National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians

Π. Δαβίδ

Γενικός συντονιστής
#21
Just a note:

Taso posted a link to the Lingas Sakellarides article. The link was to my diocese's website, as I had it posted there. It was not particularly flattering to Sakellarides soi-disant reforms, nor was my intention of having it posted. The site has been moved and the correct link should be:

http://gocportland.org/chant_john_sakellarides.html

Dr. Giannoukakis also cites condemnations of 4 part polyphony in liturgical usage. The one that comes to mind and was reposted on our diocesan site is that of Patriarch Anthimos, and is the most germane to anyone who cares:

http://gocportland.org/1846PatriarchAnthimosEncyclical.pdf

JPP
The article for Sakellarides is very well written indeed. In the same website I found some byzantine melodies in English that did impress me, although the composer used some old signs (something to which I firmly oppose!:rolleyes:) and his orthography (both of Greek texts and of byzantine notation) did contain some errors.
 

Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#22
In this post earlier:

http://analogion.com/forum/showpost.php?p=171760&postcount=20

Romanos4 writes an outstanding and factual summary.

The summary then leads to the following question: If the Forum is unable and unwilling to substantively promote BM, why does the hierarchy not foster a Synodical Committee, not too unlike the Synodical Committee on Art and Music of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, involve Prof. Karanos (who is more than capable to participate given his position and responsibility at the Seminary), involve Archon Protopsaltis Asteris who is more than able and willing to offer his guidance on the traditions of the Mother Church, and give BM a real chance? The Forum can continue to nurture its polyphony, and from that point onward, let natural selection or the wisdom of the Lord define the future of ecclesiastic music in America.

Is the hierarchy that afraid of the Forum as concerns taking away from its "sphere of influence" a subject matter that the Forum does not want or seem to care about?

And, if it is afraid, WHY? Is the hierarchy not the decision-making authority of the Archdiocese? Has it abdicated its responsibility as concerns tradition and the decisions of the Mother Church to.......the Forum?

NG
 
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saltypsalti

Παλαιό Μέλος
#23
In this post earlier:

http://analogion.com/forum/showpost.php?p=171760&postcount=20

Romanos4 writes an outstanding and factual summary.

The summary then leads to the following question: If the Forum is unable and unwilling to substantively promote BM, why does the hierarchy not foster a Synodical Committee, not too unlike the Synodical Committee on Art and Music of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, involve Prof. Karanos (who is more than capable to participate given his position and responsibility at the Seminary), involve Archon Protopsaltis Asteris who is more than able and willing to offer his guidance on the traditions of the Mother Church, and give BM a real chance? The Forum can continue to nurture its polyphony, and from that point onward, let natural selection or the wisdom of the Lord define the future of ecclesiastic music in America.

Is the hierarchy that afraid of the Forum as concerns taking away from its "sphere of influence" a subject matter that the Forum does not want or seem to care about?

And, if it is afraid, WHY? Is the hierarchy not the decision-making authority of the Archdiocese? Has it abdicated its responsibility as concerns tradition and the decisions of the Mother Church to.......the Forum?

NG
Unfortunately, with the exception of ...well ... us ... Byzantine music remains a subject of profound ignorance amongst the American Orthodox population. Unfortunately that ignorance has been prey to people with agendas -usually agendas in favour of either yet more westernized music or grossly truncated music for congregational consumption -and the message is always the same clear canard: Byzantine music is corrupt, its too foreign for American ears.

As to the why's -I hate to sound jaded butI think we all know the answer. The Forum won't address the issues because 1. It doesn't want to and 2. it has power and knows it doesn't have to. The Hierarchy and clergy are either 1. complicit or 2. fears a powerful backlash, usually in the form of money leaving the Church, and paints the whole thing as a "pastoral issue" essentially slamming the door to further discussion thus becoming enablers.

JPP
 

basil

Παλαιό Μέλος
#24
The Hierarchy and clergy [...] paints the whole thing as a "pastoral issue" essentially slamming the door to further discussion thus becoming enablers.
Indeed, this can be a serious problem. Over the years, many clergymen have instructed me to go against the traditions of the Church (for example, by singing Western-style polyphony in a choir or by chanting pieces that egregiously violate the formulaic rules of Byzantine music) for the sake of catering to the ignorance of others. In one case, I was told that not participating in such activities would threaten my salvation, because I would not be heeding our Lord's commandment to love one another (John 13:34).

Nothing could be further from the truth. Being critical of bad musical practices does not necessarily imply a lack of Christian love for the people who perpetuate these practices. In fact, I deeply respect all persons without exception, even if I criticize specific musical practices in an objective and factual manner. Yes, we must love one another, but we must also be careful not to cater to people's ignorance. Doing so violates not only our own personal integrity but also the integrity of the centuries-old tradition that has been handed down to us.
 

saltypsalti

Παλαιό Μέλος
#25
...Nothing could be further from the truth. Being critical of bad musical practices does not necessarily imply a lack of Christian love for the people who perpetuate these practices. In fact, I deeply respect all persons without exception, even if I criticize specific musical practices in an objective and factual manner. Yes, we must love one another, but we must also be careful not to cater to people's ignorance. Doing so violates not only our own personal integrity but also the integrity of the centuries-old tradition that has been handed down to us.
I feel like there should be a Grumpy Cat meme inserted right about now ;-)

