The SunBreak Reviews “Venice in the East”

Cappella Romana Rehearsing Venice in the East

Cappella Romana Rehearsing Venice in the EastSeattle’s The SunBreak reviews Cappella Romana’s April 27, 2018 Venice in the East performance:

“Hearing Cappella Romana singing in St. James Cathedral is to hear a slice of heaven. … As always, the presentation was scholarly, as accurate a portrayal of the music as it would have been performed as can be ascertained through diligent research. … Within that steady beat and minimal dynamic range (mostly medium loud), the group could still bring out expressivity. Thus one piece sounded devout but on the cheerful side, another contemplative, another vigorous and full of praise. Throughout, there was a sense of serenity which washed over the listener.”

Philippa Kiraly, The SunBreak

See the full review at

Venice in the East Recording Sessions Video

Venice In The East Recording Sessions

Watch Cappella Romana performing the Christos anesti from the Faenza Codex during the Venice in the East recording sessions:

April 27-29, 2018, Italy meets Greece in Venice in the East, a sonic exploration of the Greek Islands when they were ruled by the Venetian empire. Cappella Romana is reviving Renaissance music from Crete, celebrating the island’s historical significance as a vibrant hub for Greco-Italian culture.

The program features thrilling Greek and Latin music for Eastertide, including a boisterous rendition of “Christos anesti” (“Christ is risen”) for full choir. Alexander Lingas, Cappella Romana’s music director and founder, conducts.

2018 Venice in the East Performances

Venice in the East

Venice In The East: April 27-29, 2018

Program Notes by Alexander Lingas

From its emergence as a significant political entity in the sixth century under the rule of the Eastern Roman (“Byzantine”) Empire to the dissolution of the Republic by Napoleon in 1797, the city of Venice remained closely tied to the Greek East. Following the diversion of the Fourth Crusade to sack Constantinople in the year 1204, Venice not only seized for itself priceless treasures that to this day adorn their Byzantine-style church of San Marco, but also began to acquire its own empire of colonies in the Eastern Mediterranean. The size of this empire waxed and waned according to the fortunes of Venice and its political and economic competitors, which included at various times such other western powers as the Genoese and the French, as well the Byzantines and, especially from the fourteenth century onwards, the Ottoman Turks.

For centuries the most prominent and prosperous Greek-speaking colony of Venice was Crete, which it acquired in 1204. During the two centuries prior to its conquest by the Ottomans in 1669, Crete developed a flourishing Greco-Italian Renaissance culture. Meanwhile, in 1489 control of Cyprus passed from the French Lusignan dynasty to the Venetian Republic, which held it until its capture by the Turks in 1571. After the fall of Crete, Venice’s only Greek colonies were the Ionian Islands. The arrival of Cretan refugees bolstered cultural life of the larger islands of Corfu, Zante, Lefkada, and Cephalonia, which to this day retain Italianate linguistic, cultural and musical traditions. Meanwhile, Venice itself came to host a flourishing Greek minority that had gained a measure of cultural and religious autonomy in the sixteenth century with the building of the church of San Giorgio dei Greci.

The split that had occurred between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches at the beginning of the second Christian millennium caused varying amounts of friction through the centuries between Venetian rulers and Greek subjects. Further confusion arose with the attempt to reunify the churches at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438–39), in the wake of which an Orthodox Divine Liturgy was celebrated in San Marco and Metropolitan Bessarion of Nicea, a prominent Byzantine churchman and intellectual whose books served as the original core of the Venetian Biblioteca Marciana, became a Cardinal of the Roman Church. Although the Orthodox chafed at strictures imposed upon them – in Crete, for example, they were allowed to retain their own lower clergy even as the consecration of local Orthodox bishops was forbidden –the general trend over time was toward greater religious toleration.

