3rd Boston Byzantine Music Festival


Holy Cross St. Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir joins the Boston Choral Ensemble in a concert of works inspired by the rich chant tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Post-Byzantine ecclesiastical compositions by Petros the Peloponnesian will be performed alongside contemporary works by John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, and Ivan Moody.

This concert will be held in First Church in Cambridge (11 Garden Street, Cambridge), there is limited free parking at University Place Garage, 124 Mt. Auburn Street. Parking tickets must be validated at the concert.

The Boston Byzantine Music Festival is sponsored by the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture with the New York Life Center for the Study of Hellenism in Pontus and Asia Minor.

Tickets: $20 per concert • Students: $7 per concert with valid ID
Limited box office sales on the day of performances: $30 per concert (check or credit card only).






Bold = Hellenic College Holy Cross Choir

Plain = Boston Choral Ensemble


John Boyer: Excerpts from Funeral Service 

John Tavener: Funeral Ikos 

Petros the Peloponnesian: The angel cried 

Ivan Moody: Angel vopiyashe 

Parallage (Byzantine Solfeggio) 

Arvo Pärt: Solfeggio

Byzantine Apolytikion of St. Nicholas 

Ivan Moody: Apolytikion of St. Nicholas 

John Tavener: Song for Athene 


* * * Intermission * * *  


My soul magnifies the Lord 

Arvo Pärt: Magnificat 

Ivan Moody: Canticle of Simeon 

Byzantine Trisagion 

Ivan Moody: Funeral Trisagion

John Tavener: Ave rex angelorum 

John Tavener: Nowell! Nowell! 



Program Notes (for the BCE repertoire)


John Tavener: Funeral Ikos                               

John Tavener (1944-2013) was a prolific English composer. He converted to the Russian Orthodoxy in the late 1970’s and as part of his spiritual journey he began setting the traditional liturgy of the Orthodox Church. Funeral Ikos, composed in 1981, is a setting of text used for the burial of priests in the Orthodox tradition, and while each verse in the text is punctuated by what would normally be a joyful proclamation, each “Alleluia” as well as the surrounding verses are full of solace. Funeral Ikos is harmonically uncomplicated, but masterful in its construction for its ability to act as a transparent accompaniment to the text and draw attention to the meaning of the words. Unison singing scattered throughout the piece calls upon chant melodies of the early church, and repetition of musical ideas with only slight changes in each verse allows time and space for the listener to become reflective.

The focus of the text shifts as we move through the piece, beginning with first-person questions about what happens to our loved ones when we leave them behind, followed by more collective statements about a community of believers and their journey on the path toward eternal life, fraught with confusion over the fleeting values of wealth and beauty. In the last verse, we finally hear about the promise of light eternal and a paradise in Christ, which we celebrate with one final “Alleluia.” This verse begins a minor third higher than the other verses, calling us to reorganize our priorities and focus our thoughts on the celebration of life after death.



Ivan Moody: Angel vopiyashe                           

Moody's compositions show the influences of Eastern liturgical chant and the Orthodox Church, of which he is a member and archpriest (of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople), His Canticum Canticorum I, written for the Hilliard Ensemble and premiered in 1987, achieved enormous success and remains his most frequently-performed work, and in 1990 he won the Arts for the Earth Festival Prize for Prayer for the Forests, subsequently premièred by the renowned Tapiola Choir of Finland. Angel vopiyashe (The angel cried) is an Easter zadostoynik (Festival Hymn). The text is addressed to Mary the Mother of God by an angel who announces that Christ has risen after his three-day soujourn in the grave.


Arvo Pärt: Solfeggio                                          

Pärt composed Solfeggio in 1963 when he was still living in Estonia,. Although it predates his innovate tintinnabuli style the disposition of the overlapping solmization syllables (Do-Re-Me-Fa-Sol-La-Si) have much in common with the new technique. The piece is mathematically conceived, but is execution belies the methods at work and the result is a work of great aural beauty.


Ivan Moody: Apolytikion of St. Nicholas            

An Apolytikion is a dismissal troparion (hymn) said or sung at Orthodox Christian service. The apolytikion summarizes the feast being celebrated that day. In this short hymn for St. Nicholas, speaks of his attributes of meekness and abstinence and petitions him to “intercede with Christ Go that h may save our souls. Moody’s simple setting for SATB choir (with divisi) is largely homophonic and makes use of the ison (drone) to establish tonality and provide accompaniment to the chant-like melodies.


