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Offline Commander Xenophon

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Making Congregational Singing Work
« on: May 30, 2016, 04:25:00 PM »
Our hierarchs want congregational singing.   I am a cantor, and these are my practical observations:

1. Most people in most parishes don't instinctively know the eight tones of Byzantine chant well enough to be able to pick up a Menaion and chant the appropriate canon at Orthos in the indicated tone with any ease at all; many, most even, don't know the tones at all.

2. As a cantor, I can't sing loudly enough to lead the congregation in all cases; we could go the Coptic route and use an amplifier, but I would rather not.

3. Slavonic music is completely different; there are countless ways of doing chant (Kievan, Znamenny, Valaam) of which only Prostopinije seems to really lend itself to congregational singing.  Actually, prostopinije is the only system of congregational singing I see working well for new converts, but why should we all give up our old traditions?  Also, there is Georgian chant, which is another animal altogether; I have no idea how to do it.

4. I have seen a lot of OCA parishes put the divine liturgy in notated form in the seats/pews, but I have yet to hear this sound good at all; when they do this, the tone of the week seems to be ignored, and they never even seem to try to address Matins/Vespers.

5. We need to decide what hymns should be sung congregationally and which ones should be chanted by the choir, and for those that we decide to sing comgregationally, we need hymnals, which are arranged according to the eight tones and for Slavonic use, the historic modes of chant, or certain beautifual chorale settings by some famous Russian composers (not all of these are easy enough for a congregation to sing, however).  The translation of the Russian Orthodox book of common church songs Jordanville is supposed to be working on will really help the Slavonic parishes.

6. A lot of Greek parishes use an organ, and many others have organs rotting away behind the choir loft.  Not cheap electric reed organs, Hammond organs, but really good quality, high end pipe organs.  I think we need these to effectively lead the congregation in singing, especially comvert-heavy singing.  For ethnic parishes, if we teach all the kids in Sunday school how to sing the hymns, like the Copts and Syrians and Russian Old Believers do, to name a few, or if we use Prostopinije, which I don't want to use, we can get by without it.   But if we need a missionary church, the organ is, in my opinion, the most useful way to lead people who don't know the music in song; it also drowns out the voices of weak and incompetent singers.  Coptic churches use the priest or lead deacon singing into the microphone the same way Western churches use the Organ; for multi verse hymns, typically on the third verse, he will be silent and let the congregation sing it on their own.

7. Every system of congregational singing where there are more than a few melodies historically has had some method of introducing people to the melody; even our choirs have to be attuned to the cantor.  One example of an interesting way of doing this is Sacred Harp / Southern Harmony singing, which I guess meets the criteria for Orthodox worship, but I really really don't want us to sing that way.

In Eastern Orthodoxy, except in the Russian Old Rite and the Carpatho-Rusyn traditions, and I think, in Georgia, we gave up congregational singing.  If our bishops wish to bring it back, I think we should do that, but realistically, I think the best tools for doing it quickly amd in a convert friendly manner are the pipe organs rotting away in the back of our parishes, and Protestant style hymnals, arranged by tone and the order of the hymn in the service.   So hymn 805 might be the Trisagion in the eighth tone.  Special hymns always sung in one tone, like certain odes in Matins in the Triodion in Holy Week and in the Pentecostarion, or other material always sung in the same tone, might go in hymns 0-99 and 900-999.

Otherwise I think we will just continue to have lousy, uninspiring music in thise parishes trying to do it congregationally, which could create a backlash against congregational singing, which I think would be tragic.   We can't have our cake and eat it too; I am aware of the theological objections to organs and the shivers the idea of a Protestant style numbered hymnal might send down some people's spine, but I can't think of any other way to do it, except maybe Prostopinije (although I am not really sold on the idea that Prostopinje is the easiest form of chant to learn; its just what my ACROD friends like to tell me, it might be just as tricky as Byzantine chant).  If we have solid, full, ethnic parishes with solid Sunday school attendance, in those cases we can just use the catechtical process to teach the boys and girls how to sing our hymns; my thoughts apply only to parishes aiming for evangelization, convert-heavy parishes, like the OCA parish near Wgw's temporary abode he took me to on our recent meet-up.

Please pray for him and his mother by the way; their situation is better but still kind of grim.

I hope all our US military veterans are having a blessed Memorial Day!

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Offline wgw

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2016, 05:30:25 PM »
You are probably right, in that such accoutrements would be required should the EO church really continue this push for congregational singing; I consider it ill-advised, simply because of the list you provide.  You say it would be a tragedy if the impetus for congregational singing were lost; I think it would not; what would be a tragedy is if instead, we were to revive congregational singing, which I don't believe was ever much emphasized in the EO church except in Russia and amongst the Carpatho-Rusyns, who still have it in the Old Believer and ACROD churches, respectively, and failed to revive the Cathedral Rite based on the research of Alexander Lingas, or discontinued under pressure from some extremists the Divine Liturgy of St. James.

I love the liturgical approach in ROCOR; there has been some cautious use of congregational singing, but there exists, according to what I have read, a tension between parishes who prefer some of the high choral compositions of the 19th and 20th century Russian composers, and bishops who prefer the ancient forms of chant; ROCOR has at Jordanville revived the Presanctified Liturgy of St. James, and I believe they have managed to serve all three of the obscure Byzantine Rite liturgies recorded on the fantastic website of Fr. Aidan Keller (of St. Mark, St. James and St. Peter), in different times and in different places).  ROCOR parishes tend to have magnificent liturgics.  They also have a Western Rite, which has not been wiped out, despite some fears of this occurring following the incident of disobedience leading to the mandatory retirement of their bishop, and they have Edinovertsy, notably, the Church of the Nativity, which has become the de facto leader in publishing Old Rite liturgical material.

So if you want congregational singing in a canonical church, there it is: ROCOR has it, and they also have the more traditional choral form; and if a ROCOR Old Rite parish is too inconvenient (which it probably is), there is always ACROD.   Or the OCA parishes, although as you pointed out, we did both find their congregational settings to be rather disappointing.

Thank you again for the well-wishes; my mother and I are in fact doing quite a bit better; we still need your prayers but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and what is more, my mother is recovering very well from her cancer surgery, so thank you very much, I do appreciate your continued prayers, Seraphim.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2016, 05:57:34 PM »
...we could go the Coptic route and use an amplifier, but I would rather not.

The Coptic route:







Many, many more photos and videos of Eastern Orthodox "Coptic" Liturgies like the one in these photos can be viewed on the internet confirming their pernicious ubiquity in churches throughout the world.

I really don't understand this new tendency to blame things we don't like on Copts.  Frankly, it's ignorant and unacceptable.  Just because someone saw a Russian church without a sound system and took that to be "THE TRADITION" doesn't mean that anyone who uses microphones is doing it because the Copts are silly.  Plenty of Slavic, Greek, Arab, etc. churches use modern sound systems, running water, electric lighting, heating and air conditioning, and so on, and they're not doing it because they are imitating some bad practices of the Copts. 

Those people shed their blood daily for the Orthodox faith, but you want to blame them for sound systems. 
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 06:00:05 PM by Mor Ephrem »
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2016, 06:35:05 PM »
In Eastern Orthodoxy, except in the Russian Old Rite and the Carpatho-Rusyn traditions, and I think, in Georgia, we gave up congregational singing.  If our bishops wish to bring it back, I think we should do that, but realistically, I think the best tools for doing it quickly amd in a convert friendly manner are the pipe organs rotting away in the back of our parishes, and Protestant style hymnals, arranged by tone and the order of the hymn in the service.   So hymn 805 might be the Trisagion in the eighth tone.  Special hymns always sung in one tone, like certain odes in Matins in the Triodion in Holy Week and in the Pentecostarion, or other material always sung in the same tone, might go in hymns 0-99 and 900-999.
American thinking.

