Chant Notes: March 6-13, 2016

This is the fifth week of the Great Fast, a week that is dominated by the singing of the Great Canon of Repentance of Saint Andrew of Crete, and two days dedicated to holy women: Saturday, to the Mother of God, and Sunday, to Saint Mary of Egypt.

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Holy Week and Annunciation, 2016

This year, the feast of the Annunciation (March 25) falls on Great and Holy Friday. When this happens, the hymns for the eve of the feast are added to the celebration of Vespers with Divine Liturgy on Great and Holy Thursday, and Vespers with the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is celebrated on the evening of Great and Holy Friday. This is the only time a Divine Liturgy is ever celebrated on Friday of Holy Week.

The bishops of the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh have promulgated a pair of books with music to be used at these services. Copies of these books are being provided to each parish. On March 3, a two-hour presentation on these books and the music they contain was given in Pittsburgh. Here are the audio recordings of this presentation, for those who could not attend or see the live Internet feed of the presentation.

The Inter-Eparchial Liturgical Commission has recommended that parishes which celebrate Matins for Great and Holy Friday (the Service of the 12 Passion Gospels) include the matins Gospel of the Annunciation (Luke 1:39-49,56) between the seventh and eighth Gospels of the Passion, and add the commemoration of the Annunciation to the final dismissal. The MCI has prepared a leaflet with this recommendation.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Music for Holy Week, Part 2

This is the second 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 book for Great and Holy Friday. 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, 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.”

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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.

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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?

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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:
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