I am pleased to pass along news of the upcoming Boston Byzantine Music Festival. The two-day event is hosted by the Mary Jaharis Center for Art and Culture at Hellenic College Holy Cross, and will take place on February 24-25.
Byzantine art is commonly associated with mystical iconography and majestic architecture of domed cathedrals, but the profound faith expressed in these is equally, if not more evident in the music with which the Byzantines and their inheritors worship God. Boasting an unbroken living tradition – both oral and written – which stretches from late antiquity, Byzantine chant is a monophonic and strictly melodic a cappella musical form. The annual Boston Byzantine Music Festival highlights the power of this music and introduces it to a wider audience.
The festival will open on Monday, February 24, 7:00 p.m. at the Maliotis Cultural Center on the campus Hellenic College Holy Cross. The evening will begin with a lecture by Dr. Emmanouil Giannopoulos on the history of Byzantine music. Performances by the Holy Cross St. Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir will accompany and illustrate the talk, entitled “Orthodox Liturgical Music’s Breeze Blows Over the Aegean.” Following the lecture, the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will perform a selection of Lenten hymns of the Orthodox Church expressing the spirit of contrition and the power of forgiveness. Most of the musical settings are by great composers who served the Ecumenical Patriarchate during the past 300 years, including Iakovos Protopsaltis (d. 1800) and Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas (d. 1987). Highlights of the evening will include the mournful “Turn Not Away Your Face” that marks the beginning of Lent and an ornate setting of an excerpt from the Akathist Hymn.
At 3 p.m. on Tuesday the 25th in the Archbishop Iakovos Library Reading Room at Hellenic College Holy Cross, Dr. Kyriakos Kalaitzidis, artistic director of En Chordais, will deliver a free public lecture which will explore the common classical musical heritage of the eastern Mediterranean and its neighboring lands, paying particular attention to the evidence provided by post-Byzantine musical manuscripts. At 7 p.m. that evening in the Maliotis Center, the world-renowned En Chordais musical ensemble will perform a wide variety of vocal and instrumental pieces by composers of various ethnic origins spanning a half a millennium, all of which are strongly connected to the rich musical heritage of the Byzantine Empire. Highlights of the evening will include one of the earliest notated Greek folk songs (16th c.), a lesser known instrumental masterpiece by the greatest post-Byzantine ecclesiastical composer, Petros the Peloponnesian (d. 1778), and songs from the late-19th and early 20th-century pre-rembetiko scene in Constantinople.
The Maliotis Cultural Center and the Archbishop Iakovos Library Reading Room are located on the Hellenic College Holy Cross campus at 50 Goddard Avenue in Brookline, MA.
Tickets are $40 per concert or $70 for both concerts. Students pay only $15 per concert with valid ID. Tickets are now available online at www.maryjahariscenter.org.
Phone sales at Brown Paper Tickets: 1-800-838-3006. Press 1 and mention the Boston Byzantine Music Festival.
For further information, press tickets, and to arrange interviews, please contact Brandie Ratliff at 617.850.1242 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Josh Cole at email@example.com.
Presenters and Performers:
Kyriakos Kalaitzidis, oud; Drossos Koutsokostas, vocals; Petros Papageorgiou, percussion; Kyriakos Petras, violin; Alkis Zopoglou, qanun
Based in Thessaloniki, En Chordais is a leading music ensemble specializing in the traditions of Mediterranean music. The ensemble’s repertoire celebrates Byzantine musical heritage, Greek folk music, the works of major Mediterranean composers, and compositions by its members. The development of this repertoire owes an important debt to the work of the artistic director and co- founder of En Chordais, Kyriakos Kalaitzidis, who has discovered over 4000 pages of previously unknown notations of secular Greek, Ottoman, and Persian music in manuscript codices from the 15th–19th century.
En Chordais has entranced audiences in more than 900 concerts in some of the world’s most prestigious venues, including performances in New York, London, Paris, Venice, Athens, Cairo, Istanbul, Hong Kong, and Melbourne. In 2006 En Chordais was honored as the official nominee by the Greek Department of UNESCO for the Sharjah Prize for the promotion of Arab culture. In March of 2008, the group received the “Prix France Musique des Musiques du Monde” at the Babel Med Festival in Marseilles. The ensemble’s concerts and twelve albums have been enthusiastically reviewed by the BBC World Service, Arte, Radio CANADA, Radio FRANCE, The New York Times, and ABC Radio National Australia.
