Letter from Mark Powell, Executive Director

Hymns of Kassianí

Introduction to Cappella Romana’s 30th Anniversary Season

Dear Friends and Supporters,

In late winter we usually are ready to share our next season with you, but given how this year has proceeded, we decided to wait until now to make any announcement.

Over the last year, we have not lain dormant. Cappella Romana’s recording label Cappella Records has had a great year, especially with Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia, which ran on the Billboard Chart for 44 weeks. I hope you were able to engage with our online explorations, including a Christmas program that was seen around the world by over 60,000 people, and our recent webinars on topics around race, gender, style, and language in sacred music.

And our latest release Hymns of Kassianí continues to receive rave reviews, including a recent review in the UK that called it “the current reference for this rather special repertoire” (MusicWeb International).

We have taken time to listen and reflect, create and plan for a future ahead.

Now that more vaccinations are being administered and cities return to low-risk categories, I am pleased to announce our plans for next season, Cappella Romana’s 30th Anniversary Season: RESURRECTION.

This is a year to bring music back to life!

We will begin our 30th year with recording projects in the summer (all singers will be vaccinated!), followed by our third appearance at the Utrecht Early Music Festival in the Netherlands, where we will perform Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia as the festival’s finale concert in the TivoliVredenburg Concert Hall.

Our Northwest series will begin in late September with A COVID Requiem, featuring music for funerals from the Orthodox tradition, music that gives hope after a traumatic year and half behind us. We’ll be reaching out to you to ask you for names of family and friends who passed away due to COVID, so that we sing this program in their memory.

In October, the ensemble has been invited to perform before His All Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch on a tour at the University of Notre Dame, where His All Holiness will be recognized for his work on the Environment with an honorary doctorate. We will perform Robert Kyr’s A Time for Life, inspired by His All Holiness; just before we will give a tour send-off concert in Portland of the same.

Postponed from this current season, we will present the stunningly beautiful Liturgy in English by Benedict Sheehan in December, the recording of which by the Saint Tikhon Choir (on our label Cappella Records) continues to receive accolades.

For January 2022, Alexander Lingas has been working steadily on a newly researched project of Greek and Latin music for an auspicious occasion from Christmas 1400: The visit of Manuel II, the Byzantine (East Roman) Emperor to the court of Henry IV in London. No other ensemble in the world has explored this meeting from musical perspective, making this a world premiere program. We know that Manuel brought with him cantors and priests to sing daily services: imagine medieval Byzantine chant sung in London over 600 years ago! We will record this program, A Byzantine Emperor in King Henry’s Court, for future release. (Yes, with a friendly nod to Mark Twain’s 1889 novel!).

In February, Cappella Romana will perform Arvo Pärt‘s largest a cappella work, the rapturous Kanon Pokajanen (Kanon of Repentance). As it turns out, this was the subject of my own master’s thesis many years ago, so I’m particularly thrilled with this program, and I expect you will be too!

After some more recording projects and a tour to the Midwest, we will conclude the Northwest series with From Constantinople to California, an intoxicating mix of Byzantine chants and choral music from a new school of Greek composers working in California who infused it with Renaissance style and Hollywood flair.

So many of you continued to support us during this year when traditional programming wasn’t possible. We are so grateful for your support during this difficult time.

Cappella Romana is poised to resurrect our voices this coming season, to serve you again with extraordinary experiences of music of beauty and power from East and West.

Music director Alexander Lingas and I look forward to seeing you in person very soon. Stay tuned by checking back at our website for updates.

Yours always,

Mark Powell
Executive Director
Cappella Romana

MusicWeb International Reviews Hymns of Kassianí

Hymns of Kassianí

Dominy Clements reviews Hymns of Kassianí for MusicWeb International:

“much to appreciate in this substantial recording of Kassianí’s music… Cappella Romana is a leading vocal ensemble that is best known for its performances of Byzantine chant, and you have the feeling that you are in safe hands in the way they bring Kassianí’s ancient manuscripts to life… Cappella Romana sings with a weighty devotional passion which, while avoiding histrionics, prevents this listening experience from becoming passive meditation. This spaciously recorded SACD disc is refreshingly free of pretensions and special effects and, as far as I can tell, is the current reference for this rather special repertoire.”

—Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International

See the full review on musicweb-international.com

InfoDad review for Hymns of Kassianí

Family-focused review site, InfoDad, reviews our Hymns of Kassianí as a “revelatory” release:

“The excellent and expressive voices of Cappella Romana are ideally suited to introduce the music of Kassianí to a wider audience, which is just what they do in a new recording on the ensemble’s own label. Under the sensitive and knowing direction of Alexander Lingas, the members of Cappella Romana present 10 selections of Kassianí’s music for Christmas, the Lenten Triodion, and Holy Week. ncluded is her best-known hymn, known in English as “Lord, the woman found in many sins,” which is chanted each year at matins on Holy Wednesday. Like other works on this revelatory SACD, this hymn requires a very wide vocal range as well as sensitivity to the slow and sorrowful mood it evokes. … The grace, beauty and stylistic clarity of these works come through in genuinely uplifting fashion in these beautifully balanced performances… For those willing to open their ears and spirits to this material, the recording will bring a high level of peace and contentment, and a feeling of connection to something beyond everyday experience – exactly as Kassianí surely intended nearly 1,200 years ago.”

InfoDad

See the full review on InfoDad

TheaterByte Gives Hymns of Kassianí Five Stars

TheaterByte’s Lawrence Devoe gives our new Hymns of Kassianí a Five-Star review!

“Having had the otherworldly experience when I reviewed Cappella Romana’s breakthrough recording of The Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia last year, I looked forward to their next installment in the Byzantine chant discography. This now arrives in the new release Hymns of Kassiani and represents one of the most important new recordings to reach my disc player in the past few years. … Hymns of Kassiani represents another recording triumph for the Cappella Records label. This kind of music is not often heard outside of Eastern Orthodox churches and it was a privilege and a pleasure to experience it in the comfortable environment of my own home. Highest recommendation.”

Lawrence Devoe, TheaterByte

See the full review on Theaterbyte.com

Robert Hugill Gives Four Stars to Hymns of Kassianí

Robert Hugill gives a Four-Star Review to Hymns of Kassianí on his Planet Hugill blog:

“much of the music on this disc is expansive, you need time to sit and allow the chant to expand and fill your consciousness. The music moves between the solid chant to more florid, flowing sections, the result is imaginative and I find it immensely appealing. … the performances are seductively intriguing. I have to confess that I know very little about Byzantine chant, but I love the sound world and this disc has introduced my to a new voice. … This is the first volume in what is planned as a series covering recordings of all of Kassiani’s surviving works. Personally, I can’t wait for the next instalment. … This music is very present and requires active listening, but the results do transport you to the sound-world of another era.”

—Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill

See the full review on PlanetHugill.com

Audiophile Audition Gives Five Stars to Hymns of Kassianí

Audiophile Audition gives a five-star review to Cappella Romana’s Hymns of Kassianí recording:

“Kassia is especially known for one particular piece, the Hymn of Kassiani, so-called because of its placement in the orthros (matins) service of Holy Wednesday. It is a masterly composition of great pathos, commemorating the harlot who anointed the feet of Jesus and washed his hair with her tears, found in the gospel of Matthew. … But Kassia may have nearly 50 hymns in the repertory, with some attributed to other composers. This disc seeks to correct the perception that her only contribution is this holy week effort… The music itself has undergone many changes over the years according to the time and place of its use, but the beauty and obvious devotional qualities are very easy to apprehend. Those interested in something liturgically unique and different from the multitudinous bad recordings of Gregorian chant will find this refreshing and eye-opening. Kassia is definitely a composer to be reckoned with. Cappella Romana continues to turn out sensational recordings that are state-of-the-art in sound quality. This one has breadth, depth, warmth, and a phenomenal surround quality resonating with a physically palpable and penetrating effect that places you in the middle of an acoustically marvelous church. Alexander Lingas offers excellent, in-depth notes on many aspects of the life of Kassia and her music, and directs the ensemble (men, women, both together) in a performance of clarity and technical wizardry. This is a landmark recording that will still retain its importance for many years to come.

—Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition

See the full review on AudAud.com

Classical-Modern Music Review For Hymns of Kassianí

Hymns of Kassianí

Grego-Applegate Edwards has a grand new review and recommendation for our Hymns of Kassianí recording:

“It is rather exciting to me that the Early Music Cappella Romana has released an entire album of the Hymns of Kassiani (Capella Records CR422 SACD). … This is meant to be a first volume in a series that will record all of Kassiani’s works. … The SACD hybrid contains high quality two-channel and 5.0 Surround mixes. The sound is excellent. Cappella Romana gives us excellent, state-of-the-art performances of chants from male and mixed choirs, including two versions of her well-loved hymn for Holy Week. They are beautifully realized under the direction of Alexander Lingas. … I strongly recommend this album for anyone seeking to experience an important element of historical lifeways in music. It is ravishing, invariably, and quite refreshing if you are not familiar. Either way this one is a milestone.”

—Grego Applegate-Edwards, Classical-Modern Music Review

See the full review

Hymns of Kassianí Gets Highest Rating from ConcertoNet

Critic Linda Holt gives ConcertoNet‘s highest rating (4 Stars) to our new Hymns of Kassianí recording!

“Cappella Romana… is transforming the dry, brittle pages of ancient Byzantine scores into living musical lyricism with a broad international appeal. … Their latest album provides a stunning entrée to the work of Kassianí, an Orthodox woman, monastic and saint from the 9th century, who is considered the earliest female composer from whom we have extant music. … While individuals with knowledge of the varieties of chant and church modes will enjoy this album on an intellectual or theological level, anyone sensitive to song will discover in Kassianí’s works a rare musical aesthetic … There is an organic yeastiness about this music and the way it not only spreads like a benign invasive plant, but insinuates itself through the listener’s ear into the reaches of the soul. … this album provides a new tool not only for self-examination but for indulgence in the rich sensual heritage of Byzantine singing. Kassianí’s songs demand to be heard, and we are enriched by listening to them, especially in this authentic and deeply expressive collection.”

—Linda Holt, ConcertoNet

See the full review at concertonet.com

Five Stars for Hymns of Kassianí

Hymns of Kassianí

HRAudio.net gives Hymns of Kassianí a five-star rating in both performance and sonics!

“The importance of this new release is to allow us to go back in time to discover more about the origins of sacred choral music, and – perhaps a revelation for uninitiated – that Hildegard von Bingen wasn’t the first female composer. Three centuries (!) before her, St. Kassía of Constantinople (now Istanbul) composed “texts and music for Byzantine public worship”. … What struck me right away, is the high degree of professionalism of the mixed male-female chorale… For me, it is the spiritual force that emanates from these chants that make them so impressively intense and foreboding.… The full mystic weight invades your spirit like being back in the Eastern Orthodox time. Proof of Cappella Romana’s authenticity? For me, no doubt. We owe it to Alexander Lingas that these and other Byzantine memories from the mist of times are brought to life and recorded for eternity.”

—Adrian Quanjer, HRAudio.net

See the full review on HRAudio.net!

First Reviews for Hymns of Kassianí!

Cappella Romana’s new recording, Hymns of Kassianí comes out the 16th April, and reviewers are already excited:

“Cappella Romana are specialists in Byzantine chant, and this album is a stunner. The release is an SACD hybrid multichannel recording. If possible, opt for the physical disc rather than the digital download for this one. The release has both 2-channel and 5.0 surround formats, with 192k/24bit resolution. Hearing this recording in surround made me feel like I was standing in the Hagia Sofia when these hymns were new. I am so looking forward to the next installment.” —Ralph Graves, WTJU (full review)

“Especially when the men and women sing together, with the flowing melodies accompanied by a droning single note, it has a singularly powerful effect. If you turn it up and close your eyes you feel like you’re in a vast church or cathedral in the presence of something greater than the sum of the individual human voices surrounding you… sit back and listen, and let Cappella Romana’s superb singers transport you back to the Byzantine Empire.” —Jon Sobel, BlogCritics (full review)

“The music is rather striking with pedal points that provide a base line against the chant lines that stay mostly syllabic with little melismas for extra emphasis.  Listeners more familiar with Gregorian Chant will also notice a decidedly different modal quality with the unique lines turning in unique ways that have closer parallels in Middle Eastern chant styles. … The performances transport the listener back in time to experience this music in stunning sound.  Notes and additional information in the accompanying booklet help further bring Kassiani’s music to life by the premiere ensemble performing these ancient Byzantine music.  More music from the woman canonized as Kassiani the Hymnographer is forthcoming this year. … Highly Recommended!” —Steven A. Kennedy, Cinemusical

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