Nov 25, 2015

Third Boston Byzantine Music Festival

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On November 13 and 14, 2015, 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, presented the third Boston Byzantine Music Festival. This year’s concerts, lectures, and workshops highlighted the influence of Byzantine music on modern and contemporary music in the East and West.  

The festival began with a stimulating lecture in the Archbishop Iakovos Library Reading Room, Hellenic College Holy Cross, by the acclaimed musicologist and composer, Fr. Ivan Moody. His talk traced the deep and abiding influence of Byzantine and other Orthodox chant traditions on the work of a number of contemporary composers, including Michael Adamis, Arvo Pärt, Alexander Raskatov, John Tavener, and Fr. Moody himself.

That music came to the fore in the Friday night concert held at the First Church in Cambridge. Choral compositions by Pärt, Tavener, and Moody were interlaced with post-Byzantine ecclesiastical compositions and performed by the Boston Choral Ensemble and Holy Cross St. Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir. Given the shocking events that occurred that same evening in France, the music struck a deep nerve with the audience.

On Saturday, the festival shifted gears from high culture to folk. Panayotis League led a workshop entitled “Medieval Greek Folk Songs, Alive and Well” in the Archbishop Iakovos Library Reading Room. Mr. League taught participants to sing and play paraloges, which are narrative songs of medieval origin that remain popular on the islands of Kalymnos and Crete.

The festival concluded in lively form with a second concert at the First Church. The musical group Rebetoparea and the renowned singer Gregory Maninakis presented an evening of rebetiko. Once again, Holy Cross St. Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir provided an historical counterpoint by singing selections that constitute the pre-history of rebetiko, which is connected to the ecclesiastical music of medieval and post-medieval Constantinople.