27 January 2010

Nektarios Antoniou & Schola Cantorum Byzantine Choir

This afternoon, I was blessed with the wonderful and unique treat of attending this:

In case it is a bit difficult to make out, New England Conservatory--America's oldest music conservatory!-- served as the host for the fantastic Byzantine choir, Schola Cantorum!

The choir is visiting from Thesaloniki, Greece and is led by my now dear friend, Nektarios Antoniou! 

I cannot begin to express to you what a joy and privilege it was to be present as these men performed such beautiful (and sacred!) music! While many of the pieces they selected to present were familiar to me from their liturgical use, it was so interesting to hear the comments of others not as familiar with the Byzantine music tradition. 

For those of you not yourselves familiar, Byzantine music as was presented is what is often referred to as "chanting" and it is the traditional music of Eastern Orthodox Christian worship services. The music selections are performed without instrumental accompaniment and thus leave listeners with the raw sound and talent of those performing. For those of you who aren't familiar, below is an example of traditional Byzantine music. (No dotted half-notes in here! :) )

(and yes, this is what the music they read from actually looks like!)

I don't know what to say other than to restate what has no doubt been said time and time before:  
These men are world class!

(I will confess and say that I was blessed to be in Vespers last night with them in the Holy Cross chapel, and, in as much, was privy to their gifts before this afternoon. To have had them chanting the beautiful Vesperal hymns [along with another very dear friend and renowned chanter, Rassem El Massih] within the appropriate liturgical setting was absolutely stunning! How blessed we are to have men who are so well versed in our sacred musical tradition, but who are, most importantly, our friends and fellow brothers in Christ! Glory to God!)

In closing I will say: Nektarios, if you are reading this, thank you! --Thank you for all of the effort and time you have put in to this tour and seeing it through to fruition. We are blessed to receive the fruits of your labor! Furthermore, I am ever so thankful for the chance we had to finally connect! If not before, I look forward to seeing you again in Thessaloniki this summer! To you and each of the guys traveling, Panagia Mazi Sas!

In case you are interested and not yet familiar with the sounds of Byzantine music, 
I am including a short video taken here in our chapel at Holy Cross of my dear friend Rassem 
(and certainly other friends: George, John, Rebe, and Nebo) chanting during Vespers.

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