Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Variety of Ecclesiastical Music in Greece

Many believe that the Greek world has only one kind of ecclesiastical music, i.e. Byzantine Music. However, this is a wrong preconception. Within Greece there are two main distinct traditions in respect to church music, Byzantine which is mostly practiced and polyphonic that is mainly chanted in the Ionian Islands and some churches scattered around the country.
In order to understand this reality, one needs to examine Greek history, especially since the fall of Constantinople and the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. During the post-Byzantine period Greece was conquered by the Ottoman Empire; nevertheless, there were certain islands which came under the rule of the Venetians (such as the Ionian Islands, Crete and other parts of the country). Therefore, this brought a different new culture to the conquered country, introducing western art and music, which inevitably affected the ecclesiastical life and practice of these islands. On the other hand, many in Greece now have been influenced by the music chanted within the Slavonic tradition.

Within Greek Orthodoxy some argue that the ‘correct’ ecclesiastical music is only Byzantine music. However, Christians should be inclusive (as the Church is) and not exclusive. Shouldn't we merely understand this plurality as a beautiful feature within the Orthodox Church and Tradition? All traditions can co-exist. Which one is more spiritual? This, of course, depends on what each faithful is used to. Upon entering a church we see and venerate the icons, here the chanting, pray etc. All of these remind us of what we were taught, of what we believe. Therefore, what we are used to allows us to find the spiritual heights we wish. Thus, all traditions within the Orthodox Church have the same spirituality and importance.
Here we give four examples of the same hymn “Σήμερον κρεμάται επί ξύλου”, “Today he is put on the cross”, chanted during Holy Week. The first two are polyphonic/western style and the last two are chanted according to the Byzantine tradition.

No comments:

Post a Comment