Seraphim Danckaert is Director of Mission Advancement at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds an M.Div. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
After discovering there were absolutely no recordings of some of the most ancient of all Christian chanting styles, an American punk drummer decided to do something about it.
Check out the interview below, produced by National Public Radio. In addition to a great story, it includes a couple of beautiful recordings from the distinct school of Syrian Orthodox chant practiced in Saint George’s Cathedral in Aleppo (as well as recordings of Suffi chants). The interview is all the more poignant, considering the death and destruction suffered in Aleppo since these recordings were made.
In fact, Jason Hamacher, the American musician interviewed below, was working closely with Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo who was kidnapped nearly two years ago along with Patriarch John X of Antioch’s brother, Bishop Paul of Aleppo. Hamacher discusses the kidnapping and how war is threatening to destroy an already obscure musical tradition.
As Hamacher says at the end of the interview:
There’s about eight different traditions [of Syriac chant], and many of them are documented, except this one. And that is because this one tradition is only practiced in this one building on earth, and that’s the Saint George’s Cathedral in Aleppo. Inside of this tradition, there are hundreds of chants – 900. It used to be thousands. And through war and everything else over the millennia, a good portion of these have been lost and forgotten. And so I wanted to record the individuals that know everything – not just portions, but the experts – the people that know all of it. And at the time of recording, there were five. It’s now down to three. I mean, it’s kind of a metaphor to everything that’s been happening in Syria. It’s like there’s so much rich history and cultural relics that have been physically damaged by bombs, bullets, war, death. But then there are all these amazing chants that can live on.