The Tone 1 Troparion Melody

This melody is used to sing troparia and kontakia in tone 1, as well as sessional hymns for which no podoben is appointed in the liturgical books. This article will show you how to sing hymns to the Tone 1 troparion melody.

Please note: This is the first melody covered in the MCI Online course, Introduction to the Eight Tones, and this article provides a good bit of background information on melodies It also assumes you are familiar with the material taught in the MCI Online course, Introduction to Church Singing. If you have difficulty reading the music notation, please review the MCI website articles on musicianship.

The Sunday troparion

The tone 1 troparion which is sung most frequently is the troparion of the Resurrection in tone 1, which is sung every eighth Sunday throughout the year as part of the cycle of eight tones. It can be found at the bottom of page 125 in our Divine Liturgies book. This troparion should be memorized.

Tone 1 Sunday troparion


The structure of the melody

If you follow the music while listening to the recording, you will see that the melody repeats itself at certain points. In fact, the melody consists of two basic repeating phrases, then a part of the melody that prepares us for the conclusion (at "Glory to your Kingdom!"), and then the conclusion itself. We can label the repeating parts A and B, and the concluding parts E and F:

Every tone 1 troparion is sung in this same basic pattern, but of all the prostopinije troparion melodies this is the one that has the most quirks. At the same time, by studying this melody, you will learn a lot about the way prostopinije "works." So let's take a look at the individual parts of the melody.

The A phrase

Here is the basic form of the part of the melody we have labeled "A", when it starts a tone 1 troparion:

Remember that the whole note with lines on either side represents a note on which any amount of text can be sung. So the melody begins with a la - ti - do which immediately establishes the "sound" of the key we are in, and where the home pitch or do is. Then it moves in a stepwise fashion up to mi and remains there for a while, before ending with re - di - re. (The solfege syllable di refers to do, raised by a half step.)

If you compare the notation above with the Sunday troparion, you will see that the text of the first phrase ("The stone was sealed by the Jews") is so short that that the repeated note on mi is hardly sung at all. Let's look at another example where the melody is clearer:

Here, I have put accent marks (') over the phrases where a word or syllable needs to be accented to make sense of the English text. What makes the Tone 1 troparion hard to sing is that, unlike almost all other prostopinije melodies, the accents may show up in several different places.

This complexity goes back to the original settings of this melody in Church Slavonic. Here is the first phrase of the Sunday troparion in Tone 1:

The small angle marks (>) which indicate dynamic accents are used very infrequently in prostopinije chant books. Here, they show that there should be a musical emphasis on the second note, and another on the note just BEFORE the reciting tone on mi.

We almost never sing this way in English, with the accent on the re and "popping up" to the reciting tone on mi. Instead, we usually group the four notes do - ti - do - re together, with the accent on do:

or group the three notes ti - do - re together, with the accent on ti:

These variant ways of singing the opening sound VERY different to the each, almost like different melodies, even when they have the same pitches in the same order. So we really have two choices in singing this melody:

The B phrase

Regardless of how it begins, the A phase alway ends on re, an "unstable" that signals musically that we still have more to say and sing. To start the B phase, we move one note up the scale, to mi:

Like the first phrase of the Sunday troparion, this text is so short that is has no repeated note or reciting tone. Here is the full form of the B phrase, showing the reciting tone:

and here are some other examples:

All of these examples have the same basic "shape" of the melody, but put the accents in different places, sometimes grouping notes in two and sometimes in threes, like the variations in the A phrase.

(You will also notice that sometimes an initial note is repeated, or a quarter note and half note are swapped to make accents fall correctly. This happens in other prostopinije melodies, but is most common in Tone 1 troparion. The best approach is to carefully practice every tone 1 troparion in advance, or be familar with the possible variations.)

The A phrase, repeated

Astute readers may have noticed that above, I added "when it starts a tone 1 troparion" to my description of the A phrase melody. This is because the A phrase changes slightly when it is repeated: the la - ti - do that was so useful in establishing the home pitch of do sounds awkward when it occurs in the middle of a of a hymn.

Here is the form of the A phrase in the middle:

It has the same sorts of variations we have seen before:

Once again, the same basic notes must be sung carefully, especially at the beginning.

The E phrase

The next-to-last or E phrase may follow either the A (which ends on re) or the B phrase (which ends on ti). It does this very naturally, by splitting the difference and starting on do:

The E phrase always ends on la, the lowest note since the very beginning of the troparion. Like the low note that begins the conclusion of the reading melody, this signals the approaching end of the troparion.

The F phrase

The final phrase has (at least potentially) two reciting tones, before descending to a minor-key ending on la:

So the troparion begins and ends on the same note, a low note which also warns us of the conclusion.

Other examples

For other examples of this melody, with recordings, see this page.

Singing kontakia in Tone 1

As we will see later, some tones have their own kontakion melodies, but Tone 1 is not one of them. All kontakia in Tone 1 are sung to the Tone 1 troparion melody.

Here is the Sunday kontakion in Tone 1:


For other examples of kontakia in Tone 1, with recordings, see this page.

When several troparia are sung - the lesser doxology

When a series of troparia or kontakia are sung (for example, at the end of Vespers, or at the Small Entrance of the Divine Liturgy), the liturgical books direct us to sing the lesser doxology:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.

before the final troparion or kontakion. In SOME cases, there are two "final" hymns, with "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit." sung before the next-to-last hymn, and "Now and ever and forever. Amen." (The two cases are usually abbreviated as follows: "Glory.... now...." means they are sung together, while "Glory..." and "Now...", with a capitalized "N", means they are sung separately.)

The rule is that these are always sung to the melody of the troparion that comes next - and for troparia and kontakia, they are sung to a shortened form of the very same melody.

So before a single ending troparion or kontakion in Tone 1, we would sing:


If the next-to-last troparion or kontakion is in Tone 1, then immediately before it we sing:


If there are two final troparion and the last one is in Tone 1, we sing:


Music for these can be found in the Divine Liturgies book, and also in the MCI Cantor Verses book. These should be memorized.

Hint: you can always look at the start of the troparion or kontakion to help you remember how the Glory... or Now and ever... starts.

A special case: the troparion of the Cross

The troparion of the Cross, which is used a number of times throughout the year, consists of exactly three phrases. In this one troparion, the B and E phrases are combined; that is, the first part of the middle phrase is sung to the B melody, and the second part of the middle phrase is sung to the E melody:

If the B phrase melody were followed in its entirety, the two syllables of "evil" would be sung on the same pitch; but since we are setting up for the final (F) phrase, the second syllable of "evil" needs to drop one more step.

Other uses of the melody

At Matins, "The Lord is God" is always sung to the melody of the troparion that follows it. Here it is in tone 1 (Sunday Matins book, page 68):

Notice that it moves smoother from the B phrase into the F (final) phrase.

Learning the melody