In Poland and Serbia congregational sining is still popular in villages, actually it works for all parts of the services except most of the changing ones (like canons, except again, Pascha).
Refrains of akathitst and some other easy-to-sing (especially tone 6) and repeated frequently are sung also in cities and towns. Also, during foot pilgrimag, we sing various Church hymns and song, all of us.
I think there are 3 reasons that people generally don't sing:
1. They have little idea about the texts and sometiems they even don't want to know (Church Slavonic as liturgical language).
2. They do not have courage - they're afraid of their "bad" voices
3. Tehy think singing is mainly part of the choir (LOL)
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2016, 06:40:49 PM »
I think there are 3 reasons that people generally don't sing:
1. They have little idea about the texts and sometiems they even don't want to know (Church Slavonic as liturgical language).
2. They do not have courage - they're afraid of their "bad" voices
3. Tehy think singing is mainly part of the choir (LOL)


Sounds familiar...
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Offline Velsigne

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2016, 07:12:51 PM »
Do other parishes recite the Creed, the last of the Pre-Communion prayers out loud with the reader? (The "I believe O Lord and confess that You are truly the Christ, Son of the living God who came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the first....")

A lot of people sing at our local parish, and when it gets to difficult they drop out.  I think the parish should sing the response to the litanies. 

And yes, the people don't always catch the tone and it isn't as detailed as a chanter reading music.   No one is going to be as good as the chanters, but it shouldn't turn into a concert type.  Complete passivity doesn't seem right. 

Byzantine music reading is not  likely to be a challenge that every parishioner would undertake. 

I don't mind standing next to someone singing off key or with a tinny voice, but other people it bothers.  The lack of vanity and self-consciousness of people who know they don't have a good voice and sing anyway at certain points is admirable and I find it endearing. 

Sometimes people do want to sing, but a knock out great choir or high cathedral atmosphere or something prevents them.  I started a kumbaya moment during a midnight Russian liturgy with a lot of pilgrims in attendance by singing along in Slavonic and then one, two three others joined in until we all started singing.  It was beautiful how much love was there in that moment.   I could feel how much they love their traditional hymns and melodies and expressing that to God.  So comforting and refreshing.



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Offline wgw

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2016, 07:42:58 PM »
...we could go the Coptic route and use an amplifier, but I would rather not.

The Coptic route:







Many, many more photos and videos of Eastern Orthodox "Coptic" Liturgies like the one in these photos can be viewed on the internet confirming their pernicious ubiquity in churches throughout the world.

I really don't understand this new tendency to blame things we don't like on Copts.  Frankly, it's ignorant and unacceptable.  Just because someone saw a Russian church without a sound system and took that to be "THE TRADITION" doesn't mean that anyone who uses microphones is doing it because the Copts are silly.  Plenty of Slavic, Greek, Arab, etc. churches use modern sound systems, running water, electric lighting, heating and air conditioning, and so on, and they're not doing it because they are imitating some bad practices of the Copts. 

Those people shed their blood daily for the Orthodox faith, but you want to blame them for sound systems.

Mor. just so you know. Commander Xenophon is one of my best friends and recently spend some time with me.  We visited St. Anthony's Coptic monastery together, and he has no problems with Copts or Coptic people.  I don't want to put words in his mouth; I think he was simply giving an example of one way to do it, because the Copts as you may know do a very excellent job of leading the congregation in the singing of hymns with the use of the amplifier.  This is particularly true at St. Anthony's, where the liturgical arts are stressed; new priests in the Coptic diocese spend their forty days there.  Although there is no amplifier in the Church of Ss. Mina and Abanoub (oddly enough, thats the only church at the monastery where I have never worshipped, which is an anomaly given how much time I have spent there overall).

So I don't think he intented to bash Copts, just based on my personal knowledge of him.   I am going to send him a txt in fact to request if he can that he can clarify for us on this particular point.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 07:43:11 PM by wgw »
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Offline scamandrius

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2016, 07:51:57 PM »
Our hierarchs want congregational singing. 

Whose hierarchs?  Specify please.

I am a cantor, and these are my practical observations:

1. Most people in most parishes don't instinctively know the eight tones of Byzantine chant well enough to be able to pick up a Menaion and chant the appropriate canon at Orthos in the indicated tone with any ease at all; many, most even, don't know the tones at all.

No, they don't.  I know many (like Mor) will disagree with me, but most people have no musical inclination or skill whatsoever that even if someone were leading them, they'd not be able to follow along strictly. All they would do is slow things down to a snail's pace.

2. As a cantor, I can't sing loudly enough to lead the congregation in all cases; we could go the Coptic route and use an amplifier, but I would rather not.

I'd agree.  Amplifiers make things worse.  The church should be built with good acoustics in mind (many, unfortunately, are not) so that they are not necessary. 

3. Slavonic music is completely different; there are countless ways of doing chant (Kievan, Znamenny, Valaam) of which only Prostopinije seems to really lend itself to congregational singing.  Actually, prostopinije is the only system of congregational singing I see working well for new converts, but why should we all give up our old traditions?  Also, there is Georgian chant, which is another animal altogether; I have no idea how to do it.

No, we should not be forced to give up the tradition of Byzantine chant just because it may not lend itself to congregational singing.  If congregational singing were always the priority, then why was Byzantine chant not jettisoned long ago?  I do not much care for the Kievan or Obikhod types of chant (sounds like a typewriter) and as I am trained in the Byzantine tradition, I am, of course, partial to it.  I do not know if simply introducing other types of chant into the churches will be the panacea many think it will be.

4. I have seen a lot of OCA parishes put the divine liturgy in notated form in the seats/pews, but I have yet to hear this sound good at all; when they do this, the tone of the week seems to be ignored, and they never even seem to try to address Matins/Vespers.

Considering how many variable hymns there are for Orthros/Vespers (esepcially Orthros), I do not think this is practical.  Even if you were to put something together, I'd imagine there would be a lot of page-turning to different sections that would probably make many people discouraged.

5. We need to decide what hymns should be sung congregationally and which ones should be chanted by the choir, and for those that we decide to sing comgregationally, we need hymnals, which are arranged according to the eight tones and for Slavonic use, the historic modes of chant, or certain beautifual chorale settings by some famous Russian composers (not all of these are easy enough for a congregation to sing, however).  The translation of the Russian Orthodox book of common church songs Jordanville is supposed to be working on will really help the Slavonic parishes.

Litanies can be sung by the congregation as well as some shorter hymns like "Only begotten Son" and "one is Holy", and the shorter choral sections of the anaphora, but longer hymns like the Cherubimic Hymn are probably best reserved for the choir.

6. A lot of Greek parishes use an organ, and many others have organs rotting away behind the choir loft.  Not cheap electric reed organs, Hammond organs, but really good quality, high end pipe organs.  I think we need these to effectively lead the congregation in singing, especially comvert-heavy singing.  For ethnic parishes, if we teach all the kids in Sunday school how to sing the hymns, like the Copts and Syrians and Russian Old Believers do, to name a few, or if we use Prostopinije, which I don't want to use, we can get by without it.   But if we need a missionary church, the organ is, in my opinion, the most useful way to lead people who don't know the music in song; it also drowns out the voices of weak and incompetent singers.  Coptic churches use the priest or lead deacon singing into the microphone the same way Western churches use the Organ; for multi verse hymns, typically on the third verse, he will be silent and let the congregation sing it on their own.

Organs are absolutely horrible to accompany Byzantine chant.  But again, the assumption that there was always congregational singing in the church is simply not true.  Organs were put in the church by Charlemagne and became a part of the Gallican tradition and later Gregorian chanting tradition but they were never designed for the congregation to sing in. 

7. Every system of congregational singing where there are more than a few melodies historically has had some method of introducing people to the melody; even our choirs have to be attuned to the cantor.  One example of an interesting way of doing this is Sacred Harp / Southern Harmony singing, which I guess meets the criteria for Orthodox worship, but I really really don't want us to sing that way.

You're not the first person to suggest this, but Sacred Harp, pleasant as it is, really is not conducive to the Orthodox theological tradition.

In Eastern Orthodoxy, except in the Russian Old Rite and the Carpatho-Rusyn traditions, and I think, in Georgia, we gave up congregational singing.  If our bishops wish to bring it back, I think we should do that, but realistically, I think the best tools for doing it quickly amd in a convert friendly manner are the pipe organs rotting away in the back of our parishes, and Protestant style hymnals, arranged by tone and the order of the hymn in the service.   So hymn 805 might be the Trisagion in the eighth tone.  Special hymns always sung in one tone, like certain odes in Matins in the Triodion in Holy Week and in the Pentecostarion, or other material always sung in the same tone, might go in hymns 0-99 and 900-999.

