Cappella Romana Holy Week in Jerusalem Program Notes – Part Two

Saturday, February 2nd, the day after our (already sold-out) Bing Concert Hall debut, Cappella Romana will perform music composed for 8th and 9th-century celebrations of Holy Week in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher amid the natural acoustics of the Stanford University Memorial Church.

Great and Holy Friday in Jerusalem (Part Two)

Stanford Memorial Church

The first half of today’s concert features excerpts from the ‘Service of the Holy Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ’ as it would have been celebrated in Jerusalem on Holy Friday morning during the tenth century. The texts and rubrics of the Typikon of the Anastasis are supplemented by notated musical settings for its chants transmitted in later manuscripts. Extant sources with Byzantine melodic notation date from the tenth century, with readily decipherable versions available in chantbooks copied from in the late twelfth century onwards. Dr Ioannis Arvanitis, a leading authority on medieval Byzantine musical rhythm and performance practice, edited the scores used today by Cappella Romana.

Morning prayer on Holy Friday began on the Mount of Olives and featured a series of processions taking worshippers to shrines at Gethsemane and other sites associated with the betrayal, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Our concert joins the service near its climax with ‘The Paradise in Eden’, a chant sung on the way to the Place of the Skull. Upon arrival at Golgotha there was a reading from the Gospel of Luke (omitted), followed by the Three-Ode Kanon by Kosmas the Melodist. Each ode consists of a model stanza (heirmos), a series of metrically and melodically identical stanzas (troparia), and a reprise of the heirmos (the katavasia). The poetic odes of kanons were originally composed to provide thematically appropriate theological commentary for the invariable sequence of nine biblical canticles or ‘odes’ sung at Palestinian morning prayer. Three biblical odes—Isaiah 26:9–20 (Ode 5), the Hymn of the Three Youths from Daniel 3 (Ode 8), and the Magnificat and Benedictus (Ode 9=Luke 1:46–56, 68–79)—were appointed for Lenten Fridays, leading Kosmas to echo their themes in his musical meditation on the betrayal and trial of Jesus.

It was (and remains) customary to insert other chants and readings at certain points within a kanon. Thus the Typikon of the Anastasis places between Odes 5 and 8 the prologue and first stanza of the Kontakion on the Mary at the Cross by Romanos the Melodist. Romanos was a deacon from Beirut who settled in Constantinople during the early sixth century. There he distinguished himself as the greatest composer of the multi-stanza hymns that came to be known, after the scrolls on which they were copied, as kontakia. By the tenth century two melodic traditions had been developed for kontakia: a simple one consigned mainly to oral tradition, and a florid one transmitted in the Psaltikon, a musical collection created for the soloists of Justinian’s Great Church of Hagia Sophia. On the present concert we sing the Psaltikon version of the kontakion’s prologue.

In both Palestine and Constantinople the arrival of dawn was marked in daily prayer by the singing of Psalms 148–150, known collectively as Lauds. Whereas the Late Antique custom of chanting these psalms throughout with simple refrains was retained in the Constantinopolitan cathedral rite, churches associated with Jerusalem began interpolating hymns known as stichera between their concluding verses (stichoi). From the ten hymns appointed by the Typikon of the Anastasis for Lauds on Holy Friday we select four. The first is an anonymous hymn sung to a standard model melody and assigned in modern service books to Thursday evening prayer. The remaining three stichera are through-composed works known as idiomela: a hymn in Mode 1 commenting on the cosmic dimensions of Christ’s crucifixion written by Theophanes Protothronos, Archbishop of Caesarea (9th c.); a portrayal of the Virgin Mary lamenting at the foot of the Cross in Mode 2 by the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise (reigned 886–912); and a meditation on the suffering of Jesus by an unnamed Stoudite.

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