This program presents music from Venice and its Greek colonies that in various ways testifies to the sharing of religious traditions. It begins with excerpts from the Greek and Latin ceremonies of the Easter Triduum that display both parallel developments in liturgical piety and the sharing of musical and ritual elements. Both Venetians and Cretans marked the Passion and Deposition from the Cross of Christ with thematically similar rituals involving the use of simple forms of polyphony. Likewise, they possessed similar ceremonies for the opening of their churches on Easter Day and the Paschal greeting “Christ has risen!” (Surrexit Christus/!Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!). Both traditions are incorporated into the polyphonic setting of the Easter Troparion “Christ has risen” from the Codex Faenza 117, which follows the Cretan melody for this Greek hymn with the Latin response “Deo gratias”.

This concert continues with other music illustrating points of musical and ritual interchange between the Greek and Latin traditions under Venetian rule. The setting of the Latin recension of the hymn Gloria in excelsis to Byzantine chant is the work two Greek musicians: Manuel Gazes the Lampadarios and Ioannis Plousiadenos (ca. 1429–1500). Gazes evidently moved to Crete from Constantinople during the first half of the fifteenth century, where he taught the composer and scribe Angelos Gregoriou, who as a monk had also visited Mount Athos. Another Constantinopolitan composer who found refuge in Crete during the same period was Ioannis Laskaris, whose career on the island as a teacher and agitator for the rights of his native church is well documented in the archives of Venice.

Plousiadenos was a priest, music theorist, scribe, and composer who lived in Venice for significant portions of his life and died as a Roman Catholic bishop ministering to his religiously mixed Christian flock during a Turkish siege of the Venetian outpost of Methone in the Peloponnesus. During his years in Italy, Plousiadenos became a protégé of Cardinal Bessarion, who commissioned the hymn in fifteen-syllable verse to the Virgin Mary that concludes this program. This piece is known to survive only in Mt Athos Koutloumousiou 448, a manuscript copied in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century by the Cretan composer Benedict Episkopopoulos. Music of this later period is represented by a setting of the Greek Orthodox text of the Creed – that is, without the Latin addition of the phrase “filioque” —by the “New Teachers” of Crete recorded by Theodore Rhodakinos in MS Sinai Gr. 1552, and the music of Hieronymos Tragodistes of Cyprus, a scribe and student of the Venetian theorist Gioseffo Zarlino.

Oregon ArtsWatch on The Tudor Choir

The Tudor Choir
The Tudor Choir

Photo by Jesson Mata

“The Tudor Choir re-opened for business this month. On hiatus since 2015, the ensemble presented one concert in their hometown of Seattle and two more in the Portland Metro area, at St. Mary’s Cathedral and in Hillsboro’s St. Matthew’s Church. The latter is a wonderfully accessible venue with a reverberant acoustic, challenging but with potential for this concert’s Tudor period music in which melismatic lines and reiterated melodies are woven through cleanly defined harmonies – when the choir and director find a way to bring this to the fore. …

[The premiere of Nico] Muhly’s Small Raine showed depth and gravitas, with shimmering added-note harmonies taking different paths of composition than anything else on the program. And yet, the piece was based on the same ancient secular tune, “Western Wind,” used in the Taverner Mass. …

Director Fullington wisely placed Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, by Seattle composer Jeff Junkinsmith (b. 1956), at the end of the first half of Tudor works. The choir commissioned this piece in 2001 and it is difficult to imagine it being performed better. It awakened the senses by flirting with bi-tonality, tertiary harmonies and lush texture. These excellent musicians dissected the dissonances as if wielding precision German steel. …

Hillsboro, Oregon’s fifth largest city, has great audience potential. … Cappella Romana deserves kudos for facilitating this event. There is cultural building to be done, surely, but more groups should be encouraged to come to Hillsboro rather than the opposite. … Just keep fine groups like the Tudor Choir coming. Do not miss them when they take the stage near you. The makings for an outstanding choral experience are there. It’s good to have them back.”

Bruce Browne, Oregon ArtsWatch

Watch “Venice in the East” at the Utrecht Early Music Festival

Watch a video from Cappella Romana’s 2016 Venice in the East performance at the Utrecht Early Music Festival!

April 27-29, 2018, Italy meets Greece in Venice in the East, a sonic exploration of the Greek Islands when they were ruled by the Venetian empire. Cappella Romana is reviving Renaissance music from Crete, celebrating the island’s historical significance as a vibrant hub for Greco-Italian culture.

