“Led by two Greek Orthodox clergy, this new look at The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is nothing short of ravishing. The beautifully recorded sound allows you to hear just how good these singers are at bringing real meaning to the text… Really, anyone who cares about religious music – or great choral music generally – needs to purchase this exceptional release, both as a testament to the longevity of a great art form, and as evidence of the continuing evolution of religious music and its influences as the world changes. We are very fortunate to have a choir like Cappella Romana to share this with us; the world is a better place as a result.” —Brian Wigman, Classical Net
“I am contending that great religious music, really great religious music, touches us all through beauty, musical thought, and sincerity of purpose. Therefore, this project is not only a major statement of ecumenical ideals, but also a major musical statement. As a profoundly beautiful religious work, it succeeds. As a statement of tolerance and peace, it succeeds. And as something that we can all connect to, it succeeds all the more. … There is perhaps no choir that can sing this kind of music more beautifully than Cappella Romana. Having commissioned this work, they are understandably passionate about it, singing with real emotion and depth. The members of Third Angle New Music also make absolutely lovely sounds. This is a tremendous disc, one which requires no religion to enjoy, but only heart and soul. We all have this, so it means something, I hope, to each one of us.” —Brian Wigman, Classical Net
On their new CD, Cappella Romana performs Byzantine musical treasures from the cathedrals and monasteries of the Eastern Roman Empire which were preserved from destruction in the Egyptian desert at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Catherine at Mt. Sinai.… This music speaks to a higher self: its target is the divine and focuses the soul in direct union with God. One of its hallmarks is the luxurious usage of time. Time seems to be suspended as you listen. Crescendos, suspensions, and intensity are not lacking but the spirit of calmness is suffused as one enters into a reality that is purely spiritual. As in many oriental musical forms the repetition of notes has a proto-hypnotic effect but in this timeless musical system one does not space out but holds the musical vocabulary and deeply embedded symbolic intentions in an alert and focused gesture of containment. One thinks of cupped hands gently supporting the most perfumed and beautiful of flowers in a meditation without end.…” —Paul-James Dwyer, Catholic Insight
A little “Throwback Thursday” post — The Oregonian world premiere performance of Robert Kyr’s A Time for Life named a “Best of 2007” by critic David Stabler:
“Robert Kyr, among the country’s more socially active composers, mourned our planet with a gorgeous environmental oratorio that flooded St. Mary’s Cathedral with rapturous lyricism and a whiff of Byzantine incense. Using Sioux and Eskimo prayers, psalms and Greek Orthodox texts, the eight-voice choir wept for the Earth.” —David Stabler, The Oregonian
The Toronto Early Music News Winter 2014 issue has a new review of our Mt. Sinai: Frontier of Byzantium recording!
“This music speaks to a higher self; its target is the divine and focuses the soul in direct union with God. One of its features is the luxurious usage of time. Time seems to be suspended when you listen to these works. Crescendo, suspensions and intensity are not lacking but the spirit of calmness is suffused as one enters into a reality that is purely spiritual. As in many oriental musical forms the repetitions of notes have a protohypnotic effect but in this timeless musical system one does not space out but holds the codified musical vocabulary and deeply embedded symbolic intentions in an alert and focused gesture of containment.” —Toronto Early Music News
Fanfare Magazine has a grand interview with composer Robert Kyr about his new Cappella Romana CD, A Time For Life. Read an excerpt from the interview, “The Joy of Creation” below and visit the Fanfare Archives for the full piece:
Fanfare: A Time for Life is one of a number of your pieces inspired by issues relating to the natural world. What is it about this subject that you find consistently stimulating?Kyr: Living in the Pacific Northwest, I am very close to nature. My home is about 1,000 feet above the valley where the University of Oregon is located, and around my house, I have 70-foot trees. Essentially, I live in a temperate rainforest. This is but one of the ecosystems in which I’ve lived. I grew up to the west of Cleveland and then pursued all of my studies on the East Coast and in Europe. I taught at the Aspen Music Festival for five summers and did some incredible hiking in the Rockies. I also did seven residencies at the Banff Center for the Arts in the Canadian Rockies. And before moving to the Pacific Northwest, I lived in Southern California and San Francisco at different times. Since 1993, I’ve also spent about four to six weeks every year in the high desert of northwest New Mexico. Thus, I’ve lived in most of the ecosystems in the United States. Living in the Northwest so close to nature has connected me more deeply than ever to this subject. In the other places that I lived, I certainly appreciated nature and had a sense of what is happening to our planet in terms of the environmental crisis. However, it is more evident in the Pacific Northwest where I live much closer to nature. I feel the change in climate very directly, since where I live, it has become progressively colder for most of the year. I also see the effect on the forests of extreme logging (“clear cutting”). We also have pollution from industry and from field burning, and that is of course a concern as well. Any human activity that pollutes nature is felt very profoundly in the Northwest and this is probably why our region is often called “the center of environmental activism.” As an environmental oratorio, A Time for Life is my reaction to the degradation of the ecosystems in which I’ve lived, and my response to what is happening to our world in general through climate change. To a large extent, humanity is causing the environmental crisis through its flawed policies and refusal to find new ways to live in harmony with nature. … Fanfare: As you’ve also done in other works, you assembled a text/libretto that draws on a great many sources, which you reinterpret in your own words. How do you approach the assembling of the texts for these sorts of pieces?Kyr: I’m a writer of what I call “text for music” in that I am both the composer of the music and writer of the text. When I was conceiving A Time for Life, as with many of my projects, there was a substantial amount of research involved. I always begin by simply doing research into a wide variety of possibilities that I know will inform a new piece in some way. At some point in the research process, I begin to feel that it’s time to begin writing. Then, I start to create my “text for music,” meaning that I write the text and music at the same time. Writing music for me is primarily an internal