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Saturday, October 1, 2011

On the diversity of the Byzantine rite

Here are two Youtube videos which are fascinating to play sequentially.  Both are liturgical settings of the Great Doxology for the Byzantine rite, the prayer well-known in the West which begins "Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis".  Besides being one of the most beautiful prayers ever written, the musical settings are some of the finest in the world.  I wanted to show both of these because they demonstrate the diversity within the Byzantine rite.

The first video is a setting by a Bulgarian composer, Apostol Nikolaev-Strumsky, sung by the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir.  This is a setting that would sung in many Slavic churches - I was stunned with its beauty when the choir sang it during the incensing of the iconostasis and the rest of the temple at the beginning of Liturgy one Sunday morning at St. Constantine's Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Minneapolis.  I tracked down the choir director, Yuri, at Vespers at a nearby Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic church later that week in order to find out what it was:

The Byzantine churches in the Middle East that have less of a Slavic flavor, however, have very different musical traditions, which are no less haunting in their beauty.  Melkite and Antiochian churches and churches in the Alexandrian Patriarchate take their traditions more directly from Greece, the heart and mother of Orthodoxy in the East (with all due respect to Moscow the "Third Rome").  Here is the same liturgical text, in Greek tones, sung by Kyrios George Papanikolaos:

Have a blessed feast of the Pokrova, the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos, and also a blessed feast of the glory of the West, St. Therese the Little Flower!

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