Psaltic Tradition in America

I wanted to see if I could invoke a discussion on how people see the psaltic tradition in America developing. I have heard many theories separately and I wanted to see if some of these ideas could wind up in one place and discussion. I mainly want to reflect on the tradition as it develops in places and among chanters where Psaltiki is done with some degree of proficiency. I do recognize in most places, it is NOT done well and usually done with lots of improvisation and practical chanting. I am not referring to that, but to more of the places and schools where it is done somewhat well, if that makes sense. Included I feel would be discussions of different recordings of Byzantine Chant done in America (which can include Greek and English, for example, St. Anthony's recordings).

I, for one, see a large Karas influence in American Psaltic tradition among communities where there is some proficiency in psaltiki. The examples that come to mind are John Boyer and his students, the Church he chants at, and the West Coast Chanting Seminars he holds at St. Nicholas Ranch. This is reflected in the Capella Romana Divine Liturgy in English CD recently out, in which while he obviously was not the only force, was a main driving force in this effort.

ALso the Byzantine Choir in the Houston, TX area that has put out a few CDs also has strong Karaitic Influence. And even Papa Ephraim's work, while far less than the past two examples, has a certain amount of influence from Karas.

Any thoughts on this?
I agree with you about Karas. I think that Karas' more scientific and standardized approach appeals to people in America trying to learn authenitic byzantine psaltiki since it can make up for the lack of traditional akousmata/learning by ear. Most of us here in the US don't have the benefit of someone with a byzantine chanting degree to chant along with.

On that note, most traditional byzantine chant recordings that are available to those in the US are done by Karas people (Romeiko, Greek Byzantine Choir, Capella Romana), so when people want to hear authentic psaltiki, they hear it from a Karas interpretation, leading them to imitate it in their chanting.

As far as byzantine chanting's development in America, we need to promote the idea that traditional psaltiki can be done here with the traditional yphos and correct intervals. If traditional chanting could be adapted for other cultures outside of Greece, it can be done here.

If we can make chanting lessons and classes available and if we can offer more examples of traditional chanting in the English language, people will gain an interest in learning.

Panagiotis George
I completely agree. It seems to me that the Karas influence is mainly because of the systematic approach to, well, everything in regards to chanting. Whether it's ornamentation or composition or isokratima, Karas does present a sort of "fast track" for people to learn these aspects that other schools do not, which is not a bad thing (in my opinion) that other schools have not systematized everything, but I think that's why Karas has such a stronger foothold in America.

As to the recordings, I think it's not only the availability of the Karas influenced recordings, but the uniform sound also. The more Athonite or Patriarchal sounding recordings rarely have the consistency and homogenization of sound, especially in regards to the ison. One listening to say a live Athonite recording would immediately notice the drifting and lack of cohesion in the ison. Even a recording of a very good chanter, such as say Fr. Daniel of the Danieloi Brotherhood, it tends to the untrained ear to just sound like a fantastic voice chanting over ison where it sounds like the people are just holding whatever note they want without any regard to what the other isokratis are doing.

The people in America who have an interest in proficient and traditional Byzantine chant, would find that sound "unprofessional" when compared to, say Cappella Romana's recordings. And in the West there is an influence on uniformity and consistency in music and so thus Americans, consciously or subconsciously, are going to value the overall professional sound of most Karas influenced recordings than those of Patriarchal or Athonite persuasions.