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Unmercenary Sacred Music

Choir Practice Resources

September 28, 2003

Parishioners Present:

Sloan, Emilie, Nick G, Mike, Marion and Cindy.

Retreat: No location selected yet.  However, choir members suggested that we select a location owned by a local (Chicagoland) Orthodox organization. 

Choir Positions: We will now be standing in a more standardized choral arrangement.  Recently the altos have located at the farthest point from the basses.  In four-part and even two-part music, these sections have much in common.  Likewise, altos and sopranos or  sopranos and tenors are often in a relationship of parallel thirds or sixths.  So from now on, relative to the choir director's position, moving from the left to the right, the order is: basses, altos, sopranos, and tenors.  This positioning is the same whether singing from the left or right kliros.  Since we are currently on the left-side, this will put the tenors closest to the iconostasis. 

New Music

We looked in detail at the same new music we worked on last week.  The entrance antiphon that was practiced last week was used today at liturgy with mild success.  However, the altos and basses still need to be able to find and maintain their part.  However, if the soprano/tenor line is maintained, since the setting has a strong melody, the entrance stills sounds good.

Next week, we will begin looking at the tone eight prokeimenon and alleluia.  In most parishes in the OCA, the prokeimenon is sung in the appointed tone, but the alleluia is sung in a fixed tone.  We will begin to return to singing the tones according their appointed tone in order to learn the relationship of a particular tone to a particular scripture text.

Lesson: Chanting Scriptural Texts

A common error maintained by many church leaders and musicians is that if you cannot sing in the choir or have only minimal singing talent, you can be a lector (a reader) who chants scriptural texts, the little hours, psalms, etc.  This is tragically untrue.  A bad singer is a bad cantor.  To chant liturgical texts even on a single tone still requires significant musical technique.  It requires good breath support, the ability to sing clearly on at least a fixed pitch, the ability to match pitch with the choir, other cantors, the priest, or the deacon.  Therefore, the choir members, while not required to do this ministry, are natural choices for this very significant liturgical function.

Before the diminution of this liturgical role in the last 100 years, the role of the cantor or reader was a role that required a considerable amount of talent and education.  The cantor in many ways set the "tone" for the choir.  The chief example of this can be found in the chanting of the stikhera at Vespers ("Lord, I Call," litija and the apostikha) and Matins (the apostikha and the Praises).  The tone of the preceding scriptural verse is destignated by its following stikheron.  Each samohlas (tones used for the stikhera in the east Slavic tradition) tone has a matching psalm tone.  The purpose of this tone is to inform the singers of the basic shape of the tone that they will soon be singing.  This becomes very important when tones are switched during the convergence of two festal cycles.

For example, on the feast of St. Gregory the Theologian (January 25), "Lord, I Call" is sung in tone four, followed by three verses sung in tone four (using the special melody called Valiant Among Martyrs), and then followed by three verses in tone one (using the special melody All Praised Martyrs).  At the end of the third verse, the cantor (or group of cantors) would sing the psalm verse in the appointed tone one melody:


This in turn helps prepare the singing of the stikheron in the related tone.  Notice that the psalm's and the stikheron's last melodies are the same.


The purpose of doing more complex tones for chanting is not because they are prettier or more entertaining, but rather they provide structure to the text, accentuate key words and phrases (if set correctly), help the choir, remove monotony while adding beauty, and elevate the liturgical experience.

But this does not mean there will be no simple or plain tones used.  Rather, I encourage every cantor to use a more structured tone when doing psalms, the epistle at the liturgy, and when doing the third and sixth hours.

Included here are two schemes for the chanting of scriptural texts and two schemes for chanting psalms and the little hours.

A simple lectionary tone. It consists of an introductory phrase, three repeating phrases, and a termination phrase. 

A Complex lectionary tone.  This is a more complex tone taken from the Ukrainian tradition.  It is essentially built from three repeating phrases.  However, phrase one changes depending on which cycle you are in.  Once the introduction is complete, phrase 1a and 1b are used alternatively.  Keep in mind that phrase two is optional and can be used or not used as needed.  So a full cycle of this tone could consist of: [introduction, 2, 3], [1a, 2, 3], [1b, 2, 3], [1a, 2, 2, 3], [1b, 3], [termination 1, 2, termination 3].  It is recommended that anyone using this tone or the previous should look carefully over the text and even mark it so that the chanting would go smoothly.

Plain chanting.  Psalms should also ideally be split up into two parts on each verse.  Whether using the simpler or the more complex of these two psalm tones, the purpose is to give a bit of shape to the text.  If one simply sings on a single tone, the psalm tends to sound like a run-on sentence.  People will generally ignore such a sound.  This tends to turn the chanting of the little hours into a thing to be ignored, a wordy drone not considered worthy of most people's attention. 

Simple:

Complex (Note: cantor can sing on either the upper {a} or lower {f} set of notes, but the lower is preferred):

Consider Psalm 16 LXX used at the third hour.  These three verses can be split up at and sung on the two sections of the tone:  The markings show when to start the cadence of the tone.  The symbol * is used to indicate when the break for the second phrase.  The symbol _ indicates where one might want to take a short breath to break up a longer phrase.

Hear a just cause, O Lord of my righteousness; _ attend to my cry!  * Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
From You let my vindication come! * Let my eyes see the right!
If You try my heart, _ if You visit me by night, _ if You test me, * You will find no wickedness in me; _ my mouth does not transgress.