I've heard this before and I think it is misguided.  WHy must everything we do be for the converts?  Or for the poetential converts?  Worship is for the elect, those chosen who have been baptized into the church.  WHy should the worship change for those who are outside the church?  Does anyone think that the ambassadors from St. Vladimir said that the worship in Hagia Sophia should have changed to meet their needs? 

Otherwise I think we will just continue to have lousy, uninspiring music in thise parishes trying to do it congregationally, which could create a backlash against congregational singing, which I think would be tragic.   We can't have our cake and eat it too; I am aware of the theological objections to organs and the shivers the idea of a Protestant style numbered hymnal might send down some people's spine, but I can't think of any other way to do it, except maybe Prostopinije (although I am not really sold on the idea that Prostopinje is the easiest form of chant to learn; its just what my ACROD friends like to tell me, it might be just as tricky as Byzantine chant).  If we have solid, full, ethnic parishes with solid Sunday school attendance, in those cases we can just use the catechtical process to teach the boys and girls how to sing our hymns; my thoughts apply only to parishes aiming for evangelization, convert-heavy parishes, like the OCA parish near Wgw's temporary abode he took me to on our recent meet-up.

I think it would be a greater tragedy to forsake the rich Byzantine musical tradition for congregational singing. 
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Offline scamandrius

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2016, 07:53:19 PM »
In Eastern Orthodoxy, except in the Russian Old Rite and the Carpatho-Rusyn traditions, and I think, in Georgia, we gave up congregational singing.  If our bishops wish to bring it back, I think we should do that, but realistically, I think the best tools for doing it quickly amd in a convert friendly manner are the pipe organs rotting away in the back of our parishes, and Protestant style hymnals, arranged by tone and the order of the hymn in the service.   So hymn 805 might be the Trisagion in the eighth tone.  Special hymns always sung in one tone, like certain odes in Matins in the Triodion in Holy Week and in the Pentecostarion, or other material always sung in the same tone, might go in hymns 0-99 and 900-999.
American thinking.

In Poland and Serbia congregational sining is still popular in villages, actually it works for all parts of the services except most of the changing ones (like canons, except again, Pascha).
Refrains of akathitst and some other easy-to-sing (especially tone 6) and repeated frequently are sung also in cities and towns. Also, during foot pilgrimag, we sing various Church hymns and song, all of us.
I think there are 3 reasons that people generally don't sing:
1. They have little idea about the texts and sometiems they even don't want to know (Church Slavonic as liturgical language).
2. They do not have courage - they're afraid of their "bad" voices
3. Tehy think singing is mainly part of the choir (LOL)

How about a fourth?  That they are musical illiterates and have next to no idea about singing in particular and music in general. 
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Offline wgw

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2016, 07:54:36 PM »
Do other parishes recite the Creed, the last of the Pre-Communion prayers out loud with the reader? (The "I believe O Lord and confess that You are truly the Christ, Son of the living God who came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the first....")

A lot of people sing at our local parish, and when it gets to difficult they drop out.  I think the parish should sing the response to the litanies. 

And yes, the people don't always catch the tone and it isn't as detailed as a chanter reading music.   No one is going to be as good as the chanters, but it shouldn't turn into a concert type.  Complete passivity doesn't seem right. 

Byzantine music reading is not  likely to be a challenge that every parishioner would undertake. 

I don't mind standing next to someone singing off key or with a tinny voice, but other people it bothers.  The lack of vanity and self-consciousness of people who know they don't have a good voice and sing anyway at certain points is admirable and I find it endearing. 

Sometimes people do want to sing, but a knock out great choir or high cathedral atmosphere or something prevents them.  I started a kumbaya moment during a midnight Russian liturgy with a lot of pilgrims in attendance by singing along in Slavonic and then one, two three others joined in until we all started singing.  It was beautiful how much love was there in that moment.   I could feel how much they love their traditional hymns and melodies and expressing that to God.  So comforting and refreshing.

I agree.   This is one reason by the way why I think with much of the Byzantine Rite, congregational singing is unattainable without a ridiculous oversimplification of the liturgy, which we want to avoid.

The beauty of Coptic Tasbeha is that it lends itself to congregational singing, like some forms of EO chant and like Western Chorale hymns in four part harmony.  On the other hand, the Byzantine Chant I have heard, and most of the Slavonic chant, even in English, is very complex and would take a lot of practice to master.  This is why I am not sold on the congregational singing concept.
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Offline Commander Xenophon

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2016, 08:56:16 PM »
...we could go the Coptic route and use an amplifier, but I would rather not.

The Coptic route:







Many, many more photos and videos of Eastern Orthodox "Coptic" Liturgies like the one in these photos can be viewed on the internet confirming their pernicious ubiquity in churches throughout the world.

I really don't understand this new tendency to blame things we don't like on Copts.  Frankly, it's ignorant and unacceptable.  Just because someone saw a Russian church without a sound system and took that to be "THE TRADITION" doesn't mean that anyone who uses microphones is doing it because the Copts are silly.  Plenty of Slavic, Greek, Arab, etc. churches use modern sound systems, running water, electric lighting, heating and air conditioning, and so on, and they're not doing it because they are imitating some bad practices of the Copts. 

Those people shed their blood daily for the Orthodox faith, but you want to blame them for sound systems.

Mor. just so you know. Commander Xenophon is one of my best friends and recently spend some time with me.  We visited St. Anthony's Coptic monastery together, and he has no problems with Copts or Coptic people.  I don't want to put words in his mouth; I think he was simply giving an example of one way to do it, because the Copts as you may know do a very excellent job of leading the congregation in the singing of hymns with the use of the amplifier.  This is particularly true at St. Anthony's, where the liturgical arts are stressed; new priests in the Coptic diocese spend their forty days there.  Although there is no amplifier in the Church of Ss. Mina and Abanoub (oddly enough, thats the only church at the monastery where I have never worshipped, which is an anomaly given how much time I have spent there overall).

So I don't think he intented to bash Copts, just based on my personal knowledge of him.   I am going to send him a txt in fact to request if he can that he can clarify for us on this particular point.

Thanks for the heads up Wgw, I was busy with the wife cleaning up after our memorial day BBQ.  St. Louis style ribs, you can't beat 'em.  I love living in Missouri during the weeks after Pascha :)

Mor, let me say this: I love the Copts and Coptic people, I have an icon of fheir new martyrs, I believe they are Orthodox and offered to write a rebuttal to the Marinides article, although unlike Wgw I do recognize there is an actual schism.

What I meant was, the Copts have a cantorial technique where, using an amplifier, the celebrants lead the congregation in singing the Coptic hymns.  They drop out their voices for a verse.  This is similiar to the Western technique with the organ.  It would work for us, I'm not opposed to it; personally, as a cantor, I like the idea of us not using amplifiers but instead going for a fully acoustic sound, which we get with the organ, but not with the amplifier.   But the Coptic apprach has the advantage I guess of not introducing instruments foreign to some Orthodox traditions into the Orthodox Church.

I call it the Coptic approach out of respect for the Copts; I first saw it years ago when visiting a Coptic parish, and on my recent visit with wgw we saw it again at St. Anthony's Coptic Monastery, where they really do it with finesse.  I agree tasbeha has a beautiful simplicity like chorales, but I disagree that we can't teach the laity how to do Byzantine chant.  I do not dislike amplifiers, and I don't blame the Coptic Church for introducing any kind of annoyance into the church; some of the things their parishes do, like use screens that show the liturgy in Coptic, English and Arabic, I think are very good ideas.  Tablet computers have become incredibly cheap, as low as $25 or so, and I think it will reach the point where we could do the same thing, and show, in a Russian parish, the liturgy in Church Slavonic, vernacular Russian and English, but go a step further and do it on tablets.   Actually that was wgw's idea and if he weites the code for it the Copts would get it, but they already have this amazing app called CopticReader, which has nearly all Coptic services in it.

