Music for Holy Week, Part 1

This is the first part of a two-hour presentation at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral in Munhall, PA, on the books to be used this year for Vespers with the Divine Liturgy on Thursday and Friday of Great and Holy Week, when the feast of the Annunciation (March 25) falls on Great and Holy Friday.

This part of the presentation talks about the promulgation of the new books and goes through the book for Great and Holy Thursday. This handout showing the structure of the services, and copies of the new books, were used during the presentation. The new books are not available in PDF format, but copies are being distributed to all parishes in the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic Church in the United States.

Music for Holy Week and Annunciation – IMPORTANT

This year, the feast of the Annunciation (March 25) falls on Great and Holy Friday.  When this happens:

  1. The service of Vespers with Divine Liturgy on the evening of Great and Holy Thursday includes hymns (stichera) for the eve of the Annunciation.
  2. The service of Vespers on Great and Holy Friday has a Divine Liturgy added  to it, and there are hymns and readings for the Annunciation as well as for Great Friday.

In 2005, our bishops provided books for these services; unfortunately, the results were not what they could have been because

  • the materials were supplements, directing priests, cantors, and faithful to switch back and forth between the usual Holy Week books and the supplements
  • there was a mix of old translations, and the new ones that would be promulgated in 2007
  • new music was released with very little time to prepare

Over the past year, the Inter-eparchial Liturgy and Music Commissions prepared complete service books for these two services, matching what is in the green Divine Liturgy books for the two Divine Liturgies, and for the Annunciation. The translations are consistent throughout.  That means that for a small number of stichera, the books use a new translation of the hymns for Great and Holy Thursday and Great and Holy Friday, with musical settings by the Inter-Eparchial Music Commission. These books are being send to each parish in the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic Church over the next week or so.

On THURSDAY, March 3, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute will give a two-hour presentation on these services and the service books that are being distributed, teaching the new music and showing cantors how the books can be used most effectively.  I STRONGLY encourage all cantors in the Greater Pittsburgh area to attend this class, which will be held at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Munhall, PA from 7-9 PM Eastern.

This class will also be live-streamed on the cathedral website at

http://www.stjohnsbyzantinecathedral.com/cathedral/live

though I cannot predict how usable the audio will be.  Therefore, we will also be recording the class and post the audio and additional materials on the MCI website at mci.archpitt.org.

CANTORS: please set aside some time to prepare for these services.  They are among the most solemn of the year, and I think you will find the music and books are quite usable (and even make sense!) IF you prepare adequately. As always, if you have questions, please write me at mci@archpitt.org;  and questions of general import will be posted with their answers on the MCI website.

P.S. I do not currently have PDF files for these service books. They will be posted if I can get access to them in advance of Holy Week.

Chant Notes: February 22-28, 2016

This is the third week of the Great Fast.  At noon each day, we continue to hear from the prophecies of Isaiah, and in the evenings, at Vespers or the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the story of the Great Flood and the salvation of Noah in the Ark. As Father David Petras explains, “This is a foreshadowing of our baptism, at which we are saved from sin by the mystery of water, a sign of death to sin and life to God.”

Continue reading “Chant Notes: February 22-28, 2016”

Chant Notes: February 15-21, 2016

This is the second week of the Great Fast.  At noon each day, we continue to hear from the prophecies of Isaiah, and in the evenings, at Vespers or the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, from Genesis and Proverbs.  On Monday through Thursday, we hear the story of Cain and Abel; on Friday, we begin the story of Noah.

Continue reading “Chant Notes: February 15-21, 2016”

Presentation: Music of the Great Fast

On Thursday, February 11, I gave a presentation on the music for the Great Fast at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Munhall, PA; it was also live-streamed over the Internet.  For those who missed it, here is a recording:

We used the green Divine Liturgies book and the 2010 Presanctified books, along with these handouts:

Two questions keep coming up:

  1. What should we sing at Holy Communion at the Presanctified?
  2. What sort of non-liturgical hymns should be be singing in the Great Fast?

Continue reading “Presentation: Music of the Great Fast”

Harmonized Plain Chant – Part 1

Some years ago, the MCI distributed for trial use a set of harmonizations in four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) for the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.  We are currently revising these slightly and will be re-releasing them, to support parishes with a group of experienced (or willing!) singers who want to expand the sound of congregational singing in their parishes.

In the meantime, we are releasing two harmonizations of the Liturgy for the Presanctified Gifts, acording to the official 2010 books:
Continue reading “Harmonized Plain Chant – Part 1”

Cantor education update

The first two courses in our online cantor education program are up and running, with most of the kinks worked out. The next course will be Introduction to Liturgy sometime this month, followed by Introduction to Church Singing. I think even experienced cantors will find something of value in the latter course, which will cover a lot of ground.

I also hope to integrate the Moodle distance learning software with this website, so that the Courses page will show which courses you have completed.

Other material that should appear within the next week or two:

  • Guidelines for finding (or being) a mentor
  • Using  the Theta Music ear training software

We will be providing music for the Great Fast and Pascha through the home page and blog on this website, so please check in regularly.

Website update

The liturgy articles have been transferred from the old website to this one;  I am fixing internal links are such, since these articles will be a crucial part of the next MCI Online course, Introduction to Liturgy.

Next will be the Recordings page and the paraliturgical hymn entries. I am trying out several different audio player plugins, and I will probably end up with two: one the whole width of the column (for podcasts and other long records, as well as playlists), and a tiny one for putting in where there is current a “listen” button. I actually have a lot more audio (tutorials and such) than conveniently fits on one big page; the challenge is organizing it.  You suggestions are welcome!

The weekly podcast is in full swing, and I plan to add a Question Box link so that anyone can post a question to the blog.

Check out the Singing the Services entry (which can also be found under Topics) in the main navigation)!

Originally, I had a pull-down menu on the top navigation bar, to make it easier to find things. I removed it because it did not work at all well on mobile devices;  I am thinking of putting it back. An alternative would be to change the Home list on the top navigation bar to a full Site Map (since you can always go Home by clicking on the title box at the top of any website  page).

Please post here is you have any other problems with the websites, or ideas to make it more useful!

Chant Notes: Sunday Afternoon Vespers in the Great Fast

This podcast explains how to lead the singing of Sunday afternoon Vespers in the Great Fast, using the following Metropolitan Cantor Institute books: