A Byzantine Christmas Concert in Honor of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, Celebrating his 50 Years as a Bishop. The Concert was held at Merkin Concert Hall, NYC on December 2, 2017 featuring the Archdiocesan Women's Byzantine Choir of St. Kassiani, the Archdiocesan Youth Choir, and the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir.
Photos ©GOA/Dimitrios Panagos.
Archdiocesan Women's Byzantine Choir of St. Kassiani
Dr. Demetrios Kehagias, Conductor
Sr. Foteini Brandenburg
Sr. Theonymphi Kallis
Archdiocesan Youth Choir
Maria Koleva, Conductor
Naoko Aida - Pianist
Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir
Dr. Demetrios Kehagias, Conductor
Dr. Grammenos Karanos- Assistant Professor of Byzantine Liturgical Music Hellenic College & Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology Brookline, MA
Dr. Spyros Koliavasilis – Multi-instrumentalist
Fr. Demetrios Kazakis
Fr. Aristides Garinis
Fr. Andreas Houpos
Archd. Panteleimon Papadopoulos
Dn. Eleftherios Constantine
Prepared by Dr. Grammenos Karanos, Assistant Professor of Byzantine Liturgical Music
Hellenic College & Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology Brookline, MA
ARCHDIOCESAN WOMEN’S BYZANTINE CHOIR OF ST. KASSIANI
Μακάριος ἀνήρ, Blessed is the man
Psalm 1 is recited or chanted in Saturday Vespers and Vespers of major feasts. This fast, syllabic setting in the plagal first mode was composed by Fr. Gregorios of Simonopetra.
Ὅτε καιρός, When the time came
The Doxastikon of Praises for Nativity Orthros contrasts the registration of Judaeans during Augustus’ census with the registration of the believers’ names in heaven as well as the burdensome taxation imposed by the Roman authorities with the willing offering of the “wealth of theology” by Christians. The setting in the plagal second mode was composed by Themistocles Georgiadis (d. 1944), teacher of Byzantine Music at the St. Anastasia Seminary in Chalkidiki.
Δεῦτε χριστοφόροι λαοί, Come O Christians
The Doxastikon of the Sixth Hour of Christmas invites the faithful to ponder and venerate the miracle of the Savior’s birth from a Virgin, which moves angels to adoration while perplexing Joseph the Betrothed. The setting in the plagal first mode was composed by Konstantinos Vyzantios (d. 1866), Protopsaltis of the Great Church of Christ.
Βηθλεὲμ ἐτοιμάζου, Bethlehem, make ready
Bethlehem, make ready; let the manger be prepared, let the cave show its welcome. The truth has come, the shadow has passed away. This beautiful hymn by St. Sophronios, the 7th-century Archbishop of Jerusalem, is the first Idiomelon chanted in the Service of the Great and Royal Hours on the Eve of the Nativity. The arrangement in the plagal fourth mode is by Demetrios Kehagias.
Katavasiae of Christmas
The Nativity Katavasiae are the Heirmoi (introductory stanzas) of the Kanon for the feast, composed by St. Kosmas the Hymnographer, Bishop of Maiouma (8th century). The poem was inspired by St. Gregory the Theologian’s famous Oration 38 “On the Nativity of Christ,” which was delivered in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople in the winter of 380-381. The translation into English and musical arrangement in the first mode is by Fr. Seraphim Dedes.
ARCHDIOCESAN BYZANTINE CHOIR
Νεηγενές, A New Star
This is a hymn from the ninth ode of St. Kosmas of Maiouma’s Kanon for the feast of the Nativity. It contrasts the Magi’s reverence with Herod’s rage at the news of Christ’s birth. This slow, melismatic setting was composed by Georgios Tsatsaronis as a para-liturgical or concert piece.
Δεῦτε ἴδωμεν πιστοί, Come believers, let us see
The first Kathisma chanted in the Nativity Orthros invites all the faithful to follow the star to the lowly place in which the Redeemer chose to be born on earth. The traditional melody in the hard chromatic fourth mode “nenano” is performed according to the rendition by Athanasios Panagiotides, one of the greatest cantors of the 20th century.
Τὶ σοι προσενέγκωμεν Χριστέ, What shall we offer thee, O Christ
In the fourth Sticheron of Christmas Vespers, all creation is presented as offering gifts to the newly born Christ for His ineffable and salvific Incarnation. The angels offer a song, the heavens a star, the wise men their gifts, the shepherds their wonder, the earth its cave, and the wilderness the manger. But mankind offers to the King of the universe the most precious gift of all, a Mother! The hymn is chanted in the mildly sorrowful second mode in an arrangement by Demetrios Kehagias.
Ἐπεσκέψατο ἡμᾶς, Our Savior, the Dayspring from the East
The ancient Exapostilarion Ἐπεσκέψατο ἡμᾶς is chanted three times in a solemn and majestic fashion in the Nativity Orthros service. The original melody in the third mode has been arranged by Asterios Devrelis, a contemporary cantor and composer from Galatista of Chalkidiki.
Carols of Smyrna
Unlike contemporary popular Christmas carols, the texts of most traditional Greek carols deal with weighty theological issues, while their musical fabric originates from the sacred and secular music of Byzantium. Καλὴν ἑσπέραν ἄρχοντες, originates from Smyrna, and is in the plagal second mode.
Carols of Pontos
Χριστὸς γεννέθεν, χαρὰν σὸν κόσμον (Christ is born, joy in the world) originates from the region of Pontos on the shores of the Black Sea and in the Pontic Alps of northeastern Anatolia. The text is in the Pontic dialect, which stems from the ancient Ionic dialect, and the melody is in the first mode.
Carols of Byzantium
The Beginningless God has descended and dwelled in the Virgin. The King and Lord of all came to refashion Adam. Not only do the Byzantine carols contain profound theological statements, but they also employ techniques commonly used in Byzantine hymnography and, more specifically, in the Akathist Hymn. The initial letters of the twenty-four stanzas form an alphabetic acrostic. The refrain of the odd-numbered stanzas is a salutation to the Mother of God, while that of the even-numbered ones is a doxological praise of the Triune God.
Carols of Peloponnese
Χριστούγεννα πρωτούγεννα, πρώτη γιορτὴ τοῦ χρόνου (Christ’s birth, first birth, first feast of the year). Similarly to the carols from other regions of Greece, the Peloponnesian carols contain praises to the landlord and his wife and wishes for the prosperity of the household as well as requests for gratuities: Give us the rooster, give us also the hen, give us five or six eggs too, so we can go to another house!
Carols of Crete
The traditional Christmas carols of Crete are in the fourth mode. A simple, infectious, fast, and danceful melody, full of energy and life, characteristic of the renowned Cretan λεβεντιά (bravery).
Carols of Thrace
The carols from Western Thrace are in the first mode. Σαράντα μέρες, σαράντα νύχτες ἡ Παναγιά μας κοιλοπονοῦσε (For forty days, for forty nights, our Lady was in labor). While theologically inaccurate, the text bespeaks the anonymous author’s simple and deep faith in Christ and reverence for the Mother of God and the saints.
Carols of Dodecanese
The tune is in the bright third mode and in triple meter and is reminiscent of the popular melody of the Megalynaria chanted on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Θεοτόκε ἡ ελπὶς πάντων τῶν χριστιανῶν.
Photos ©GOA/Dimitrios Panagos