Byzantine Chant 1
Term: Yearlong 2019–20, September 3–May 22
Target Grade Levels: Grade 9+, Adult
Schedule: 1x / week, 105 min.
Section 1: Tues. 8:30 p.m. ET with Gabriel Cremeens
Byzantine Chant 1 is the first year (semesters one and two) of a three-year (six-semester) course sequence in Byzantine chant. The entire course of study is described below, and the scope and sequence for all six semesters is given below as well. Please note that in Byzantine Chant 1, students will complete semesters one and two of this sequence.
Successful completion of the Byzantine chant course sequence will give students the ability to chant all the essential Octoëchos hymns of the Saturday Vespers and Sunday Orthros services in Byzantine chant in English. It will also offer basic background in the liturgical structure of those services and provide the proper theological and historical context in which to study, learn, and appreciate Byzantine music, hymnography, and liturgics.
Byzantine Chant: Context, Theory, Practice, Prayer
This introductory course in Byzantine chant at the St. Raphael School will serve two distinct purposes. First, it will function as a course in Byzantine musical notation and the 8-mode system (“the 8 tones”). Beginning in the first semester, students will be introduced to the Byzantine notational system and will begin studying the Plagal of the 4th Mode. New modes will be added semester by semester, and the concept of theseis (formulae) will be introduced early on as the basis for mastering each mode. By the end of this course of studies, students will have learned and become proficient in all 8 modes through their study of the Resurrectional Hymns of Vespers and Orthros (that is, the Anastasimatarion).
Equal time will also be dedicated to the second purpose of the course: providing the theological, historical, theoretical, and liturgical context in which Church music in general, and Byzantine chant specifically, must be understood. In order to achieve this goal, students will learn about the history and theology of Church music, and the important saints and other historical figures who influenced the development of hymnography, Church music, and liturgics. A basic introduction to Vespers and Orthros—the liturgical context for the musical material learned —will also be incorporated.
From the beginning of the course, students will be required to learn and master short notation-reading exercises and, later, entire hymns in the modes that they are studying. Students will demonstrate their mastery of the exercises by completing each week’s assigned homework, which will include making recordings of these exercises. Mastery of these small exercises and hymns is essential for making progress in Byzantine chant.
Students will also be expected to complete all short readings as provided and assigned by the instructor, as these readings will be indispensable for establishing the proper theological/historical/liturgical context for the music being learned.
*Required Course Materials (this is a sample list and is subject to change and revision):
Cavarnos, Constantine. Byzantine Chant. Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine andModern Greek Studies, 2008
Cavarnos, Constantine. Saint John Damascene. Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantineand Modern Greek Studies, 2010
Roumas, Nicholas. The Musical Ark: An Ark of Hymnody of the Eastern OrthodoxChurch. New York: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2017
- All other course materials will be provided in electronic format by the instructor.
*Required materials are not included in the purchase of the course.
Gabriel Cremeens and his wife, Elaine, are the proud new parents of Panagiotis Nektarios, their first child. Gabriel holds two degrees from Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA: a bachelor’s in theology (as valedictorian of the class of 2014), and a certificate in Byzantine music (with a grade of “perfect”). In addition to his studies at Holy Cross, Gabriel also spent a year and a half in Athens, Greece, where he took private lessons in Byzantine chant performance, musicology, and composition from masters of the art.
In addition to teaching for the St. Raphael School, Gabriel works full-time as the music director and pastoral assistant at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Albuquerque, NM. He also works by commission for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, AGES Initiatives, and several other church music organizations, while collaborating with other chanters on various projects to teach, spread, and promote Byzantine chant in English. He has taught at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology as a lecturer in Byzantine music, and also at the Metropolis of Boston “St. John of Damascus” School of Byzantine Music. He is currently in the process of founding a Byzantine music school in Albuquerque, NM.
While he loves all aspects of Byzantine music, his passion is the composition of Byzantine melodies in the English language—a field in which he has been working, experimenting, and perfecting his craft for around 7 years. His compositions can be found at http://www.englishmenaion.com/.
Computer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with a processor with a speed of 1 GHz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with Mac OS 10.7 or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do not recommend using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.
High-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with a download/upload speed of 5/1 Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.
Headset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class. Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm
Zoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use.
- Visit zoom.us/download.
- Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
- Open and run the installer on your computer.
- In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.
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