The Tone 4 Troparion Melody

This prostopinije melody is used to sing troparia in tone 4. (Kontakia in Tone 4 have their own melody.) This article will show you how to sing hymns to the Tone 4 troparion melody.

Please note: This article 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 4 troparion which is sung most frequently is the troparion of the Resurrection in tone 4, which is sung every eighth Sunday throughout the year as part of the cycle of eight tones. It can be found on page 141 in our Divine Liturgies book. This troparion should be memorized.

Tone 1 Sunday troparion

listen

The entire melody begins and ends on the key pitch, do, and does not touch on this note anywhere in between. Nevertheless, this use of do gives the Tone 4 melody a great deal of stability and a sense of openness; Tone 4 is a favored choice for troparia on feast-days and other joyful occasions.

The structure of the melody

The melody consists of two basic repeating phrases (A and B) and a concluding phrase (F):

Let's look at these three phrases.

The A phrase

The first time the A phrase is sung (at the beginning of the troparion), is begins with a five node intonation, do - re - mi - fa - so, which firmly establishes the major key "feel" of the melody.:

This is following by a reciting tone, a single preparatory note, and a cadence consisting of three half notes. (See the discussion of the kontakion melody in Tone 3 if you are not familiar with these terms).

When the A phrase is repeated, it begins not on do, but on mi:

Now look at each of the phrases labeled A in the Tone 1 Sunday troparion above, and verify that they all follow this pattern. It may look like the phrase "Death is despoiled" changes the pattern, but is it really just a "short form" of the A melody that is sometimes used. (Compare "Death is despoiled" to "resurrection" in the first line.)

The B phrase

The A phase alway ends on mi, which is then "bracketed" by the notes re and fa that form the opening of the B phrase of the troparion melody:

After the intonation and reciting tone, the B phrase has two preparatory notes and a three-note cadence:

It always ends on mi, the same note that will begins the A phrase. So the A and B melodies lead into each other smoothly.

Find the phrases labeled B in the Tone 4 Sunday troparion, and sing the A and B phrases in order. (Skip the final or F phrase for now.)

The F phrase

The A and B phrases of the Tone 4 troparion melody form a pair like the two parts of the usual psalm tone. The A normally begins a thought, and the B phrase concludes it or answers it. But eventually we come to the ending phrase (F) of the troparion:

This phrase has no intonation; it always starts on so (even if only for one note), and ends with 7 note pattern consisting of four quarter notes and three half notes. (This, too, should be familiar from the Tone 3 troparion melody; the rhythm is the same even if the pitches are different.

Here are some sample ending phrases for troparia in Tone 4:

Now go back and sing the entire Sunday troparion in Tone 4, watching for the three phrases and how the music flows from one to another. Remember that those in the congregation who know the troparion melodies will be waiting (even if they don't realize it!) for you to sing the final phrase. So sing the beginning of the F phrase especially clearly and strongly.

Other examples

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

"Variants" of the melody

Especially because the much-loved Christmas troparion is sung to this melody, you will sometimes hear it sung differently, and those differences may lead even to arguments about what the "real" version of the melody is.

Here is the troparion of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas), in tone 4:


Listen

And here is the way it is sometimes sung:

There are two basic differences: the intonations to each phrase are shortened, or left out entirely, and the pitch is often higher. The simplest explanation is that this is tenor harmony for the Christmas troparion which (because high notes stand out) came to be heard as a melody of its own.

As the cantor leading a service, you should always be singing the melody. But if other cantors or faithful sing harmonies such as this one, it should be no cause for argument; such improvised harmonization is an important part of our singing tradition.

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. If there are two final hymns, "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit" is sung before the first one, and " now and ever and forever. Amen." is sung before the second one. 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.

Because the Divine Liturgies book only includes Glory, now and ever for singing with kontakia, and Tone 4 kontakia use a different melody, you have will normally sing these melodies only at Vespers or Matins. They are found in the MCI Cantor Verses book, in the Tone 4 section under "Resurrection Tone." Before a single ending troparion in Tone 4, we would sing:

example

If the next-to-last troparion is in Tone 4, then immediately before it we sing:

example

If there are two final troparion and the last one is in Tone 4, we sing:

example

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.

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 4 (Sunday Matins book, page 68):

Because Tone 4 is used for a number of feast day troparia, and also for special services such as molebens, this version of "The Lord is God" is sung more than any other.

Learning the melody