Saturday, June 5, 2010

Summer: Time to Get Back to Regular Blogging!

Well, sometimes it is amazing how time flies. Since I last wrote life has been flying by at a ridiculous rate, I’ve hardly been able to keep up … but after saying goodbye to the 2010 high school graduates at my school I believe it is time to get back to the blogging. In the time since I last wrote I have had numerous ideas for blogs but never had time to sit down and actually write them down.
When I last left you we were heading into the Pre-Lent season. Now we’ve been through Lent, Holy Week, Pascha, the Paschal Season, Ascension, and Pentecost. Whew!
I worked on two important, but related projects during Lent. The first one Anne and I began last summer, was a complete reworking and typesetting of our Holy Saturday Matins a.k.a. Lamentations service. We were determined to finish this service in time for rehearsals the 2nd and 3rd week of Lent because it also required creating new booklets for the congregation. In order to prepare those booklets in time we needed to have sung through every note of the new typesetting.
This particular service of Holy Week is one of our parish favorites. The entire service is sung antiphonally, by candlelight: the first half – thru Psalm 50 – in male / female choirs, the second half – the canon to the end – in two mixed choirs. But why did this service require the many hours of labor that Anne and I and my daughter, Juliana put into it? We have been singing this just fine for years. The initial work for this service was completed many years ago by our dear friend, Fr. David Anderson. His work included, not only a new translation, but also a setting of the Byzantine melodies to the new text. His work was done in long hand before the age of digital typesetting and we have been working off of photocopies of photocopies for years. There were also a number of awkward moments where the flow of the melody and the rhythmic accent of the text gave us trouble year after year. Remember, we are talking about almost two hundred short troparia. The original melodies were formulaic and designed to have text that just works, as I am convinced it does in the original Greek. By working to make it more consistent we knew we could sing this service more accurately with less rehearsal, not to mention simply read it more easily by being digitally typeset.
The second project, similar to the first, was to go through our Holy Weeks books and typeset the sections that were the most problematic to read. As with the Lamentations service, we have been using certain settings for years, but they were not optimally readable and contained many corrections that had been made by hand. By getting the stichera and other portions of the services properly typeset and edited, including breath marks, phrasing, etc, we were better able to sing these services with less rehearsal, more accuracy, better flow and most importantly enable peace and prayer on the kliros.
In the weeks after Pascha, Anne and I went back through all of the Holy Week services made the necessary corrections and have already recopied the pages with changes so that next year when we approach these services everything will be in place. I can’t wait.

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