JPP
 
#26
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Αν επιτρέπεται --

We're talking about a situation that is, like it or not, complex. In the Antiochian archdiocese (in which I served until relatively recently), it's complicated by factors such as demographic makeup of parishes; there are predominantly Arab parishes, also parishes with a strong Slavic component (particularly in the parishes under Toledo, it seems), and of course parishes that are predominantly convert. Many of the Arab parishes that do employ Byzantine chant do so entirely from oral tradition; from what I've seen, the Mitri Murr books do not appear to (yet) have common currency here. In Slav-heavy parishes as well as Arab parishes, Byzantine chant may be used for Vespers and Orthros, but polyphonic choirs that use, say, Tchaikovsky (konzert!)have been common since at least the '60s (with one particularly notable example I'll mention in a moment). Convert parishes tend to prefer the St. Vladimir's Seminary polyphonic materials, or any number of other things, many engaging in the nonsense of "We need a vernacular American form of Orthodox sacred music and we need it yesterday!"

Another problem is relative indifference from clergy and bishops. A cradle Arab priest told me once that, from where he sat, the interest in Byzantine chant seemed to be mostly "a convert thing". At the same time, a convert priest in the Antiochian archdiocese told me that it was probably a losing battle to try to establish Byzantine chant (beyond Kazan's transcriptions and the Antiochian Village Camp hymnal) as normative at a parish of Midwestern converts, and that since he himself pretty much had Fr. Seraphim Nasser's English texts memorized, the textual differences one ran into using Papa E.'s or JMB's English settings meant that he personally didn't really want me using them either, so the choices were between Kazan and composing a new setting using Nasser's texts (an idea which Chris Holwey basically put the kibosh on). +PHILIP seems to be encouraging talent like Rassem El Massih on the one hand, but also apparently telling people in the meantime that Kazan is as far as he's willing to push for the time being. It's also worth noting that I once ran into a gentleman who told me he, as a Protestant, was the choir director at St. George in Cleveland in the '60s when +PHILIP was the pastor there; this person said that Tchaikovsky was normative for Divine Liturgy, but that he also very freely substituted Protestant anthems for various festal hymns, and that he was encouraged to do so, in the main (within some apparent limitations).

Polyphonic choirs, across the board, in Greek and Antiochian parishes, strike me as principally a move to democratize and popularize. That's certainly the case at the Antiochian parish I served up until recently, and I'm told that the Choir Federations in GOA mostly had a social function when they got started; this was what these people did for fun, they went to choir rehearsal, and as they grew up there were enough of them to assert some amount of authority. Now they're to a point where they're aging and not really replacing themselves, however; I went to a Council meeting representing my current GOA parish for the Mid-Eastern Federation a couple of Saturdays ago, and out of 100 or so parishes that were supposed to be represented, there were all of 7 or 8 people there, I think. I was also the second youngest person there at 36, with the youngest being a 17 year old high school student who runs the website for the Mid-Eastern Federation. Make of that what you will.

I have friends on both "sides", as it were, and it seems to me that communication and education are big issues. Perceiving a zero-sum game, it's difficult to have any kind of a constructive conversation without suspicion; a friend of mine who is very high-ranking in the Federation/National Forum circles told me very bluntly a few weeks ago that the people in choirs are worried that the chant people want to simply destroy what they've done, and that the chant people themselves act similarly paranoid (from where this person sits; this is not my opinion). Education is real problem, and it's a problem where there has to be a solution available in places like where I live, not just in Chicago, New York, Boston, and Pittsburgh. When I was looking for a teacher, my options were all at least a five hour drive away; it was ultimately more possible for me to spend a summer in Greece than it was for me to have access to a teacher in the States. A facet of that problem is that there are chanters who have learned what they know 100% from oral tradition and act as though notation is only for those who don't "really" know how to do it. Well, good for them, but they also act as though they have nothing to teach and wouldn't want to even if they did, that you either got it the same way they did or you didn't, and if you didn't, it's not their problem.

All of this is to say, to people on the choir "side", doubtless they see what they're doing as having been the default situation for some time now, and they see it as far too much effort to have to learn somebody else's game from somebody who may or may not want to teach them them (as they see it). The most charitable spin on the Forum's Frank Desby Byzantine chant transcription books, while certainly they look less than ideal from the standpoint of somebody trained to read the classical books (and I know, I've seen them), is that they represent the choir "side"'s attempt to translate this material into what they can understand so that they can try to take it seriously.

I'm a relatively recent newcomer to all of this, so there's no real reason to listen to me; as I've said before, είμαι μονο ένας βλάκας Αμερικανός, but from my own path through all of these issues, it seems to me that there needs to be a multitude of conversations in a multitude of places where all participants don't act like they're ready to throw down a gauntlet. I also am not sure how many on the choir "side" are aware just how much we on the chant "side" would truly be more than willing to teach whatever we know to whomever wants to learn, and do so with a smile and gratitude for the opportunity to pass it on. Our problem is that there really is an irreducible complexity to the system of Byzantine chant, it takes time to learn and to be able to do it, it's going to feel strange and awkward while you're finding your feet, and it will take a few years. Ultimately it's like learning a language, and that's really intimidating for some people. I got yelled at by somebody at my old parish for "being wrapped up in all the wrong details and having completely lost the Spirit" over some of these issues. The answer to that, it seems to me, is to do it well enough that the result justifies the effort to those who would learn.

