Chanting in American English but not imitating Greek singing

#1
Dear Father Ephraim,

I have heard of you and your laborious work on transposing byzantine chant from greek to english (american). The same thing we did in french in the 70's in France before the uniats of Cantauque now converted to Orthodoxy, did.
I was a former student at HC/HC in Boston, and I heard many times hymnology in english in our chapel by f. Seraphim Dedes and f. Charles Terzopoulos. They were pioneers in the matter. My concern is that how chanting byzantine music with an american throat... The long tradition of byzantine chant in greek cannot be reached by any other language and I think you understand well what I mean. I would propose you to look back to old english or irish music and also american song tradition where you could take a lot of examples in order to be in harmony with your language and its tradition. Look the Slaves(Russian, Serbians, Bulgarians) or the Romanians. It's too simple and rather ridiculous to imitate the greek singers in chanting liturgical english words. I believe that you should work on the local chanting tradition of your country and byzantine chant will help you to give birth to american byzantine chant. Remember that an american throat or a french one is not a greek throat, and we ought to find and adapt our chanting to our native language in our beloved country for the love and the glory of Christ and our local Orthodox Church.
With love in Christ, f. Amphilochios Pikias, Rhodes, Greece.
 

frephraim

Παλαιό Μέλος
#2
Dear Fr. Amphilochios,

I appreciate your sharing with me the insights you have acquired after years of experience.

I think I understand your concerns, and I think I agree with you in principle, but to help me understand your position better, please explain to me what is the deeper spiritual reason that it would be beneficial to make music "in harmony with one's language and its tradition".

Also, can you please be more specific about what you mean when you wrote that it would be "too simple and rather ridiculous to imitate the greek singers in chanting liturgical english words"? Do you have in mind something in particular about Byzantine chant that is incompatible with English words?

Thank you.
+Fr. Ephraim
 

master_yianni

Αργός και μετά μέλους
#3
Well, lets ask a different question, can Greeks sing hip-hop?
If thats possible, then Byzantine chant in English can also be possible.

The problem as i understand it, is that we dont have an authoritative translation of the hymns and poetry, and the existing ones are not rhymming or following patterns (as in Προσομοια). There should be a new approach to the poetry of the hymns, and also new composers to start the whole process fresh from the beginning.
By the way, i do know that father Ephraim is doing an excellent work, and i do hope that many people will follow this example.

By the way, how did the Romanians, Serbs and Russians solve the poetry issues? Do they use direct translations?
 
#4
Dear Fr. Amphilochios,

I appreciate your sharing with me the insights you have acquired after years of experience.

I think I understand your concerns, and I think I agree with you in principle, but to help me understand your position better, please explain to me what is the deeper spiritual reason that it would be beneficial to make music "in harmony with one's language and its tradition".

Also, can you please be more specific about what you mean when you wrote that it would be "too simple and rather ridiculous to imitate the greek singers in chanting liturgical english words"? Do you have in mind something in particular about Byzantine chant that is incompatible with English words?

Thank you.
+Fr. Ephraim
Dear f. Ephraim,
Thanks a lot for your response. You may know that liturgical music is at the service of the liturgical text and not the contrary. All our texts are somehow poor translations of the greek hymnology in use in our parishes and monasteries and, it's a pity, those translated texts are neither officials, neither recognised by our Holy Church. We have here a very great problem with translations and texts adaptation. For example, can you sing your liturgical american english in England or in Australia? Your texts and your music must have the same effects to all the english speaking orthodox christian flocks of the all world. See, greek language and byzantine music is common in the juridiction of the four Eastern Patriarchates. Can liturgical Orthodox liturgical english or french be the same? Unfortunately, no.
As I understand, you are a good musician, and perhaps music is all your life. You may have study classical music and surely the old english and old irish music as well as gregorian chant. You know well that catholics and protestants have a long chanting tradition in Western Europe which they brought with them in North America. You should be inspired by the many old liturgical melodies that are still in use among your fellow citizens and perhaps create with the help of byzantine music notation your own liturgical american english music.
If you have adopted the idea that, adapting right away greek liturgical music to liturgical english texts, is the only way for you and your friends, so you ought to work very hard on voice training. I heard you chanting some of your pieces of music you have the courtesy to provide on your web site. Byzantine music notation need voices ready to chant correctly all ornaments and embellishment (roulades, appoggiaturas, acciaccaturas, mordent, turn, trill...). Yes, byzantine music notation want throats ready for virtuosity.
I think you understand me.
With love in Christ, f. Amphilochios.
 

frephraim

Παλαιό Μέλος
#5
Dear Fr. Amphilochios,

Thank you for explaining yourself in more detail.

