19–21 April • Off–Campus • Seminarian Ian Abodeely
On Orthodox Education Day, 1993, a group of parishioners and friends of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts gathered at St. Vladimir's Seminary to perform Byzantine Chant sung in English. It was the first of what was to be many such concerts by the newly formed Boston Byzantine Choir (BBC) who, over the past twenty years, have made Byzantine Chant accessible to the English speaking world. The choir, directed by Charles R. Marge, has sung at universities and parishes and music festivals throughout New England.
In 2007, The Boston Byzantine Choir was honored to participate in "The Ascending Voice," a symposium of sacred a cappella music held at Pepperdine University. The choir has also sung multiple times at the Sacred Music Institute of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, and is best known for its five recordings of Byzantine Chant in English : First Fruits, Mystical Supper, Thy Passion, Thy Resurrection, and the newly–released Lenten Journey. Seminarian Ian Abodeely, a Boston Byzantine Choir member, wrote this reflection.
Singing in the choir is something almost every student at St. Vladimir's does. Whether you're in the St. Damascene or St. Cassia choirs, the Octet, the Chorale, or the Byzantine Chant choir, you're bound to find yourself singing in the Three Hierarchs Chapel at some point of your seminary career. That being said, my first time singing at St. Vladimir's was actually before I was a student here. It was October of 2008 and I was on campus to sing as part of the Boston Byzantine Choir's concert "The Sound of Icons" on Orthodox Education Day. Five years later, I returned to St. Vladimir's, this time as a student.
This past weekend my classmate and fellow BBC member Dn. Scott Miller and I traveled from St. Vladimir's to St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Montreal, Canada to participate in a concert entitled "From Adam to Christ: A Story of Rebellion and Redemption." The concert was the culmination of months of planning and hard work by both the Boston Byzantine Choir and the choir of St. George Church, Montreal. For Dn. Scott and I there were a number of trips to Boston for rehearsals, lots of emails, and a lot of juggling of responsibilities to ensure we could participate.
On Friday we made the long drive up to Montreal after our morning class and ended up at our hotel later in the evening, already tired from our trip. We were just getting started. Saturday morning saw an extended final rehearsal to prepare for the concert that would take place that night. We had known that the parish would be videotaping the performance, and we knew that it would be taped and then broadcast internationally via Noursat, the popular Arab-Christian television station, but it still didn't prepare us for the pre–concert jitters.
God is good, and the concert was a rousing success, even though longer than expected. The BBC and the St. George Choir alternated singing hymns, which were interspersed with reflections by Presvytera Eugenia Constantinou, Ph.D., scholar and speaker. The concert on Saturday evening was also the "release party" of the Boston Byzantine Choir's newest CD, Lenten Journey. Both Dn. Scott and myself participated in the recording over the spring and summer of 2012, and this concert was the perfect opportunity to officially launch the recording. The new CD comprises hymns from Great Lent, as well as from the Feast of the Annunciation.
On Sunday morning we chanted Orthros, the first ever sung in English at the parish, before Dn. Scott went to serve and most of us went up to the choir loft to join the parish choir for the Liturgy. The choir warmly welcomed us to sing with them and we experienced, truly, the glory of liturgy at this blessed parish. The parish is very large and the church was filled to capacity. The choir numbered around 40 people and the music was that interesting mix of Byzantine chant and Russian choral music that characterizes so many Antiochian parishes; a troparion in Byzantine chant here, a setting of a hymn by Archangelsky there. All of this combined to engender a reverent and beautiful celebration of
the Divine Liturgy.
Truly, it was a blessing to be able to participate in this weekend in Montreal.