Anyway, from where I sit, communication, education, and bridge-building, all done in love, are what is necessary. Except at my old parish of converts, I have found people to be remarkably receptive to Byzantine chant when it is offered in a spirit of cooperation and offering one's best to all and for all (seems to me I've heard that somewhere), out of expertise rather than partisanship, and maybe that's the place to start.
 

Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#27
Dear Richard,

Your observations are realistic and your feelings for what converts like and would like is spot on.

It is true that the older generation of psaltae had very few among them who were classically trained and secure enough to pass on their knowledge to the younger generation. In the past 15 years, this has changed dramatically.

I cannot speak for the situation outside the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, although from what I see and hear, there is a real and SINCERE effort at expanding the use of Byzantine Music. And I am very specific when I use the term here. It can be choral monophonic, it can be "Arabo-Syriac old-school", it can be Balamand, it can be Kazan, it can be anything that comes close to Constantinopolitan and Athonite in sound. I also emphasise the term "SINCERE".

As concerns the situation with the Forum in the GOA, there is NO SINCERITY from the Forum. In a previous post, I mentioned a project that a group of classically-trained psaltae pitched to the Forum that involved NO MONEY, and involved a lot of OUR TIME and LOVE. A project TO THE FORUM, where we would offer our DIAKONIA to the Forum.

The project proposal died in session sometime between 2005-2007. Whichever of the high ranking Politburo told you that "the people in choirs are worried that the chant people want to simply destroy what they've done, and that the chant people themselves act similarly paranoid" is either misinformed, equivocal, or blatantly disinforming.

No one in the chant community has an agenda to dismantle choirs. However, we aspire to help the choirs evolve away from something that violates the ethos, tenets of Orthodox Christianity, and three edicts of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As I mentioned earlier, those who claim that they fear Byzantine Music entering their repertoire are either musically-illiterate or they do not want to serve the church's traditions.

Neither the language (English) nor the music (Western staff) can now prevent any musically-literate choir from adopting Byzantine music. Byzantine notation and the intricacies of solo chant will eventually be learned for those who wish to serve the analogion, but as concerns choirs, these intricacies need not be understood or conveyed to offer a traditional Orthodox experience.

This is not a zero sum game, or a "we versus them" challenge. It is a sincere offer to the Forum.

Why has the Forum politburo not accepted our proposals? Why have they not engaged those of us classically-trained to realise, for them, a credible Byzantine Music program? Why have they, instead, resorted to (at best) half-learned self taught "darlings" as "experts"?

We are not afraid to offer our Diakonia to the Forum. Rather, the Forum and its actions and "internal discussions" [we also have our sources of information from within, and we know what certain people think and their true reasons for preventing Byzantine Music from ever becoming chorally mainstream] are PERSECUTING anything in line with the Mother Church, the Church they have vowed to serve.

Our offer will always stand. We never took it back. It is theirs to accept SINCERELY and engage us SINCERELY, otherwise, as you noted, the average age of choir members will move from the 70s into the 80s. At some point, natural selection will impose its natural and inexorable conclusion and the Forum will at some point, like polyphonic music in Greece, be relegated to the dustbin of unfortunate history.

After all, who speaks of polyphony in Greece and the Balkans today?

The question is, does the Forum and its politburo want to be on the right side of history and the Mother Church, or characterised not-too-unlike Sakellarides and Kantakouzenos 100 years from now? History can be quite rough and unforgiving.

NG
 
#28
K. Giannoukaki -- I am curious, is there a possibility that I might be able to see this proposal? You have mentioned it to me before, and I would be interested to read it myself. Since moving to a GOA parish, I have been, ας πούμε, encouraged to involve myself in Federation/National Forum affairs; perhaps I could help.
 

Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#29
Dear Richard,

It would be best to ask the former Chairperson of the Forum for a copy.

If the former Chairperson refuses to send it to you, I will be more than happy to post it publically.

In essence, it proposed a network of "schools" of BM across the USA where BM would be taught in a systematic and in depth manner by the psaltae with classic and traditional training and many years of expertise and service to the church.

The psaltae teachers proposed represent the tradition of the Mother Church, have the CREDIBILITY as representatives of traditional chant, conferred by the Psaltae Masters of old-time, Protopsaltae of great renown in Greece.

As the program evolved, the core group of teachers would invite other psaltae/teachers to increase the density of the network. Most of these "schools" (or annexes of a School of BM) would offer training in Greek/English and any other language where there was interest. BM along with Typikon would be emphasised and where there was an interest, implementation of Byzantine chant by established choirs would be facilitated.

