Events at City University London

Contact: Louise Gordon, Concerts Manager, +44 (0) 20 7040 8271,

City University Brings ‘Voices of Byzantium’ to London

‘robust and intriguing music’—The Washington Post, 2 DEC. 06
‘sung with such strength and commitment’ —Los Angeles Times, 12 DEC. 06

London. [12 February 2009] — In March 2009, the Department of Music at City University London presents ‘VOICES OF BYZANTIUM’, a two-day exploration of the sacred music of the Greek Middle Ages featuring the internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble Cappella Romana ( Founding Artistic Director Alexander Lingas, a Senior Lecturer in Music at City University, will first lead the American-based group of six male cantors in a concert of virtuosic medieval Byzantine chant sung amidst the icons of St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, as well as an afternoon of free events at City University London. ‘Voices of Byzantium’ is supported by the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange ( as part of ‘Byzantium Comes to Britain’, a series of events to accompany the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition ‘Byzantium 330–1453’, which closes on 22 March.

Moscow Road, Bayswater London W2 4LQ
Under the resonant dome of London’s St Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Cappella Romana sings virtuoso Byzantine chant from medieval manuscripts held at St Catherine’s Monastery, Mt Sinai, Egypt. Previously presented to sold-out audiences at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles—which commissioned the programme for its exhibition ‘Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai’—and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, this programme features selections from the Vigil for St Catherine and Byzantium’s only liturgical drama: The Service of the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace (see the description below). Tickets are £15 (£10 Concessions), payable at the door. Since capacity is strictly limited, places should be reserved in advance to avoid disappointment. This may be done online at or by calling 020 7040 8271.

This concert is presented in co-operation with ‘Wonderful Things: Byzantium through its Art’, the 42nd Spring Symposium of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies (

Department of Music Performance Space, College Building, Northampton Square EC1V 0HB.
Free admission, but please reserve places in advance online at or by calling 020 7040 8271.
1. Workshop (2–4 PM): Byzantine Chant as Early Music and Living Tradition
An exploration of the past and present of Byzantine singing with expert cantors Ioannis Arvanitis (Universities of Copenhagen and Athens) and John Michael Boyer (Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco).

2. Public Lecture (5 PM): The Heavenly Liturgy — Byzantine Psalmody 330–1453
Alexander Lingas leads Cappella Romana in a musically illustrated survey of Byzantine sacred music from its origins in the Late Antique basilicas of Hagia Sophia, Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and Jerusalem to its mystical twilight in the monasteries of the Holy Mountain of Athos. This is a reprise of the sold-out lecture that Dr Lingas gave for the Royal Academy of Arts at King’s College, London in November 2008.

Between 548 and 565 the East Roman (Byzantine) emperor Justinian I constructed the Holy Monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai, a place already revered by pilgrims as the site of God’s appearance to Moses in the Burning Bush. Monastic life and pilgrimage have continued through the centuries without significant interruption at St Catherine’s, bestowing on its living community a rich inheritance of spiritual traditions and material treasures, including an invaluable library of over 3,000 manuscripts, many of which contain Byzantine musical notation.
For this concert, we have selected a group of chants from the late 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries edited for modern performance by Ioannis Arvanitis. The program will include works by composer, editor, music theorist and Saint John Koukouzeles (late 13th–early 14th c.), who pioneered a new idiom of ‘beautiful sounding’ (‘kalophonic’) chant that spread quickly throughout the Orthodox world. This style was characterized by vocal virtuosity, the addition of new texts to existing chants (‘troping’), highly florid melodies, and even textless vocalizations on nonsense syllables (‘teretisms’).
The programme begins with medieval chants for Vespers—including psalms, hymns, and doxologies—that would have been sung for the monastery’s feastday of St Catherine of Alexandria, who is commemorated on 25 November. It continues with music from the Service of the Furnace, the only medieval Greek example of a liturgical drama comparable to the Visitatio sepulchri and other such plays of the Latin West. The Service of the Furnace was sung on the Sunday before Christmas, which commemorates Old Testament saints and features the reading of the genealogy of Christ. The Service, which is no longer used in worship, augmented this celebration with a quasi-dramatic rendering of the Song of the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace, a set of canticles found in the Septuagint (Greek) version of the Old Testament book of Daniel. In a fully staged version, the canticles would be sung in alternation between the choirs and three soloists representing the holy youths Ananias, Misael and Azarias (Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego). The three singers would stand on a raised platform representing the furnace, over which an icon of an angel would be lowered at the climactic moment of the angel’s descent to cool the furnace and save the children.
‘Voices of Byzantium’ is supported by the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange ( as part of ‘Byzantium Comes to Britain’, a series of events to accompany the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition Byzantium 330–1453. Additional support is provided by the City Research and Enterprise Unit and the School of Arts of City University London..