Yes, it is unfortunate that there is no official English translation of the liturgical services. Until that happens, English speakers are forced to choose the best versions available until something better comes. This, of course, is quite frustrating for composers like me, knowing that all the work we do is only a temporary solution to the problem of supplying musical settings for the hymns.

The good news, though, is that the only significant differences between English in America, Australia, England, and South Africa are the pronunciation and a few idioms. This means that anyone in those countries can perfectly understand an American translation. This is one reason why people in all those countries are using my compositions.

Regarding your other comment, yes, I agree with you that Byzantine music should be chanted with the proper style (ὕφος). I realize that I myself have been unsuccessful in acquiring the traditional style of chanting Byzantine music (in terms of traditional embellishments and intervals). I wish I could acquire it by trying harder, but I sincerely believe that I have reached my maximum, and that further efforts will not enable me to overcome my "foreign accent". Someone like me must decide which is preferable: to chant Byzantine music imperfectly, or to sing some other kind of liturgical music perfectly (or almost perfectly).

Yes, you are correct in saying that other cultures from Western Europe arrived in North America before Orthodox cultures did, and that their music became the norm for American music. But before I discuss this issue with you, I think our discussion would be more fruitful if we could first clarify and agree upon the deeper reason why it is beneficial to sing liturgical music in harmony with one's cultural environment.

Another question I would like to ask is to what degree is the spirituality of the music of Protestant and Roman Catholic Christianity compatible with Orthodox spirituality?

in Christ,
+Fr. Ephraim
 

frephraim

Παλαιό Μέλος
#6
...we dont have an authoritative translation of the hymns and poetry, and the existing ones are not rhymming or following patterns (as in Προσομοια).
Yes, that is a problem. But some translators (such as Fr. Seraphim Dedes and Holy Transfiguration Monastery) do take care to translate the Prosomoia to the proper meter.

By the way, how did the Romanians, Serbs and Russians solve the poetry issues? Do they use direct translations?
There is evidence that Sts. Cyril and Methodius tried to translate hymns while keeping the meter, but later translators abandoned this strategy, probably because a hymn in Slavonic has more syllables than the same hymn in Greek. But since a hymn in English usually has fewer syllables than the same hymn in Greek, it is not too difficult to translate hymns to meter in English
 

apostolos

Απόστολος Κομπίτσης
#7
Gentlemen,

I'd like to take this opportunity to jump in, as this specific posting by Papa Ephraim contains the two possibilities of Byzantine chant in English which form the basis of my arguments as to why Byzantine chant in English does NOT work perfectly:

Yes, that is a problem. But some translators (such as Fr. Seraphim Dedes and Holy Transfiguration Monastery) do take care to translate the Prosomoia to the proper meter.
But, this is done at the expense of the grammatical syntax of the English text. All too often in Fr. Seraphim's translations, we find that the English becomes almost unrecognizable. Thus, we have things like, «Ανοίξω το στόμα μου και πληρωθήσεται πνεύματος» becoming "My mouth shall I open wide and I will thus be with spirit filled." (I don't even think they talked like this in Shakespeare's day!)

But since a hymn in English usually has fewer syllables than the same hymn in Greek, it is not too difficult to translate hymns to meter in English
But, in this case, this is done at the expense of the melody. Metering "down" to the English language (or "up" to a Slavonic one, for that matter) results in a complete change of the traditional melodies which have been handed down to us. Essentially, "new" melodies are created, which may be "based on" the original, but different nonetheless.