This School of annexes (or schools) would not operate in the void as it would have a Hierarch of the Synod in its midst, and most critically, it would involve the Archon Protopsaltis of the Great Church of Christ (currently Mr. Leonidas Asteris) and the resident Professor of Byzantine Music of the Theological Seminary of the GOA (currently Mr. Grammenos Karanos) in its curriculum, and its testing. The internet would be leveraged to bring Constantinople in touch with the US annexes and the internet would also be used as a one-to-one and/or one-to-many didactic medium with real-time video interaction between teacher/student(s). Technology and resources from Pittsburgh-area universities, especially those available to www.asbmh.pitt.edu would facilitate the internet linkage.

We emphasised that no money would be required to realise this. Perhaps that was our mistake and the politburo of the Forum would have preferred a project that sought money.

Again, get the full proposal from the former Chairperson.

NG
 
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#30
I will do so and see what kind of response I get. I'll let you know.

Incidentally, the notion that you may have been better off acting like you needed money may be quite right; my off-the-cuff impression is that one of the political issues between the Federation/National Forum people and chanters is that chanters basically bypass the National Forum by the very nature of who does what. The National Forum doesn't provide any resources that chanters really need (even the liturgical guidebook wouldn't be necessary to a psaltis accustomed to interacting with the actual liturgical books), and the materials that chanters do use are not under the imprimatur of the National Forum. If the National Forum held, say, the exclusive rights to distribute the Anastasimatarion of Petros Lambadarios in North America, that might be one thing, but that's not the case, and there's not really anything the National Forum can do to regulate what chanters do otherwise (beyond the politics of who gets to sing the Divine Liturgy on Sunday). So the National Forum may well have seen your proposal and said, well, what do you need us for if you're not asking for anything, since you don't really need us to begin with? That may not have been the right response, but knowing at least some of the parties involved, I could see that as a possible scenario.

Richard
 
#31
One question -- how would your proposal help somebody in my shoes c.2009? Or would I still be in a position of needing to drive five hours to Chicago? Nobody like you describe is anywhere close to central Indiana. I am told that the daughter of the Phanar's lambadarios used to live in Indianapolis, and so he would chant at Holy Trinity if he happened to be around, but that doesn't seem to have been the case for a long time.
 

Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#32
Dear Richard,

You raise the following points/questions in your previous two posts:

1) "and there's not really anything the National Forum can do to regulate what chanters do otherwise"

Why would they? What do any of its members know concerning BM and chant? Are any one of them classically-trained? And if so, by whom? What credibility do any of them have in the realm of BM?

The Forum is not an ecclesiastic body with canonical authority. Your comment could be distorted by some to become "the National Forum should have the power and authority to tell and dictate to a consecrated, renowned, and (for example), respected Protopsaltis what and how to chant (!!!!)". Although this is not the intent of your comment, there are voices inside the politburo of the Forum who would cherish nothing else as a method to do away with anything resembling BM. You think I'm speculating? Ask around. As you mentioned, since you are close to some of those people, I am sure they might let you in on some inconvenient secrets.


2) "So the National Forum may well have seen your proposal and said, well, what do you need us for if you're not asking for anything, since you don't really need us to begin with?"

Although we do not need anything from the Forum, we are offering our diakonia in response to the their decades-long argument that "the chantors do not come to help us or to participate in our events".

Furthermore, now that the Forum has assembled a subcommittee of its "darlings" of its politburo who aspire to be "experts" in BM (but who have very little if any formal background and zero BM credibility), and looking at how these people (as wonderful as they are as humans and as well-intentioned as they may be) are being LED by one or two people in the politburo to provide meager and poor "CMIs" or similar little gatherings, we decided to work WITH the Forum to ensure that their publically-stated interest in BM would be facilitated into becoming serious programs that would be results-oriented by people who know what they are doing.

So, yes, we do not need them in terms of our service to the church, but we do not want to continue the hypocritical "let's stand back and laugh at their futile attempts". After all, we are servants of the church and as young-"er" people in service to the church, we want to live by the example of the Good Samaritan, and not the person who buried his talent.

Let me also add the following. Prior to Mr. Combitsis and my involvement in editing the "Liturgical Guidebook" it was rife with errors. Some were so elementary that they made the people who put the Guidebook together look typikologically-illiterate. Mr. Combitsis and I offered that service with love and sincerity. Since then, the Guidebook, we believe, is now in line with the Typikon of the Great Church and its intent where there is ambiguity created by the matter of the calendar and the evolution of the Liturgy. We always supplied historical, typikological and, in some cases, theologic background to explain what was not evident to those who were putting together the Guidebook. We strongly believe we offered this commentary in an educational manner and never in a condescending tone. We kept all this communication for history's sake or......to rebut anyone who "might" want to come out and allege otherwise.

It is curious, why-for the past two years-Mr. Combitsis and my name are included in the Guidebook in the acknowledgement section, yet, for these same two years we never received anything to review (!). At the same time, since our involvement, the Guidebook is now generated in a template-based manner and is largely free from the egregious errors of the past.

Again, our diakonia out of love.

3) "how would your proposal help somebody in my shoes c.2009?"

We had established an online peer-to-peer internet resource as early as 2004 prior to Google+ using resources at the University of Pittsburgh and many people took advantage of those. For three years, we had weekly 2 hour tutorials of varying complexity. Some were systematic, lasting for weeks, others were of one session to address minutiae. This would be one means to help you. Another means would have been to send people your way 3 or 4 times a year for a weekend which, say Friday, Sat, Sun, each at 5 hours immersive tutorials would have also been helpful.