John Tavener: Song for Athene                      

Tavener’s Song for Athene is well known for its inclusion in the 1997 funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales. Like many of his pieces, Song for Athene was written as a tribute to a friend. The lowest voices sing a drone to support the flowing, chant-inspired melodies sung by the upper voices throughout. Seven sections of “Alleluia” are sung before and after each section of text drawn from the Orthodox Funeral Service and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Tavener’s instructions for the final section read, “with resplendent joy in the Resurrection.” The drone in the lowest voice expands from one unison pitch to three pitches. A few soprano, alto, and tenor voices join the drone to sustain the soaring harmonies in the other voices, which creates a truly sublime picture of heaven.


* * * Intermission * * *                                     


Arvo Pärt: Magnificat                                     

Ivan Moody: Canticle of Simeon                    

We pair Pärt’s setting of the Magnificat with Moody’s setting of the Canticle of Simeon since they are often paired at services of evensong or vespers in their Biblical versions. Composed in 1989, the Magnificat setting has become one of Pärt’s most well-known works. The text is the canticle Mary sang to the Angel Gabriel at the annunciation and describes her reaction to the news in which she proclaims “my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Pärt’s setting, in his tintinnabuli style alternates combinations of voices for each line of text with frequent use of a solo soprano representing Mary. Tintinnabuli (meaning sounding bells) is an innovative new technique devised by Pärt in the late 1970s which utilizes two voices: a melodic line and a tintinnabuli line which combined produce music of extraordinary beauty.

Moody’s setting of the Canticle of Simeon was composed for St. Matthew’s Church in Northampton, a place famous for its commission from among other Britten and Tippett. It doesn’t use the traditional text of the Nunc dimittis but rather a text by St. Andrew of Crete for the Little Vespers for the Meeting of Our Lord. Moody’s setting, like Pärt’s makes use of much parallel motion and divisi in each voice part to enrich the texture.                           


Ivan Moody: Funeral Trisagion                     

The Trisagion (sometimes called by its opening line Agios O Theos), is a principal hymn of the Divine Liturgy in most of the Eastern Orthodox churches, and also part of the funeral service. It repeats the same text three times. Moody’s setting begins with SAT singing the chant above a drone. The melody moves into the Soprano part for the second and third of the three text repetitions and the sung accompaniment becomes increasingly dense and complex.


John Tavener: Ave rex angelorum                    

John Tavener: Nowell! Nowell

Tavener’s Ex Maria Virgine is a set of Marian-themed Christmas carols dedicated to HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall in celebration of their marriage in December 2005. This piece is a musical departure from Tavener’s typical minimalist, Orthodox-inspired approach as it features raucous organ accompaniment, thicker harmonic texture, and greater rhythmic complexity. Throughout each movement of the work, Taverner delivers explicit performance markings such as, “With joyous exaltation, fast, dancing, and always rhythmic,” “With wild, primordial joy!” and “An effulgence of the Eternal Feminine.” The two movements we perform tonight demonstrate the wide range of Tavener’s skill at choral writing, from the devastatingly impactful  “Ave rex angelorum,” to the joyous rendition of the carol “Nowell! Nowell!”


Text and Translations

Funeral Ikos

Why these bitter words of the dying, O brethren, which they utter as they go hence? I am parted from my brethren. All my friends do I abandon, and go hence. But whither I go, that I understand not, neither what shall become of me yonder; only God who hath summoned me knoweth. But make commemoration of me with the song: Alleluia.

But whither now go the souls? How dwell they now together there? This mystery have I desired to learn, but none can impart aright. Do they call to mind their own people, as we do them? Or have they forgotten all those who mourn them and make the song: Alleluia.

We go forth on the path eternal, and as condemned, with downcast faces, present ourselves before the only God eternal. Where then is comeliness? Where then is wealth? Where then is the glory of this world? There shall none of these things aid us, but only say oft the psalm: Alleluia.

If thou hast shown mercy unto man, O man, that same mercy shall be shown to thee there; and if on an orphan thou hast shown compassion, the same shall there deliver thee from want. If in this life the naked thou hast clothed, the same shall give thee shelter there, and sing the psalm: Alleluia.

