Byzantine Choir of Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh performs

12 02 2008

It seems to me that the only way to go is to continue to create psaltic community; it’s the way that comes to mind to express it at this point. This simply means that “those who have ears to hear” continue to work in their corner of the world. I think one such person is Dr Nicholas Giannoukakis, the protopsaltes of the metropolis of Pittsburgh and founder and principal of the American Society of Byzantine Music and Hymnology. After a successful International Conference in Athens this past September, he organized a concert to be held at a Roman Catholic University in Naples, Florida (Roman Catholic, imagine that; I don’t think there’s ever been a visiting choir at Holy Cross!). It just now came to my attention. The reviews I’ve read have been glowing. I’m attaching the press release below.

Maybe Dr Nick can offer more background and experiences from the event?

Ave Maria University Hosts Renowned Byzantine Choir

NAPLES, FL — November 2007 — The Byzantine Choir of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh will perform a lecture and concert at 3 p.m. on Saturday, January 19, 2008 at the Oratory of Ave Maria University (AMU). The department of classics and early Christian Literature is sponsoring the performance and tickets are $10 for the public and free to AMU students.

The conert will feature choral singing, reflecting the traditions and poetry from ancient Greek times through the revolutions of the 12th through 16th centuries. The choir will also perform English and French renditions of well-known hymns that evolved from the Hellenic and Byzantine traditions. Guest soloists will be George Hatzichronoglou, Archon Hymnodist of the Great Christ from Greece, and Professor Constantin Lagouros, Archon Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada), two of the most reknowned Byzantine chanters worldwide.

The choir, under the direction of Dr. Nicholas Giannoukakis, performs the Byzantine hymnography in a way that reflects the constants of symmetry and beauty of form found with the music. The pieces performed are meant to represent the living art — as birth, death and resurrection — and modern-day tradition of the Orthodox Church.

The Byzantine Choir will also chant the Divine Liturgy at 8:20 a.m. and will perform a medley of sacred and secular songs at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 20, 2008 at Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church, 7100 Airport-Pulling Rd., Naples, Fla.

You can download Dr. Niko’s programme notes here.

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12 02 2008
kt

With Dr Niko’s permission, here is a letter of congratulations for all to see from the professor and chairman of the Department of Classics and Early Christian Literature at Ave Maria:

Dr. Nicholas Giannoukakis
Director, Byzantine Choir of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA
26 January 2008

Dear Nick,

Allow me to take this opportunity formally to thank and commend you and the choir members and distinguished soloists you brought to Naples for the extraordinary series of events last week. In the space of a weekend the choir taught and inspired our community and gave glory to God in a special way, touching our minds, spirits, and hearts.

The lecture-concert, ìThe Living Tradition of Byzantine Hymnography and Music,î presented at Ave Maria University on Saturday under sponsorship of the Department of Classics and Early Christian Literature fittingly combined sound scholarship and gifted art. Several hundred university students, faculty, and guests not only gained knowledge of the rich history and structure of Byzantine sacred music, but experienced it authentically by some of its most accomplished practitioners. I have received words of praise for the choir from those who attended, from the university president to first-year students. A nun, full of enthusiasm, wrote me saying, ìWhat I heard was wonderful. I really enjoyed the way the quartet could do harmony on the spot and together! and the fellow from Athens blew me OUT OF THE WATER! What a gift. The person sitting next to me was brought to tears.î It is no small matter that that lecture-concert was the first public event in Ave Maria Universityís new Oratory. As a fellow Orthodox Christian and a faculty member of Ave Maria I was gratified to witness the audienceís new-found interest in Orthodox doctrine and worship. Genuine good will was generated at this new Roman Catholic university dedicated to a living Christian tradition.

The faithful of Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church filled the church as the choir chanted Orthros and Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning in the traditional antiphonal manner. All agreed that the beauty and dignity in right worship of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was never better realized at St. Katherineís.

Then, when the choir could with all justification have considered its mission accomplished, you presented a musical journey through Asia Minor in the St. Katherine Social Hall on Sunday night to a full audience. The choir was able to touch many with vivid recounting through Tragoudia Mikras Asias and a poetic narrative of the atrocities committed against Greeks and the Orthodox under the Islamic regime. I watched the faces of people in the audience relive what parents and grandparents had told and sung to them. The program, however, made it possible for people of any ethnic background (and the event was sponsored by the pan-Orthodox consortium churches in Naples) to reflect on the importance of human freedom, particularly as it is enjoyed in democracy, a legacy of Greek civilization.

Nick, as I mentioned that night when introducing you to the audience, the Byzantine Choir of Pittsburgh enriches your home diocese and venues worldwide, wherever the choir travels. I know you all have made many abiding friends here at Ave Maria University and Saint Katherineís Church. Thank you for sharing your talents, and they include, beyond the music, the incredible facility of organization and detail management, as was evident from the time we started planning for those events some eighteen months ago.

Your devoted colleague and friend in Christ our Lord and Neighbor,

Daniel Nodes
Professor and Chairman, Department of Classics and Early Christian Literature

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