The resources still exist and we are always available to realise this project, even at the 11th hour. The question is, does the Forum WANT to realise anything that would substantively push BM from within and using credible people?

That is the question.

The impression is created, by those who are recipients of such proposals, that they want to reinvent the wheel of a donkey cart when in their plain view is parked a Maserati ready to be driven. For example, how much money was....invested....in certain web domains under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese on.....BM, when resources and people were already available to offer superior products and more meaningful programs for.....free? Thus, you see Richard, there is more than meets the eye here, and the stance of the Forum can be interpreted at many levels that are not always what they appear to be. Rationalisations are offered, but the real reasons lie elsewhere....

NG
 
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basil

Παλαιό Μέλος
#33
A common thread in this discussion has been the notion that today's chanters would like to lead choirs to a more genuine expression of Orthodox liturgical traditions rather than to eliminate them entirely. This attitude acknowledges the love, commitment, and organization with which choir members have served the Church, even as it maintains that there are serious musicological, methodological, and theological problems with the repertoire of choral music currently in use throughout the United States.

I am generally in favor of moving in this general direction. However, moving in this direction raises several issues that, to date, have not been clearly identified and broadly discussed in the psaltic community. These issues include:

  1. How should the function of modern mixed choirs be reconciled with the traditional clerical role of male psaltes? For example, if it is acceptable for any lay parishioner to chant in the choir, is it also acceptable for any lay parishioner to chant the Epistle?
  2. Should services be conducted entirely in the Greek language, or should other languages be used? If other languages to be used, to what degree should they be used? Should other languages be merely tolerated for pastoral reasons, or should their use (to a small or large degree) be encouraged?
  3. If other languages are to be used, high-quality translations must be developed that are precise, poetic, and elegant. This is a nontrivial problem that, in such countries as Romania and the Middle East, has required the intense work of several generations. The magnitude of this problem is barely understood by many in the GOA today.
  4. How should musical scores in Byzantine notation be transcribed into Western notation? How should the notion of melody and ison be notated in a way that Western-trained mixed choirs can easily read and perform? What degree of analysis is practical in Western notation transcriptions? How should Western notation scores express the complexities of chronos and rhythm in Byzantine music? To what degree should the scales of Byzantine music be notated in such scores?
  5. What should be the basis of the melodic repertoire for mixed choirs that sing Byzantine music? Are the Westernized melodies of, for example, Sakellarides and Basil Kazan acceptable if they are sung in a monophonic, a capella fashion with just melody and ison, or should we only accept compositions that strictly follow the formulaic rules of classical Byzantine music? To what degree is it acceptable for the isokratima to be used in a Western style (harmonizing with the melody) as opposed to being fixed on the tonic of the pentachord or tetrachord?
  6. In cases where music must be transcribed from Byzantine notation into Western notation or where new compositions must be created for a new language, by what criteria should this work be done? How will transcribers and composers get feedback on their work and iterate on it to produce new revisions? Who will ultimately approve the final work for publication? (Many problems from the world of software development come to mind.)
  7. Dr Alexander Khalil wrote in his dissertation: "Leonidas Asteris [...] only allowed me three interviews over as many years. If he felt that a question was not suitable for someone of my humble stature to ask, he simply would not answer." If the protopsaltis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate had this attitude toward a visiting scholar of the Patriarchal tradition, it's hard to imagine that he would be willing to supervise any project that involves the use of Western notation scores, the English language, mixed choirs, etc. How can we bridge this gap?

I could go on, but I'll stop here. Those of you who know me personally already know my answers to these questions, so I won't give them right now. My point is that these issues are complex, and there is not yet widespread understanding of them in the psaltic community, let alone agreement about them. There needs to be more discussion of these issues before we can successfully lead choirs to a repertoire of genuine Orthodox liturgical chant.
 
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Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#34
Dear Basil,

You raise very important points. I offer my opinion and my answers do not in any way reflect the view of my colleagues. Furthermore, my opinon is in the context of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and may not be appropriate and certainly may not reflect the practices and views outside the GOA proper.

You write:
How should the function of modern mixed choirs be reconciled with the traditional clerical role of male psaltes? For example, if it is acceptable for any lay parishioner to chant in the choir, is it also acceptable for any lay parishioner to chant the Epistle?


Personally, I am not against mixed choirs, or female chantors, so long as the members are tonsured by a hierarch at least as readers. There are female readers in the Church of Greece just as there were female deacons in the Christian church until the 8th century. At the same time, I would not support "any" lay person coming to chant in a choir or an analogion without evidence that they can sing, they can listen, they can participate in a group and that they understand the ethos and the traditions AND the basis of Orthodox Christianity. I would first ask them to read and understand for example "Elements of Faith" (translated by Bishop Kallistos Ware from the Giannaras original) and also involve my priest in ensuring that they know what Orthodoxy is all about. Ecclesiastic catechism is a life-long process ESPECIALLY for chantors and clergy. In the same vein, I would ensure that any newcomer first learn how to recite the epistle in practice sessions prior to the service in which they would be designated to be the Apostolarios.


