(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.
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!
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.
Christ is born!
The liturgical calendar for 2017 is now on the MCI website. Please be aware that this year, I am planning to update some of the proper music for fix typos, correct some bad phrasing, and so on. Whenever older music is updated in this way, I will add “Last modified on <date>” on the bottom of the first page.
Cantors should also order (and learn to use!) the annual typikon from the Byzantine Seminary Press:
This booklet has detailed directions for the hymns to be sung at each major Divine Liturgy in the year. In January, the MCI will put explanatory and practice material to help you learn to use the typikon.
Throughout the history of our church, there has sometimes been competition for “pride of place” between congregational singing of plain chant, and the singing of choirs (whether of harmonized chant, or of choral masterworks). The singing of our notable choirs has not only added beauty to our church in the past; it can also be used in the present to enhance and supplement our congregational singing, and show us how chant was understand or harmonized in the past. And where choirs can be re-founded or formed, they can provide opportunities to train singers in the liturgical services of our rite, and add social activities based in the parish community.
With that in mind, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute has been working with the Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh for some time to collect information and recordings from the principal choirs of the Byzantine Catholic Church. Now we are turning to you for assistance. We are particularly interested in the following choirs and their directors: Continue reading YOUR HELP REQUESTED: Remembering our choirs
For many years, cantors who received comprehensive cantorial training in Europe were known in this country as “professors.” These men led church singing, taught religion classes, directed plays, and often organized church services when clergy were scarce. Over time, other particularly influential cantors were also called by the title, “Professor.”
In order to better preserve and foster our chant tradition, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute has been working with the Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh to collect information about these important leaders in our church. Now we are turning to you for assistance. We are particularly interested in the following cantors: Continue reading YOUR HELP REQUESTED: Remembering our professors
In September, reader’s courses were held at our cathedrals in Munhall, PA and Parma, OH. Thanks to Fr. Andrew Summerson, the Parma classes were professionally recorded, and those recordings are now available along with the class handouts:
Video 1 (48 minutes)
Video 2 (82 minutes)
Web link: Lectionary
Handout: Introduction to the Books of the Bible
Handout: Tones for Chanting Psalms and Readings
Handout: Tones for the Prokeimenon and Alleluia Verses
Handout: Text of Psalm 50
Handout: Practice readings
As always, materials from previous MCI courses can be found here.
Today, Fr. Andrew Summerson and I presented a two-hour epistle reader’s course to 15 students at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Parma, Ohio. The lecture portion was recorded on video, and included our best presentation on the prostopinije reading tones to date. In the meantime, here are the materials for this week and next:
Based on this course, we will be making some changes to how we teach this material in the future – and also adding audio / video recordings of epistle readers “at work” in church. Thanks to all who attended!
Next week, courses will continue in Pittsburgh (on Thursday evening) and in Parma (on Saturday afternoon).
Each Monday for the next several weeks, we will be adding a new moleben or prayer service to the Publications page of the MCI website.
Today’s addition is a Moleben Invoking the Help of the Holy Spirit, suitable for a church meeting or the start of any good work. It can also be celebrated as a patronal service for parishes dedicated to the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost).
As always, you can add “_booklet” before “.pdf” in the URL window of your web browser to get a link to a version suitable for printing in booklet form on 2-sided 11 by 14 inch paper. Here is the direct link for this moleben so you can see what I mean.
If you have a particular moleben you would like to have for your parish’s use, please comment here!
Christ is risen!
Now that everyone is (hopefully) recovered from Holy Week and Pascha, I would like to solicit cantors’ feedback on the books and music for Holy Week with the feast of the Annunciation. Was there anything you found particularly tricky? What went well, and what could be improved? (I am asking because we can hope to have new Holy Week books for next year that match the texts and music from the DIvine Liturgies and Presanctified books; but final details have yet to be worked out.) Please send any input you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!