The program features thrilling Greek and Latin music for Eastertide, including a boisterous rendition of “Christos anesti” (“Christ is risen”) for full choir. Alexander Lingas, Cappella Romana’s music director and founder, conducts.

2018 Venice in the East Performances

The Akáthistos Hymn Recording Available Now

Ivan Moody The Akáthistos Hymn

Ivan Moody The Akáthistos HymnThe Akáthistos Hymn to the Virgin Mary, set by Ivan Moody. This lyrical masterpiece in 24 stanzas has been treasured for nearly 1,500 years by Eastern Christians. Father Moody’s 1998 setting, composed specially for the ensemble, weaves beloved Greek melodies into Russian choral textures as it progresses from reverent contemplation to ecstatic transcendence.

This second 2018 edition of Cappella Romana’s original release features updated essays and biographies of the artists. With full texts in English and translations for lyrics in Greek and Slavonic.

Cappella Romana performs The Akáthistos Hymn with Ivan Moody conducting in Seattle and Portland March 16-17, 2018!

“purity and radiance in perfect realisations”


“The sound is splendid”

American Record Guide

“light and warmth over an ancient musical ground”

Willamette Week

Now Available

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Ivan Moody Talks Akáthistos Hymn With iClassics

“The harmonies are lush and dark in Russian style, though periodically the shadows disperse as in a cloud-break and the sound brightens. The effect over the whole hymn is of a slow revelation of light and warmth over an ancient musical ground.” (Willamette Week)

“Something new, substantial, and profound” (Sunday Oregonian)

Standing Room Only — Ivan Moody’s Akáthistos Hymn

Interview originally published on

Ancient melodies and a sixth-century poetic meditation form the ground of Ivan Moody’s setting of The Akáthistos Hymn, one of the most beloved devotional hymns in the Orthodox tradition of Christianity.

The Akáthistos Hymn is a meditation in 24 stanzas (one for each letter of the Greek alphabet) on the cosmic role of the Virgin Mary as mother of the incarnate Word of God. The popularity of the devotion is especially associated with the raising of the siege of Constantinople in the sixth century, a miracle attributed to the intervention of Mary as the protector of the city. In gratitude, the citizens of Constantinople gathered in the Holy Temple of Saint Sofia and sang the hymn while standing (hence the name Akáthistos, which means “not sitting”).

Moody’s setting makes use of a celebrated contemporary English translation by Bishop Kallistos Ware and Mother Mary; the refrains are sung in Greek to traditional Byzantine chant, with its characteristic microtonal ornaments. Moody is the first to compose music for the entire hymn since the Middle Ages. What was the genesis of this composition?

Ivan Moody: Having worked with Cappella Romana in the past – they gave the North American premiere of my oratorio, Passion & Resurrection, for example – I wanted to write a large-scale work especially for them. The Akáthistos Hymn is one of the great poetic compositions of the Orthodox Church, and I see that it is increasingly used in the Roman Catholic Church too. It is full of astounding imagery that just cries out for music.

Much of your music comes out of your interest in the traditions of the Orthodox church.

I’m a practicing Orthodox Christian; when I set words from our liturgical tradition, I’m always keenly aware of the historical riches we have stored up in musical terms. As a performing church and concert musician I’ve researched a number of Orthodox musical traditions, and feel privileged to be in a position to absorb all this.

However, I’m not Russian, or Greek, or Serbian: I was born in London, England. I think that the challenge for me is to reconcile all those musical traditions, which I love, with my own heritage and my own voice. I don’t do this consciously – if I may say this without sounding too pompous, there’s a period during the course of composition when one is just “digesting,” thinking subconsciously, and then all these things come together really quite spontaneously. If it doesn’t work that way, then it’s a sure sign that I should throw what I’ve written away…

How did you go about setting the Akáthistos Hymn? What were some of the special challenges?

Liturgically, nowadays most of this is intoned by a priest or deacon, the choir singing just the opening and closing sections and the refrains (“Rejoice” and “Alleluia”). However, it was not always thus: there are some extant mediaeval settings of the entire hymn in Byzantine chant. So, I bit the bullet and decided to set the whole text. The finished piece lasts for more than 90 minutes, making it the largest piece I’d ever written.