You write
Should services be conducted entirely in the Greek language, or should other languages be used? If other languages to be used, to what degree should they be used? Should other languages be merely tolerated for pastoral reasons, or should their use (to a small or large degree) be encouraged?


I am of the view that one cannot use a 3D printer to change the colors and the shape of Michalengelo's artwork. I am also of the view that just like people go to listen to opera in the original language, people should experience Orthodox music and hymn in the language it was composed. The rationalisations in the GOA that "we don't understand" are reflective of the pietism that has changed the faith and the failure to understand that Christianity is an EXPERIENTIAL faith. One is immersed in an environment where the SENSES guide and hone the faith. It is better, in my view, for a parishioner to spend an hour the day before a service to read it in its translation and then to go and EXPERIENCE the service. Ask any convert what they prefer. Most will advocate for the original language.

It is the role of a priest to enlighten his flock along these lines. Translations should serve as means, aids and preparative material (or post-event material) and not the ends.

You write
If other languages are to be used, high-quality translations must be developed that are precise, poetic, and elegant. This is a nontrivial problem that, in such countries as Romania and the Middle East, has required the intense work of several generations. The magnitude of this problem is barely understood by many in the GOA today.


If what I write above is understood, this is obviated. Translations can then serve to emphasise the meaning, the ecclesiology and the dogma behind the poem instead of the consternation to find a word whose syllabic constituents fit the original Greek melody. Now, if the language matter cannot be overcome, then one needs to begin what what one has in hand, consider it as a first or second edition and then, over time, make it better. To re-invent the wheel everytime instead of focusing on evolution is not helpful.

You write
How should musical scores in Byzantine notation be transcribed into Western notation? How should the notion of melody and ison be notated in a way that Western-trained mixed choirs can easily read and perform? What degree of analysis is practical in Western notation transcriptions? How should Western notation scores express the complexities of chronos and rhythm in Byzantine music? To what degree should the scales of Byzantine music be notated in such scores?


For the choirs that serve the GOA, the level of complexity in performance you cite will be difficult to achieve if not impossible. Even choirs of well-trained chantors temper the minutiae to ensure a uniform product that offers the tradition, and the KEY articulations, but does not create the confusion where one chantor adds a "harmonic" on a psifiston that is off-time with that of his/her nearest neighbor.

An appropriate example I think of the evolution of a GOA choir into a Byzantine GOA choir (mixed) is the Choir of St. Sophia Cathedral when it was led by the late Harilaos Papapostolou.

There are varying views on how the Western notation should reflect the minutiae, but again, I believe that those minutiae are irrelevant for a parish choir.

Last, to understand the Modes in a Western context, takes practice and a trained chantor to lead the choir. Or a choirmaster who has learned and understands BM. Just like a football team practices at least once a week, so should choirs get together and practice at least two hours per week.

You write
What should be the basis of the melodic repertoire for mixed choirs that sing Byzantine music? Are the Westernized melodies of, for example, Sakellarides and Basil Kazan acceptable if they are sung in a monophonic, a capella fashion with just melody and ison, or should we only accept compositions that strictly follow the formulaic rules of classical Byzantine music? To what degree is it acceptable for the isokratima to be used in a Western style (harmonizing with the melody) as opposed to being fixed on the tonic of the pentachord or tetrachord?


I am not in favor of Sakellarides or Kazan. The traditional music in the Mousikos Pandektis can readily be transcribed. Furthermore, the long Cherouvika and Koinonika are incompatible with the length of today's liturgies in the US, thus the less complex music in the classic books is not hard to transcribe. Fr. Ephraim has already done an excellent job at this.

The isokratima is an issue that is still debated among the Greek chant community. The traditional Constantinopolitan ison reflected and emphasised the tetrachord/pentachord. Personally, I prefer the isokratimata of the style of the choirs of the Constantinopolitan schools, but that is my personal choice and passed down to me by my teachers and their teachers. I don;t think that an Athonite ison, or a Constantinopolitan ison or a "Vasilikos-like" Athenian ison will be of prime importance to a GOA choir, so long as it meets one of the three "ethos".

You write
In cases where music must be transcribed from Byzantine notation into Western notation or where new compositions must be created for a new language, by what criteria should this work be done? How will transcribers and composers get feedback on their work and iterate on it to produce new revisions? Who will ultimately approve the final work for publication? (Many problems from the world of software development come to mind.)


The criteria should first reflect what the tradition of the Mother Church is (in the case of the GOA). Trained psaltae know what this means. They can look at an English translation in Western notation and can tell you whether it is in line with the tradition or not. Transcribers should work together with trained chantors who are also fluent in Western notation. The young-"er" generation has an excellent grasp of Western notation. Approval rests with a Synodical Committee whose members include reputable chantors and of course the Hierarchy. That is the tradition of the Mother Church which, incidentally, has a Synodical Committee on Art and Music that performs this very function of verification and recommendation (or not) that you describe.

