By the Waters of Babylon - Psalm 136

This psalm is part of Matins in the 3 Sundays preceding Orthodox Great Lent. It is also often used during Lent at the Divine Liturgy during the priest's Communion. The exile of the Jews in Babylon is taken to reflect the exile of the human race from Paradise after the Fall of Adam and Eve. For Russians during the long years of Soviet domination, it was also felt deeply as reflecting their own exile from their homeland.

"By the Waters of Babylon" is a deeply moving piece, whatever your own context might be. I'm happy to find this performance in English, even if people are occasionally inclined to think music with words they don't understand is more "mystical."

The performance above is of the Kievan chant in a 4-part setting. It is often sung in a Znammeny chant version. If you are interested in seeing (and perhaps using) the piece with your own ensemble, you can find it in SATB, TTB, and SSA arrangements at the website of Orthodox Russian Music. This si…

Sacred Harp Singing from the Great Smoky Mountains

This is a recording made by some Primitive Baptist young people in the church at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sacred Harp (also known as "shape-note") singing originated in England and the United States in the 18th century. The English style is called "West Gallery" music from the place in the church where the loft was located. In recent years, singers have revived the tradition in English and now there is a lively interchange of information and singers back and forth across the Atlantic.

To be honest, this music lies close to my heart. My paternal grandparents came from the mountains and among their possessions was an old "Christian Harmony." However, many, many people without my personal musical inheritance love this music. 

Sacred harp music is sung with a straight tone and the melody is always in the tenor line, often doubled an octave higher. It is modal and features open fifths and octaves. Some of the best-known early com…

Documentary on Samuel Barber

What's Barber doing here?

This came to my attention from a colleagues at the Church Music Association of America. It qualifies for Sacred Miscellany because the background music for the trailer is the choral version of the Adagio for Strings. This was the first piece I ever heard by Barber when I was about 11 years old. I didn't hear the choral arrangement until years later. So there's the a cappella link.

Why not go over and learn about the film? Remind yourself of Barber and his role in 20th century American music. You can rent or purchase the documentary through various outlets. Here's the link to the film:

Samuel Barber: Absolute Beauty

And here's a YouTube of the Agnus Dei:

Palestrina’s Inimitable “Sicut Cervus”

There are about a zillion recordings of this motet - all adult male, boys and men, mixed voices. Why this one? I liked the tempo. One of my mottoes is “Keep it moving!”

Here's the translation because it's nice to know what you're listening to:

Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum, 
ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus. 
Sitivit anima mea ad Deum fortem vivum: 
quando veniam et apparebo ante faciem Dei? 
Fuerunt mihi lacrymae meae panes die ac nocte, 
dum dicitur mihi quotidie: 
Ubi est Deus tuus? 

As the hart longs for the water springs, 
So longs my soul for thee, O God. 
My soul has thirsted for the living God: 
When shall I come and appear before the face of my God? 
My tears have been my bread by day and by night, 
While it is said to me daily: 
Where is your God?

Chant by Carthursian Nuns

Great visuals accompanying the chant from this Spanish monastery of Carthusian nuns. The music starts around 1:20, if you're impatient. The strict rule and hermetic life of the Carthusians makes the some of the other contemplative orders look like slackers. In some ways, it is reminiscent of the very limited cenobitic life of many monasteries on Mount Athos.

One of the most interesting points about St. Bruno's order is that has never needed reform. Another is the privilege at the time of the Council of Trent that allowed them to retain their own rite because of the age of their order. (This was also true of Dominicans, Carmelites, and Franciscans, IIRC.)

Sacred Miscellany Reborn - A Cappella and Sacred Music

Sacred Miscellany Reborn Once upon a time, there was a blog called "Sacred Miscellany." I was the author and I loved it. And then one day, it was time for something new. And now it's time for something old and new. I have one great love - a cappella sacred music.  And that love demands to be shared! ALL a cappella sacred music.
Byzantine, Latin, Southern, Georgian (the country), Corsican, Russian, etc.
 Old and new.
Anonymous and composed.
Chant and polyphony.
Just voices and just sacred. My own musical history includes Russian polyphony and Western Gergorian chant and polyphony. I've been a singer, a director, an arranger, and an occasional composer.
My goal is similar to the old Sacred Miscellany: to capture, share, and comment on the wondrous variety of music out there through YouTube links, Sound Cloud, interviews, and links to fascinating places.

I hope you'll join my for the journey!

Everything A Cappella and Sacred - Cantique de Zacharie

This is my first post using Open Live Writer for this new Sacred Miscellany. And thus it is somewhat of a test. Here’s a bit of chant from France as a lovely test:

You don’t have to wait until evening to listen to this recording of Song of Simeon sung by the Fraternites de Jerusalem!