Our Plain Chant, Episode 1: Introduction

It seems to me that it is time to take a serious look at our plain chant, and how we sing it in worship. That is the purpose of this blog series, Our Plain Chant. 

It has now been

  • 70 years since church first began celebrating services in English
  • 55 years since the first official chant settings in English
  • 12 years since the release of our current Divine Liturgies book, which our bishops promulgated in order to have a common format of the Liturgy across our entire church

It seems to me that it is time to take a serious look at our plain chant, and how we sing it in worship. That is the purpose of this blog series, Our Plain Chant.  I hope it can serve as way to spread knowledge of our chant, how we use it, and how we can improve our church singing while maintaining our tradition of sung congregational worship.

Why a series?

The Metropolitan Cantor Institute website has a wealth of material about individual plain chant melodies, and how to sing services. But because it is an instructional site, we have stayed away from presenting a lot of historical background, or any critical commentary on our chant and how we sing it. I hope that this series will let us provide some of this background, AND enable cantors to contribute to the discussion.

Many of the issues that affect our church singing are common to a range of melodies, so I am going to first look at the shared issues that we face whenever we sing, THEN look at particular chant melodies and services.

Stay tuned!

With each blog post, I hope to include a recording which I consider to be of value in understanding our chant.

Here is a complete recording of the Divine Liturgy for the 25th ordination anniversary of Bishop (later Archbishop) Stephen Kocisko, celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in Passaic, New Jersey, in 1966. This is one of our best recorded examples of the sound of our congregational singing.

https://soundcloud.com/metr-cantor-institute/1966-kocisko-anniversary

Pittsburgh Church Singing Presentation, February 22, 2020

Last Saturday, February 22, 2020, from 2-4 PM at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Munhall, PA, Deacon Jeffrey Mierzejewski gave a publication presentation and workshop on our church singing, covering:

  • The role of the cantor in our church singing
  • The melodies that make up our plain chant, and where they came from
  • Our paraliturgical singing (spiritual songs) for use outside the liturgy
  • Our church’s history of singing improvised (“folk”) harmonies as a normal element of our services, and how these can improve our worship

Continue reading “Pittsburgh Church Singing Presentation, February 22, 2020”

Pittsburgh Cantors’ Meeting, February 22, 2020

Last Saturday, February 22, 2020, a meeting was held from 9 AM-noon at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Munhall for all cantors of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.

Twenty-six cantors were present, representing the following parishes:

Continue reading “Pittsburgh Cantors’ Meeting, February 22, 2020”

Send us your photos!

As part of our church music documentation project – AND to fill out information on the current cantors pages for Pittsburgh, Passaic, Parma, and Phoenix – I would love to have photographs of the following from each our our parishes:

  • of the enterior of the church – something recognizable
  • the iconostasis or sanctuary
  • of your current cantor(s), with names
  • of your cantor stand or loft (whichever places the cantors sing from)
  • your retired or deceased cantors, with names, and dates of service if possible

Photos can be in any format; you can send them to mci@archpitt.org, or contact me by email (same address) for a physical mailing address and I will scan them. Thanks!!

The demise of metropolitancantorinstitute.org

metropolitancantorinstitute.org is the old name for the MCI website.  We moved all the content to mci.archpitt.org when the MCI web pages were shifted to the Archeparchy’s own webserver, way back in 2014.

As of January 16, 2020, we are dropping the old domain name, and metropolitancantorinstitute.org will no longer be forwarded automatically to mci.archpitt.org.    Please update any bookmarks to point to the new address (the rest of  the URL remains the same).

Feel free to add a comment here if you have any questions.

Making the Grade: Final MCI graduate under the “old” program

From 2001 to 2014, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute held Saturday chant classes in Pittsburgh, covering a different topic at each class.  Over a multi-year rotation, cantors learned  necessary skills, and received a certificate for finishing the full course of study.  Eventually, we added an in-person “final exam” in the form of a cantored Divine Liturgy at which an MCI instructor could see, comment on, and “sign off” that a student had in fact learned the skills we tried to teach.

So it is with great happiness that I can congratulate Mary Benedict, cantor of Saints Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church in Erie, PA.  Mary is the last cantor to complete the “old” MCI program, having regularly driven to Pittsburgh to attend classes, and completing her final examination in 2019.

Here is a list of graduates of the Metropolitan Cantor Institute program. As we move from occasional classroom courses to online, year-round education for cantors, I would like to recognize all those cantors and cantor-students who traveled to the Byzantine Catholic Seminary throughout the fall, winter, and spring to learn the art of church singing and chant leadership.

2005  / 2006
Marylyn Barone
Delcine Caddy
John Glegyak
Thomas Marco
Sharon Mech
George Mihalick
Stephen Petach
Mary Caryl Planiczki
Steven Puluka
Barbara Sowko
Henry Zolyak

2007
Mary Frances Zadzilko
Nicholas J. Nagrant
Diane Ryan Oravecz

2008
Jeff Mierzejewski
Michael Oravecz
Ann Pawluszka

2011
Saundra Frankowski
Marilyn Hertenstein

2016
Tom Rodack

2019
Mary Benedict

(and if you know anyone who should be on this list but isn’t, please add their name below in the comments!)