As for the "style" of chanting - the vocalizations, if you will - this is a completely different story. I have heard some very good voices (very "Byzantine-sounding" voices with a good yfos) attempt to chant in English. It sounds so foreign it is almost embarrassing. Especially when a consonant like the letter "r" is held through a musical phrase, like in "Lorrrrrrrrd have merrrrrrrcy", it is unbearable. Okay, the word "Lord" isn't so bad, because you can do it as "Looooooord", but the word "mercy".... well, you can't really hold that "e" sound, because it is neither a long "e" (like in the word "three") nor a short one (like in "test"); it's something in between. Holding it will make you sound like you've had a stroke.

So, "yfos" aside, which is better as far as English is concerned: to change the text to fit the melody, or change the melody to fit the text? As a traditionalist, my vote is for "neither", as we will lose either language or melody. Here we're trying to PRESERVE our tradition, not destroy it. However, having said this, IF I were to pick one, I would pick the latter, since that is what the Slavs, the Russians, the Arabs, etc. did in adopting Byzantine music to their language. At the same time, one must understand that their linguistic structures are a bit more similar to the Greek than English is. English is a low-Germanic language which, in my opinion, doesn't adapt well (acoustically) to the Byzantine system. But that's my opinion.

No matter how you want to look at it, my friends, you're still trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Apostolos
 

basil

Παλαιό Μέλος
#8
apostolos said:
But, this is done at the expense of the grammatical syntax of the English text.
In general, this statement is false. Grammatical errors in Fr Seraphim's translations are merely a reflection of his own skill as a translator, not of the art of metrical translation of Orthodox liturgical texts as a whole. I chant metered prosomia from the Menaion by Holy Transfiguration Monastery regularly. Not only are the texts relatively free of grammatical errors, but they are often quite elegant and poetic.

apostolos said:
But, in this case, this is done at the expense of the melody.
In general, this statement is also false. When violence is done to a melody in the process of adaptation to a given language, that is merely a reflection of the skill of the person adapting the melody, not of the art of composing genuine Byzantine melodies in that language as a whole. I chant the compositions by Papa Ephraim regularly. Not only do the melodies conform to the formulaic rules of Byzantine music, but they often reflect the uniqueness of the English text in a way that an adaptation from another language could not.

apostolos said:
I have heard some very good voices (very "Byzantine-sounding" voices with a good yfos) attempt to chant in English. It sounds so foreign it is almost embarrassing.
Yes, I have heard attempts to chant in English with the Byzantine vocal style which came out rather badly. But I have also heard attempts to chant in English with the Byzantine vocal style which came out rather well. Examples that come to mind include John Michael Boyer's efforts on the West coast, Leonidas Kotsiris and the Holy Trinity Byzantine Choir, Rassem el-Massih's efforts in the Boston area, and others. There are a small but growing number of Westerners (myself included) who are quite serious about learning and applying the Byzantine vocal style to the English language. Since these efforts are relatively recent, I would argue that it still remains to be seen to what degree the Byzantine vocal style can be successfully retained with the English language.
 

frephraim

Παλαιό Μέλος
#9
But, this is done at the expense of the grammatical syntax of the English text.
Yes, this certainly can be a problem, although not always.

Metering "down" to the English language (or "up" to a Slavonic one, for that matter) results in a complete change of the traditional melodies which have been handed down to us. Essentially, "new" melodies are created, which may be "based on" the original, but different nonetheless.
In the case of Slavonic, its many syllables necessitate creating new melodies if one wants to follow the formulaic rules. In English, however, careful work can frequently preserve the original melody. But even so, this is done at the expense of a precise translation. For example, one simple way to make an English translation fit the Greek meter is to add an adjective or two that was not in the original Greek text. (e.g., using the phrase "holy martyr" where the Greek only had the word "martyr".)

Okay, the word "Lord" isn't so bad, because you can do it as "Looooooord", but the word "mercy".... well, you can't really hold that "e" sound, because it is neither a long "e" (like in the word "three") nor a short one (like in "test"); it's something in between. Holding it will make you sound like you've had a stroke.
I sympathize with this opinion but disagree. The proper way to sing the word "mercy" is to hold the schwa sound (i.e., the vowel sound in the word "book"). I think that how beautiful or ugly the schwa sound appears to a person depends highly on his native language. If his native language only has the five pure vowels (such as Greek or Japanese), I suppose the schwa sound could indeed sound like someone having a stroke. But for someone whose native language contains many schwa sounds (such as English), I don't think holding this sound would be at all offensive.

