Office hours, new menaion, and revision work

With the start of fall MCI Online classes and the beginning of a new liturgical year, we are making some additions to the Metropolitan Cantor Institute schedule.

“Office hours”

On Thursdays, I will be holding virtual office hours using Skype for MCI Online students, as well as cantors who have questions about upcoming music or MCI projects.

They will normally be held from 9-11 PM Eastern time; if for any reason they are cancelled, there will be a note on the MCI website, mci.archpitt.org.  To join, contact me on Skype (jeff.mierzejewski) approximately 15 minutes before you plan to join the office hours conference call.

Office hours will begin tomorrow, August 16, and continue through the end of September, at which point we will decide if they should be continued

New menaion project

I have received several requests to collect and collate all the music that has been set by the MCI for the liturgical year.  The entire Menaion (for Vespers, Matins, Divine Liturgy, etc) is entirely too large a project at the moment, but it should be quite possible to collect most of this material, a month at a time.

So beginning in September, I will be collecting the Vespers stichera, certain Matins hymns, and the hymns of the Divine Liturgy for each day, and putting them online.  Where texts are not available, users will be pointed  to appropriate commons.

Fine-tuning of existing music

As part of the work on a menaion, I will also be making some updates, corrections, and “tuning changes” to the MCI-provided music for these hymns, especially in places where they do not match the standard forms of the melodies set by the Inter-Eparchial Liturgical Commission.

As a result, the links in the Liturgical Calendar will be removed from September 1 onward, and re-established as music is reviewed.  Any music that is updated will have a revision date at the bottom of the first page.

If you are interested in reviewing this music as it is revised, drop me a note at mci@archpitt.org.

Congratulations, Spring 2017 MCI Students!

The following students have successfully completed MCI Online courses in the first half of 2018.

Introduction to Liturgy
Greg Beattie
Noel Bustillos
Lucia Clinch-Reimer
Carol Donlin
Sherill Franklin
Joe Herman
Susan Kopko
Lawrence Lattuca
Pamela Pettit
Anthony Polocz
Paul Polocz
Rob Polocz
Sandy Polocz
Samuel Popiel
Nicholas Rakovic
Robert Riley
Gina Romancheck
Michelle Rubush
Mike Shulz
Angela Sedun
Amy Seyfried
Susan Tate
Colin Ventrella
Elizabeth Zackowski

Introduction to Church Singing
Lucia Clinch-Reimer
Carol Donlin
Sherill Franklin
Joe Herman
Susan Kopko
Lawrence Lattuca
Pamela Pettit
Bella Polocz
Kathleen Polocz
Rob Polocz
Sandy Polocz
Samuel Popiel
Nicholas Rakovic
Michelle Rubush
Mike Shulz
Angela Sedun
Amy Seyfried
Susan Tate
Colin Ventrella
Elizabeth Zackowski

Congratulations to all!  Signups for Fall classes are now open.

The Chanted Choral Liturgy

(A guest post by Deacon Timothy Woods)

The purpose of chant in our churches is to invite the people to be actively involved in the prayer. Our chants are simple and repetitious, easy to catch on to. Even when I am tired and I don’t really feel like singing, even if I tell myself NOT to sing, halfway through the liturgy I find myself humming along and then finally singing out loudly from my heart. That is the reason for our chant, to allow the people to worship God from their hearts!

But we also have a beautiful choral tradition. Composers like Bortniansky, Kedroff, and Archangelsky are household names in the Eastern Slavic churches, and there are many others who have graced our liturgies and moved our people. Modern composers are also making fine contributions which should be used. With a well rehearsed choir under the direction of a capable leader, these Holy God’s, Cherubic Hymns and special communion pieces not only move hearts, but attract new parishioners.

It was once described to me that chant is where “the rubber meets the road,” but that the people’s prayer takes wing with choral music. The most effective worship uses both, but in a way which does not cause one to detract from the other.
When I have incorporated choral music into a chant setting, my philosophy has always been thus: The first thing sung MUST be chant, and it MUST be something the people know. If we begin with a choral Liturgy of Peace, we are immediately sending a signal to the people that “we are glad you are here, but we don’t really expect you to sing”. This is precisely the wrong message to give to any parish. Choral music should be saved for the larger liturgical pieces, and the short responses, again, must be chant so as to keep the people engaged in the flow of
the liturgical current.

