Iakovos Nafpliotis
Archon Protopsaltis of the Great Church of Christ

A biography by G. K. Michalakis

(image from cmkon.org)

(Naxos 1864 - Athens 1942)
the MAJESTUOUS Protopsaltis
of the Holy and Great Church of Christ in Constantinople

Iakovos NAFPLIOTIS was born in Naxos in 1864.

NAFPLIOTIS being his last name, and not the geographic name of his origin he must therefore be called
and not Iakovos “o” Nafpliotis, as some have erroneously named him.

He went to Constantinople at a young age, where he was acclaimed for his exceptional caliphonus  qualities, and was engaged as First Canonarchos in 1878 (at 14 years of age) in the Patriarchal Church.
He served as first Canonarchos for 3 years.
This first as well as all the subsequent ordinations may be listed as follows:
- First Canonarchos  (1878 to 1881, from the age of 14 to 17 = 3 years of service)
- Second Dometstichos (1881 to 1888, from the age of 17 to 24 = 7 years of service)
- First Domestichos (1888 to 1905, from the age of 24 to 41 = 17 years of service)
- Archon Lambadarios (1905 to 1911, from the age of 41 to 47 = 6 years of service)
- Archon Protopsaltis (1911 to 1938, from the age or 47 to 74, = 27 years of service).

- In total, he served the Patriarchal Analogion for 60 years!

He retired in Athens, where he passed away in 1942 at the age of 78 years.  His body lies in the First Nekrotapheion of Athens.

His disciple, Angelos BOUDOURIS, who has left behind almost 10 000 (ten thousand) pages of transcriptions of Iakovos’ traditional  interpretations of the entire year-round, functional psaltic repertoire, informs us that this great teacher had learned the traditional manner of chanting while he was second Domestichos to the Lambadarios Nikolaos, who knew nothing of the reformed semeiography.

On other occasions, Angelos BOUDOURIS informs us as well that,  regardless of the ignorance of the  ‘externally’ introduced chanters such  as the musicologist Protopsaltis Georgios Biolakis, Iakovos and the remaining subordinates who had grown up in the Patriarcheion would “pull the newcomers by the nose, so as safekeep tradition.  The latter had no choice but to “follow”.  This BOUDOURIS was able to testify to, for he grew up in the Patriarcheion as well, during the late 1890’s.

Stylianos TSOLAKIDIS, who was the First Canonarchos and later on helper Domestichos of Iakovos NAFPLIOTIS for a total of more than 10 years during the 1910 decade, claimed that Iakovos NAFPLIOTIS was a “serious” psaltis and teacher, and that no one of his time had ever managed to imitate him. Stylianos TSOLAKIDIS had also chanted along Georgios BINAKIS (student of Georgios RAIDESTINOS the Second) as first Canonarchos for two years, and along Nileas KAMARADOS as well, but no one in Constantinople had the “psaltic stamina = stability” of Iakovos.

As first Domestichos, Iakovos NAFPLIOTIS helped transcribe old notation books according to the new semeiography (1899: Doxastarion of Petros Peloponnesios).  He taught the psaltic art in the Patriarchal Music school of Phanarion, and he also published a book in two volumes, the “Forminx [this is the very name Constantinos Pringos used later on for his editions] which contained various hymns and songs for the use of elementary schools.

Although Angelos BOUDOURIS made extraordinary efforts to put on paper Iakovos’ rendering, the latter could not understand the purpose, for he knew and taught everything by heart:  repetition, repetition… repetition.  The first Canonarchs would learn in this manner, after they had studied parallagi of the classical pieces with their master.

Iakovos NAFPLIOTIS was replaced for 6 months by Antonios SYRKAS in the late 1930s.
On the occasion of his 50th year of service, the entire personnel was remunerated in double.  Upon his retirement, the Patriarch Beniamin the First bestowed upon him the title of “Honorary Protopsaltis of the Holy and Great Church of Christ”.

The psaltic community and History will remember Iakovos NAFPLIOTIS as the “Megaloprepis’ = ‘the Majestuous one”.

His voice was recorded owing to the clairvoyance of the great Patriarch, Ioakeim the third, who even contributed from his personal purse so as to finance some of the historic plates which were recorded under the label “ORFEON RECORD”.  Most of these recordings were done with Konstantinos PRINGOS, who was actually protopsaltis in another church in Constantinople at the time.

According to the Protocanonarchos Stylianos TSOLAKIDIS, these recordings are more of paedagogical nature:  there is no syneptigmenos chronos, “analyseis” = developments are maintained to a strict minimum.  This is the way Iakovos would chant so as to teach the basics of a hymn the “first time around”.  In the Patriarchate, the interpretations were slightly more vivid, due in part to a variety of rhythmic nuances, yet never too far off from the actual recordings.

No one seems to know exactly how many such plates there really exist.  Many originals are to be found in Thessaloniki, under the care of Prof. ALYGIZAKIS.  Some are said to be found in the Hellenic national radio station ERT.
Some of these historic recordings have been put on CD, but we are far from the minimal estimate of 5 hours (300 minutes and, at 3 minutes per plate = about 100 plates) that exist in various collectors’ safe boxes.

In memory of this great psaltis, but also of those who admired him and made enormous sacrifices so as to obtain these recordings, they have been put up for the benefit of all.

Therefore, please pray for the late
Constantinos KATSOULIS
who very generously provided a young boy, student of the Protocanonarchos, with his ENTIRE, 5 hour personal collection of

from Naxos,

the MAJESTUOUS Protopsaltis of
the Holy and Great Church of Christ in Constantinople.

Dimitri Koubaroulis
PhD, DipByzMus
Sydney, 2005