Youth and the beauty of the body fade at the hour of death, and the tongue then burneth fiercely, and the parched throat is inflamed. The beauty of the eyes is quenched then, the comeliness of the face all altered, the shapeliness of the neck destroyed; and the other parts have become numb, nor often say: Alleluia.

With ecstasy are we inflamed if we but hear that there is light eternal yonder; that there is Paradise, wherein every soul of the Righteous Ones rejoiceth. Let us all, also, enter into Christ, that all we may cry aloud thus unto God: Alleluia.

From the Order for the Burial of Dead Priests; translated from the Greek by Isabel Hapgood.


Angel vopiyashe

Angel vopiyashe Blagodatney:

chistaya Devo raduysya, i paki reku, raduysya:

tvoy Syn voskrese, tridneven ot groba,

i mertvyya vozdvignuvyy, lyudie veselitesya.

Svyatisya, svyatisya, Novyy Ierusalime,

slava bo Gospodnya na tebe vozsyya!

Likuy nyne i veselisya Sione, ti zhe, chistaya,

krasuysya Bogoroditse o vostanyy rozhdestva Tvoego.

The angel cried unto her who is full of grace:

hail, O pure Virgin, and again I say, hail:

your Son is risen from his three-day sojourn in the grave,

and has raised up the dead: rejoice, O ye people.

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem,

for the glory of the Lord is risen upon you!

Dance now and be glad, O Zion, and do exult,

O pure Mother of God, in the arising of him whom you did bear.

Traditional Easter zadostoynik (Festival Hymn).





Apolytikion of St. Nicholas

The truth of thy deeds hath revealed thee to thy flock

as a canon of faith,

an icon of meekness,

and a teacher of abstinence;

for this cause by humility thou hast achieved the heights by poverty

O Father and Hierarch Nicholas,

intercede with Christ God that He may save our souls.


Song for Athene

Alleluia. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Alleluia. Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.
Alleluia. Give rest, O Lord, to your handmaid, who has fallen asleep.
Alleluia. The Choir of Saints have found the well-spring of life and door of Paradise.
Alleluia. Life: a shadow and a dream.

Alleluia. Weeping at the grave creates the song: Alleluia.

Come and enjoy rewards and crowns I have prepared for you: Alleluia.

(Text from Shakespeare's Hamlet and the Orthodox funeral service.)



Magnificat anima mea Dominum

Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo

Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae: Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generations

Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est : et sanctum nomens eius

Et misericordia eius a progenie in progenie timentibus eum

Fecit potentiam in brachio suo: dispersit superbos mente cordis sui

Deposuit potentes de sede; et exeltavit humiles

Esurientes implevit bonis: et divites dimisit inanes

Suscepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae

Sicit locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semini eius in saecula

My soul doth magnify the Lord,

and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath magnified me; and holy is His name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.

He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and the meek.

He hath filled the hungry with goood things and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel;

as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.


Canticle of Simeon  

Today the holy Mother who is higher than any temple,

has come into the temple,

disclosing to the world the Maker of the world,

and giver of the law.

Simeon the Elder receives Him into his arms,

and venerating Him he cries aloud ,

"Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart,

for I have seen Thee, the Savior of our souls."


Funeral Trisagion

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal,

have mercy upon us.


From Ex Maria Virgine

a) Ave rex angelorum

Ave rex! Ave rex angelorum! Ave rexque celorum! Ave princeps que polorum! Hail, 0 King! Hail, King of the angels! Hail, King of the skies! Hail, Prince of Heaven! Hail, most mighty in thy working, Hail, thou Lord of allae thing; I offer thee gold as to a king. Ave rex angelorum!

(Text: Anonymous, medieval.)


b) Nowell, nowell

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!

This is the salutation of the Angel Gabriel.

Out of your sleep arise and wake,

For God mankind now hath ytake,

All of a maid without any make,

Of all women she beareth the bell:

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!

This is the salutation of the Angel Gabriel.

Now man is brighter than the sun,

Now man in heaven on high shall wone,

Blessed be God this game is begun,

And his mother empress of hell:

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!

This is the salutation of the Angel Gabriel.

Now, blessed brother, grant us grace

A Domesday to see thy face,

And in thy court to have a place,

That we mow therae sing Nowell:

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!

This is the salutation of the Angel Gabriel.

(Text: Anonymous, medieval.)