I offer here an example of a Sunday Divine Liturgy with Cantors and Choir. Note that the choir rarely sings two pieces in a row. In this way the choir is present, but it is never allowed to “take over the liturgy”. The main responsibility of the singing still falls to the cantors and the people. The choir simply allows the worship to “soar” from time to time. Also note that the “Choral Settings” could be harmonized chant, or a through-composed work. This is only a suggested pattern. Many other patterns are possible, as long as the chanting holds a slight sway.

Deacon Timothy Woods

Music before Liturgy:

  • One choral piece
  • Appropriate congregational hymns, sung in unison by cantors or choir (very important there is no harmony yet, unless the people add it themselves)

At the Divine Liturgy

  • Litany of Peace: Chant, again, in unison!
  • First and Second Antiphon: Chant (spontaneous harmonizations could begin)
  • Hymn of Incarnation: Choral setting (all choral settings could be either harmonized chant or composed choral music)
  • Third Antiphon: Chant
  • Entrance Hymn: Choral setting
  • Troparion/Kontakion: Chant
  • Holy God: Choral
  • Prokeimenon: Chant
  • Alleluia: Choral or Chanted
  • Litany of Supplication: Chant
  • Cherubic hymn: Choral
  • Responses: Chant
  • Symbol of Faith: Harmonized chant (led or assisted by choir)
  • Anaphora responses: Chant
  • Hymn of Victory: Choral
  • Responses: Chant
  • It is truly proper: Choral or chanted (if a 9th ode irmos is called, I would use a choral arrangement or harmonized chant, so it will not seem less festive than the parish’s ordinary hymn at this point)
  • Responses and preparation for Communion: Chant
  • Lord’s Prayer: Choral
  • Responses: Chant
  • Communion hymn of the day: Choral
  • Blessed is he who comes: Chant
  • Communion: Choral music while the cantors receive, then verses of the communion psalm through a chanted or choral refrain
  • We have seen the true light: Chant
  • May our mouth be filled: Choral
  • Responses: Chant
  • Blessed be the name of the Lord: Choral
  • Dismissal: Chant
  • Many Years: Chant or Choral
  • After Liturgy: One choral piece, then congregational hymns as people leave.

Liturgical hymns before the Divine Liturgy – your comments requested!

Recently, as part of the Introduction to the Divine Liturgy course for cantors, I added an article on what to sing before the Divine Liturgy to the MCI website. In particular, I have some real reservations about the practicality of using some of the liturgical hymns in the Divine Liturgies book for this purpose.

Rather than put those observations (which are purely my own!) into the article, I have decided to post them here for comment and discussion. What do you think? (Here is the article itself, without my personal thoughts.)

Continue reading “Liturgical hymns before the Divine Liturgy – your comments requested!”

Christ is risen!

Brother Augustine of the Byzantine Rite Franciscan house in Sybertsville, PA provided the Metropolitan Cantor Institute with a book of harmonized music for the Paschal season. Here is a 3-part setting of the alternate “Christ is risen” found on page 171 of our Divine Liturgies book:

The entire book can be found here. Please try singing them and let us know what you think!

2017 Summer Church Music Program

This year, the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh is inaugurating a regular summer church music program for cantors, choir directors, and section leaders. For 2017, the program will consist of a three-day master class and workshop to be held on July 12-14 at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.  Continue reading “2017 Summer Church Music Program”

Cantor’s Meeting in Sybertsville, PA

All cantors of the Eparchy of Passaic are invited to a gathering of cantors to be held on Saturday, February 18, from 11 AM to 1 PM at  Holy Dormition Byzantine Franciscan Friary, Route 92, Sybertsville PA.

Agenda items:

  • Review the music for the Liturgy of St. Basil
  • Review the music for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts
  • Share updates from the Metropolitan Cantor Institute
  • Discuss future  activities

Coffee and Danish will be available from 10:30 on, and a light lenten lunch will be available for those who can stay past 1 PM.  If you would like to stay for lunch, please contact Phil Yevics at philyevics@gmail.com or (570)239-0611 so that adequate preparations can be made.

Please bring the names of deceased cantors from your parish, since this is the first All Souls’ Saturday for this year.

Online Musicianship for Cantors!

In preparation for our online classes, which begin in February, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute has acquired a site license for Theta Music Trainer, a website with computer- and smartphone-based games that teach pitch matching, recognition and singing of scales and intervals, and other important skills.

Complete access to this website is available to all cantors in the Byzantine Catholic Church, as well as students in the MCI Online program. For more information, see the Theta Music Trainer page on the MCI website.