We need a ByzantineReader, an iPad app with an Octoechos, prayer book, psalter, Menaion, Synaxarium (the Prologue of Onrid would be nice), Triodion, Pentecostarion and of course the liturgies and lectionary readings.  The Coptic Church is years ahead of us in technology.

I pray daily for the safety of our Coptic Orthodox brothers, and also for the Greek Orthodox of Alexandria and for St. Catharine's Monastery, for all Egyptian Christians, and I pray and look forward to a unified Egyptian Orthodox Church, worshipping in the Coptic, Byzantine and old Alexandrian rites, and I hope it happens in my lifetime.

Scamandrius, I have to run, but I will respond to your detailed criticism of my position later, and I want to thank you for writing it.
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Offline scamandrius

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2016, 09:10:43 PM »
Scamandrius, I have to run, but I will respond to your detailed criticism of my position later, and I want to thank you for writing it.

You're welcome. I've never been thanked for anything I've written here before. Everything's coming up Milhouse!
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2016, 09:13:38 PM »
I am a cantor, and these are my practical observations:

1. Most people in most parishes don't instinctively know the eight tones of Byzantine chant well enough to be able to pick up a Menaion and chant the appropriate canon at Orthos in the indicated tone with any ease at all; many, most even, don't know the tones at all.

No, they don't.  I know many (like Mor) will disagree with me, but most people have no musical inclination or skill whatsoever that even if someone were leading them, they'd not be able to follow along strictly. All they would do is slow things down to a snail's pace.

My disagreement was not with the idea that "most people have no musical inclination or skill whatsoever"; rather, it was with your corrupt misunderstanding of the nature of liturgical service and prayer. 

Quote
No, we should not be forced to give up the tradition of Byzantine chant just because it may not lend itself to congregational singing.  If congregational singing were always the priority, then why was Byzantine chant not jettisoned long ago? 

I'm not sure that's the right question.

Quote
But again, the assumption that there was always congregational singing in the church is simply not true.

"Always"?  There isn't much congregational singing among your churches today, so "not always" is an easy standard to achieve.  But it's also disingenuous.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2016, 09:30:20 PM »
My disagreement was not with the idea that "most people have no musical inclination or skill whatsoever"; rather, it was with your corrupt misunderstanding of the nature of liturgical service and prayer. 

If it is a misunderstanding (and I don't believe it is nor have you proved it to be such) what would be an "incorrupt" misunderstanding? 
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2016, 09:50:41 PM »
My disagreement was not with the idea that "most people have no musical inclination or skill whatsoever"; rather, it was with your corrupt misunderstanding of the nature of liturgical service and prayer. 

If it is a misunderstanding (and I don't believe it is nor have you proved it to be such) what would be an "incorrupt" misunderstanding?

No one's going to take away your Byzantine chant, scamandrius, most certainly not I.  Rest easy.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #15 on: May 30, 2016, 09:52:11 PM »
In our parish, many people sing who are not in the choir, myself included. I've never seen anyone judged for singing or not singing.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2016, 10:00:28 PM »
In our parish, many people sing who are not in the choir, myself included. I've never seen anyone judged for singing or not singing.

Be glad you don't go to church with the Liturgy and Musical talent police.

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2016, 10:29:43 PM »
In our parish, many people sing who are not in the choir, myself included. I've never seen anyone judged for singing or not singing.

Be glad you don't go to church with the Liturgy and Musical talent police.
Apparently so. I don't deal well with that sort of drama.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2016, 10:34:32 PM »
I don't know if the Coptic melodies are easier to chant congregationally. But I disagree that a sound system or organ is needed to do it. Copts tend to have more amplification that I would prefer. But many times I've seen groups singing together without such aid.

If you're right and you need either an organ or amplification, I don't think you've spelled out why you prefer the organ. I would much prefer an amplification of the instrument created by God than using an instrument made by us instead. Amplification is not foreign to Orthodoxy. Church architecture is designed to amplify the voice of the choirs or cantors. Where we are using modified rather than purpose built facility, this may not be possible. But electric amplification, if not over done, can create the same type of aid to helping the voice carry without making it overly artificial.

The better solution, in my mind, is to have a really good choir. If a cantor can't lead the whole parish, the cantor can lead a choir, and then the choir can lead the parish. In Coptic parishes there is a north choir and a south choir. They usually sing antiphonally. This means that rather than a choir in a corner, both sides of the Church have a choir close enough to lead them. The key is to have the choir lead the people, not disdain them. In many Coptic parishes you see stuff like when the girls start to participate, the choir switches to Coptic, or to an obscure long tune, so that the people can't participate. If the choir sings moderately, then the people can sing along.

When I used to sing in the choir, there were always people around who were singing out of sync with the leader. I was always careful not to do that. My job was not to sing it "right", and try to have my "style" dominate, it was to be the amplification to the leader, to sing as he does, to build a choir that is singing in one voice, so that the people can easily join in.

Not everyone in the Church sings. But the choir sings in such a way that the people, with reasonable effort, can. If you find still the choir is singing alone, you can keep enough choir members to sing together, and plant others throughout the church. then the choir is strong enough to follow, and there are people all around following, so people don't feel shy to be the first one to join their voice, but there are examples all around of people singing together than can be easily joined.

It may sound impossible to have that many people trained enough to sing. But it really isn't. It just takes 2-4 people who know it really well and sing together well, and the rest can be absolutely mediocre, but if they're willing to follow the lead of the leaders and not do their own thing, it doesn't take much skill to sing with good leaders, and that's all the amplification that is needed, which makes the leaders' strong enough for all to join throughout the building, no organ or mic needed (or if the acoustics are bad, minimal non-intrusive amplification)

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2016, 10:35:16 PM »
My disagreement was not with the idea that "most people have no musical inclination or skill whatsoever"; rather, it was with your corrupt misunderstanding of the nature of liturgical service and prayer. 

If it is a misunderstanding (and I don't believe it is nor have you proved it to be such) what would be an "incorrupt" misunderstanding?

No one's going to take away your Byzantine chant, scamandrius, most certainly not I.  Rest easy.

Perhaps not, but that's not my main or only concern.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #20 on: May 30, 2016, 10:36:36 PM »
In our parish, many people sing who are not in the choir, myself included. I've never seen anyone judged for singing or not singing.

Be glad you don't go to church with the Liturgy and Musical talent police.

Do you?  Do they have special uniforms and/or badges or do they try to remain inconspicuous?  Or are they just part of your imagination?
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #21 on: May 30, 2016, 10:45:12 PM »
In our parish, many people sing who are not in the choir, myself included. I've never seen anyone judged for singing or not singing.

Be glad you don't go to church with the Liturgy and Musical talent police.

Do you?  Do they have special uniforms and/or badges or do they try to remain inconspicuous?  Or are they just part of your imagination?

If you're part of her imagination, then how are you posting?
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #22 on: May 30, 2016, 10:45:55 PM »
The key is to have the choir lead the people, not disdain them.

You are tonight's winner!

Quote
In many Coptic parishes you see stuff like when the girls start to participate, the choir switches to Coptic, or to an obscure long tune, so that the people can't participate.

I suspect the basic principle here applies to a lot more traditions than your own.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #23 on: May 30, 2016, 10:55:49 PM »
In our parish, many people sing who are not in the choir, myself included. I've never seen anyone judged for singing or not singing.

Be glad you don't go to church with the Liturgy and Musical talent police.

Do you?  Do they have special uniforms and/or badges or do they try to remain inconspicuous?  Or are they just part of your imagination?

If you're part of her imagination, then how are you posting?


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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #24 on: May 30, 2016, 11:03:24 PM »
In our parish, many people sing who are not in the choir, myself included. I've never seen anyone judged for singing or not singing.

Be glad you don't go to church with the Liturgy and Musical talent police.

Do you?  Do they have special uniforms and/or badges or do they try to remain inconspicuous?  Or are they just part of your imagination?

If you're part of her imagination, then how are you posting?

Do i have to give you a lesson in Kantnian ontology?

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #25 on: May 31, 2016, 02:01:26 AM »
On this issue, I think it is important to speak from experience. Cursory google searching and internet reading, even when abundant, are not an adequate source of authority.

