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One new recording and one that’s just new to me

One nice thing about listening to Ancient Faith Music is that it can bring to my attention recordings of international origin of which I would otherwise have had no knowledge. A terrific example is My Soul, Rise Up! put out by a self-described “ensemble of folklore spiritual music” called The Svetilen Ensemble. Last week I turned on AFM and heard this joyful, full-throated, not careful, and stunning singing, and I had to know where it came from. Yesterday the CD arrived, and the whole thing is pretty much exactly like the excerpt I heard. It’s not all liturgical music; some of the pieces are folk part-songs (called kanty, so far as I can tell — somebody can correct me if I’m wrong) on Christian themes but which are paraliturgical. One thing the recording really does right is that it recognizes the link between folk culture and liturgical singing, and it emphasizes that folk culture shares a lot of common elements across national boundaries. Many of the kanty sound like American Sacred Harp hymns which just happen to not be in English, for example. Anyway — time does not permit a full review at this time, but this is a recording well worth a listen. Some excerpts may be found at the link provided above.

A brand-new recording is The Great Doxologies in the Eight Modes by the Mount Lebanon Choir. Now that we have a couple of decent (and up) recordings of the Divine Liturgy in English, the ensembles active in this kind of thing are going to start looking for other things to record, so here we are. The Great Doxologies is good for the reasons the Mt. Lebanon Choir’s The Divine Liturgy of the Holy Orthodox Church of Antioch is good and kinda, er, quirky for the reasons their Divine Liturgy is quirky. You’ve got authentic chants by people who know what they’re doing, with a high level of musicianship all around, to say nothing of Old Country legitimacy. This also has the extra value of being the only recording of its kind in English so far. On the other hand, the English diction, while better than a recording of me chanting in Arabic would be, is clearly not at a native level. This is okay with me, but it will make it a tough sell with some of the folks whom this recording is intended to help win over to Byzantine chant. Additionally, as with The Divine Liturgy, it sounds like an organ is used to shore up the ison (although an organist is not credited in the notes), and that just sounds not quite right. Still, where the matter of good recordings of Byzantine chant in English is concerned, more is more, I think, and hopefully all of these efforts combined will bear good fruit down the road.

If anybody’s taking requests, I’d love to see some festal Vespers or Matins recordings. “O Lord I have cried” in all eight modes, maybe. A recording of Holy Week music, of course, would also be a great thing, as would the Great Supplicatory Canon. Perhaps also examples of how some of the offices like Small Compline, First Hour, etc. can be sung if desired.

Maybe we need a few more ensembles specializing in doing this stuff well, too. More is more where this is concerned, as I said.

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3 Responses to “One new recording and one that’s just new to me”


  1. 1 fatherjamesearly 23 January 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Richard, The Greek-Canadian chanter Vassilis Hadzinicolaou (sp?) has recorded the complete Octoechos portion of Vespers in all 8 tones, including (of course)”Oh Lord I have cried.” Trouble is, you have to buy 4 CD’s to get it all, and the total cost is $60 (or at least it was about 4 years or so ago–it may be more now).

    I’m looking forward to getting and listening to the Great Doxology CD. I very much enjoyed the Mt. Lebaon choir’s recording of the Divine Liturgy. The accents make me smile when I listen to it. The epistle chanting in that recording is nothing less than heavenly.

  2. 2 Richard Barrett 23 January 2009 at 1:50 pm

    I’m semi-aware of Hadjinicolaou, but not of the Vespers recording. Nice to know about!


  1. 1 The Voice of the Lord: Selected Hymns from the Feast of Theophany « Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist Trackback on 20 May 2009 at 4:02 pm

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