You write
Dr Alexander Khalil wrote in his dissertation: "Leonidas Asteris [...] only allowed me three interviews over as many years. If he felt that a question was not suitable for someone of my humble stature to ask, he simply would not answer." If the protopsaltis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate had this attitude toward a visiting scholar of the Patriarchal tradition, it's hard to imagine that he would be willing to supervise any project that involves the use of Western notation scores, the English language, mixed choirs, etc. How can we bridge this gap?


I am not at all familiar with the manner in which Dr. Khalil approached Mr. Asteris. The Leonidas Asteris I know is open to discussion and is a mild-mannered person. If Dr. Khalil introduced himself in full doctoral and scholarly regalia, it is a normal human reaction to consider such a person as pompous and arrogant. I, too, would react in the same manner. I don't know the circumstances so I cannot comment.

As concerns Mr. Asteris, he is more than fluent in Western Music, being a protagonist tenor of the Turkish Lyrical Theater and having received many distinctions throughout his career. Thus, I find it difficult to accept that he would not be at all helpful.

My answers and views may or may not be in line with yours, since you stated that "Those of you who know me personally already know my answers to these questions, so I won't give them right now."

To your comment that "these issues are complex, and there is not yet widespread understanding of them in the psaltic community, let alone agreement about them. There needs to be more discussion of these issues before we can successfully lead choirs to a repertoire of genuine Orthodox liturgical chant." undermines your first statement "I am generally in favor of moving in this general direction."

If you really favor moving in this direction, then you must agree that one needs to put the ignition key in the starter and turn the car on. Then, you begin at a reasonable 10-20 mph, ensure that you are comfortable with the cruise and then ramp it up to a higher speed.

Otherwise, as I tell my students and fellows: You can argue and philosophise till you are blue. At some point, you have to conduct the first experiment.

NG
 

apostolos

Απόστολος Κομπίτσης
#35
I am told that the daughter of the Phanar's lambadarios used to live in Indianapolis, and so he would chant at Holy Trinity if he happened to be around, but that doesn't seem to have been the case for a long time.
Richard, I wanted to offer a comment on your above mention of the former Archon Lambadarios of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Mr. Basileios Emmanouilidis.

Indeed, Archon Emmanouilidis' daughter DOES live in the Indianapolis, Indiana area and her parents frequently visit her from Athens and stay for several months with her. In June of 2010, Archon Emmanouilidis visited New York and came to my father's parish of St. Gerasimos in Manhattan and chanted Orthros and Liturgy. (His official website is HERE, but you can click HERE to see some photographs from his travels outside of Greece. The last two pictures on that page are from his visit to St. Gerasimos.) In any event, when he DOES visit his daughter, he typically chants at the church of Holy Trinity. I believe he was here last year, but I can't remember with 100% certainty.

Since I am in touch with his daughter, I can let you know next time he is coming to the States. Perhaps he would be open to holding a few "workshops" on Byzantine Music during his stay.

Apostolos
 
#36
You raise the following points/questions in your previous two posts:

1) "and there's not really anything the National Forum can do to regulate what chanters do otherwise"

Why would they? What do any of its members know concerning BM and chant? Are any one of them classically-trained? And if so, by whom? What credibility do any of them have in the realm of BM?
I'm not by any means saying they should. My point is simply that the National Forum represents themselves this way on their website:

The National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians is the Archdiocesan ministry responsible for liturgical music activities and the development, support, and recognition of church musicians. Chartered in 1976 as an official auxiliary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the National Forum serves as the liaison among local church musicians, metropolis church music federations, and the Archdiocese. It also serves as the gathering place for church musicians to discuss issues related to liturgical music and to formulate needed responses.
And they go on to say:

The National Forum has four major areas of focus[, including]:

[...]

Support for CHANTERS and the preservation of BYZANTINE CHANT
So, if chanters are able to demonstrably not require the National Forum to actually do our jobs, then that creates an image problem for the National Forum. Whether or not that's our concern is a different question; I'm simply speaking descriptively of what seems to be the political situation.

For example, how much money was....invested....in certain web domains under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese on.....BM, when resources and people were already available to offer superior products and more meaningful programs for.....free? Thus, you see Richard, there is more than meets the eye here, and the stance of the Forum can be interpreted at many levels that are not always what they appear to be. Rationalisations are offered, but the real reasons lie elsewhere....
The implication seems to be that the National Forum is funneling money to somebody who is benefiting from their offering non-standard materials and resources. That's a rather startling claim, if I have that right.

In any event, I appreciate your candor.

Richard
 
#37
If other languages are to be used, high-quality translations must be developed that are precise, poetic, and elegant. This is a nontrivial problem that, in such countries as Romania and the Middle East, has required the intense work of several generations.
I will note that somebody told me a couple of weeks ago that the Romanian Patriarchate makes a point of doing a thorough revision of their liturgical books EDIT: EVERY SEVENTY YEARS OR SO to keep them in a vernacular used by the current generation. If that's true, that strikes me as having the potential to wreak havoc on their liturgical music.

In cases where music must be transcribed from Byzantine notation into Western notation or where new compositions must be created for a new language, by what criteria should this work be done? How will transcribers and composers get feedback on their work and iterate on it to produce new revisions? Who will ultimately approve the final work for publication? (Many problems from the world of software development come to mind.)
I'm picturing Visual SourceSafe being used for check-ins of new scores.

