Author Topic: Western Rite music in the Byzantine Rite and vice versa  (Read 315 times)

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Offline Alpha60

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Western Rite music in the Byzantine Rite and vice versa
« on: May 04, 2017, 11:36:38 PM »
For a while, I have had in my music collection one of a number of sumptuous recordings by the Kiev Chamber Choir (which is one of the most exquisite Slavonic choirs in existence, and the finest one I know of to hail from the Ukraine), a work entitled the "Liturgy of Peace" by an Archbishop Ionafan.  I don't know who this archbishop is, whether he is Ukrainian Orthodox (KP or MP) or (more likely) Ukrainian Greek Catholic, but his composition is interesting: it is basically a setting of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom to a sort of pastiche of Gregorian Chant, largely structured around the popular Missa de Angelis, a Gregorian arrangement that I believe originated with the Franciscans.

Conversely, today I acquired a recording from the choir of the Anglican Church of All Saints in Margaret Street (in the City of Westminster, London, an Anglo Catholic parish with a top tier choir, one of the best you'll find outside of a cathedral or a royal peculiar in tne Church of England) entitled The English Rachmaninoff.   This features the music of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in B minor, damously composed by Rachmaninoff, and his other sacred compositions, rendered into English while the composer was visiting in England, by an Anglo Catholic composer, with Rachmaninoff's approval.

Now the interesting and not entirely unexpected aspect: rather than simply translating the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom into English and then tweaking Rachmaninoff's work to fit (in the manner in which most Slavonic music has been translated), the composer instead took an English language translation of the Roman Rite mass, as was commonly used by Anglo Catholics in preference to the BCP Holy Communion service, and set it to Rachmaninoff's music.

What is a bit interesting in this is his choice of which hymns to translate into other hymns; for example, the Cherubic Hymn winds up being the Gloria.

All Night Vigils in turn is used as the basis for an arrangement of the standards of Anglican Choral Evensong: the Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis (which the original composition might well have included anyway), but alas without characteristically Orthodox hymns such as the Phos Hilarion.

Also, Capella Romana just released a CD of the music of Cypriot Orthodox and Catholics, which is extremely similiar, attempting as it were to show a bridge between East and West.  The new recording is very good.

Finally, I would note that authentic Ambrosian Rite music (the distinctive liturgical rite used in Milan and surrounding environs, named for St. Ambrose) has long been considered somewhat of a bridge between Byzantine and Roman-Gallican music; this becomes very evident if you listen to a recording of it prceded or followed by a recording of Romanian Orthodox chant (Romanian chant is my favorite variety of Byzantine chant, with the possible exception of some ancient Bulgarian chants which I am not sure could be considered Byzantine chant per se).   As some have noted, the Mozarabic Rite originating in Toledo under Islamic rule has a decidedly Eastern sound; I don't know why as historically one could argue it is the most occidental of liturgies.

I like these regions of musical overlap between the East and West.  As I see it, they point to a future in which more and more Western Christians are Orthodox, through ecumenical reconciliation or reception, and a future in which even in those cases where Western liturgical rites are not retained, ancient forms of Western music like Gregorian Chant can be "baptized," as in the aforementioned Liturgy of Peace, which sets St. John Chrysostom to the eight mode Gregorian Missa de Angelis.  Gregorian, Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Byzantine and indeed several forms of Oriental (such as West Syriac) chant are all related, resting on the concept of eight musical modes or tones, a system which later in Italy, Scandinavia, the Ukraine and Russia gave rise to tonality, via four part harmony.
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