I am the Protopsaltis (head chanter) of a large GOA church in NYC. What I know is not from formal teaching, but is a mixture of self-teaching and standing at the chanter's stand for six years. The congregation at this church is mixed, but is mostly old-style Greeks that are used to having chanters, not four-part choirs. That being said, I come from a church with a history of using an organ and having medium (10-15 people) sized choirs. I think both of these experiences has helped inform my understanding of these things.

Despite what multiple people have said, I do not think an organ is helpful for congregational singing, and I feel it is totally foreign to our worship and sounds awful with our music. I also do not think "choir music" or other forms of liturgical music are inherently better for congregational singing compared to Byzantine music.

I think it is a correct diagnosis to say that most Byzantine-chant tradition parishes are lacking in congregational involvement, but I believe the prognoses given here are inaccurate. I hope I can adequately explain my feelings on the topic.

Here are my observations:

1. Greeks will sing, but only when they feel it is their place to.

I say Greeks because traditional Byzantine chant in a Greeky parish is different than Byzantine chant at a convert-heavy Antiochian parish. They are a good group to study because Byzantine music is a part of their being, which is what we would want across the board in order to encourage congregational singing.

To return to my point, I think the main reason we do not see congregational singing is not because of the type of music, but because the people are not encouraged to do so. Anyone who has been to a more traditional Greek church when "ti ypermacho," "theotoke parthene," or "soson kyrie" begin knows that the congregation immediately switches from near silence to booming. It is beautiful. The people have been taught--formally or informally--that these are "their parts," and so they join in. It is a cultural thing.

To the contrary, the "choir-church" that I was raised in had a lot of congregational singing with the choir throughout the liturgy, but the chanters would go solo for the apolytikia and kontakia. As a consequence, most people (save the elderly) do not know these beloved hymns I mentioned before. They have not been encouraged to know or sing them.

In both music traditions, people are silent during Trisagion prayers until the Our Father, when they all pipe in. Are people incapable of saying the rest of the prayers? No, they just have not been encouraged to.

If encouraged to join in with the chanters (and this is the fault of both clergy and chanters, I think), Byzantine chant is very easily congregational—especially if the chanters are consistent and know what they’re doing (another big issue). I even feel so confident as to say that if people attended regularly, the chanters could tonally change the liturgy to match the week and the people would follow. They could even chant along with significant parts of Orthros and Vespers. This brings me to my next point.

2. The people will not learn if they do not attend church.

Liturgical quality reflects our commitment and love for God. What are elements in common of chanting traditions (Old Believers, Copts, etc.) that people have given here as examples of effective congregational worship? They have a rich liturgical tradition that people actually show up for. If people do not show up for church, they will not learn the music. It is simple. On the chanter’s end, there has to be consistency for people to learn.

I know of yiayiades (grandmothers) who knew the entire paschal canon by heart. Why? Because they went to Church, year after year, and heard it. Not only that, they were encouraged to learn and memorize these things. People valued worship. Not a week ago I was sitting at a table with just such a woman and I started humming the Canon of the Akathist. She immediately picked up and started singing the entire thing beyond the words I had memorized. I was happy to do ison and be amazed. Bear in mind this is not the village Greek they are used to--this is old, poetic Greek written by the great hymnographers of the Church. Imagine what it does to a person’s soul to have that in their minds and hearts.

My favorite megalynarion is the plagal one “Axion Estin,” patriarchal style. Most of the people in this thread would think me a sadist if I said I expected a congregation to sing it with me. And yet, at my parish, a number of people do. Music—even relatively complex—has an amazing way of ingraining itself in your mind. How many popular songs do we have memorized? And we think people can’t memorize Byzantine music? It is a matter of what people value and invest their effort in.

3. The Byzantine liturgy is crafted with congregational worship in mind.

Are you used to hearing verses with a common refrain chanted in-between? That is congregational music built into the liturgy, whether the congregation actually participates or not. This can be impeded by an inherited practice of no congregational singing, haughty chanters, inconsistent musical tradition, etc. We also have the disadvantage of different English translations and how the music molds around them.

I apologize for the length of this post. I hope I have explained my feelings on the matter adequately, if not eloquently. :P

tl;dr:
Lack of congregational worship is not the fault of Byzantine music.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2016, 02:07:34 AM by Antonis »
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #26 on: May 31, 2016, 03:57:03 AM »
On this issue, I think it is important to speak from experience. Cursory google searching and internet reading, even when abundant, are not an adequate source of authority.

I am the Protopsaltis (head chanter) of a large GOA church in NYC. What I know is not from formal teaching, but is a mixture of self-teaching and standing at the chanter's stand for six years. The congregation at this church is mixed, but is mostly old-style Greeks that are used to having chanters, not four-part choirs. That being said, I come from a church with a history of using an organ and having medium (10-15 people) sized choirs. I think both of these experiences has helped inform my understanding of these things.

Despite what multiple people have said, I do not think an organ is helpful for congregational singing, and I feel it is totally foreign to our worship and sounds awful with our music. I also do not think "choir music" or other forms of liturgical music are inherently better for congregational singing compared to Byzantine music.

I think it is a correct diagnosis to say that most Byzantine-chant tradition parishes are lacking in congregational involvement, but I believe the prognoses given here are inaccurate. I hope I can adequately explain my feelings on the topic.

Here are my observations:

1. Greeks will sing, but only when they feel it is their place to.

I say Greeks because traditional Byzantine chant in a Greeky parish is different than Byzantine chant at a convert-heavy Antiochian parish. They are a good group to study because Byzantine music is a part of their being, which is what we would want across the board in order to encourage congregational singing.

To return to my point, I think the main reason we do not see congregational singing is not because of the type of music, but because the people are not encouraged to do so. Anyone who has been to a more traditional Greek church when "ti ypermacho," "theotoke parthene," or "soson kyrie" begin knows that the congregation immediately switches from near silence to booming. It is beautiful. The people have been taught--formally or informally--that these are "their parts," and so they join in. It is a cultural thing.

To the contrary, the "choir-church" that I was raised in had a lot of congregational singing with the choir throughout the liturgy, but the chanters would go solo for the apolytikia and kontakia. As a consequence, most people (save the elderly) do not know these beloved hymns I mentioned before. They have not been encouraged to know or sing them.

In both music traditions, people are silent during Trisagion prayers until the Our Father, when they all pipe in. Are people incapable of saying the rest of the prayers? No, they just have not been encouraged to.

If encouraged to join in with the chanters (and this is the fault of both clergy and chanters, I think), Byzantine chant is very easily congregational—especially if the chanters are consistent and know what they’re doing (another big issue). I even feel so confident as to say that if people attended regularly, the chanters could tonally change the liturgy to match the week and the people would follow. They could even chant along with significant parts of Orthros and Vespers. This brings me to my next point.

2. The people will not learn if they do not attend church.

Liturgical quality reflects our commitment and love for God. What are elements in common of chanting traditions (Old Believers, Copts, etc.) that people have given here as examples of effective congregational worship? They have a rich liturgical tradition that people actually show up for. If people do not show up for church, they will not learn the music. It is simple. On the chanter’s end, there has to be consistency for people to learn.

I know of yiayiades (grandmothers) who knew the entire paschal canon by heart. Why? Because they went to Church, year after year, and heard it. Not only that, they were encouraged to learn and memorize these things. People valued worship. Not a week ago I was sitting at a table with just such a woman and I started humming the Canon of the Akathist. She immediately picked up and started singing the entire thing beyond the words I had memorized. I was happy to do ison and be amazed. Bear in mind this is not the village Greek they are used to--this is old, poetic Greek written by the great hymnographers of the Church. Imagine what it does to a person’s soul to have that in their minds and hearts.

My favorite megalynarion is the plagal one “Axion Estin,” patriarchal style. Most of the people in this thread would think me a sadist if I said I expected a congregation to sing it with me. And yet, at my parish, a number of people do. Music—even relatively complex—has an amazing way of ingraining itself in your mind. How many popular songs do we have memorized? And we think people can’t memorize Byzantine music? It is a matter of what people value and invest their effort in.

