Athens, November 20, 2016
A meeting dedicated to the ancient Athonite musical tradition and prominent modern chanters was held in Piraeus (Thessaloniki), reports the “Orthodox Heritage of Ukraine on Holy Mount Athos” charity fund.
This event is a part of the “Advent in Action” program.
According to Archpriest Theodoros Chrisovolandis, when Athonite chanters sing psalms they express not their personal feelings or personal devoutness, but their faith and the people’s faith in Christ.
He also noted that chanters do not compete with other singers. For them, the Church is not a place to take a rest; they are not actors for the people of God, to enrapture or to satisfy the audience’s psychological and esthetic needs by chanting. They are not singers who use their voice to demonstrate their artistic skills.
“While chanting psalms, they forget about themselves. They sing, and forget that they are singing. They do not believe in their own importance and abilities. For them, psalmody is neither an individual achievement nor art for art’s sake—it is not an end in itself. They chant for others, not with a piercing voice but with humility,” Archpriest Theodoros said.
He devoted his report to the deceased Fr. Dionysios Firfiris, one of leading and most important chanters of our times. Those who heard his singing in his youth believed it was a gift from the Mother of God. “The Fathers find true freedom in observation of the tradition. They always choose traditional elements and do not believe the tradition is dead or is a formal imitation of the past,” he continued.
Konstantin Buzdekis stressed that in difficult times Athonite monks saved music, singing and methods of teaching psalmody, thus preserving and promoting its existence. Over the centuries Byzantine music was changing and we cannot say with certainty how the chanters of olden times sang. But sound recordings appeared early in the twentieth century and we see that the transmission of the art of psalmody and the so-called style existed in the oral tradition.
Therefore music does not change in its essential elements. What really changed is the style, the way chanters sang hymns and interpreted their expression. A style of singing or expression may take various forms, as was the case on Holy Mount Athos.
“You need to sing in order to listen to God and not people. This is the spirit of the fathers. First you need to perceive singing in a spiritual way, and only then musically. And it is no coincidence that a definite style which originates from the tradition has developed on Mt. Athos,” he emphasized.