About the Program in general
- By simple steps we will learn the basics of Byzantine chant. The school trains beginners in: a) the theory of Byzantine music b) its practical application, and c) the correct behavior in kliros
- The training program is consisted of several consequential stages of approximately 7-8 months.
- At the end of the school year there will be examination for the evaluating of student progress
What will we teach?
- We will start with the “alphabet” of Byzantine Music, and that is the byzantine music notation. Before we learn how to chant hymns, we will be doing many exercises in order to practice and learn the music notation, before we move to some basic liturgical songs. We will progressively teach all the modes of the Music.
- The second step is the study of more complex liturgical pieces (Cherubic hymns, Koinonika), and changing hymns like heirmoi instead of Axion estin, apolytikia and kondakia of the yearly cycle.
- Although the majority of studets will probably set themselves as a goal of mastering hymns for participation in Sunday liturgy, the real chanter must be versatile it the entire liturgical cycle. In the third teaching unit we will learn hymns of the octoechos, applicable on the vespers and matins.
- The fourth level implies the learning of all standard parts of the vespers and the matins, which make a worship complete, and that are not covered by the octoechos.
- The fifth and highest course is intended for those who want to chant on long night vigils, oror to master certain compositions of the great composers of the Orthodox Church.
- we teach The Typikon (the order of the hymns during the Services)
- The unrecorded Typikon (άγραφον Τυπικόν).
- Details of the Typikon that we cannot find recorded in books because they were verbally transmitted from one generation to the otherThe difference between singing in the Western musical tradition and chanting in the Byzantine musical tradition
- Church Slavonic and Greek reading
Why are Church Slavonic and Greek important to us?
Liturgical language of our church is the Church Slavonic. Although there are various translations into Serbian spoken language in use, it is impossible to organize liturgical cycle without the Church Slavonic.
Byzantine himnography was predominantly written in Greek. Rhythm of the majority of the hymns can be presented in the best way by chanting melodies in the language they have been written. Why?
The Rhythm of the chruch music is prosodic, which means that the accents in the melody depend on the place of the accent in the text. Knowing the relationship between the Greek text and melody, we become more readily prepared for the next stage of our musical training.
Once we adopt Byzantine system of notation and oktoechos, we’ll begin the process of „tailoring“ or adaptation of a melody on a given text.
The largest number of hymns that have to be chanted during the service have been written in the books without notation. Among them, a large number have only a brief instruction on how to chant them (eg. “Mode 4. prosomoion” or “Mode 1. idiomelon”). A chanter has to learn how to add melody to the text of a hymn and which rools he has to follow. Every chanter is also the author of a large part of their repertoire.
- Students must have a love for Byzantine Music
- Attend every class! It is difficult to make up for missed work. Absences create problems to all, fellow students and teachers
- When a student has three (3) unexcused absences or ten (10) total absences in a school year he/she will not be eligible to participate in that year’s final exams. Any exception of this rule is at the Board’s discretion
- Students must follow the teacher’s orders willingly and respectfully
- Students must come prepared to class
- Students must attend both classroom studies and participate at the Analogion at the Vespers at least once a week and attend choir rehearsals at the scheduled time
- Students must provide their own books and supplies for the class as recommended by the teacher
Style of chanting that we nurture
In Byzantine music it is not allowed to develop individual style. Cantors are called to nurture a style of chanting that they have inherited from their teachers, but overall, we can say that we are called not to deviate from the original style, which lies at the basis of all local Orthodox musical traditions. Society Moisey Petrovich believes that there is only one unique style of chanting, and it is one that is cultivated on Mount Athos, in the place that has preserved the spirit of the Orthodox tradition unchanged the best way, since the Middle Ages to the present.
Moreover, we should bear in mind that the chanting at all different from singing western music.
Does Byzantine music fit our local culture?
This is a large subject. First, it should be noted that it is in human nature to reject what we do not know or understand. Depending on the environment in which we’ve been raised as Orthodox Christians depends on what kind of music we find suitable for us. For example, if someone grew up in a church where polyphonic choirs sing, they would consider a choral music to be the best musical expression of our church. If on the other hand someone grew up with a particular cantor, they would consider his chanting the most suitable.
However, we do not want to engage in defining a spirit of a local tradition nor the intellectual and cultural approach to the choice of musical accompaniment for liturgical service. Our wish is to study the original musical style of the Orthodox Church, as it has been preserved on the Holy Mountain, the place where Orthodox monks, fleeing from the influence of the outside world, devoted their lives exclusively to the worship and, wher they’ve preserved or shaped a music system without external influences.
Following their example, we want to adopt and expand their zeal in preserving the purity of musical expression, which was also the musical expression of the medieval Christian elites.
The first Serbian trained composer, melographer, conductor, pianist and music writer, Cornelius Stankovic (1831 – 1865) wrote:
The origin of our church chant comes from the Greeks. About this, it seems to me, can be no more questioning (…) I believe, therefore, that at first there was unity in our church chanting, and I’ll never ever regrett the effort to clear up and settle the path at least, after which it will bring us to the unity again.
- Nikola Popmihajlov
- Vladimir Nikolic
- Nikola Sener