3. The Byzantine liturgy is crafted with congregational worship in mind.

Are you used to hearing verses with a common refrain chanted in-between? That is congregational music built into the liturgy, whether the congregation actually participates or not. This can be impeded by an inherited practice of no congregational singing, haughty chanters, inconsistent musical tradition, etc. We also have the disadvantage of different English translations and how the music molds around them.

I apologize for the length of this post. I hope I have explained my feelings on the matter adequately, if not eloquently. :P

tl;dr:
Lack of congregational worship is not the fault of Byzantine music.

Two things:

1. You have increased my respect for the viability of singing Byzantine chant, at least for those who either are raised in the tradition or attend frequently.  I think CX was primarily talking about the problems of congregational singing and converts.  I respect your wisdom and exoerience however; what you say makes me think at least that within the Orthodox countries, if church attendance can be increased, there is nothing to impede congregational participation in the music.   The Copts and Carpatho-Rusyns have very high congregational attendance figures; I am not really familiar with Prostopinije much, but I will say that much of Tasbeha is definitely simpler than ornate Byzantine Chant.  The Coptic Rite is an ornate rite, very similiar to the Byzantine, and some of the music is incredibly complex, but a great deal of it is very simple and accessible, slightly moreso I think than in the Byzantine Rite (in part, perhaps, because Turkocratia caused some things to be lost, like the original music for the Divine Liturgy of St. Cyril; Coptic music was traditionally not notated but instead transmitted orally by blind cantors, an ancient and quintessentially Egyptian tradition inherited from the old polytheistic religion.

2. There was an organ in the narthex of the Hagia Sophia; what it was used for, or whether it was audible in the nave, we do not know, although there is reason to believe several services would have been performed in the narthex.  In addition, the organ is a traditional fixture of Ionian Greek Orthodox music and has been for centuries.  So I reject the idea that the organ is entirely alien to the Byzantine Rite; its not, and some of the most beautiful settings of the Divine Liturgy, like those of Tikey Zes, use it.  Also, as I mentioned in another thread, Psalm 150 provides us with a scriptural warrant to use whatever instruments are traditional to a rite.

However, I would argue that the organ is only traditional to Greek Orthodox and quite probably Romanian Orthodox music; it was in Alexandria, Rome and Byzantium that the organ was refined and the modern instrument we have today developed from earlier organs, like the hydraulis.  I have reason to believe that its usage was dramatically reduced due to Turkocratia; Indon't think it ever died out completely, and while it is true that contact with the West drove the revival of organ music in the Greek tradition in the 19th century, I do not personally believe this is when its use started; this strikes me as one of a number of historical errors or assumptions circulated by traditionalists where in fact more archaeological evidence is needed, and the argument that the organ is foreign is directly refuted by archaeological and historical evidence concerning the organ in the Hagia Sophia.  For those who say it was not used liturgically, this may be true, but more research is needed, and I don't think we should theologize on what amounts to wishful thinking.  Since organs have become an integral part of Greek Orthodox worship in the diaspora, and appear to possibly have been a fixture of this worship before that time, perhaps a fixture of the lost Cathedral Office, very much at odds with the monastic tradition, and perhaps overridden by the monastic typikon becoming he only typikon with Turkokratia, combined with the Islamic seizure of any churches large enough to have them - I believe that these organs where they exist should continue in use.

And I think Commander Xenophon is correct to say that the organ combined with a hymn book, perhaos not an actual book, but as he suggested, a tablet, so there would be no flurry of page turning (which by the way doesn't happen in those OCA parishes like the one we visited together, where the Divine Liturgy printed with musical notation is distributed to the attendees, so I think whoever raised that raised a point that has more to do with the layout of hymnals than whether or not they exist), would help converts pick up the Greek Orthodox musical tradition, particularly the polyphonic Greek Orthodox hymns such as those of the Ionian school.   

On the other hand, I would be adamantly opposed to any attempt to introduce organs into Russian Orthodoxy; I see no evidence that, aside from a few erected in diaspora churches, these were ever used in Orthodox churches in Russia or the Ukraine; their use in Russian sacred music seems confined to the concert hall (where Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev wrote a beautiful rendering of St. Matthew's Passion).  So, if Russian music in the Nikonian style is too hard for converts to learn (but perhaps it is not; your experience with Byzantine chant and church attendance gives me pause), I would be adamantly opposed to the use of organs for that purpose, because fhey are not traditionally a part of Russian Orthodox liturgical music.   I believe they are traditionally a part of some forms of Greek Orthodox music, just not the monastic tradition of Byzantine Chant one associates with Mount Athos, Meteora, the monks of the Holy Sepulchre, and the majority of Greek parishes since Turkocratia and the end of the Cathedral Rite.

Some things fall out of use, like congregational singing (which is integral to and characteristic of Russian Old Rite music) and organs, and older forms of the Divine Liturgy; the trick is how tomrevive some of what has been lost without displacing the newer layers of tradition that have their own beauty.  I love polyphonic Greek Orthodox music and the work of Tikey Zes, Michaelides and others, and would hate to see this completely die off due to a purist approach to Byzantine chant.

As has been mentioned before, the Russians have a hymnal, which someone mentioned to me in another thread, the name of which I cannot recall, but CX and I are both looking forward to buying a copy when the English translation from Jordanville is released later this year.  And perhaps that might well be the alrt of book that could enable much more congregational singing in Anglophone parishes of a Slavonic heritage, and it might be a huge imrpovement over the annotated, hand made divine liturgy texts I have seen at smaller OCA parishes, which seem not to work extremely well.

Thank you for your post, by the eay, as you really addressed some of my specific fears about the compatibility of congregational singing with the Eastern Orthodox liturgical patrimony.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #27 on: May 31, 2016, 04:13:18 AM »
In our parish, many people sing who are not in the choir, myself included. I've never seen anyone judged for singing or not singing.

Be glad you don't go to church with the Liturgy and Musical talent police.

Just so you know, I have never complained to anyone about the quality of the music at any specific named parish; I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.   At one of the aforementioned OCA parishes I visited (not the one the Commander visited with me), a Romanian lady complained to me after the service about how bad the music was compared to what she was accustomed to in Romania.  She had a point.  In the trapeza I sat at the same table with the choir director, who was a lovely English lady who I felt was doing the best she could with inadequete resources.

When someone like her is working so hard to try and make the music good, I am not going to crush their morale by complaining to them about it; the system is broken, not the people trying to use it to worship God with sincere and pious devotion, who are doing everything in their power to make the music beautiful.

However, I will also note that the frequency with which I worship or visit a particular parish is directly proportionate to the overall quality of their music; good music helps me in the divine liturgy to participate spiritually; the traditional music of Orthodoxy especially, when sung well, helps me to loft up my heart, and experience that foretaste of heaven that the divine liturgy affords.

I could listen to the a capella choir and deacons of St. Ephrems Syriac Orthodox Cathedral all day, but unfortunately they seem indisposed to sing that long. :P  Hearing the metrical homily Haw Nurone by St. Jacob of Sarugh at the end of the liturgy is absolute, unmitigated spiritual bliss, however, and prepares me to receive the Eucharist.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #28 on: May 31, 2016, 04:23:14 AM »
2. They do not have courage - they're afraid of their "bad" voices

I just want add to this point an idea of the choir director at my parish, not realised yet: during some services (e.g Akathist) he wans choir members to go down brom the balcony (where the choir sings), mix with the congretation and when they start sing, the rest would join.

Another his idea, this time brought into life, is that during Liturgy for seniors (first Wednesday of the month) the seniors instead of the prepared choir sing, and they're leaded by him.


I also have such dream that during two canticles during Great Satuday the people would join into their refrains, as it should be done...

And I remember reading commentary to st. Jacob Liturgy (in Arabic), that at least in old tiems people were supposed to know some psalms (even by heart) and sing them.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2016, 04:23:23 AM by Dominika »
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #29 on: May 31, 2016, 04:28:02 AM »
In our parish, many people sing who are not in the choir, myself included. I've never seen anyone judged for singing or not singing.

Be glad you don't go to church with the Liturgy and Musical talent police.

