About the School/What to Expect

Classes meet at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (337 East 74th Street NY, NY 10021) of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America once a week and follow a regular academic calendar (i.e. September – June).

Time Frame:

At the Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music, the curriculum will take approximately 5 years to complete.  This is not always the case, however, since the lessons at ASBM are tailored to fit the needs of the student so that each may move at his/her own pace.  Lessons last 45-60 minutes per session and take place weekly on Saturdays, and/or by special arrangement on weeknights in consultation with the instructors.  Students will be grouped with other students at a comparable level of study and age (there will be no more than five students per group).

Cost:

$500 per student per year.  This amount does not include materials the student will need for his/her studies throughout the duration of the program (i.e. books, textbook, etc.).

Content:

ASBM works together closely with Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (HCHC).  As such, the ASBM follows a similar curriculum to that which is offered at HCHC.  The curriculum is in accordance with the standards in conservatories and schools of Byzantine Music in Greece. Here is an overview of the different modules that will be covered:

History of Byzantine Music and Christian Hymnography

This introductory module provides an overview of the history and development of the Psaltic Art (Byzantine Music) of Greek Orthodox worship. Among the topics covered are: the beginnings of Christian hymnography and musical composition; the main hymnographic genres; the history of neume notation; the major landmarks in the development of the various genres of psaltic composition; etc.

Byzantine Music I Introduction

This module is a systematic introduction to the basic theory and notation of the Psaltic Art. It will provide a solid foundation for a further study of the liturgical repertoire of the Greek Orthodox Church. Topics to be covered include the history and function of the notation, a thorough examination of key musical concepts (e.g. note, interval, scale, tempo, rhythm, genus, mode, tetrachord, etc.), and a study of the role of music in Greek Orthodox worship. By the end of the module students will be able to sight-read and perform simple hymns written in the New Method of Analytical Notation in both parallage (solmization) and melos (melody).

Byzantine Music II – Anastasimatarion (1st & Pl. 4th Modes)

This module is a systematic study of the theoretical and practical aspects of the First and Plagal Fourth Modes of the Psaltic Art within the context of the Anastasimatarion. We will study the resurrectional hymns of the liturgical book of Octoechos or Parakletike of the aforementioned modes in both parallage (solmization) and melos (melody). Additionally, we will examine the characteristics of the diatonic genus and the heirmologic and sticheraric styles of chant.  These hymns (as well as most hymns taught at the ASBM) will be primarily in Greek, with some in English.

Byzantine Music III – Anastasimatarion (3rd, 4th & Pl. 1st Modes)

This module is a systematic study of the theoretical and practical aspects of the Third, Fourth and Plagal First Modes of the Psaltic Art within the context of the Anastasimatarion. By the end of the module students will be able to perform the resurrectional hymns of the liturgical book of Octoechos or Parakletike of the aforementioned modes in both parallage (solmization) and melos (melody).

Byzantine Music IV – Anastasimatarion (Varys/Grave, 2nd & Pl. 2nd Modes)

This module is a systematic study of the theoretical and practical aspects of the Second, Plagal Second and Varys (Grave) Modes of the Psaltic Art within the context of the Anastasimatarion. By the end of the module students will be able to perform the resurrectional hymns of the liturgical book of Octoechos or Parakletike of the aforementioned modes in both parallage (solmization) and melos (melody).

Byzantine Music V Prosomoia & Sacraments

This module is a systematic study of (i) the model melodies (prologoi-prosomoia) commonly used in musical settings of Byzantine hymns, and (ii) the hymns chanted in sacraments and other services of the Greek Orthodox Church (baptism, wedding, funeral, sanctification of water, etc.). By the end of the module students will be able to perform the majority of hymns found in the liturgical books without relying on a musical score.

Byzantine Music VI Holy Week

This module is a systematic study of the hymns chanted during the Great and Holy Week and the Feast of Pascha in the Greek Orthodox Church. The repertoire includes hymns in all eight modes and in all three melodic styles (heirmologic, sticheraric and papadic). Additionally, we will study the structure and rubrics of Holy Week and Pascha services.

