Singer Spotlight: Photini Downie Robinson

Our Singer Spotlight series continues with Photini Downie Robinson!

When did you first begin singing with Cappella Romana?

Photini Downie Robinson
Photini Downie Robinson © Rachel Hadiashar

I started with Cappella Romana in 2007 by the name of Mel. I was a young tech professional with an 18-month-old toddler, new to Portland and hoping to break into the professional choral scene. To say that Cappella Romana changed my life would be a massive understatement. As I became more familiar with Byzantine chant, I felt compelled to learn more about the ecclesiastical tradition that was the source of its beauty and power.

To condense the twists and turns of an extraordinary journey into a few highlights: I was chrismated into the Orthodox Church in 2015 with Fr. Ivan Moody as my Sponsor, receiving the name of my patroness, St. Photini (also known as the Samaritan Woman, or the Woman at the Well). I became a staff cantor at Holy Trinity in 2019, the same year I reduced my hours in the tech sector so I could open a private studio. I earned my Certificate in Byzantine Music from Hellenic College Holy Cross School of Theology in 2021 and was ordained into the office of Cantor by His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco the following year. Last November, I was appointed to the position of Protopsaltria at Holy Trinity Cathedral. I am enrolled in the Master of Theological Studies program at Holy Cross, hoping to earn my MTS by 2025. I am interested in the theology of our rich hymnographic tradition and how it can be applied to pastoral ministry.

I am grateful to my many teachers and mentors along the way who continue to guide and support me in service to the Church; most notably Dr. Alexander Lingas whose vision invited me to step inside this vast tradition, and John Michael Boyer, my friend and teacher, who has been most influential in forming me as a cantor and liturgical leader. In summary, Cappella Romana changed my faith, my career, and my priorities.

What concert are you most excited about this season?

Out of the Ashes of Smyrna. Because it will feature the men of Cappella, I’ll get to cheer on my brothers from the front row.

Do you have a recording you’re most proud of?

Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia, because it was the first time that women’s voices were prominently featured on a Byzantine Chant project by Cappella Romana!