Its performances ‘like jeweled light flooding the space’ (Los Angeles Times), Cappella Romana is a vocal chamber ensemble dedicated to combining passion with scholarship in its exploration of the musical traditions of the Christian East and West, with emphasis on early and contemporary music. Founded in 1991, Cappella Romana’s name refers to the medieval Greek concept of the Roman oikoumene (inhabited world), which embraced Rome and Western Europe, as well as the Byzantine Empire of Constantinople (‘New Rome’) and its Slavic commonwealth. Each program in some way reflects the musical, cultural and spiritual heritage of this ecumenical vision.
Flexible in size according to the demands of the repertory, Cappella Romana is based in the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America, where it presents annual concert series in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. It has previously toured in five countries, appearing at such venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the J Paul Getty Center, the Pontificio Istituto Orientale in Rome, Princeton University, and Yale University. Cappella Romana has been featured on twelve compact discs, including Byzantium 330–1453 (the official companion CD to the Royal Academy of Arts Exhibition), Byzantium in Rome: Medieval Byzantine Chant from Grottaferrata, The Fall of Constantinople, Richard Toensing—Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ, and The Divine Liturgy in English: The Complete Service in Byzantine Chant. Its 2001 CD Music of Byzantium was produced in cooperation with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and sold over 12,000 copies. 
Forthcoming recordings include 15th-century Byzantine and Latin music of Cyprus.
Photos in digital format available upon request


Alexander Lingas, Cappella Romana’s founder and artistic director, is a Senior Lecturer in Music at City University in London and a Fellow of the University of Oxford’s European Humanities Research Centre. Formerly Assistant Professor of Music History at Arizona State University’s School of Music, Dr Lingas has also served as a lecturer and advisor for the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies at the University of Cambridge. He has received a number of academic awards, including Fulbright and Onassis grants for musical studies with Lycourgos Angelopoulos, a postdoctoral fellowship from the Canadian government for theological study under Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, and a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship held at St Peter’s College, Oxford. His publications include articles for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies. He is currently working on a study of Sunday Matins in the Rite of Hagia Sophia for Ashgate and a historical introduction to Byzantine Chant for Yale University Press.

Ioannis Arvanitis, a researcher in Music at the University of Athens, is completing a doctoral thesis for the University of Copenhagen on rhythm in medieval Byzantine music. He has sung with Marcel Pérès and his Ensemble Organum and is a member of the International Musicological Society’s Cantus Planus Study Group, publishing on topics from the tenth to the twentieth centuries AD. Since 2001, Mr Arvanitis has been a frequent collaborator with Cappella Romana, directing the ensemble for two CDs (Epiphany and Byzantium in Rome) and frequently providing it with editions of medieval Byzantine chant. An accomplished performer on various Greek folk instruments (tambura, oud and laouto), Mr Arvanitis has taught at the Experimental Music Gymnasium and Lyceum of Pallini, the School of the Society for the Dissemination of National Music, and the Philippos Nakas Conservatory.

John Michael Boyer was appointed Protopsaltis (First Cantor) of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco in 2006, for which he develops educational and performance programs in the liturgical arts as director of its Koukouzelis Institute ( A graduate in music of the University of California, Berkeley, Mr Boyer is artistic director of the Bay Area-based ensemble The Josquin Singers and associate conductor and assistant director of Bay Area Classical Harmonies. He began learning Byzantine chant with Alexander Lingas and later deepened his knowledge of the tradition with study in Athens under Lycourgos Angelopoulos and Ioannis Arvanitis. He recently coached Chanticleer and the Minnesota Symphony for world première performances and recordings of works by John Tavener, including the Grammy-Award-winning CD Lamentations and Praises. He is the lead adaptor of chants for Cappella Romana’s Byzantine Divine Liturgy in English project.

Louise Gordon, Concerts Manager, School of Arts, City University, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB;
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7040 8271; E-mail

Mark Powell, Executive Director, Cappella Romana: mobile +1 503-927-9027; msg line +1 503.236.8202; E-mail