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“We are responsible for the Prayer of the Community” - Stephen Jacobs

Not A Goal, but a Responsibility. By: Layla Schmiedeler 1


The music of the Eastern Orthodox church has existed since the 4th century, when the first Christians began to emerge. Both Jews and Gentiles (what non-Jewish people were considered in the Christian Bible) were converting to this new religion and studying the Old Testament, the only written scripture at the time. However, Christians were persecuted for their faith. It was not until Constantine the Great, Holy Roman Empire during this time, signed the Edict of Milan that Christians were truely free to worship. This is when the first hymns and liturgical music scores were written.

The Paschal Troparion - Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom In the beginning, liturgical music was based off of the Byzantine tonal structures and were written mostly from the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. 75% to 80% of all the hymns originate from the book of Psalms. Origins of these hymns are found first in the Middle East, Greece and then the Byzantine Empire. However, when the Muslims invaded Constantinople many of the written texts and hymns were lost. It was because the Christian faith had reached Russia by that time that some of the hymns were saved. The Russians did not follow the same tonal structure as the Byzantines. They instead created set melodic compositions without any tonal structure. One of these Russian composers was Kastalsky who took many of the traditional hymns and added harmonies to the single melody chants.

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The Saint Michael’s Orthodox Church choir is very much a traditional Orthodox choir. There are four musical sections: bass, tenor, alto, and soprano, and all work together to create harmonies during the services of the church. “We [the choir] are responsible for the prayer of the community… it is not a goal, but a responsibility” states Steven Jacobs, the choir director at St. Michael’s. He goes on to say that he believes that the choir is there not to be a distraction, but to add to the emotion and feeling of the service. To help the congregation feel at peace and connected with God.

“My favorite hymn is ‘Christ is Risen’ which is sung on Easter Sunday” - Stephen Jacobs Christ is Risen Audio

The hymns the choir sings at each service is based on the church calendar. Nothing is random as everything is set for the entire year. There are different feasts that occur annually, some of these include Easter and Christmas. Each feast has different tones and hymns that the choir uses. The first day of the Orthodox year is September 1st and the first major feast is celebrating the birth of the Virgin Mary. The hymns that are sung during this service tell a story about Mary, her parents, and the prophecies from the Old Testament that talked about her birth. In these hymns Mary is referred to as “the Holy of Holies”. Through the year there are 4 feasts for the Virgin Mary and there are also 8 feasts for Christ.

Roll over each bar to hear the musical range of each Choir

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Doxastikon of the Praises (Plagal of the First Tone): It is the day of Resurrection; let us be radiant for the festival, and let us embrace one another. Let us say, O brethren, even to those that hate us: Let us forgive all things on the Resurrection; and thus let us cry: Christ is risen from the dead, by death He has trampled down death, and on those in the tombs He has bestowed life. See more at: http://lent.goarch.org/holy_pascha/learn/#sthash.LnslwEom.dpuf - Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysosome

Doxastikon of the Praises Audio St. Michael’s Choir - Divine Liturgy

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St Michael's Choir  
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