Music for Feb. 2 (The Meeting in the Temple)


Music Director at St. George, Albuquerque, NM
To add my "two mites" to the vast wealth that Papa Ephraim has put into the treasury of Byzantine Music in English,* I want to offer just a couple of hymns that were chanted at today's feast day, and include a little bit of musicological content as well.

The first score attached to this message is a setting of the first kathisma (sessional hymn) at the Orthros of the Presentation. In my musical score, you will notice that this particular troparion is in diatonic 1st mode, from Pa.

The text is as follows:

Let Angels' holy choirs be amazed at the wonder; *
and let us mortals cry out a hymn with our voices, *
beholding God's marvelous condescension transcending speech; *
He at Whom the powers of the Heavens do tremble, *
Him do aged arms take in their tender embrace now, *
the only true Friend of man.

Those of you who utilize the Holy Transfiguration Monastery's Menaion for your liturgical services may be somewhat surprised by the attached musical score, given that the Menaion labels this particular troparion as being a prosomion of "The soldiers standing guard"! (Τον τάφον σου, Σωτήρ.) This, however, is incorrect. The Greek Menaion correctly labels this troparion as an Original Melody (Αυτόμελον), and the next sessional hymn as a troparion of Τον τάφον σου, Σωτήρ.

Μετὰ τὴν α' Στιχολογίαν, Κάθισμα
Ἦχος α'

Χορὸς Ἀγγελικός, ἐκπληττέσθω τὸ θαῦμα,
βροτοὶ δὲ ταῖς φωναῖς, ἀνακράξωμεν ὕμνον,
ὁρῶντες τὴν ἄφατον, τοῦ Θεοῦ συγκατάβασιν·
ὃν γὰρ τρέμουσι, τῶν οὐρανῶν αἱ Δυνάμεις,
γηραλέαι νῦν, ἐναγκαλίζονται χεῖρες,
τὸν μόνον φιλάνθρωπον.

Δόξα... Καὶ νῦν... Τὸ αὐτὸ

Μετὰ τὴν β' Στιχολογίαν, Κάθισμα
Ἦχος α'
Τὸν τάφον σου Σωτὴρ

Ὁ ὢν σὺν τῷ Πατρί, ἐπὶ θρόνου ἁγίου,
ἐλθὼν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ἐκ Παρθένου ἐτέχθη,
καὶ βρέφος ἐγένετο, χρόνοις ὢν ἀπερίγραπτος,
ὃν δεξάμενος, ὁ Συμεὼν ἐν ἀγκάλαις,
χαίρων ἔλεγε· Νῦν ἀπολύεις Οἰκτίρμον,
εὐφράνας τὸν δοῦλόν σου.
Δόξα... Καὶ νῦν... Τὸ αὐτὸ

The confusion arises from the fact that these two troparia (Χορὸς Ἀγγελικός and Τον τάφον σου, Σωτήρ) are metrically identical - that is, the hymn Χορὸς Ἀγγελικός can be chanted to the exact same melody as Τον τάφον σου, Σωτήρ. However, despite being metrically identical, the two are in fact separate and distinct musically, as evidenced by the fact that the second kathisma (sessional hymn) for today's feast is labeled as being chanted to a different melody (Τον τάφον σου, Σωτήρ) and not "to the same melody" (Το αυτό).

Unfortunately, the other times in which Χορὸς Ἀγγελικός occurs in the Menaion of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, it suffers from being mislabeled as "The soldiers standing guard," just as it did on the feast itself. For instance, the apolytikion** "Of the Forefeast", chanted on February 1st, is actually to be chanted to the melody Χορὸς Ἀγγελικός, and not Τον τάφον σου, Σωτήρ:

Of the Forefeast. First Tone. "The soldiers standing guard" (incorrect - should be "Let angels' holy choirs")
The Heavens' choir looked down from the vaults of the Heavens, *
and gazing on the earth, they beheld with amazement *
the First-born of all creation brought forth as a suckling babe *
to the Temple by a pure and virginal mother; *
and with us, they now do sing a hymn for the Forefeast, *
astonished and full of awe.

For more information about this particular automelon (Χορός αγγελικός) and the several prosomia that are chanted to the same melody, one can read the very informative thread found on the Greek side of the forum. For anyone who has more in-depth questions, I would be more than happy to translate specific sections of that topic to provide more information.


*Not to imply that my "two mites" are in any way worth more than all the "wealth" that Papa Ephraim has offered, as was the case in the Gospel!

**It is important to note that Χορὸς Ἀγγελικός functions as an Original Melody not only for kathismata, but for apolytikia as well.


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