Music from the Monks of Valaam

This Church Slavonic version of Agni Parthenon (O Virgin Pure) is interesting. Four singers, one of whom never moves his mouth (so who knows if he’s singing at all, even the ison). What's Valaam? An island in the northwestern part of Russia and an ancient monastery. The island in Lake Lagoda has bounced back and forth between Finland and Russia. The chant is peculiar to the place, much simpler than Byzantine chant with strong resemblance to Znammeny (the Russian chant that preceded the introduction of polyphonic chant). You can learn more about Valaam and its history on Wikipedia or just enjoy the pictures on the Russian website. Monasteries are very important in the Orthodox world as points of pilgrimage and as the home of monks whom the laity respect as spiritual advisors.

This is a hymn beloved throughout the Orthodox world. Sing it to a room of Greeks and several will weep. Why? I think it's the tune, based on Greek folk style. It sounds like home, like a song about your mother (the Virgin) should sound. Secondly, the text is a wonderful hodge-podge of phrases about the Theotokos from the Akathist and various canons.

I'm back from my time in Vermont at Sonata piano workshop and ready to find you lots more music. Stay in touch and enjoy the post-Labor Day world. Oh, there's still more delights ahead!


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