Just so you know, I have never complained to anyone about the quality of the music at any specific named parish; I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.   At one of the aforementioned OCA parishes I visited (not the one the Commander visited with me), a Romanian lady complained to me after the service about how bad the music was compared to what she was accustomed to in Romania.  She had a point.  In the trapeza I sat at the same table with the choir director, who was a lovely English lady who I felt was doing the best she could with inadequete resources.

When someone like her is working so hard to try and make the music good, I am not going to crush their morale by complaining to them about it; the system is broken, not the people trying to use it to worship God with sincere and pious devotion, who are doing everything in their power to make the music beautiful.

However, I will also note that the frequency with which I worship or visit a particular parish is directly proportionate to the overall quality of their music; good music helps me in the divine liturgy to participate spiritually; the traditional music of Orthodoxy especially, when sung well, helps me to loft up my heart, and experience that foretaste of heaven that the divine liturgy affords.

I could listen to the a capella choir and deacons of St. Ephrems Syriac Orthodox Cathedral all day, but unfortunately they seem indisposed to sing that long. :P  Hearing the metrical homily Haw Nurone by St. Jacob of Sarugh at the end of the liturgy is absolute, unmitigated spiritual bliss, however, and prepares me to receive the Eucharist.


I am sure they all wish to please you, a non member of their communion, as their primary musical listener, rather than their actual communicants.

I heartily wish that some people would quit trying to 'engineer' the perfect Liturgy for all places they go, in many cases including their own parishes. And just relax and worship in our human imperfections.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #30 on: May 31, 2016, 10:56:14 PM »
2. There was an organ in the narthex of the Hagia Sophia; what it was used for, or whether it was audible in the nave, we do not know, although there is reason to believe several services would have been performed in the narthex.  In addition, the organ is a traditional fixture of Ionian Greek Orthodox music and has been for centuries.  So I reject the idea that the organ is entirely alien to the Byzantine Rite; its not, and some of the most beautiful settings of the Divine Liturgy, like those of Tikey Zes, use it.  Also, as I mentioned in another thread, Psalm 150 provides us with a scriptural warrant to use whatever instruments are traditional to a rite.
I see the points you raise, but I'm not sure the connections you see necessarily exist. The presence of one organ in the narthex of the Ecumenical Cathedral--the purpose of which is entirely unknown--does not imply that the organ is somehow transcendently a part of the universal Byzantine music tradition, and certainly not a part of the received tradition of chant. Likewise, the use of the organ in the Venetian-influence cathedrals of the Ionian islands with four-part choirs is unrelated to Byzantine music as received in the majority of the Greek world. The implementation of organs is thus an innovation in the received musical tradition. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I have yet to hear an example where it sounds good and doubt that I will. It would almost certainly be restricted to providing the ison.

I'm also not sure why you think Tikey Zes' settings of the Liturgy are beautiful, but I guess that is a matter of taste. :P

Quote
However, I would argue that the organ is only traditional to Greek Orthodox and quite probably Romanian Orthodox music;
On what grounds?

Quote
I have reason to believe that its usage was dramatically reduced due to Turkocratia;
What reason?

Quote
I don't think it ever died out completely,
On what grounds?

Quote
and while it is true that contact with the West drove the revival of organ music in the Greek tradition in the 19th century, I do not personally believe this is when its use started;
There was no revival of organ music. All of the organ music which began in this time period was original.

Quote
And I think Commander Xenophon is correct to say that the organ combined with a hymn book, perhaos not an actual book, but as he suggested, a tablet, so there would be no flurry of page turning (which by the way doesn't happen in those OCA parishes like the one we visited together, where the Divine Liturgy printed with musical notation is distributed to the attendees, so I think whoever raised that raised a point that has more to do with the layout of hymnals than whether or not they exist), would help converts pick up the Greek Orthodox musical tradition, particularly the polyphonic Greek Orthodox hymns such as those of the Ionian school.   
I'm not sure the solution to musical confusion is to introduce a new form of music for further confusion.

Quote
Some things fall out of use, like congregational singing (which is integral to and characteristic of Russian Old Rite music) and organs, and older forms of the Divine Liturgy; the trick is how tomrevive some of what has been lost without displacing the newer layers of tradition that have their own beauty.  I love polyphonic Greek Orthodox music and the work of Tikey Zes, Michaelides and others, and would hate to see this completely die off due to a purist approach to Byzantine chant.
Why and how would we revive something we're not even sure existed? As for your love of polyphonic Greek Orthodox music, I have no words. :P When were you exposed to this?

« Last Edit: May 31, 2016, 10:56:35 PM by Antonis »
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Offline JamesRottnek

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #31 on: June 01, 2016, 12:27:41 AM »
For the most part, when I was attending an Orthodox parish, it was a convert-heavy Greek parish led by OCA priests.  There was a small choir (something around 5 people a week) and a small congregation (around 70-80 people most Sundays).  However, it made heavy use of congregational singing, and it actually sounded pretty good, with the choir primarily around (from what I could tell) to lead the people.  Granted, it was probably a good thing that no one ever tried to make a recording of the parish, but it still sounded good, and I think that I would speak for most people in that parish when I say that joining in the liturgy greatly enhanced the experience of the liturgy, even if it perhaps didn't sound as good as a well-trained choir.

It's definitely possible - though I imagine it could be really tough to transition a parish (since a lot of people would probably be hesitant to join in, when they've never been expected to before).
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #32 on: June 01, 2016, 02:33:56 AM »
2. There was an organ in the narthex of the Hagia Sophia; what it was used for, or whether it was audible in the nave, we do not know, although there is reason to believe several services would have been performed in the narthex.  In addition, the organ is a traditional fixture of Ionian Greek Orthodox music and has been for centuries.  So I reject the idea that the organ is entirely alien to the Byzantine Rite; its not, and some of the most beautiful settings of the Divine Liturgy, like those of Tikey Zes, use it.  Also, as I mentioned in another thread, Psalm 150 provides us with a scriptural warrant to use whatever instruments are traditional to a rite.
I see the points you raise, but I'm not sure the connections you see necessarily exist. The presence of one organ in the narthex of the Ecumenical Cathedral--the purpose of which is entirely unknown--does not imply that the organ is somehow transcendently a part of the universal Byzantine music tradition, and certainly not a part of the received tradition of chant. Likewise, the use of the organ in the Venetian-influence cathedrals of the Ionian islands with four-part choirs is unrelated to Byzantine music as received in the majority of the Greek world. The implementation of organs is thus an innovation in the received musical tradition. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I have yet to hear an example where it sounds good and doubt that I will. It would almost certainly be restricted to providing the ison.

I'm also not sure why you think Tikey Zes' settings of the Liturgy are beautiful, but I guess that is a matter of taste. :P

Quote
However, I would argue that the organ is only traditional to Greek Orthodox and quite probably Romanian Orthodox music;
On what grounds?

Quote
I have reason to believe that its usage was dramatically reduced due to Turkocratia;
What reason?

Quote
I don't think it ever died out completely,
On what grounds?

Quote
and while it is true that contact with the West drove the revival of organ music in the Greek tradition in the 19th century, I do not personally believe this is when its use started;
There was no revival of organ music. All of the organ music which began in this time period was original.

Quote
And I think Commander Xenophon is correct to say that the organ combined with a hymn book, perhaos not an actual book, but as he suggested, a tablet, so there would be no flurry of page turning (which by the way doesn't happen in those OCA parishes like the one we visited together, where the Divine Liturgy printed with musical notation is distributed to the attendees, so I think whoever raised that raised a point that has more to do with the layout of hymnals than whether or not they exist), would help converts pick up the Greek Orthodox musical tradition, particularly the polyphonic Greek Orthodox hymns such as those of the Ionian school.   
I'm not sure the solution to musical confusion is to introduce a new form of music for further confusion.

Quote
Some things fall out of use, like congregational singing (which is integral to and characteristic of Russian Old Rite music) and organs, and older forms of the Divine Liturgy; the trick is how tomrevive some of what has been lost without displacing the newer layers of tradition that have their own beauty.  I love polyphonic Greek Orthodox music and the work of Tikey Zes, Michaelides and others, and would hate to see this completely die off due to a purist approach to Byzantine chant.
Why and how would we revive something we're not even sure existed? As for your love of polyphonic Greek Orthodox music, I have no words. :P When were you exposed to this?

