Letter in response to Axion Estin Symposium

11 02 2008

Well, it didn’t take long to get a response from Mr Tripoulas’ commentary regarding the Axion Estin Symposium. The response speaks for itself. I suppose this is the argument for use of the organ in worship, but that’s another issue.

It just seems to me a good summary of the uneducated understanding most, at least in the GOA, have of the psaltic art. It is nothing more than an affront to the great tradition of mixed choirs imported from Greece in the 1940s. How to help them understand there really is a great tradition, a sanctified one, which is our great inheritance. Anyway… Here’s the letter:

The National Herald: 8 Feb 2008

Choirs Play an Important Role in Preserving Our Legacy

To The Editor:

As a member of the Choir of Saint Paraskevi Church in Greenlawn, New York and the mother of the church organist, I would like to respond to Christopher Tripoulas’ commentary on Byzantine Chant in the National Herald’s February 2 edition.

I most certainly agree that the need to preserve our glorious legacy is an urgent one, and it is most encouraging that the Axion Estin Foundation has been established with this goal and has been so successful. I also agree that it is even more urgent to encourage our boys and girls to participate in activities which will ensure that this legacy lives on for generations to come.

This goal is, and has been, a priority of the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Musicians for quite some time. Dr. Vicki Pappas, chairman of the Forum, recently informed us that the Forum “approved a proposal from chanters to establish a Byzantine Music Chanter Training Initiative, a coordinating body within the National Forum to tie together the various schools of Byzantine Chant that are emerging in the Metropolises.”

The establishment of junior choirs and the encouragement of our youth have also been ongoing endeavors of the Forum, especially considering the language and inter-faith marriage challenges we are facing today.

It is also important to note (no pun intended) that, realistically, church choirs do have an important role to play in preserving this legacy and teaching our children church hymns and their meanings. Scholarships are available for study in religious music and liturgy. There are many examples of the continuing establishment of Byzantine choirs, including right here on Long Island.

The first organ was the invention of Ktesibios, a Greek engineer working in Alexandria during the 3rd Century BC. We also know that organs were an ancient Byzantine tool which flourished during the Byzantine Empire, in which Constantinople was the source of the greatest organs. Organs are also mentioned in the ancient proverbs and psalms about instruments.

Unfortunately, self-centered people who think they are another Maria Callas do exist, but they are found everywhere – in religious, academic and other secular circles, as well.

At Saint Paraskevi, we have a priest, a chanter and a choir director who are encouraging and supportive, and who teach. Music is divinely inspired, designed to glorify God and lead people to experience God. We must do whatever we can to ensure that this glorious legacy of ours continues.
As Saint Basil the Great said, “Psalmody – bringing about choral singing, a bond as it were, toward unity and joining people into a harmonious union of one choir – produces also the greatest of blessings: love.”

Eriphili Fay Pavlidis
Smithtown, New York

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