process. I do not write anything on paper until I can hear the whole work from beginning to end, internally and completely. The text and music are thus one entity, and there is no separation between the two of them in my compositional process. That is fundamentally different from a composer who is taking a found text by a poet or writer, and setting it to music. I sometimes call my process “composing text for music,” because it is inextricably bound to the creation of the music itself, and we don’t really have a single word in our language for composing text and music simultaneously. This means that when I begin to notate the music, I’m free to refine and change the text and/or music, whenever necessary. I don’t need to negotiate with another author, so I’m not limited by working with something that cannot be changed. Each composition is a living and fluid being, and it can be refined and transformed during the compositional process. Personally, I find this to be a very exciting way to composer vocal music. It is not static or constrained in any way, but is an open creative process that allows for revision and transformation whenever needed. In A Time for Life, the texts come from a diverse range of sources. One of the great joys of creating the work was to discover that there is a profound connection between the intonations, chants, and prayers of indigenous people and Eastern Orthodox spirituality, especially as it relates to creation, the creator, and nature. This deep connection has never been pointed out before, because scholars have rarely considered those cultures within the same frame. But I found that they share many values related to creation and nature, and artistically, this suggested to me that the dynamic relationship between them could be explored through a work of art. The first part of my environmental oratorio is entitled “Creation” and it is an exploration of creation stories related to the two cultures. The second part is entitled “Forgetting” and it describes humanity’s falling away from creation, through its failure to live in harmony with nature. The third part is entitled “Remembering,” and in it, a hopeful future is imagined, in which humanity serves as a responsible steward of the earth and realigns itself with the creative forces of existence. At the very end of the work, the two soloists sing about remembering our deep connection to nature and embracing the forces of creation. Thus, there is a physical and spiritual journey within the oratorio that moves through the destructive behavior of humanity toward the forces of creation and renewal.
Fanfare Magazine has a new review for our Robert Kyr: A Time for Life release:
“This is my first exposure to the music of Robert Kyr (born 1952). I hope it not to be my last. The idea of a pan-religious frame of reference to address man’s ecological concerns is an attractive one, and it is precisely what this disc offers. …
“The florid music of this 2007 piece is often magical in its effect, while the melismatic vocal lines create a fluid, florid way through the issues explored. The use of drone is effective, implying perhaps an out-of-time-itself aspect to the music. The music acts as a plea for us to remember who we are, and does so in the most eloquent way possible. That the soloists (taken from Capella Romana) are so excellent helps, of course, working so well both in solo and in duet/ensemble. The idiom, which is alternately tonal then modal, falls easily on the ear yet is also capable of great power. …
“There is no doubt that Kyr writes from the heart. His concerns are of concern to us all. A blessedly poignant, timely disc, beautifully produced.” —Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine
New “Feature Review” in Fanfare Magazine for our latest release, Arctic Light: Finnish Orthodox Music:
“The music on this release—all of it a cappella and all polyphonic—includes what is, to these rather novice ears, some of the most adventurous music built on the Orthodox traditions. … One has only to hear the decidedly lush, late-Romantic harmonies applied by Pekka Attinen in his Kerubiveisu No. 3 to realize that the Finnish Orthodox Church is more open than some to musical innovation. Attinen’s student Peter Mirolybov (1918–2004) was inspired by his teacher’s progressive approach to liturgical music, as is evident in the crystalline clarity, born of modern harmonization, of his four works for the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. … Ivan Moody conducted this program in 2008 with Cappella Romana, and it was that concert that led to this recording. The performances are polished and technically secure. … Recommended to anyone with an interest in rarely explored liturgical music in a relatively contemporary idiom.” —Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare Magazine
In a four-star review, Audiophile Audition calls new release, The Divine Liturgy, “An important … recording of the highest quality.”
“Cappella Romana is the foremost ensemble in the United States promoting the heritage of Byzantine chant, and one of the finest in the world as well. … It’s not Super Audio format but it is “super” audio, each of their recordings showing the highest level of technical achievement and always finding the perfect acoustic for the presentation of their programs. …
“…one comes away fairly impressed with the piety of the work and its ability to support the Byzantine liturgy. … the emotionality of the music is quite different from the more somber and historically ‘passionless’ music of the Eastern Church, and the use of dynamics, while never absent from Byzantine chant, gets a boost here with the large harmonized choral forces. …
“…there is no doubt that Zes’s music is significant, historical, and important in the larger scheme of things, and represents a segment of the contemporary Byzantine music scene that is large enough and supported enough such that it cannot be ignored. Performances are superb, and this is a first class production.” —Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition
A double-feature Fanfare review by J.F. Weber features our LIVE IN GREECE and Mt. Sinai: Frontier of Byzantium recordings.
Mt. Sinai: Frontier of Byzantium
“The chants for these two services come from a variety of sources in or close to the 14th century, including works by such well-known composers as John Koukouzeles and Manuel Chrysaphes. The choir of eight men sings with deep-throated conviction and a solemnity that preserves the forward motion of the works. Ison is audible but not overpowering. The commendable aspect of this disc is the antiquity of the chants. For every disc I have of Byzantine chant before the 17th century, there must be 30 from later eras…” —J.F. Weber
“This time, a mixed choir of 10 voices performs this varied program with such subtlety, tonal beauty, and concentration that the American choir must have been keenly aware of the audience that they were singing for. People who own the Byzantine liturgy needed to be convinced. It’s like the Chicago Symphony playing Mahler in Vienna: What a brass section! … These are two more Cappella Romana programs that offer imaginative views of Byzantine chant.” —J.F. Weber