An Introduction to Byzantine Chant

Now, you can listen as Dr. Grammenos Karanos discusses the defining characteristics of Byzantine chant in a new podcast series from The Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture, where scholars discuss the legacy of Byzantium.

In this episode, Dr. Grammenos Karanos introduces Byzantine chant. Dr. Karanos sketches its defining characteristics, in particular its rhythmic structure, modal system, which shares much in common with Balkan, Near Eastern, and Middle Eastern music, microtonality, and formulaic compositional technique.

One of the many musical selections featured in this episode is Τῇ Ὑπερμάχῳ (To You the Champion Leader) from the Akathist (Akathistos) Hymn, an anonymous, undated hymn considered to be a masterpiece of Byzantine hymnography. The hymn is written in praise of the Virgin Mary. According to tradition, the Akathistos hymn commemorates the siege of Constantinople by the Avars and Slavs in 626 when the Virgin interceded to protect the city. That same evening the Patriarch Sergius led an all-night service of thanksgiving in the church of the Blachernai. During subsequent sieges of the city, an icon of the Virgin was carried in procession around the walls. The oldest sources associate the hymn with the Feast of the Annunciation. Today, the hymn is chanted in part or in whole during the Great Lent of the Greek Orthodox Church.

About The Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture

The Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture is dedicated to promoting and advancing knowledge about the rich heritage of the Byzantine Empire, which lasted for more than a thousand years and spanned three continents. The Center’s mission is to create academic and educational resources that engage the wider public, scholars, and the Orthodox Christian community. Its programs encourage awareness and appreciation of Byzantium and its legacy.

Founded in 2010 through a generous gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation, the Mary Jaharis Center is established at Hellenic College Holy Cross,  an Orthodox Christian institution of higher education in Brookline, Massachusetts. The Center’s association with Hellenic College Holy Cross provides a singular opportunity to address Byzantine culture from the perspective of Orthodox scholarship, theology, and the arts.

ABOUT GRAMMENOS KARANOS

Grammenos Karanos joined the faculties of Hellenic College Holy Cross in 2007 and is currently Assistant Professor of Byzantine Liturgical Music. Since 1998 he has served as protopsaltis (chief cantor) of churches in the greater Boston area and is currently protopsaltis of the Holy Cross Chapel and director of Holy Cross St. Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir. Dr. Karanos studied Byzantine music under Photios Ketsetzis, Archon Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and received a Certificate of Byzantine Music Studies with highest distinction in 2002. He completed his studies in 2011 under the guidance of world-renowned musicologist Gregorios Stathis and was awarded a Ph.D. in Byzantine Musicology and Psaltic Art at the University of Athens, Greece. In his doctoral dissertation titled “The Kalophonic Heirmologion,” Professor Karanos examined a previously underinvestigated and misunderstood post-Byzantine para-liturgical genre with a focus on its historical development and musical structure and content. His primary research interests include the morphology and evolution of Byzantine and post-Byzantine chant, the history and exegesis of neumatic notational systems, the dissemination of the psaltic tradition outside the Greek-speaking world, and the relationship between religious and secular musical traditions in the Balkans. At Hellenic College Holy Cross, Dr. Karanos teaches courses in Byzantine chant (beginner through advanced levels) and history of music.

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