Byzantine Chants for Pentecost and St. Kassiani

Here’s the St. Kassiani Byzantine Choir of All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery. While it’s a bit lengthy, I’m always interested in women singing Byzantine chant. It is So typically seen as the province of male chanters. Listen to a little or a lot. Happy Pentecost for the West - for the East, next week! The Holy Spirit listeth when and where it will.

This choir was formed by the nuns of All Saints Monastery, who recognized the limited opportunities for skilled women chanters to participate in regular Byzantine liturgies. I hope you enjoy their clear tone.

Who is St. Kassiani (also known as St. Kassia)? She is the earliest women hymnographer and melodist whose works are both still extant and able to be interpreted by modern performers.  Born into a wealthy family in Constantinople, she was part of the “bride parade” to find a wife for the young emperor Theophilos the Iconoclast. While he was smitten by her good looks, her clever response to a remark of his put him off and he chose anot…

Agnus Dei by Ivo Antognini

Here's a lovely contemporary Agnus Dei by the Italian Swiss composer Ivo Antognini. Performed by the Girls' Choir of the Koper Music School in Slovenia, it is very quiet at the opening, so don't hesitate to turn up the volume on your device.
You can learn more about Antognini from his website. Interestingly, he came to choral composing via a children's choir amd consequently has written a great deal of music for treble voices.

My apologies for the gap in posting, but I was out in the great state of California, eating, drinking, mingling, and having the pleasure of some time with composer Frank La Rocca (more to come on that in the future).

Gregorian Chant from Le Barroux

From a traditional Benedictine monastery in France

Alléluia, Potestus ejus sung by the choir of the Benedictine monastery of Le Barroux with a excellent sense of movement (just as one would expect)! While this is from the Feast of Christ the King, it seems apt at any moment in turbulent times.

Want to know more about the Abbaye de Barroux, visit their excellent website, if a visit to France isn’t in the offing. I had some problems navigating the English version of the site, so I enjoyed improving my French.

Translation: His power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away, and his kingdom shall not be destroyed.

Divna and the Melodia Choir

Agni Partene is one of the most loved Orthodox hymns, despite its recent origins in 20th century Greece. I’ve sung it in English and Greek; it’s also popular in a number of Slavic versions. Some sing it fast and some sing it slowly. The simple melody combines with praises to the Virgin and the repeated refrain: “Rejoice, Thou Unwedded Bride.”

The text uses phrases drawn from numerous hymns and odes to the Virgin. The melody is more like a Greek folk tune than Byzantine chant - and that gives it immediate accessibility. The singer here is Divna Ljubojevic, a Serbian singer with a style so ardent that you’ll want to hear more of her work with her Melodi choir. She tours in Europe and divides her time between Paris and Belgrade. Divna and Melodi do have an official YouTube channel and you’ll want in it your favorites.

The composer was a Greek presbyter who had a singularly difficult life. St. Nectarios of Aegina (1846-1920) was born to poor parents in what is now Istanbul. After completi…

Peter Kwasniewski Premiere in Denver, Colorado And a Heartening Anthem

Professor, author, and composer Peter Kwasniewski of Wyoming College has some works, including a new Mass setting that will premiere at the end of this month (April 2018) in Denver, Colorado. You can find out more about the schedule at The New Liturgical Movement website, so head over there if you’re anywhere nearby.

While I was wandering around Kwasniewski’s YouTube Channel, I enjoyed the following. I hope you will too - and you can sing along! There are just enough interesting harmonic turns to keep you on your toes.

The Lord Is Risen Indeed by William Billings

Often called “the father of American choral music,” William Billings lived and worked in Boston from 1746-1800. He variously supported himself as a tanner and a singing school teacher, never with great success. However, he left a legacy of shape-note works that are sung to this day. The Easter Anthem is challenging and usually only sung at large conventions where folks really let it rip! It is rousing, lively, and full of Easter spirit.
This performance by His Majesties Clerkes is combined with a slide show of Russian Orthodox icons. I’m not quite sure what Billings would have thought. The anthem is 236 in the Sacred Harp. What makes this performance stand out is the combination of professional-quality voices (using appropriate straight tone) with a spirited tempo.

Several recordings I’ve reviewed of this anthem take it way too slowly and attempt to turn it into respectable church music. Remember that Billings and his contemporaries composed the music that the German-educated reformer…

Christ is Risen! A Serbian Festival of Rejoicing

I'm going to violate my "a cappella" rule for this splendid piece on Bright Monday. It's a pleasure to listen and a delight to watch.
I live and breathe for the day when we can somehow celebrate Easter on the same Sunday. In the meantime, I celebrate twice! This is the season of rejoicing - not just for us, but for all of creation!

Here are the lyrics (taken from YouTube):

People rejoice, all nations listen:
Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!Dance all ye stars and sing all ye mountains:Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Whisper ye woods and blow all ye winds:Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!O seas proclaim and roar all ye beasts:Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
Buzz all ye bees and sing all ye birds:Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!O little lambs rejoice and be merry:Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!

Nightengales joyous, lending your song:Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!Ring, O ye bells, let everyone hear:Christ God is risen! Let us rejoice!
All angels…