I agree with your sentiments. The organ is not an integral part of our worship, and I have never seen any compelling evidence to suggest that it ever was. If anything, the organ's unique presence in the Hagia Sophia seems to indicate that it was of imperial, not religious, significance. Likewise, the early 20th century movement towards introducing organ music into the Greek Orthodox Church could hardly have been a 'revival' when even its proponents didn't recognize it as such.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #33 on: June 01, 2016, 05:09:58 AM »


I heartily wish that some people would quit trying to 'engineer' the perfect Liturgy for all places they go, in many cases including their own parishes. And just relax and worship in our human imperfections.

More claptrap about how we should just accept things as they are without trying to make things better.  Mediocrities, everywhere (apologies to Salieri). 

By the way none of us are "engineering" anything.  Honing our respective crafts for the glory of the Church and its worship of God is nothing I need apologize for.  I resent that trying to do exactly what I aim to do as a chanter is the liturgical equivalent of creating a Khan Noonien Singh.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #34 on: June 01, 2016, 11:29:56 AM »


I heartily wish that some people would quit trying to 'engineer' the perfect Liturgy for all places they go, in many cases including their own parishes. And just relax and worship in our human imperfections.

More claptrap about how we should just accept things as they are without trying to make things better.  Mediocrities, everywhere (apologies to Salieri). 

By the way none of us are "engineering" anything.  Honing our respective crafts for the glory of the Church and its worship of God is nothing I need apologize for.  I resent that trying to do exactly what I aim to do as a chanter is the liturgical equivalent of creating a Khan Noonien Singh.

Please try to address the cogent points made by Antonis, an actual chanter, and stop sniping.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #35 on: June 01, 2016, 11:35:02 AM »


I heartily wish that some people would quit trying to 'engineer' the perfect Liturgy for all places they go, in many cases including their own parishes. And just relax and worship in our human imperfections.

More claptrap about how we should just accept things as they are without trying to make things better.  Mediocrities, everywhere (apologies to Salieri). 

By the way none of us are "engineering" anything.  Honing our respective crafts for the glory of the Church and its worship of God is nothing I need apologize for.  I resent that trying to do exactly what I aim to do as a chanter is the liturgical equivalent of creating a Khan Noonien Singh.

Hone your craft. 


Leave the congregation alone.

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #36 on: June 01, 2016, 11:57:36 AM »
Why and how would we revive something we're not even sure existed? As for your love of polyphonic Greek Orthodox music, I have no words. :P When were you exposed to this?
For the most part, when I was attending an Orthodox parish, it was a convert-heavy Greek parish led by OCA priests.  There was a small choir (something around 5 people a week) and a small congregation (around 70-80 people most Sundays).  However, it made heavy use of congregational singing, and it actually sounded pretty good, with the choir primarily around (from what I could tell) to lead the people.  Granted, it was probably a good thing that no one ever tried to make a recording of the parish, but it still sounded good, and I think that I would speak for most people in that parish when I say that joining in the liturgy greatly enhanced the experience of the liturgy, even if it perhaps didn't sound as good as a well-trained choir.

It's definitely possible - though I imagine it could be really tough to transition a parish (since a lot of people would probably be hesitant to join in, when they've never been expected to before).

polyphonic Greek Orthodox music??????  Tell me are you inventing this music?  How can you impose polyphony on traditional Greek Orthodox music and why would you want to?

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #37 on: June 01, 2016, 12:01:22 PM »
Well, there is definitely modern polyphonic music being composed and sung in Greek congregations. Whether it's any good is another question.

Regarding congregational Byzantine chant, I recently saw a video on Youtube of a big congregation in Syria singing along while their church was being shelled. If they can pull it off, what's our excuse?
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #38 on: June 01, 2016, 01:02:05 PM »


I heartily wish that some people would quit trying to 'engineer' the perfect Liturgy for all places they go, in many cases including their own parishes. And just relax and worship in our human imperfections.

More claptrap about how we should just accept things as they are without trying to make things better.  Mediocrities, everywhere (apologies to Salieri). 

By the way none of us are "engineering" anything.  Honing our respective crafts for the glory of the Church and its worship of God is nothing I need apologize for.  I resent that trying to do exactly what I aim to do as a chanter is the liturgical equivalent of creating a Khan Noonien Singh.

Please try to address the cogent points made by Antonis, an actual chanter, and stop sniping.

I AM AN ACTUAL CHANTER.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #39 on: June 01, 2016, 01:03:55 PM »


I heartily wish that some people would quit trying to 'engineer' the perfect Liturgy for all places they go, in many cases including their own parishes. And just relax and worship in our human imperfections.

More claptrap about how we should just accept things as they are without trying to make things better.  Mediocrities, everywhere (apologies to Salieri). 

By the way none of us are "engineering" anything.  Honing our respective crafts for the glory of the Church and its worship of God is nothing I need apologize for.  I resent that trying to do exactly what I aim to do as a chanter is the liturgical equivalent of creating a Khan Noonien Singh.

Hone your craft. 


Leave the congregation alone.

they interfere with my craft by telling me how to do it, when they don't know squat about it. They need to leave me alone.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #40 on: June 01, 2016, 01:42:38 PM »
I tend to cringe a bit when someone complains about another's singing.  Part of this is purely self-interest...I only know one tone, I'm not sure if it is an actual tone, I just make up for it with volume.  The other part is if someone is lifting up their unmelodic train-wreck of a voice to God but do so with spirit and God enjoys it, I don't want to be caught talking crap.  I do plenty of things to my lungs and throat, if God wants to put me in my place and make it not look like medically explicable coincidence it's gonna be pretty bad.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #41 on: June 01, 2016, 02:12:49 PM »


I heartily wish that some people would quit trying to 'engineer' the perfect Liturgy for all places they go, in many cases including their own parishes. And just relax and worship in our human imperfections.

More claptrap about how we should just accept things as they are without trying to make things better.  Mediocrities, everywhere (apologies to Salieri). 

By the way none of us are "engineering" anything.  Honing our respective crafts for the glory of the Church and its worship of God is nothing I need apologize for.  I resent that trying to do exactly what I aim to do as a chanter is the liturgical equivalent of creating a Khan Noonien Singh.

Please try to address the cogent points made by Antonis, an actual chanter, and stop sniping.

I AM AN ACTUAL CHANTER.
You need to start being less of a CAN'T-or and more of a CAN-tor.
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #42 on: June 01, 2016, 02:20:33 PM »


I heartily wish that some people would quit trying to 'engineer' the perfect Liturgy for all places they go, in many cases including their own parishes. And just relax and worship in our human imperfections.

More claptrap about how we should just accept things as they are without trying to make things better.  Mediocrities, everywhere (apologies to Salieri). 

By the way none of us are "engineering" anything.  Honing our respective crafts for the glory of the Church and its worship of God is nothing I need apologize for.  I resent that trying to do exactly what I aim to do as a chanter is the liturgical equivalent of creating a Khan Noonien Singh.

Please try to address the cogent points made by Antonis, an actual chanter, and stop sniping.

Perhaps I am being dense, but to what exactly are you referring? I don't see any exchange between Scamadrius and Antonis in this thread.
Be comforted, and have faith, O Israel, for your God is infinitely simple and one, composed of no parts.

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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #43 on: June 01, 2016, 02:25:49 PM »
Perhaps I am being dense, but to what exactly are you referring? I don't see any exchange between Scamadrius and Antonis in this thread.

No, but I believe the points made in reply no. 25 are relevant to scamandrius' opinions. 
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Re: Making Congregational Singing Work
« Reply #44 on: June 01, 2016, 02:57:29 PM »
Perhaps I am being dense, but to what exactly are you referring? I don't see any exchange between Scamadrius and Antonis in this thread.

No, but I believe the points made in reply no. 25 are relevant to scamandrius' opinions.

I was just wondering. Clearly, we should have a chant-off. The psaltis who can best chant the Bereketis theotoke parthene is the one who is right.
Be comforted, and have faith, O Israel, for your God is infinitely simple and one, composed of no parts.