Here we're trying to PRESERVE our tradition, not destroy it.
I agree with you that preserving our Orthodox liturgical traditions is a noble goal, and it is one that we have in common. In my understanding, the deeper reason why we want to preserve our Orthodox liturgical traditions is not because they are an end in themselves, but because they are something that our centuries-long experience has proven to be a helpful aid in prayer. In other words, our real goal in liturgical services is to pray effectively, in my opinion. Preserving Orthodox liturgical traditions is only desirable because they help us achieve that higher goal of praying effectively.

For a number of reasons, some people are able to pray more effectively by chanting or hearing a language in church they only partially understand or do not understand at all. Other people, however, are able to pray more effectively by chanting or hearing a language they fully understand. If that language is not Greek, they will most likely be using texts and/or musical settings that are inferior to the Greek original. But since their primary goal of praying effectively is being fulfilled, the secondary goal (of preserving liturgical traditions without the slightest alteration) becomes less significant.

No matter how you want to look at it, my friends, you're still trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Yes, you are right. But fortunately for people who use English, the diameter of the round hole is large enough for the square peg to fit inside it! In other words, the formulaic rules of Byzantine music are flexible enough to be used for English adaptations with minimal losses.
 
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domesticus

Lupus non curat numerum ovium
#10
For a number of reasons, some people are able to pray more effectively by chanting or hearing a language in church they only partially understand or do not understand at all. Other people, however, are able to pray more effectively by chanting or hearing a language they fully understand. If that language is not Greek, they will most likely be using texts and/or musical settings that are inferior to the Greek original. But since their primary goal of praying effectively is being fulfilled, the secondary goal (of preserving liturgical traditions without the slightest alteration) becomes less significant.

A bold truth, fr. Ephraim, and nicely said.

Thank you.
 
#11
Dear Fr. Amphilochios,

Thank you for explaining yourself in more detail.

Yes, it is unfortunate that there is no official English translation of the liturgical services. Until that happens, English speakers are forced to choose the best versions available until something better comes. This, of course, is quite frustrating for composers like me, knowing that all the work we do is only a temporary solution to the problem of supplying musical settings for the hymns.

The good news, though, is that the only significant differences between English in America, Australia, England, and South Africa are the pronunciation and a few idioms. This means that anyone in those countries can perfectly understand an American translation. This is one reason why people in all those countries are using my compositions.

Regarding your other comment, yes, I agree with you that Byzantine music should be chanted with the proper style (ὕφος). I realize that I myself have been unsuccessful in acquiring the traditional style of chanting Byzantine music (in terms of traditional embellishments and intervals). I wish I could acquire it by trying harder, but I sincerely believe that I have reached my maximum, and that further efforts will not enable me to overcome my "foreign accent". Someone like me must decide which is preferable: to chant Byzantine music imperfectly, or to sing some other kind of liturgical music perfectly (or almost perfectly).

Yes, you are correct in saying that other cultures from Western Europe arrived in North America before Orthodox cultures did, and that their music became the norm for American music. But before I discuss this issue with you, I think our discussion would be more fruitful if we could first clarify and agree upon the deeper reason why it is beneficial to sing liturgical music in harmony with one's cultural environment.

Another question I would like to ask is to what degree is the spirituality of the music of Protestant and Roman Catholic Christianity compatible with Orthodox spirituality?

in Christ,
+Fr. Ephraim
Dear f. Ephraim,

Thank you for your answer which enjoys me to continue our discussion upon the very important problem of liturgical hymns adaptation in english.
As you should know, the Holy Fathers of the of the Greek Church are urging us to preach the Word of God in diverse languages and to respect their cultural traditions. It was so for the many people which came to Orthodoxy like the Slavs. Orthodox Byzantine missionarians respect the traditions of those newcomers and their cultural environment incorporing them to their new faith. This melting pot gave birth through the centuries to local Churches with their own liturgical iconography, music, architecture and spirituality. America is a missionary land and it is important to go a step forward and jump over immigrants ideas which want to make everything greek or byzantine. Greek Orthodoxy has done so many things for the entire world that now it is the turn to newcomers into Orthodoxy to take their future in their own hands.