Finally, I would like to thank J. Michael Thompson, first director of the MCI, who put together this multiyear program and saw it become a reality.

Congratulations, 2019 MCI Students!

The following students have successfully completed MCI Online courses in 2019.

Introduction to Liturgy
David Boney
Sidney Cline
Lawrence Coleman
Steve Doucet
Stephen Farlow
A Gerling
Stephen Hilgendorf
Gregory Hrinda
Diane Hvasta
Michael Katalenich
Seraphima Kemner
Sophia Kemner
Corey Knick
Nicholas Mataya
Jacob Moylan
Scott Romanoski
Sam Schroetke
Naomi Sweetman
Olivia Whitlock
William Wilson
Patricia Yamrick

Introduction to Church Singing
Michael Katalenich
Sam Schroetke
Russell Ward

Introduction to the Typikon
Gregory Hrinda
Michael Katalenich
Jacob Moylan
Scott Romanoski
Olivia Whitlock
Patricia Yamrick

Reading in Church
Robert Dillon

Introduction to the Divine Liturgy
Robert Dillon
Maria McKay
Mike Schulz
Colin Ventralla
Judith Walsh

Introduction to the Eight Tones
David Hennessy
Michelle Rubush
Ron Somich
Susan Tate
Colin Ventralla
Judith Walsh

The Liturgical Year (new class)
Sherill Franklin
Susan Kopko
Sue Ann Rudolphy
Amy Seyfried

The Divine Liturgy
Sue Ann Rudolphy

The Office of Vespers
Sherill Franklin
Judith Walsh

Mastering the Eight T0nes
Sherill Franklin

The Great Fast and Holy Week (new class)
Sue Ann Rudolphy
Andrea Riley
Amy Seyfried

From Pascha to All Saints (new class)
Sue Ann Rudolphy
Andrea Riley
Amy Seyfried

Services for the Living
Sue Ann Rudolphy

Hierarchical and Reader Services
Matthew Minerd

Services for the Departed (new class)
Robert Bartz
Sherill Franklin
Mary Hendricks
Steve Petach
Milan Revilak
Julia Revilakova
Andrea Riley
Sue Ann Rudolphy
Amy Seyfried
Patricia Yamrick

Services of Christmas and Theophany (new class)
Matthew Minerd
Julia Revilakova
Andrea Riley
Sue Ann Rudolphy
Amy Seyfried
Patricia Yamrick

Congratulations to all!  For more about MCI Online classes in 2020, see here

(By the way, the classes page now includes the total number of students who have completed each class.)

Devotions for New Year’s Eve

In 1947, Father Julius Grigassy of the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Exarchate of Pittsburgh – the predecessor to the current Archeparchy – published a little booklet of “devotions” for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  This booklet was republished by the Archeparchy in 1968.

For Christmas Eve, it gives the liturgical services (not private devotions, in spite of the title) of Great Compline, Litija,  and Matins.  The Great Compline portion of the booklet is highly abbreviated, and in fact is almost exactly what was published in English by Father William Levkulic as the Christ is Born! booklet in 1969.  (The Grigassy booklet is in Slavonic, with a parallel English translation; at its original publication in 1947, the English would not have been used in church.)

But today the second part of the booklet is of particular interest: the “devotions for New Year” consist of a Moleben of Thanksgiving, returning thanks to God for all that has taken place in the year just ending, and a Panachida, praying for all those who have died. You can find the Moleben of Thanksviging here on the MCI website.

It seems to me that we would all benefit from such a service as the year ends, and I hope to promote its celebration next December.

At the back of the booklet is a short collection of spiritual songs for Christmas:

  • Silent Night / Jasna Zorja
  • Nebo i Zem’la
  • Božij Syn Dnes’
  • Divnaja Novina
  • Nova Radost’ Stala
  • Vselennaja Veselisja
  • Radost Sja Nam Javl’ajet
  • Nyňi Adam Vozveselisja
  • Anhel Pastyrjam ‘Zv’istil
  • Čas Radosti, Veselosti
  • Dar Ňyňi Prebohatyj

The songs in bold face were included in Christ is Born! and the 1978 Divine Liturgies book and have remained parish favorites, while the others have largely fallen out of use.  (You can find Nyňi Adam Vozveselisja and Vselennaja Veselisja, along with new, singable English translations, in the proposed hymnal.)

And for New Years:

Both of these are still sung in our parishes – and both have additional verses here which will be included in the proposed hymnal.  (We have English translations of the new verses for Vs’i T’a chory, and are working on them for Blahodarim Boha particularly worthwhile because this is one of our only hymns to God the Father.)

May God bless your New Year!

 

 

A Christmas present: Three new Cherubic Hymn settings in English

It has been more than 12 years since the promulgation of our present Divine Liturgies book, and what looked like an enormous number of musical settings of the Cherubic Hymn (ten of them!) now make up the basic repertoire in many parishes.

With than in mind – and considering the enormous number of such settings in Slavonic – I would like to offer the three possibilities for new settings in English, to give us greater opportunities to expand our plain chant in English, making use of Slavonic melodies which are already well know.   I hope to teach these at the eparchial workshops planned for next year, and they are also keyed to the versions of the base hymns in the Hymnal Project (which will also be covered at next year’s workshops).

Continue reading “A Christmas present: Three new Cherubic Hymn settings in English”