Singing the Anaphora of St. Basil the Great

The Anaphora of St. Basil the Great is the central part of the Divine Liturgy of the same name. This article explains how to sing the responses for this Anaphora, and covers pages 96-103 of our Divine Liturgies book.

The Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, of which this Anaphora is the distinguishing part, is celebrated approximately ten times each year, and so the music for the anaphora has its own sectlion in the Divine Liturgies book. This book provides two musical settings for the hymns particular to the Anaphora of Saint Basil:

Eithet setting may be used, but the two setting should not be combined; either one OR the other should be used at a given Divine Liturgy.

The introductory dialog

The responses at the start of the anaphora use the same music as the Anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom, beginning with a trumpet-like call to prayer, going all the way up to sol:

Listen

The next response follows the Long Amen pattern:

It is when the priest exclaims, "Let us give thanks to the Lord" that the music for the Anaphora of Saint Basil begins. The cantor should decide well in advance whether to use the A setting (beginning on page 96) or the B setting (beginning on page 100), and the faithful should be informed or reminded of this (before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy!) if the music has not been used recently. Using one of the book's ribbons to mark the appropriate page can be very helpful.

Here is the A setting of the response, "It is proper and just":

Listen

The key here is E flat, so the selection actually starts on do; it is scalewise and not too difficult. Try to sing it as two musical phrases, each one very smooth: "It is proper and just; it is proper and just." Note that is ends on do, allowing the priest to continue on the same pitch.

Here is the B setting of the response, "It is proper and just":

Listen

This setting, too, starts on do, and can should be sung as a single smooth phrase, ending back on do.

There is no need to flip back to the main section of the Divine Liturgy; whichever setting of the Basil Anaphora you have chosen, you can follow the music in order on pages 96-103.

The Hymn of Victory - Holy, Holy, Holy

The next prayer is quite long, but theologically rich, as it recounts the history of salvation.

After the words, "Singing, shouting, crying aloud, and saying the triumphal hymn:", the people sing the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy", which combines Isaiah's vision of the cherubim and seraphim before God's throne, with a psalm verse in praise of Christ.  You will find the music for this hymn immediately after the setting of "It is truly proper" that you have chosen.

Here is the A setting of the Basil "Holy, holy, holy":

Listen

Again, the melody starts on do, but it is quite a bit more complicated than "It is truly proper." Try to sing it as three broad, smooth sections, each ending with a period. Also, notice that "Blessed is he" follows the scale, sol - la - ti - do.

Here is the B setting of the Basil "Holy, holy, holy":

Listen

This setting, too, starts on do, and begins with the opening phrase of "It is truly proper", then becomes much more lyrical. Again, try to sing it in three smooth sections, each consisting of a single sentence and ending with a period. 

The words of institution: "Amen"

In the Anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom, we sing the short "Amen" responses at our Lord's words over the bread and wine use the short Amen melody. At the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, we use a longer melody that matches the chosen music setting.

Here is the A setting of the Basil "Amen", which is sung twice, once at the words over the bread, and once at the words over the chalice:

Listen

Tthe melody starts and ends on do, and should be sung as smoothly as possible.

Here is the B setting of the Basil "Amen", which is sung twice, once at the words over the bread, and once at the words over the chalice:

Listen

Here the"Amen" starts on mi, not do; the melody is exactly the same as for the words "Holy is the Lord of Hosts" in the preceding hymn.

The Anamnesis: "We praise you, we bless you"

Here is the A setting of the Basil acclamation, "We praise you, we bless you."

Listen

Tthe melody starts and ends on do, and should be sung as smoothly as possible. When singing this hymn, PAY ATTENTION to the transition from the end of the first line of music to the start of the second; "and we pray" does not begin on the same pitch as "Lord", but a whole step higher.

Here is the B setting of the Basil acclamation, "We praise you, we bless you."

Listen

The B setting of this hymn is a good bit more complicated than the A setting, but still begins and ends on do. When singing this hymn, PAY ATTENTION to the transition from the end of the second line to the start of the third line, where the pitch drops a third from "pray" to "to".

Prayers for those who have died: "In you, O woman full of grace"

In the Liturgy of Saint Basil, we do not sing "It is truly proper" as the hymn to the Mother of God that; instead, we either sing "In you, O Woman full of grace", or (on certain feasts) the festal magnification and irmos. Consult the Typikon to determine which is used.

"In you, O Woman full of grace" is the most complicate melody in the Liturgy of Saint Basil, and MUST be practiced thoroughly. It is also one case where some familiarity with the sound of the hymn in Church Slavonic is extremely helpful,

Here is the A setting of the Basil hymn to the Mother of God, "In you, O Woman full of grace":

Listen

Note the key change to G, so that the melody begins on la and ends on ti. This melody is quite old, and comes from the Znammeny chant tradition.

Here is the B setting of the Basil hymn to the Mother of God, "In you, O Woman full of grace":

Listen

This is a melody from the so-called "Greek chant", and it can be tempting to chant it in a sort of repetitive sing-song. But listen to this recording of the same melody by the monks of Valaam to see how beatifully and spiritually it can be chanted.

I mentioned above that listening the the Slavonic can be helpful. Here is a recording of BOTH the A and B versions of "In you, O Woman full of Grace" in Church Slavonic, from the collection Carpatho-Ruthenian Liturgical Chant.

Listen

The remainder of the Anaphora

The final response of the Anaphora is sung using the same melody as the Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom.

Cherubikon E, first part

Cherubikon E, first part

The Divine Liturgy continues with the Preparation for Holy Communion. See Singing the Preparation for Communion.