To your question: " what degree is the spirituality of the music of Protestant and Roman Catholic Christianity compatible with Orthodox spirituality?", I would ask you the same question for the heretic Bardesan and the orthodox St Ephrem who used the music of the first and wrote on it orthodox hymnology. Music is at disposition of the orthodox Word of God and not the contrary. You should know also that great Greek composers of Byzantine music after the fall of Constantinople received a lot of influences from the Ottoman music and its composers and still some of the chanters coming from Istanbul are chanting like Derviches or turkish singers!

With Love in christ, f. Amphilochios.
 

frephraim

Παλαιό Μέλος
#12
Dear Fr. Amphilochios,

Are you aware that most musicologists agree that in the beginning of Russian Orthodoxy, its music was identical to the music of Greek Orthodoxy and that only gradually after many centuries, Russian Orthodox music took on its own style? This seems to me to be a good example for us in America to follow.

I don't doubt that St. Ephraim used the music of a heretic. But there are two problems with relying on this one incident in order to justify such a practice:

1. We don't know how Bardesan's music differed from the Orthodox music of the time. (In fact, several reputable musicologists question even if there was Orthodox liturgical music in those early days of Christianity.) If both musics were identical in style (ὕφος) and were both monophonic and a capella, the difference between the two would be insignificant and not comparable to the difference between Byzantine chant and the polyphonic, instrumental music of Protestants and Roman Catholics.

2. I think it would be a distortion of Orthodoxy to rely on the opinion or deeds of one single saint as if he were perfect and infallible. We must also examine the opinions of other saints and synods to see if they agree. I have done so in an article I wrote (which is also available in Greek). To quote a small part of it:
"...the use of Western-style polyphony in church has been opposed in recent centuries by several saints (including St. Seraphim of Sarov; St. Philaret Drozdov, Metropolitan of Moscow; St. Ignatius Brianchaninov; St. Barsanuphius, Elder of Optina; and the New Martyr St. Andronik Archbishop of Perm) as well as by the Holy Synod of Constantinople, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, and by many venerable hierarchs (such as Patriarch Germogen of Russia in the seventeenth century, Metropolitan Evgeny of Kiev in the eighteenth century, and Archbishop Averky of Syracuse and Holy Trinity Monastery [Jordanville] in the twentieth century)"
The 1846 Encyclical of the Synod of the Church of Greece (click here to read it in English or in Greek) wrote that the use of Western-style polyphony in church is a sin against the canons and the holy Church of Christ due to its "unspiritual melody, unbecoming to ecclesiastical propriety."

Taking all this into consideration leads me to conclude that using the polyphonic music of Protestants and Catholics would be a serious mistake and that St. Ephraim's deed is not a good enough reason to justify doing so.

As for foreign influences on Byzantine music, I do not pretend that Byzantine music never had such influences (although some musicologists believe that Turkish music was influenced much more by Byzantine music than vice versa). But even if it was greatly influenced by Turkish music, I don't see how one could logically conclude from this that such influences are harmless or that the music of foreign heretics could be used in an Orthodox service unchanged.

in Christ,
+Fr. Ephraim
 
#13
Dear f. Ephraim,

I thank you again for your answer. I don't want to bother you with my point of view on the matter.

When I refered to the music of Protestants and Roman Catholics, I was clear I didn't speak about polyphony (I am against it in our Church) but of old english or irish modal music and, if you well remember, of Gregorian Plainchant which has common roots with earlier byzantine chant.

I know very well that early Russian chant was very influenced by byzantine one, we have a lot of examples in Zniameny chant which is in practice among the Old Believers. But, despites the quarrels among the traditionalists and the reformers, today in Russia, Ukrainia, Serbia, Bulgaria... you hear everywhere polyphony such as in the Synodal Church in America and the OCA. As I know, some young Slav musicologists came to Greece and attend some courses with Lycourgos Angelopoulos. I heard their performance. I could say that's a beginning. We have to wait and see if it is chantable and if it has the approbation of the flock of their Church.

