Fun things from the Synaxarion…

From yesterday’s Synaxarion reading:

As Bishop of Antioch, Ignatius governed the Church of God as a good shepherd and was the first to introduce antiphonal chanting in the Church, in which two choirs alternate the chanting. This manner of chanting was revealed to St. Ignatius by the angels in heaven.

My hope is to eventually have antiphonal choirs at my parish. I keep being told “Nobody does that,” but there seems to be a vehemence to that insistence, so that it comes across as though it actually means, “That’s too much trouble, so don’t even talk about it.” I can point out places in our rubrics where a left choir and right choir are assumed, and I certainly saw plenty of counterexamples in Greece, so it’s not that “nobody” does it, it’s that by and large it isn’t done here. Well, why not? Because the Orthodox Christians who came here weren’t exactly overflowing with psaltai and that was a way they could consolidate, and so when converts started coming, that particular tradition just wasn’t there to pass on anymore? I don’t know, but that seems like a possibility.

Anyway, what I find fascinating is that there was at least a time when antiphonal choirs were such a distinctive part of Christian liturgy that it was important that it be acknowledged within the Liturgy itself whence it came. (And yes, I’m aware that there are a handful of saints credited with its implementation, which is also fascinating.) The next time somebody tells me, “Nobody does that,” I’m going to pull out the Prologue and show them the reading for 20 December.


6 Responses to “Fun things from the Synaxarion…”

  1. 1 Fr. Andrew 21 December 2009 at 11:44 am

    It’s done here and there, though mainly just with two small cadres of chanters.

    St. Nektarios in Charlotte actually has two choirs that sing antiphonally, one of women and the other of men. (More here.)

    • 2 Richard Barrett 23 December 2009 at 10:32 pm

      Yes, well, they also have Fr. Seraphim Dedes.

      Women and men singing as the left and right choirs is what makes the most sense to me, and is what I would likely try to do.

  2. 3 Anna 21 December 2009 at 11:52 am

    When you move in to a new apartment and you don’t have much money, you furnish your new home with pieces that were cheap or second-hand. A few years down the road, those pieces that were meant to be there “temporarily” are still there…

  3. 4 mellehcimb 28 January 2010 at 1:42 am

    They used to have two choirs at St Vladimir’s Seminary. They stopped when the new choir director got hired. (Let’s just say she’s no David Drillock, and no Dn Kevin Smith either–and leave it at that.) I dearly hope they will return to antiphonal singing there–it’s simply not the same without it.

    I love your blog–keep up the good work.

    • 5 Richard Barrett 28 January 2010 at 5:14 am

      You’re too kind!

      I met the current person a couple of summers ago. She seemed nice enough, but what I heard from the broadcast of their contribution to the EP’s visit didn’t exactly inspire me. I will admit to having liked Dn. Kevin very much, however, even if we didn’t agree on everything musically, so she has big shoes to fill in my estimation anyway. That she’s eliminated antiphonal singing doesn’t make me happy — it was nice to be able to point to a more-or-less-mainstream Orthodox institution and say, “See? They do it!”

  4. 6 Paul Roufail 14 November 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Antiphonal chanting has been used and still being used in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, particularly during the doxologies of midnight praises. I beleive it is attested to by St. Jerome when visited the monasteries of Egypt during the fifth century.

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