Byzantine chant

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Inscribed in 2019 (14.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport, 2018

As a living art that has existed for more than 2000 years, the Byzantine chant is a significant cultural tradition and comprehensive music system forming part of the common musical traditions that developed in the Byzantine Empire. Highlighting and musically enhancing the liturgical texts of the Greek Orthodox Church, it is inextricably linked with spiritual life and religious worship. This vocal art is mainly focused on rendering the ecclesiastical text; arguably, the chant exists because of the word (‘logos’), since every aspect of the tradition serves to spread the sacred message. Passed on aurally across the generations, its main characteristics have remained over the centuries: it is exclusively vocal music; it is essentially monophonic; the chants are codified into an eight-mode or eight-tone system; and the chant employs different styles of rhythm to accentuate the desired syllables of specific words. Though the Psaltic Art has always been linked to the male voice, women chanters are common in nunneries and participate in parishes to some extent. In addition to its transmission in church, the Byzantine chant is flourishing due to the dedication of experts and non-experts alike – including musicians, choir members, composers, musicologists and scholars – who contribute to its study, performance and dissemination.

Father Nikolaos Lympouridis with his students, during their weekly Byzantine chant lesson at the School of Byzantine and Traditional Music of the Holy Metropolis of Lemesos, in Limassol, Cyprus
Nuns chanting at the Monastery of Saint Heraklidios in Politiko village, in the province of Nicosia, Cyprus
Cantors lead the procession around the church of Saint John’s Cathedral in Nicosia, celebrating The Sunday of Orthodoxy (first Sunday of Great Lent). The Service commemorates the restoration of icons and their veneration by the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in AD 787
The Right Choir of cantors (Chorōs) during the Divine Liturgy celebrating The Sunday of Orthodoxy at Saint John Cathedral in Nicosia, Cyprus. The chanting is directed by the leader of the Right Choir, First Cantor Kyriakos Psaltis
Detail of wall painting in Saint John Cathedral in Nicosia, Cyprus. Although Byzantine chant is exclusively vocal music, musical instruments and singing with instrumental accompaniment are depicted in wall paintings inside churches as well as in manuscript miniatures
Byzantine music teacher and choir director Evangelos Georgiou leads Byzantine Choir ‘Cypriot Melodists’, at the Hall of the Cultural Centre of the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation. The performance took place in March 2018 during the celebratory event for the inscription of new elements on the National Inventory of Cyprus
An old handwritten manuscript (c. 1825-1840) from the personal collection of Byzantine music teacher and choir director Evangelos Georgiou. “Parasimantikī” is the neumatic notation employed to transcribe the Byzantine chants into written form
Studying Byzantine Music at the Music Secondary School of Ilion, Athens
The Right Choir of chanters during the Divine Liturgy at the Transfiguration of Christ's Cathedral, Kallithea, Athens. The chanting is directed by the leader of Right Choir, Fotis Ketsetzis, Archon Protopsaltes of the Holy Archdiocese of America and Emeritus Professor of Holy Cross, Boston
The Left Choir of students from Music School of Ilion during the Liturgy at Saint Eleftherios' church, Patissia, Athens. The choir is directed by Konstantinos Politis, Protopsaltes and Teacher of Byzantine Chant
The Left Choir of students from Music Secondary School of Ilion during the Liturgy at Saint Eleftherios' church, Patissia, Athens. The choir is directed by the Lampadarios (leader of the Left Choir), Yiannis Karinos, cantor and theologist
A girl, pupil at Music Secondary School of Ilion, Athens, is chanting using the neumatic notation of the Byzantine Music
Detail of the Right Choir of chanters during the Divine Liturgy at Saint Nikolaos' church in Kaisariani, Athens. The choir is directed by Fotis Giannakakis, Archon Protopsaltes of the Holy Archdiocese of Constantinople
The Right Choir of chanters during the Divine Liturgy at Saint Nikolaos' Cathedral in Kaisariani, Athens. The chanting is directed Fotis Giannakakis, Archon Protopsaltes of the Holy Archdiocese of Constantinople
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