Annunciation Program



Friday 17 March 2023, 7:30 P.M.
The Madeleine Parish


Sunday 19 March 2023, 4:00 P.M.
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church

Chamber Music Based on Byzantine Chant

Cappella Romana’s Annunciation program is a natural outcome of Cappella Romana’s first collaboration with virtuoso pianist and Byzantine cantor Paul Barnes. For the world premiere of the piano quintet “Annunciation” by Philip Glass in 2018, Paul invited Cappella Romana to Lincoln, Nebraska to perform the original chant on which Glass based his quintet in the presence of the composer, along with other Byzantine chants related to the occasion.

The principal instrumental works on today’s program, Piano Quintet “Annunciation” (2018) by Philip Glass and the tryptich for solo piano Illuminations on Byzantine Chant by Victoria Bond, were each written by commission for Paul Barnes. Both works draw directly from Greek Orthodox chants by John Sakellarides, the Athenian composer and chanter active at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Following the Greek War of Independence (1821-29), some in the new Greek state sought to align Greece more with the culture of Western Europe than with the cultural framework of the prior centuries of Ottoman rule. Following this desire, John Sakellarides sought to purge Byzantine chant from supposed Oriental (Ottoman or Turkish) contamination. What resulted was a new repertoire of his own fashioning, radically simplified “Neo-Byzantine” chants in both Western staff notation and Byzantine neumes, the latter from which Cappella Romana will perform on this program.

Following the economic, political, and social destruction of the Great War of 1914-18 and the Asia Minor Disaster of 1922-23, many Greek-speaking Orthodox from both mainland Greece and Anatolia sought new opportunities abroad, including in the United States. They brought with them the fashionable “westernized” chants by Sakellarides, which became the standard repertoire in Greek Orthodox parishes in America for most of the 20th century.

By the middle of the century, these melodies were beginning to be arranged and recomposed into elegant discrete choral works and complete liturgical services, especially the Divine Liturgy, by conservatory trained Greek American composers. Frank Desby, Tikey Zes, Theodore Bogdanos, Anna Gallos, and Peter Michaelides are among these who produced signifant numbers of liturgical works based on the melodies of Sakellarides, and whose music with others Cappella Romana has championed. Like the Greek American composers before them, Philip Glass and Victoria Bond have taken Sakellarides’s simplified “Neo-Byzantine” melodies as the basis for building complex and spiritually enrapturing structures in their music that Paul Barnes describes below.

The three communion chants by Sakellarides that form the basis for Glass’s quintet and two movements of Bond’s piano work are incredibly short in light of traditional (pre-Sakellarides) Byzantine communion verse compositions. In order to evoke the heavenly singing of the angels and to cover the time for the clergy to receive holy communion, a typical received-tradition communion chant will extend the text of the verse through expansive melismas (many notes) on single syllables, creating a work of significant liturgical length (5-10 minutes or longer). Sakellarides’s compositions stand in stark contrast to this expansive method, rendering the communion psalm verse in a minute or less, with on average two notes per syllable. In order to cover the liturgical time, these largely declamatory settings of the text could be sung by cantors more than once in succession, or in some cases the priest might just be very quick in completing his duties.

Paul Barnes used staff-notation transcriptions of the chants by his friend and cantor Nancy Takis, whose work with her husband Stan has aimed to preserve the legacy of Sakellarides, especially through their website They have published materials in both staff and Byzantine notation for English chant adaptations, and in staff notation only for the Greek items, since the originals in Byzantine notation are already available in other publications, especially the popular collection Mouskós Pandéktes (The Theological Brotherhood “Zoë”, Athens, 1936).

Phrase by phrase, Sakellarides largely recomposed “Símeron kremáte” from Holy Friday Matins relative to its classical Byzantine antecedent, yet overall he retains its length and style. Like its classical chant predecessor, Sakellarides’s version preserves characteristic melodic leaps of a fifth at dramatic moments and moves in and out of the hard chromatic mode as a means to highlight particular phrases. This chant is the basis for Victoria Bond’s second movement of her Illuminations.…

Full Works List

Annunciation concert details with Philip Glass quote
  • John Sakellarides (c. 1853–1938)
    • Communion verse for feasts of the Mother of God
      «Ποτήριον σωτηρίου» (“Potírion sotiríu”)
      • Cappella Romana
  • Victoria Bond (1945– )
    • “Potírion sotiríu,” Illuminations on Byzantine Chant (2021) I
      • Paul Barnes, solo piano
  • Sakellarides
    • Antiphon 15 of the Passion Service of Orthodox Holy Friday
      «Σήμερον κρεμᾶται» (“Símeron kremáte”)
      • Cappella Romana
    • Communion verse for Sundays
      «Αἰνεῖτε τὸν Κύριον» (“Eníte ton Ky ́rion”)
      • Cappella Romana
  • Bond
    • “Símeron kremáte,” Illuminations on Byzantine Chant II
    • “Eníte ton Kýrion,” Illuminations on Byzantine Chant III
      • Paul Barnes, solo piano


  • Sakellarides
    • Communion verse for the feast of the Annunciation
      • Cappella Romana
  • Philip Glass (1937– )
    • Piano Quintet “Annunciation” (2018)
      • Part One
      • Part Two
        • Paul Barnes, piano
        • Pyxis String Quartet
  • Received Byzantine Chant
    • Apolytikion of the Resurrection, Mode 3
      «Εὐφραινέσθω τὰ οὐράνια» (“Evfrainéstho ta ouránia”)
      • Cappella Romana
  • Mark Powell (1967– )
    • World premiere, composed for this occasion, for Paul Barnes
    • Apolytikion of the Resurrection, Mode 3
      «Εὐφραινέσθω τὰ οὐράνια» (“Evfrainéstho ta ouránia”)
      • Cappella Romana
  • Arvo Pärt (1935– )
    • Spiegel im Spiegel
      • Ron Blessinger, violin & Paul Barnes, piano