<shudder>

Dr Alexander Khalil wrote in his dissertation: "Leonidas Asteris [...] only allowed me three interviews over as many years. If he felt that a question was not suitable for someone of my humble stature to ask, he simply would not answer." If the protopsaltis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate had this attitude toward a visiting scholar of the Patriarchal tradition, it's hard to imagine that he would be willing to supervise any project that involves the use of Western notation scores, the English language, mixed choirs, etc. How can we bridge this gap?
Pace K. Giannoukaki's musings, knowing Alex personally, I can't imagine for a second anybody possibly thinking that he came across as a stereotypical arrogant academic "in full doctoral and scholarly regalia". Who knows what's going on here, but I will say that I have run into my share of cantors who treat what they do as some kind of gnosis that, if you don't have it, there's got to be a reason, and they're not going to be any more helpful than they feel they have to be. I will take K. Giannoukaki's description of K. Asteris at face value and assume that he is not one of these types, but something very strange is going on here.

Those of you who know me personally already know my answers to these questions, so I won't give them right now.
Well, I know some of them, but how would you treat points 6 & 7?

Richard
 
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#38
Ecclesiastic catechism is a life-long process ESPECIALLY for chantors and clergy.
Beautifully put; thank you.

The rationalisations in the GOA that "we don't understand" are reflective of the pietism that has changed the faith and the failure to understand that Christianity is an EXPERIENTIAL faith. One is immersed in an environment where the SENSES guide and hone the faith. It is better, in my view, for a parishioner to spend an hour the day before a service to read it in its translation and then to go and EXPERIENCE the service.
Yes, indeed. Again, beautifully put. Having had exactly this argument with Stan Takis, I understand exactly what you are driving at.

Ask any convert what they prefer. Most will advocate for the original language.
Well, being a convert, perhaps I might chime in here --

I have no problem with original languages. You mention opera; I spent several years pursuing an opera career, studying French, German, and Italian as the prerequisite languages for such a career. I have sung operas in their original languages, and I have sung operas in translation. No question that in terms of the relationship of words to music, there is simply no comparison between singing in translation and singing in the language for which the composer was writing the music.

That said, that's a fairly modern view; translation of operas into local vernaculars happened all the time in Europe in opera's golden age, and is still the norm in places like Germany and in some houses in the UK. So the argument goes, to the extent that this is theatre, what's the point if people can't understand the words? But then you have the problem that a translation intended for singing probably loses a great deal of meaning, and translation for meaning probably won't fit the music. The truth is, probably most people don't really care about the words to begin with; they care about the experience.

In church, I have no particular second thoughts about Greek; I've had many years of both ancient and modern Greek, some of that in Greece no less, and while I have to think about the Greek more if I'm singing off a Greek score, it's not particularly intimidating. I'm presently undertaking an intensive summer Arabic program at my university so that I can eventually be reasonably conversant with Mitri Murr's books, too.

All of that said, the best argument for translation is native speakers of English who know the particulars of the tradition of chant as well as how to use their voices, using scores that have been composed for an English text according to traditional Byzantine compositional principles. The worst argument is somebody, let's say, singing one of Kazan's transcriptions as though it were Verdi; unfortunately, that scenario is probably far more common than the former.

Richard
 
#39
Richard, I wanted to offer a comment on your above mention of the former Archon Lambadarios of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Mr. Basileios Emmanouilidis.
Thank you for doing so!

In any event, when he DOES visit his daughter, he typically chants at the church of Holy Trinity. I believe he was here last year, but I can't remember with 100% certainty.
Yes. The psaltis at Holy Trinity is a friend of mine (I chant there semi-regularly), and he was the one who told me about this. He made it sound as though it had been some time since K. Emmanoulidi's last visit, but I might have misunderstood him.

Since I am in touch with his daughter, I can let you know next time he is coming to the States. Perhaps he would be open to holding a few "workshops" on Byzantine Music during his stay.
Yes, please do! Thank you for your consideration!

Richard
 

Nikolaos Giannoukakis

Παλαιό Μέλος
#40
Dear Richard,

From your notes here: http://analogion.com/forum/showpost.php?p=172127&postcount=36

The statements made on the Forum's website and mission statement concerning BM are no different in substance and intent than what you would see in a menu of a restaurant called "Chez Francois" which you could assume offers French cuisine, but when you peruse the menu it is no different than Denny's (I have no problem with Denny's, but please don't call it Chez Francois!).

These comments, I speculate, were added to the Mission Statement of the Forum as a consequence of hierarchical criticisms or guidance. However, there is no oversight by the hierarchy to ensure that these statements are realized in a results-oriented manner. My experiences are representative of those of other well-intentioned colleagues over the past 15 years.

They talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk. Ou presque! This need not be the case. Our offer of diakonia can make the talk the walk. Our arms and hands will remain outstreched and offered to them. If they are genuinely interested in turning the page and opening a new chapter, they know where to reach us. The proposal is in their archives. Do they WANT to act on it?

As to how the Forum deals with its budget and what it does with its revenue, the leadership - I believe - will be more than happy to open their books to inquiring minds.

NG
 
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