In tandem with the album launch for “Hymns of Kassianí,” this panel highlighted two dimensions of women’s contributions to Christian sacred music: as composers and as performers (singers).
This history has been often marginalized or even disregarded in general histories of Christianity, yet it has been – and continues to be– important to the continuing vitality of sacred music as an art form and as a crucial mode of religious expression.
Our panelists discussed Kassía as a female composer in Constantinople; prominent counterparts in the medieval West, especially Hildegard of Bingen; the presence of women’s choirs in medieval Byzantine liturgical tradition and in present day Greece; and the practice of performing professionally and liturgically as a female chanter in an American Greek Orthodox parish. The panel incorporates audio clips by the Cappella Romana, In Mulieribus, and Ai Adousai chamber choirs, illustrating the different traditions discussed.
Original air date: April 13, 2021: 10:00am-11:30am Pacific, 1:00pm-2:30pm Eastern
What: Celebrating Cappella Romana’s release of Hymns of Kassianí, the earliest music we have by a female composer. Susan Ashbrook Harvey (Brown Univ.) and Cappella Romana music director Alexander Lingas host a discussion with Photini Downie Robinson (Cappella Romana), Sevi Mazera-Mamali (ADOUSAI Byzantine Women’s Choir, Volos, Greece), and Anna Song (In Mulieribus). In collaboration with City, University of London.
Dr. Susan Ashbrook Harvey
Susan Ashbrook Harvey is the Willard Prescott and Annie McClelland Smith Professor of Religion and History at Brown University, where she is also Director of the Program in Early Cultures. She specializes in Christianity of the Byzantine and Syriac traditions, particularly with respect to women, and to religion and the senses. Her scholarship has included focus on women’s religious singing in the ancient world.
Dr. Sevi Mazera-Mamali
Dr. Sevi Mazera-Mamali, Founder and Director (Domestikaina), Ai Adousai women’s Byzantine choir, Volos, Greece; teacher of Byzantine Music.
Dr. Mazera-Mamali trained as a Byzantine musicologist at the Kapodistrian University of Athens and has taught at the Higher Ecclessiastical Academy of Vellas in Ioannina. She is the founder and Domestikaina (Artistic Director and Conductor) of Ai Adousai women’s Byzantine Choir since 2012 in Volos, and a teacher of Byzantine and ecclesiastical music in the Greek Ministry of Education. She also performs as a piano soloist.
Photini Downie Robinson
Photini Downie Robinson, Singer, Cappella Romana; Lambadaria (leader of the “Left Choir”), Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Portland, Oregon; founder and director of YPHOS Voice Studio, Portland, Oregon.
Ms. Downie Robinson has been singing professionally for more than twenty years, performing with numerous professional ensembles especially in the Pacific Northwest region. An affinity for early music led her on a journey through Renaissance polyphony, Baroque chamber music and oratorio, and eventually into the highly specialized niche of Byzantine Chant. She is in high demand as a soloist, chamber musician, cantor, teacher, and clinician, and has become a leading advocate for integrating women into the classical tradition of the Psaltic Art.
Dr. Anna Song
Dr. Anna Song, Assoc. Prof. Music, Music Department Chair, and Director of Choirs, Linfield University, McMinnville, Oregon; Co-Founder and Director, In Mulieribus, professional female vocal ensemble based in Portland, Oregon.
Professor Song’s research interests focus on the method and practice of music teaching and learning, and on Western European vocal music before 1750 which she continues to explore with In Mulieribus, a professional female vocal ensemble she co-founded and leads as artistic director. She teaches courses in music education and musicianship, and directs the Linfield Concert Choir and Cascara Voce.
Dr. Alexander Lingas
is a Professor of Music at City, University of London, founder and Musical Director of the vocal ensemble Cappella Romana, and a Fellow of the University of Oxford’s European Humanities Research Centre. His present work embraces historical study, ethnography, and performance. In 2018 His All-Holiness, Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, bestowed on him the title of Archon Mousikodidaskalos