Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Russian Cathedral, London CD

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The present record, sung in English, contains the Eucharistic Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom for the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother-of-God, which is the patronal feast of the Russian Cathedral in London. This is particularly reflected in the texts following the Little Entrance, including the festal Troparion, The Prokeimenon, the Alleluias and the two scriptural readings.

Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Russian Cathedral, London CD

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The present record, sung in English, contains the Eucharistic Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom for the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother-of-God, which is the patronal feast of the Russian Cathedral in London. This is particularly reflected in the texts following the Little Entrance, including the festal Troparion, The Prokeimenon, the Alleluias and the two scriptural readings.

The "Liturgy of the Catechumens", also called the "Liturgy of the Word", constitutes the first part of the service; the second part, the "Liturgy of the Faithful", deals with the sacrament of bread and wine. (The words of institution and the invocation of the Holy Spirit have been omitted in this recording).

It opens with the Cherubic Hymn during which the bread and wine are carried in solemn procession to the Holy Table, continues through the Creed and the prayers of the Eucharist to the singing of the Lord's Prayer, and closes with the prayers of thanksgiving and the dismissal.

The corporate nature of the Liturgy is underlined by the fact that a substantial part of the service takes the form of a dialogue between one voice (often the clergy) and the choir. These exchanges are considered as much a part of the overall musical form as are the purely choral portions of the Liturgy (which reflect the faith of the Church) or the movements and processions of the clergy during the service.

The melodies derive from the contemporary tradition of the Russian Church and have been adapted for use in English in the Cathedral.

Only a few of the settings are by known musicians: the Cherubic Hymn is by G. Lvovsky (1830-1894), the Anaphora by M. Kovalevsky (bom 1903), the Hymn to the Mother-of-God by A. Katal'sky (1856-1926), and the Lord's Prayer by N. Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1909).

Glancing back to the origin and history of these melodies in ancient Russia we can see that they go back to the medieval chant known as Znameny which flourished in Russia from the advent of Christianity there in 988 until the 17th century; thus they span the Kievan era (1 Oth-13th century), the Mongol yoke (13th-15th century) and the Moscovite kingdom (15th-17th century). At the same time, in that part of South-West Russia which had been under the political and cultural domination of Poland, there appeared a number of younger melodic traditions more or less related to the Znameny but adapted to singing in parts.

At that time church choirs were made up of tenors and basses only: boys were not introduced before the end of the 17th century, and women only at the end of the 19th century.

By about the year 1900, when the music which we sing today became established in modem Russia, two powerful styles of harmonic writing had deeply influenced not only the composers but also the choirs in their style of interpretation: in the 18th century, the Italy of Venice and Bologna, and, in the 19th, the Germany of the Protestant chorale.

Russian church singing has thus grown closer to Western European music, distancing itself somewhat from its roots and from its liturgical premises and tending dangerously towards foreignness and secularity.

It is the Russian melodic treasury which has assured the survival of the age-long tradition of liturgical singing, helped as it was by the deeply ingrained sense of corporate prayer of the Church and the shape of the Orthodox Liturgy.

Performers: Choir of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London
Conductor: Reverend Archpriest Michael Fortounatto
Total Time: 57:41:00
Issue Date: 2000

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