I know also the inter-influences of Byzantine and Ottoman music. A great musician of the 18th century, Petros Lampadarios Peloponnisios was an excellent Ottoman musician such as Grigorios Protopsaltis, one of the Three Teachers of the New Method, who was also a pupil of the great Ottoman Musician Dede Efendi in the 19th century. And also Thrasyboulos Stanitsas who openly had relationship with Turkish singers. Those influences made byzantine modes spicy, oriental. Instead in Mount Athos, you can still appreciate pure chanting by the monks, free of bad and sinless influences. It is the safest way I council you to follow in your adaptation and interpretation.

May your blessed work help our fellow orthodox american believers to glorify the name of Christ our Lord and Saviour into the ages of ages. Amen.

With Love in Christ. f. Amphilochios.
 

frephraim

Παλαιό Μέλος
#14
Dear Fr. Amphilochios,

Thank you for your clarifications.

I am glad that you do not recommend polyphony.

I don't know the medieval music of England or Irish modal music or Gregorian chant, so I would not be able to compose such music even if I wanted to. It is true that those kinds of music are slightly closer to America from a geographical and historical point of view than Byzantine music is, but the truth is that all of them are very different from the various forms of music that people of our culture are familiar with.

The only kinds of music that are in harmony with our culture are kinds of music that are incompatible with Orthodox spirituality. Since this is the reality of our situation, we are forced to look to other cultures that produced music that is appropriate for Orthodox worship. If we are going to adopt another culture's Orthodox music, we might as well adopt the kind of Orthodox music that has been the least tainted by heterodox influences (and most beautiful). Do you agree with me that, based on these criteria, Byzantine music is therefore the best choice?

The reason why I tried to ask you in my very first post in this thread to explain to me "the deeper spiritual reason that it would be beneficial to make music in harmony with one's language and its tradition" was because I wanted to be sure that we agree what the real purpose of liturgical traditions is. I would think that your reply would be that the deeper reason for this would be so that people could pray more effectively with music that they are comfortable with. As I said in my reply to Apostolos, I believe the real purpose of liturgical traditions is to assist prayer. If, however, the music of one's local culture is not conducive to prayer, wouldn't it be counterproductive to try to use such music in a liturgical setting?

in Christ,
+Fr. Ephraim
 
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#15
Dear Fr. Amphilochios,

Thank you for your clarifications.

I am glad that you do not recommend polyphony.

I don't know the medieval music of England or Irish modal music or Gregorian chant, so I would not be able to compose such music even if I wanted to. It is true that those kinds of music are slightly closer to America from a geographical and historical point of view than Byzantine music is, but the truth is that all of them are very different from the various forms of music that people of our culture are familiar with.

The only kinds of music that are in harmony with our culture are kinds of music that are incompatible with Orthodox spirituality. Since this is the reality of our situation, we are forced to look to other cultures that produced music that is appropriate for Orthodox worship. If we are going to adopt another culture's Orthodox music, we might as well adopt the kind of Orthodox music that has been the least tainted by heterodox influences (and most beautiful). Do you agree with me that, based on these criteria, Byzantine music is therefore the best choice?

The reason why I tried to ask you in my very first post in this thread to explain to me "the deeper spiritual reason that it would be beneficial to make music in harmony with one's language and its tradition" was because I wanted to be sure that we agree what the real purpose of liturgical traditions is. I would think that your reply would be that the deeper reason for this would be so that people could pray more effectively with music that they are comfortable with. As I said in my reply to Apostolos, I believe the real purpose of liturgical traditions is to assist prayer. If, however, the music of one's local culture is not conducive to prayer, wouldn't it be counterproductive to try to use such music in a liturgical setting?