The composer and musician Kyriakos Kalaitzidis, artistic director and co-founder of En Chordais, is considered one of the most important musical scholars in the field of modal secular music of the post-Byzantine era. Born in Thessaloniki, Kalaitzidis earned a PhD in Byzantine musicology at the University of Athens. In 1986, he began a study of the oud and is one of the most distinguished performers and teachers of the instrument in the Mediterranean today. He has composed and performed instrumental works and music for theater and cinema, for which he has received enthusiastic reviews. He has also written extensively about the evolution of the Mediterranean learned musical tradition and its relationship to contemporary music. His publications include The Oud – Teaching Method (1996) and Post-Byzantine Music Manuscripts as a Source for Oriental Secular Music (15th to Early 19th century) (2012). Dr. Kalaitzidis is Artistic Director of Thessaloniki World Music Festival and Artistic Advisor of Rialto Ethnic Festival–Cyprus.
“En Chordais is not a group of museum conservationists preciously handling music tracts from the past, but are more investigators wishing to use history as a way to inspire present practice and to further an understanding of themselves.” (Neos Kosmos – Australia)
“The group combines Greek regional idioms and contemporary sounds with a range of influences, mixing moments of traditional festiveness and intense humor into their performance.” (Gig Magazine – UK)
Dr. Emmanouil Giannopoulos
Dr. Emmanouil St. Giannopoulos was born in Thessaloniki-Macedonia, Greece. A musicologist who earned his PhD in the Department of Music at the University of Athens, he has been elected Lecturer in the Department of Music at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and as Assistant Professor at the Higher Ecclesiastical Academy of Ioannina. Dr. Giannopoulos’s doctoral thesis, The Flourishing of Psaltic Art in Crete (1566-1669), was published as a monograph in 2004. He studied Byzantine Music at the Music School of the Metropolis of Thessaloniki, at the New Conservatory, and at the Municipal Conservatory of Thessaloniki. He is Protopsaltis (first chanter) in the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles in Thessaloniki.
Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir
The Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was formed in 2010 after His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America expressed a desire for the formation of a choir to promote the rich Byzantine musical heritage of the Orthodox Church. The choir consists of clergy and young men. The majority of the choir members are established head-chanters (protopsaltae) in churches from across the greater New York area.
The choir’s primary mission is to share the beauty of Byzantine music beyond the borders of Orthodox churches and reveal the spiritual depth of this ancient form of ecclesiastical chant, which was cultivated in Constantinople, on Mount Athos and other centers of Orthodox spirituality throughout the Byzantine period, and continues to thrive to this day.
Since its inception, the choir has been directed by Demetrios Kehagias. Dr. Kehagias was awarded a Byzantine Music Teaching Diploma with highest distinction from the National Conservatory of Athens and studied jazz and composition at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. For ten years, he served as Protopsaltis at St. Demetrios Cathedral of Astoria, New York, serving the world’s largest Greek community outside of Greece. In October 2010, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios appointed Dr. Kehagias first instructor for the newly established Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music. He currently serves as Protopsaltis at the Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Brooklyn, New York.
The choir has performed in some of New York’s most prestigious spaces, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Carnegie Hall, in Washington, D.C., and in the historic Hagia Irini Church in Istanbul. After its concert in this ancient church, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed his appreciation of the choir: “There is something uniquely inspiring about a concert with authentic traditional religious music. For when it is genuinely and respectfully performed as it was tonight by the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, not only does it unite heaven and earth, but it also connects all of humanity—above and beyond any racial, cultural, and religious distinctions and differences. It is this harmony and concord that we are grateful to experience.”
Holy Cross St. Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir
The St. Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir is a vocal ensemble of students and alumni of Hellenic College Holy Cross. It is named after the 6th-century saint Romanos the Melodist and is dedicated to performing Byzantine and post-Byzantine sacred musical works in the style created and preserved at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. The choir regularly performs in liturgical services as well as at concerts, conferences, lectures, fundraising events, state and national holiday celebrations, and school ceremonies. In addition to Byzantine chant, its repertoire includes Greek folk music, popular and art songs, and modern English adaptations and original settings of sacred texts. The choir is directed by Dr. Grammenos Karanos, Assistant Professor of Byzantine Liturgical Music and Protopsaltis of Holy Cross Chapel in Brookline.
The Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture
Founded in 2010 through a generous gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation, the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of knowledge about the rich heritage of Byzantine art and culture. Its programs, aimed at a diverse audience from high school students to university professors, encourage the study and appreciation of the arts and culture of the Byzantine Empire, which spanned three continents and over a thousand years, and the understanding of its enduring cultural and historical legacy. Its establishment at Hellenic College Holy Cross provides the Mary Jaharis Center a unique opportunity to foster Byzantine studies within an Orthodox Christian community and to approach the study of Byzantium from the perspective of Orthodox theology, scholarship, and the arts. The Center is committed to Byzantine studies within and beyond the academy and strives to create programming and educational and research resources that engage scholars, the wider public, and the Orthodox Christian community in our mission.