Dr. Grammenos Karanos, Assistant Professor of Byzantine Liturgical Music at Hellenic College-Holy Cross, Brookline, MA, USA

New Professor’s Background Brings Fresh Voice to Byzantine Music
by Nayla Day

BROOKLINE, N.Y. – Entering the Holy Cross Chapel during a Vespers service creates an immediate emotion of religious inspiration. The chanters’ responses and hymns fill the chapel with dramatic sound that pierce the soul. Up to a dozen voices, echoing both sides of the chapel, fill the air with powerful sound that helps you feel the magnitude of the prayer they are chanting. The Byzantine hymnology is led by Dr. Grammenos Karanos, protopsaltis at the Holy Cross Chapel and director of the Holy Cross Byzantine Choir “Romanos the Melodist.” He is also the new assistant professor of Byzantine Liturgical Music at Hellenic College–Holy Cross.

“Dr. Karanos is an internationally known expert in Byzantine music,” said Fr. Thomas FitzGerald, dean of Holy Cross School of Theology. “His appointment strengthens the Byzantine music program and brings a rich perspective.”

Karanos, who was born and raised in Thessaloniki, has had a long history and love for Byzantine chanting. His first lessons began in his teenage years. He continued his interest in chant throughout his academic life, accomplishing a Ph.D. in Byzantine Musicology and Psaltic Art (the art of chanting) at the University of Athens, Greece. Karanos studied under world-renowned musicologist Gregory Stathis. He also studied under his predecessor at Holy Cross School of Theology, Archon Protopsaltis Photios Ketsetzis. His noted academic accomplishments and positions in chant have earned him an international reputation as an expert in
Byzantine chant.

Exploring the art of Byzantine chant wasn’t enough for Dr. Karanos. He completed his B.A. at Harvard University and M.B.A. at Boston University. During his studies, he was a member of the choir of Anatolia College in Thessaloniki and choral groups at Harvard University.

“Dr. Karanos is a believing pilgrim, devoted husband and loving family man,” said the Rev. Nicholas C. Triantafilou, president of HCHC. “He has prepared himself for this position as assistant professor in Byzantine music with respect for the sacred mission of our school.

He understands the multigenerational culture of our excellent student body. He possesses a keen ability to transmit knowledge and skill sets to every level of student capacity.”

Currently, Karanos is teaching courses in Byzantine chant, the history of both Byzantine music and western music. He brings a different voice to Hellenic College Holy Cross’ Byzantine music program. His multi-faceted educational
and professional background and an application of modern didactic methods bring a fresh approach to HCHC’s music program. A combination of practical cantorial experience with musicological scholarship and a parallel background
in western music enables him to fluidly relate to all students with different backgrounds.

“I strive to make Byzantine music accessible to students that have had prior training in western music or have had little or no musical training at all by speaking in their own language without compromising the traditional and timeproven methods of transmitting Byzantine chant used in Greek conservatories,” said Dr. Karanos.

His immediate and most urgent goal is the effective musical preparation of future priests. “I am working to revise the curriculum of Byzantine chant instruction, which currently reflects the philosophy and methodology of Greek
conservatories. My goal is to strengthen the courses by making them more relevant to the needs of our students. I will encourage eager participation of all students in music-related activities.”

He has accomplished getting his students’ attention by creating chant labs. The labs follow formal in-class instruction and are a setting where advanced students assist other students who seek to fine-tune their skill.

“The chant labs have been very popular this year,” said Rassem El Massih, teaching assistant and second–year Master of Divinity student at HCHC. “These labs have revived the interest of students as they come to seek further learning in all elements of Byzantine chant. This year, you hear students practicing chanting in the halls, while walking to classes and all over campus.”

Dr. Karanos aspires to create a program that is a comprehensive, in-depth training for students who seek to become cantors. He says “This includes HCHC students as well as musically inclined individuals from Orthodox and non-Orthodox backgrounds who are interested in learning Byzantine chant and obtaining certificates and diplomas, eliminating the need to travel and follow courses of studies in Greek conservatories.”

Karanos’ passion for the psaltic art has led him to teach at HCHC.

“I strive to promote the sacred art of chanting in the American academia. My desire to contribute to its study and dissemination in the United States has led me to Hellenic College/Holy Cross. This is the ideal setting for this type of work.” He is married to Panagoula Diamanti-Karanou and has two sons, Vasileios, 5, and Georgios, 3.


In the following videos, Dr. Grammenos Karanos participates in a byzantine choir celebrating Christmas in the First Annual Byzantine Christmas Celebration on Dec. 21, 2010 in Cambridge, MA, USA. His teaching assistant Rassem El Massih joins him. Spyridon Antonopoulos, whom the vocal chamber ensemble Capella Romana calls "a top-flight Byzantine cantor", directs the choir.

The other psaltes include Demetrios Antonopoulos, Rassem El-Massih, George Fitopoulos, Peter George, Vasilis Lioutas, Elias Pittos, and Leonidas Pittos. The isokrates are Ismael Asgarian, Ambroise Battston, Theodore Fitopoulos, Kosta George, Yiannis Karavas, Michalis Lytinas, and Nick Snogren.

And here, Dr. Grammenos Karanos directs the left choir.
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