Recommended Byzantine Recordings—A Primer

With an increasing volume of recordings, particularly in English, purporting to present Byzantine Liturgical Chant, it is often difficult for the listener, particularly the listener not schooled in classical Byzantine style to find and distinguish good recordings that can present the listener with an authentic style of music. The listener is often left with subjective criterion of what he/she "likes" vs. "dislikes" as opposed to what actually constitutes authentic Orthodox liturgical music. Adding to this is the large number of English choirs, particularly in the United States that perform in a style that is highly westernized and without knowledge of the nuances of Byzantine notation. This primer of recommended recorded materials will hopefully serve as a guide to very good materials that will help the inexperienced listener gain a better appreciation for this most sacred art.

CD's in Greek

1. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Greek Byzantine Choir, directed by Lycourgos Angelopoulos. This lovely CD, chanted in Greek, is essential to understanding how the Divine Liturgy is chanted. Many of the same features in our liturgies appear in this CD, such as the Typica and Beatitudes with Sunday verses, and Prokeimonon/Alleluiarion now familiar to our traditionalist parishioners in HOCNA. A classic recording from one of the top extant Byzantine choirs under Lycorgos Angelopoulos, the power, beauty, and reverence of Byzantine music is clearly conveyed in this extraordinary recording. This CD (and pretty much anything from this choir) is an exemplar par excellence of anyone wanting to understand, chant, or appreciate fine Byzantine chant.

2. Recordings of Holy Monday, Holy Saturday and Holy Pascha by the Fathers of the Vatopedi Monastery. These recordings are in a highly Byzantine style, good intervals, good ornamentation, and very conservative ison practices. A good example of monastic chanting style.

3. Romeiko Ensemble, directed by Dr. Giorgios Bilalis; very similar schooling and style to the above

a. From Adam to Joseph
b. Prince of Peace
c. Behold He Cometh at Midnight
d. Divine Liturgy (Greek/English); highly recommended.

CD's in English

1. Divine Liturgy in English by Cappella Romana, directed by Dr. Alexander Lingas. This CD really can be promoted as a companion to the Greek Byzantine Choir's Liturgy album, only in English. Although the translations could be regarded as questionable by traditionalists, the musical content and style of the choir is outstanding and a par exemplar of how the Liturgy should sound in English. The Byzantine chant performance is based on sound musicology, principally the work of John Michael Boyer (Protopsaltes of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco). Of note is how seamlessly the ancient arrangements by famous Byzantine composer/arrangers fit into Boyer's contemporary arrangements of the balance of this sung service. American listeners may have a start at a few elements of the translation, such as "Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal" in the Trisagion, but the usage differences are few and minor. The service is presented in its entirety, including many of the litanies between the Gospel and Great Entrance that are cut from most New Calendar Greek liturgies. The highlight of the CD is the Sunday Communion Hymn of St. John Koukouzelis, familiar to many of the Portland Cathedral parishioners. This recording will go down as a monument of Byzantine musicology, and something every lover of Byzantine chant will want to listen to many times.

2.The Great Doxologies in the Eight Modes, by the Mt. Lebanon Choir. This is an excellent CD, recently released, of the Great Doxology of Matins (IN ENGLISH!)recorded in all eight modes. With the occassional harmonic ison, the choir presents in a very Byzantine melodic style. Especially liked on this CD is the opening track of an English adaption of the Slow Doxology composed by Iakovos the Protopsaltis.

3. St Nectarios of Pentopolis, O Taste and See Hymns from the Presanctified Liturgy by the Now are the Prophecies Fulfilled Byzantine Choir of Odigitria, directed by Peter Egelhary. With the exception of the excessive reverberation in the final mix, these 3 CD's in English are a pleasant surprise and present these beautiful hymns in a very traditional Byzantine style.