How to read the epistle at the divine liturgy.  Several things occur in the chanting of the epistle that keeps even the most experienced cantor busy (and even nervous).  It is easy to mess it up.  The most troubling experience is dealing with multiple prokeimena and epistles.  At any given service there can be up to two prokeimena and three epistles. 

If the parish maintains the tradition of male readers going into the altar area for a blessing, the following instruction is observed. At the third singing of the "Holy God…," the reader goes to the south deacon's door (the reader's right side) and enters.  At "Glory…" the clergy and servers go to the high place.  Once the bishop or priest reaches there and turns to face outward, the reader takes the apostolos (the epistle book) and presents it to the presider, who blesses book and reader and then places his hand on the top of the book.  The reader kisses his hand and goes out the north deacon's door, and comes down just short of the middle of the ambon, passing between the two analogia if they are used.

The reader reads facing the altar area from somewhere before the tetrapod or center analogion while the last "Holy God" is sung.

The Deacon turns to face the Reader, lifts his Orarion and says:
Deacon: Let us attend!
Priest: +Peace be unto all.
Reader: And to your spirit.
Deacon: Wisdom!
If there is one prokeimenon If there are two prokeimena
Reader: The Prokeimenon in the _____ tone: The reader plain chants or sings the prokeimenon refrain.
People: The people sing the prokeimenon refrain
Reader: The reader plain chants the prokeimenon verse.
People:  The people sing the first prokeimenon refrain
Reader: The reader plain chants first half prokeimenon refrain.
People: The people sing the second half of the prokeimenon refrain.
Reader: The Prokeimenon in the _____ tone: The reader plain chants or sings the first prokeimenon refrain.
People: The people sing the first prokeimenon refrain
Reader: The reader plain chants the verse of the first prokeimenon.
People: The people sing the first prokeimenon refrain
Reader: The Prokeimenon in the _____ tone: The reader plain chants or sings the second prokeimenon refrain.
People: The people sing the second prokeimenon refrain.

Deacon: Wisdom!
Reader: The reading [from the (first, second) Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to the _____].
                    [from the Acts of the holy Apostles].
                    [from the (first, second, third) catholic Epistle of Saint _____].

If there is more than one reading, the reading is always announced as being from the first reading.

Deacon: Let us attend!
Reader: Brethren,...
         In those days,... (Acts);
         Beloved,... (1, 2, 3 John);
         My son, Timothy,...

If there is more than one reading, they are essentially run together.  However, when the next reading is started, it must be started with the correct introductory address (brethren, beloved, my son Timothy, etc.).

Upon the completion of the Epistle, the Priest blesses the Reader.

Priest: + Peace to you who read.
If there is one alleluia If there are two alleluia
Reader: And to your spirit.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!
People: Alleluia is sung in the tone.
Reader: The reader plain chants the first verse.
People:  Alleluia is sung in the tone.
Reader: The reader plain chants the second verse.
People: Alleluia is sung in the tone.
Reader: And to your spirit.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia! The reader plain chants the first verse of the first alleluia immediately!
People: Alleluia is sung in the tone of the first alleluia.
Reader: The reader plain chants the second verse of the first alleluia.
People: Alleluia is sung in the tone of the first alleluia.
Reader: In the _____ tone: The reader plain chants the first refrain of the second alleluia.
People: Alleluia is sung in the tone of the second alleluia.

A rule to keep in mind on any combination of prokeimena and alleluia.  The Reader chants a total of three times, the people chant a total of three times, and that's it!

EXAMPLES

The Deacon turns to face the Reader, lifts his Orarion and says:
Deacon: Let us attend!
Priest: +Peace be unto all.
Reader: And to your spirit.
Deacon: Wisdom!
Sunday, Tone 1. 
Reading from Corinthians 4:9-16
The Sunday before The Exultation of the Cross
and Tone 3.
Readings from Galatians 6:11-18
and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Reader: The Prokeimenon in the first tone: Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us as we have set our hope on You.
People: Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us as we have set our hope on You.
Reader: Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the just.
People: Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us as we have set our hope on You.
Reader: Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us
People: as we have set our hope on You.
Reader: The Prokeimenon in the sixth tone: O Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance
People: O Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance.
Reader: To You, O Lord, will I call.  O my God, be not silent to me!
People: O Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance.
Reader: The Prokeimenon in the third tone: Sing praises to our God, sing praises.  Sing praises to our King, sing praises. 
People: Sing praises to our God, sing praises.  Sing praises to our King, sing praises.
Deacon: Wisdom! Deacon: Wisdom!
Reader: The reading from the first Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. Reader: The reading from the Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to the Galatians.
Deacon: Let us attend! Deacon: Let us attend!
Brethren: God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ's account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world's rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment. I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you, be imitators of me. Brethren: See with what large letters I am writing to you in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good appearance in the flesh who are trying to compel you to have yourselves circumcised, only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those having themselves circumcised observe the law themselves; they only want you to be circumcised so that they may boast of your flesh. But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. 
Brethren, I am reminding you of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand.  Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.  For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believe
Priest: + Peace to you who read. Priest: + Peace to you who read.
Reader: And to your spirit.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia
People: Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.
Reader: God gives vengeance to me, and subdues people under me.
People:  Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.
Reader: He magnifies the salvation of the king, and deals mercifully with His Christ, with David and His seed forever.
People: Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.
Reader: And to your spirit.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  I have exalted one chosen out of My people.
People: Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.
Reader: For My hand shall defend him and My arm will strengthen him.
People: Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.
Reader: In the third tone: In You, O Lord, have I placed my hope; let me not be put to shame.
People: Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.



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