1. Thank you, Vlad, for a fantastic account of a wonderful achievement. As one of the singers on the recording, I can say you’ve captured the spirit and beauty of the piece, and I’m thrilled to see Kurt and Peter getting their due. Glory to God!

    Can you unpack this a bit? “As far as this writer knows, this is the first instance of an American Orthodox composer being tasked with creating a work of liturgical music in the English language.” No question that the idea of paying composers is important – thank you for emphasizing that! I hope people will listen. At the same time, this isn’t the first paid commission I’m aware of. Did you mean something more specific?

    Thank you again, Vlad – I hope this work sees every success!

    1. Dana Ames

      Listening to the Beatitudes selection definitely makes me want to buy and listen to the whole recording. Sander has the depth of many years of study and immersion in choral literature, especially on the Russian side, to support this offering from his heart to the Church.

      I’d also be interested in listening and comparing the English version and the Slavonic translation. I can imagine the Slavonic “fitting” the music in a way that I don’t think Greek (and some other languages as well) could manage. Listening to the Beatitudes I’m hearing exactly what I was trying to get across to you a few months ago, Richard. Though the music can “fit” with another language and convey beauty, love and prayer, this is a work that was created to “fit” English primarily, and it fits it wonderfully well. It does indeed have an American sound.

      Our choirmaster, Nicolas Custer, composed a Divine Liturgy in honor of St Katherine. It was commissioned by one of our sopranos – named Catherine – in thanksgiving for her recovery from a serious heart condition. It uses some tone 5 material from a Cherubic Hymn, I believe, and carries that theme through each section, though the sections can also stand on their own. It actually reminds me of colonial Mexican Baroque church music I’ve heard, though not overtly – simply the “aroma” of it is there. Our choir very much enjoys singing that and his other works; we’re privileged to have our own composer in residence, and I wish other parishes had that opportunity.


      1. Kurt is very much steeped in the Slavic choral idiom, so it’s not entirely surprising that his English choral music would sound like it could accommodate Slavonic and not Greek.

        Your “fittingness” comment is a bit confusing, however; are you saying that music that sounds like it could “fit” Slavonic sounds more “American”? And the trouble with saying that it “has an American sound” is, well, it might, but which “American sound” do you mean?

        I had occasion to read this article today: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/20/rhiannon-giddens-and-what-folk-music-means

        There was a bit that jumped out at me. Food for thought, perhaps:

        In the book [“Origins of the Popular Style“], [Peter] Van der Merwe attempts to address why the popular music of the twentieth century sounds the way it does. He notes that many different folk-music traditions tend to contain a particular kind of melody or set of notes, “neutral intervals,” between major and minor. In America, we call them “blue notes”—flatted thirds and sevenths and fifths. They can suggest moaning and dissonance. The cord that binds the various global sub-styles of folk in which these notes occur is what the ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax termed the “Old High Culture” of Eurasia, which stretched back to Mesopotamia. Strangely, perhaps, given that we are talking about twentieth-century popular music, it was often Islamic song traditions that acted as the conveyor for these deep strains in world music. Van der Merwe shows how the “gliding chromaticism” characteristic of the blues spread via Islamic influence into West Africa (in particular the Senegambia region) and, via Spain, into Ireland and the “Celtic fringe.” From those places, these styles and sounds rode farther west, to North America, on slave ships and immigrant ships. In the American South, the Celtic and the African musical traditions met. It was an odd family reunion. Each culture had its own songs, but the idioms understood one another. The result was American music.

  2. E. Hisey

    Congratulations Kurt !! I want to hear your work !!! Proud of you. — E. Hisey

  3. Michael L

    Richard, I suspect Dr Morosan means is that there very few complete musical settings of the divine liturgy designed specifically for English (ie most are set in another language such as Slavonic and adapted to English). The only other ones I’m aware of our John Boyer Byzantine-ish setting for Cappella Romana and an Ukr. Catholic one (Hurko?). As you mentioned there are hundreds individual hymns or sections that have been composed.

    Kurts work is great though!

    1. Michael L

      I think actually looking it up that there is a few in the Byzantine Catholic sphere (Sembrat, Sfianchuk)

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