Language in American Orthodox Music: Liturgical and Pastoral Perspectives

Monday, May 24, 2021 3pm Eastern

Please join us for a webinar on “Language in American Orthodox Music: Liturgical and Pastoral Perspectives” hosted by Fordham University’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center in a co-presentation with Cappella Romana.

It has often been asserted that it is the tradition of the Orthodox Church to worship in the local language. Yet the historical reality has been far more complex, with Armenian, Coptic, ecclesiastical Greek, Syriac and Church Slavonic often having been maintained as liturgical languages distinct from contemporary local vernaculars.

Although the audible portions of Eastern Christian public worship are devoted almost entirely to singing, the role that music plays in the linguistic inculturation of Orthodoxy has received relatively little attention.

Alexander Lingas (Musical Director, Cappella Romana) will introduce moderator Richard Barrett (AGES Initiatives and the St. John of Damascus Society). Mr. Barrett will then lead a discussion of how music affects changing relationships between heritage and local languages in the Orthodox churches of America conducted by three leading scholars and practitioners: Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis (SUNY Potsdam), Dr. Vitaly Permiakov and Fr. John El Massih (both St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary).

Registration is free and open to the public


Dr. Vitaly Permiakov

Dr. Vitaly Permiakov

Born to a Russian family in Riga, Latvia, Dr. Vitaly Permiakov relocated to the United States in 1999 after completing his undergraduate studies. He entered St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) in Yonkers, NY with the blessing of late Archbishop Dmitri (Royster) of Dallas (OCA) (d. 2011). After finishing seminary, Dr. Permiakov enrolled in a doctoral program in Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where in 2012 he defended his dissertation on the history and origins of the Byzantine rite for the consecration of churches. Dr. Permiakov taught at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary (Jordanville, NY) from 2011 to 2020, and joined the full-time faculty at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in August 2020. In 2021, on the Feast of the Annunciation, he was ordained subdeacon at Three Hierarchs Chapel, St. Vladimir’s Seminary.

Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis

Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis

Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis is a Professor of Music at the Crane School of Music, State University of New York at Potsdam, where she teaches music theory, harp and Byzantine music. She has directed chant choirs, presented lectures, and has taught numerous seminars and workshops across the U.S. and Canada. In 1984, she became what is thought to be the first salaried and officially-titled female protopsalti (chanter) of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America In addition to degrees in music theory and performance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Eastman School of Music and Indiana University, she holds diplomas with highest honors in Byzantine music from two Greek conservatories, is certified by both the State and Church of Greece, and is a tonsured reader/chanter. In 2006, she was awarded the St. Romanos Medallion, the highest honor bestowed to a musician in the Greek Archdiocese of America, for “significant national contributions to church music” by the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians. Currently she chants at St. Olympia Orthodox Church in Potsdam, NY, and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

The Rev. Rassem El Massih

The Rev. Rassem El Massih

The Rev. Rassem El Massih was born and raised in Anfeh, Lebanon, where he studied Byzantine Chant under the tutelage of the renowned teacher Fr. Nicholas Malek, receiving his certification at the age of 18. He continued on to Hellenic College / Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, where he graduated with a Master of Divinity degree in December of 2013. He also was a key member of the school’s Saint Romanos the Melodist Choir, as well as a member of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Choir, the Choir of St. Mark, and Duniya. He served as the Protopsalti of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Boston until his assignment in summer of 2013 as an assistant and chanter for the late Metropolitan Philip. This assignment included teaching Byzantine music to the seminarians of the Antiochian Archdiocese studying at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Father Rassem was ordained to the holy priesthood by His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph on August 30, 2020 at Ss. Peter & Paul Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, Potomac, MD.

Richard Barrett – Moderator

Richard Barrett is the Executive Director of AGES Initiatives, which distributes service texts and liturgical music to Orthodox parishes throughout the world, and Artistic Director of the Saint John of Damascus Society, which supports the performance and dissemination of Orthodox sacred music for the general public. Since 2015, he has served as Director of Music at Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Somerville, MA. He is also the co-host of the Ancient Faith Media podcast, “A Sacrifice of Praise: The Living Tradition of Byzantine Music in America.” He sings regularly with multiple ensembles, including Cappella Romana, the Patriarch Tikhon Choir, and Psaltikon. He has worked with conductors such as Alexander Lingas, Benedict Sheehan, Peter Jermihov, Marcel Pérès and Vladimir Gorbik.

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