in Christ,
+Fr. Ephraim
Dear f. Ephraim,

I totaly agree with you that music must serve our prayer. I gave you the example of the Athonite monks who are the most representatives in their manner to pray and chant harmoniously. And I think that the only way we should imitate in order to avoid bad and dangerous influences from secular chanting of the contemporary greek singers and their choirs.
Unfortunately, the singing in the greek churches are very far away from every spirituality and I would say totaly inappropriated to worship our Lord.
As you know, every troparion is a prayer with deep dogmatic meanings and the singers have to live what they chanting and not be captured by pitch and partitures... Chanting must be natural, simple to help the people of God glorify His holy Name.
I wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2010.
In Christ, f. Amphilochios.
 

frephraim

Παλαιό Μέλος
#16
Dear Fr. Amphilochios,
I am glad to see that we agree that music must serve our prayer.
Thank you for your wishes, and may you also have a blessed Nativity and new year.
+Fr. Ephraim
 
#17
Dear Fr. Amphilochios,
I am glad to see that we agree that music must serve our prayer.
Thank you for your wishes, and may you also have a blessed Nativity and new year.
+Fr. Ephraim
Dear f. Ephraim,

I have a former student of mine visiting your Monastery and Geronta Ephraim who I met in Philotheou in 1978. His name is Stavros maliarakis and he is from Rhodes. Please tell me about him if he is well and if you can help him, thanks alot for your kindness. F. Amphilochios.
 

saltypsalti

Παλαιό Μέλος
#18
Dear Father Ephraim,

I have heard of you and your laborious work on transposing byzantine chant from greek to english (american). The same thing we did in french in the 70's in France before the uniats of Cantauque now converted to Orthodoxy, did.
I was a former student at HC/HC in Boston, and I heard many times hymnology in english in our chapel by f. Seraphim Dedes and f. Charles Terzopoulos. They were pioneers in the matter. My concern is that how chanting byzantine music with an american throat... The long tradition of byzantine chant in greek cannot be reached by any other language and I think you understand well what I mean. I would propose you to look back to old english or irish music and also american song tradition where you could take a lot of examples in order to be in harmony with your language and its tradition. Look the Slaves(Russian, Serbians, Bulgarians) or the Romanians. It's too simple and rather ridiculous to imitate the greek singers in chanting liturgical english words. I believe that you should work on the local chanting tradition of your country and byzantine chant will help you to give birth to american byzantine chant. Remember that an american throat or a french one is not a greek throat, and we ought to find and adapt our chanting to our native language in our beloved country for the love and the glory of Christ and our local Orthodox Church.
With love in Christ, f. Amphilochios Pikias, Rhodes, Greece.
Pater Evlogite - I do not see how the American throat is any anatomically different from any other human throat --these are skills that are aquireable. In America. we have a "world beat" phenomenon, of American musicians who are learning and imitating the music of other cultures and doing fairly well at it. I know many American psaltai who have mastered the style rather well, and much better than I. Are we sure there isn't a tinge of phyletism here?

Asking your blessing again -John, sinner and psaltis.
 
#19
Pater Evlogite - I do not see how the American throat is any anatomically different from any other human throat --these are skills that are aquireable. In America. we have a "world beat" phenomenon, of American musicians who are learning and imitating the music of other cultures and doing fairly well at it. I know many American psaltai who have mastered the style rather well, and much better than I. Are we sure there isn't a tinge of phyletism here?

Asking your blessing again -John, sinner and psaltis.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2010. With my blessings. F. Amphilochios.
 

Dimitri

Δημήτρης Κουμπαρούλης, Administrator
Staff member
#20
I agree that the skills are acquirable but for someone to acquire them to the degree of a master they will need to be immersed in the culture (any culture) for a significant period of time. Relevant topic Can a Western-trained musician perform accurately the microtones of Byzantine Music?. Technically, anybody should be able to perform Byzantine music accurately provided they receive and partake in the cultural musical (and social?) heritage that comes with it. Whether people of non-Greek cultural background should feel the necessity to acquire such skills is a philosophical question that I cannot answer with certainty at the moment. And the other question is, is there a commonly accepted definition of "American singing" that potential psaltai should imitate instead of the Greek? My apologies if these have been mentioned or answered already, haven't followed all the discussion. Thank you and chronia polla.
 
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