The first and biggest challenge was simply finding musical notes to correspond to the richness of the text! It’s so full of images that one can hardly find music for each idea – that would simply become tediously madrigalistic. It was a question of responding, simultaneously, to words, spiritual “ambience” and long-range architecture.

The second was how to structure the piece: it’s divided into four sections, and that helped me organize a harmonic scheme, but there are numerous sub-divisions, so one strategy that I adopted right from the beginning was the alternation of three inter-related styles. One was audibly related to Russian mediaeval music, the other was clearly Byzantine, and the third was, well – me. And that “me” is, in part, a result of those other two.

How did the recording come about?

Alex Lingas thought initially that I was nuts to undertake such a project, but once he had the score in his hands, he programmed it for Cappella Romana and made it a real success. I was present at the world première, in Portland OR, and it was quite one of the most extraordinarily moving occasions of my life. It was repeated in a subsequent concert season, and enthusiasm was then running at such a high level that the idea of recording it came about. If anyone was going to record it, Cappella was the choir.


Gramophone Review of The Akáthistos Hymn

Ivan Moody The Akáthistos HymnLooking forward to our upcoming performances of Ivan Moody’s Akáthistos Hymn in Seattle and Portland, as well as the re-release of our original recording, we’re looking back at Gramophone Magazine’s 2003 review of our recording of the work:

“The Byzantine Akáthistos Hymn probably dates from the early 6th century and comprises 24 stanzas, one for each letter of the Greek alphabet. Moody’s is believed to be the first complete setting of the hymn, a meditation on the Virgin Mary, since medieval times.

Moody has combined authentic Byzantine melodies … [and produced] music of such purity and radiance that, to modern sensibilities at least, the beauty of the sound is a sensuous pleasure which is its own justification, regardless of the intention of the text. Moody’s realisation is sinfully lovely. Cappella Romana specialises in the Slavic and Byzantine traditions, so the excellence of this performance is no surprise…

As if 96 gorgeous minutes of the Akáthistos Hymn were not value for money, the album is rounded off with a shimmering performance of O Tebe Raduetsya, Moody’s 1990 setting of another hymn to the Virgin, this time from the Russian Orthodox tradition.” —B. Witherden, Gramophone

Full Review on

Buy the Recording

2018 Performances

Northwest Focus features Ivan Moody: Akáthistos Hymn

In the lead-up to our Ivan Moody: The Akáthistos Hymn series, Seattle’s KING FM will be previewing the performance on the Northwest Focus program on Monday, March 12! Tune in at 8:30pm for a broadcast from the upcoming recording re-release!

Ivan Moody: The Akáthistos Hymn

Rev’d Dr. Ivan Moody, British composer, conductor, and Orthodox priest, returns to direct his stunning setting of the 6th-century hymn to the Mother of God, blending Byzantine chant with richly-textured Russian-style choruses. Composed expressly for Cappella Romana, in English with Greek refrains.

The Hillsboro Tribune Previews The Tudor Choir

Cappella Romana Presents The Tudor Choir

Cappella Romana Presents The Tudor Choir
The Hillsboro Tribune previews this weekend’s presentation of The Tudor Choir:

World-class musicians will grace St. Matthew Catholic Church with choral music when Cappella Romana presents “The Tudor Choir: Music of John Taverner and Nico Muhly.”

Under the direction of founder Doug Fullington, Seattle’s Tudor Choir will come to the concert stage for the first time since 2015, on Sunday, March 4, at 2 p.m., to perform a program that spans five centuries of choral music. It will feature John Taverner’s 16th-century “Western Wind Mass” and the world premiere of “Small Raine” by star composer Nico Muhly, both inspired by a song from Tudor England, “Westron Wynde.”

St. Matthew’s music director, Shanti Michael, said, “It means a great deal to bring high-quality sacred music to Hillsboro. It also means a great deal to the community to have exposure to art.”

See the full feature in the Hillsboro Tribune

CR Presents: The Tudor Choir