review of The Akáthistos Hymn

Ivan Moody The Akáthistos HymnLooking forward to our upcoming performances of Ivan Moody’s Akáthistos Hymn in Seattle and Portland, as well as the re-release of our original recording, we’re looking back at Gramophone Magazine’s 2003 review of our recording of the work:

“The Byzantine Akáthistos Hymn probably dates from the early 6th century and comprises 24 stanzas, one for each letter of the Greek alphabet. Moody’s is believed to be the first complete setting of the hymn, a meditation on the Virgin Mary, since medieval times.

Moody has combined authentic Byzantine melodies … [and produced] music of such purity and radiance that, to modern sensibilities at least, the beauty of the sound is a sensuous pleasure which is its own justification, regardless of the intention of the text. Moody’s realisation is sinfully lovely. Cappella Romana specialises in the Slavic and Byzantine traditions, so the excellence of this performance is no surprise…

As if 96 gorgeous minutes of the Akáthistos Hymn were not value for money, the album is rounded off with a shimmering performance of O Tebe Raduetsya, Moody’s 1990 setting of another hymn to the Virgin, this time from the Russian Orthodox tradition.” —B. Witherden, Gramophone

Full Review on gramophone.co.uk

Buy the Recording

2018 Performances

Sun of Justice on Ancient Faith Radio

John Michael Boyer and John El Massih join the Ancient Faith Radio podcast to talk about the debut PRÓTO release, Sun of Justice! Listen and subscribe at AncientFaith.com

Sun of Justice: Byzantine Chant for Christmas in Greek, Arabic, and English

Cappella Romana Media combines passion with scholarship in its exploration of early and contemporary music of the Christian East and West.

Featuring classical chants in Greek primarily by Petros Peloponnesios (1730–1778). Adaptations into Arabic primarily by Mitri El Murr (1880–1969) and those into English by John Michael Boyer (b. 1978) closely echo the originals in form, style, and grace.

This debut release by PRÓTO presents traditional chants for the Byzantine celebration of Christmas, including selections from The Royal Hours, Vespers, Matins, and the Divine Liturgy. A deluxe 32-page booklet is included with full texts in Greek, Arabic, and English.

Also Available via CD, Download, and Streaming At

iTunes Amazon Spotify Arkiv primephonic

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

Now Available — Sun of Justice: Byzantine Chant for Christmas in Greek, Arabic, and English

Sun of Justice: Byzantine Chant for Christmas in Greek, Arabic, and English

Cappella Romana Media combines passion with scholarship in its exploration of early and contemporary music of the Christian East and West.

A Holiday Record Unlike Any Other
Disc 1: Traditional Chants in Greek and Arabic
Disc 2: Traditional Chants in English

Featuring classical chants in Greek primarily by Petros Peloponnesios (1730–1778). Adaptations into Arabic primarily by Mitri El Murr (1880–1969) and those into English by John Michael Boyer (b. 1978) closely echo the originals in form, style, and grace.

This debut release by PRÓTO presents traditional chants for the Byzantine celebration of Christmas, including selections from The Royal Hours, Vespers, Matins, and the Divine Liturgy. A deluxe 32-page booklet is included with full texts in Greek, Arabic, and English.

PRÓTO is a collaboration of two protopsaltes (“first cantors”): John Michael Boyer, Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco; and the Reverend Deacon John Rassem El Massih, Protopsaltis of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Their shared vision is excellence in traditional Byzantine Music as well as the advancement, development, and composition of traditional Byzantine Music in the English language.

Also Available via CD, Download, and Streaming At

iTunes Amazon Spotify ArkivMusic primephonic

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)

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

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
TICKETS
Add to Calendar

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

Pre-Order Sun of Justice: Byzantine Chant for Christmas!

Sun of Justice

Sun of Justic: Byzantine Chant for Christmas in Greek, Arabic, and English

OPEN FOR PRE-ORDERS! SHIPS ON RELEASE DAY DECEMBER 8, 2017

Cappella Romana Media combines passion with scholarship in its exploration of early and contemporary music of the Christian East and West.

A Holiday Record Unlike Any Other
Disc 1: Traditional Chants in Greek and Arabic
Disc 2: Traditional Chants in English

Featuring classical chants in Greek primarily by Petros Peloponnesios (1730–1778). Adaptations into Arabic primarily by Mitri El Murr (1880–1969) and those into English by John Michael Boyer (b. 1978) closely echo the originals in form, style, and grace.

This debut release by PRÓTO presents traditional chants for the Byzantine celebration of Christmas, including selections from The Royal Hours, Vespers, Matins, and the Divine Liturgy. A deluxe 32-page booklet is included with full texts in Greek, Arabic, and English.

PRÓTO is a collaboration of two protopsaltes (“first cantors”): John Michael Boyer, Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco; and the Reverend Deacon John Rassem El Massih, Protopsaltis of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Their shared vision is excellence in traditional Byzantine Music as well as the advancement, development, and composition of traditional Byzantine Music in the English language.

Help Support a New Arvo Pärt Recording

Composer Arvo Pärt
After multiple performances, and rave reviews of Arvo Pärt’s Odes of Repentance, Cappella is preparing to make a recording of this work — but in order to make it a reality, we’ll need your support!

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Steinberg: Passion Week a Gramophone Recording of the Year

Steinberg: Passion WeekGramophone Magazine released their 2015 Recordings of the Year issue and included our Maximilian Steinberg: Passion Week recording!

“This important and exciting release from the Portland, Oregon-based 26-strong chamber choir is a notable successor to their ‘Good Friday in Jerusalem’ disc (5/15). … This recording closely followed what is believed to have been the premiere complete performance by these forces. … The a cappella textures spread variously and luxuriantly into 12 parts, requiring, as might be expected, the sopranos to soar with jewel-like brilliance and the basses to delve to their reedy subterranean depths. Cappella Romana cope with all of this with an eloquent brilliance, singing with tremendous relish, as though this obscure masterpiece had been in their repertory for years. Their unanimity of attack and fastidious approach to dynamic contrasts are just two hallmarks of an outstanding achievement. Hats off, too, to Preston Smith and Steve Barnett for their superb engineering and production. …the finest advocacy from these fine musicians. This is definitely a disc to savour.” —Malcolm Riley, Gramophone Magazine

Buy The CD & The VINYL Today!