Shout joyfully to the lord, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
Music is inseparable from our worship. Participation as a chanter or choir member is not a performance, but a great responsibility to educate the faithful and enrich our services. Prayers and hymns are sung and chanted to remind us of sacrifices made for our salvation. Special hymns on holy days honor the saint or event honored during the Divine Liturgy.
The Byzantine musical system has been part of Orthodox hymnology from the first centuries of the Church. The earliest Christians songs were based on the psalms and canticles from the Old Testament. Original hymns were chanted by a solo chanter called a “psalti.” Saint Romanos the Melodist was one of the greatest of Greek hymnographers, called “the Pindar of rhythmic poetry.” He flourished during the sixth century, which is considered to be the Golden Age of Byzantine hymnography.
In the eighth century, St. John of Damascus codified the St. Romanosa system of eight musical styles, selected because they were not too theatrical or worldly, and helped create a prayerful attitude in the faithful. Still in use today, the system is called the “ochoechos” (eight tones) and hymns written in these tones are rotated weekly for the Divine Liturgy.
Byzantine chant is stark for a reason – it eliminates all the excess in the music and cuts to the core. Further, there is a link between Byzantine chant and iconography. The iconographer uses strict conventions to create art that invokes a spiritual experience, not a sensual one. The same is true for the Byzantine hymnographer.
The Orthodox Hymnology Ministry will focus on the study and application of Byzantine Chant for the liturgical services, especially for the Orthros and Vespers services. In this study we will work on the 8 tones of Byzantine Chant, the Prosomia Hymns, and intonation of liturgical text. Visit the Parish Calendar for a complete schedule of Orthodox Hymnology sessions.