Byzantine Music VII – Doxastarion & Heirmologion

This module is a systematic study of Byzantine hymns chanted during major feast days of the ecclesiastical year of the Greek Orthodox Church within the context of the Doxastarion. A great emphasis will be placed on studying the idiomela and doxastika for the feasts of Christmas, Theophany, Annunciation, Dormition of the Virgin Mary, as well as the idiomela and doxastika for the periods of Triodion and Pentecostarion. Additionally, we will study the slow katavasiai of the most important periods of the liturgical year.

Byzantine Music VIII – Papadic Genus

This module is a systematic study of the papadic genus of the Psaltic Art in all eight modes with a great emphasis on hymns for the Divine Liturgy (trisagion, cherubic hymn, communion hymn, etc.). We will also briefly study slow doxologies, Triodion hymns and kalophonic heirmoi.

Byzantine Music IX Papadike & Old Sticherarion

The material taught in this module is equivalent to the material taught in the 4th year of Greek conservatories and provides comprehensive preparation for the final examination required for a Certificate in Byzantine Music. Students are expected to become competent in performing more technically demanding repertoire, including Gregory Protopsaltis’ cherubic hymns, Petros the Peloponnesian’s communion hymns, Petros the Peloponnesian’s Kyrie i en pollais amartiais, Ioannis Koukouzelis’ Anothen oi profitai, the ancient hymn Ton despotin kai archierea, and the anaphora hymns for the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil.

Byzantine Music X – Papadike, Old Sticherarion & Kalophonic Heirmologion

The material taught in this module is equivalent to the material taught in the 5th year of Greek conservatories and provides comprehensive preparation for the final examination required for a Certificate in Byzantine Music. Students are expected to become competent in performing more technically demanding repertoire, including Petros Bereketis’ eight-mode composition Theotoke Parthene, the Athenian funeral Trisagion, kalophonic heirmoi and kratimata in all eight modes, and a selection of verses from Ioannis Koukouzelis’ Anoixandaria.

In addition to these modules, the following practical topics will be taught:

  • Introduction to the Psaltiri (Chant Stand)
  • Liturgical Books and how to use them
  • Hemerologion (Calendar) of the Church and the Liturgical Cycle
  • Study of the Services of the Orthodox Church
    • Typikon
    • Vespers, Orthros, Divine Liturgy
    • Sacraments
    • Other Services (Services of Great Lent, Paraklesis, Serving with a Hierarch, etc.)
  • Memorization of Popular Hymns of the Church
  • Vocal techniques
  • Chanting in a choir

Earning Your Degree:

Upon successful completion of the ASBM program, the student will have the opportunity to earn a Certificate in Byzantine Music issued by HCHC.

In order to be awarded a Certificate in Byzantine Music, eligible ASBM students must successfully pass a comprehensive oral examination before a designated committee consisting of:

  • a Holy Cross full-time faculty member specializing in Byzantine Music who also serves as the Committee Chairperson,
  • a representative of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and
  • three specialists who are appointed by the Committee Chairperson and hold (i) the office of Protopsaltis of one of the Metropolises of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and/or (ii) a doctoral or Masters degree in Byzantine Musicology and/or (iii) a Diploma in Byzantine Music, and/or (iv) a faculty position in an accredited conservatory with a specialty in Byzantine Music, Ethnomusicology, Classical Ottoman Music or a related field.

The examination will last approximately one hour and include sections on:

  • theory and notation,
  • service rubrics,
  • sight reading,
  • performance of prepared repertoire from the following musical collections: Anastasimatarion, Slow Heirmologion, Old Sticherarion, Papadike, Kalophonic Heirmologion.

At the end of the examination, the committee will convene privately to decide upon the examination result and grade. A 4-to-1 majority vote is required for a passing examination result. The grade will be determined by the majority vote of those committee members who voted favorably in the initial vote. The three possible grades are (i) Excellent, (ii) Very Good, and (iii) Satisfactory. The Certificate in Byzantine Music will be signed by the Archbishop of America, the President of Hellenic College, Inc., the Dean of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and the five members of the examining committee. The conferral of the Certificate will take place during the annual Hellenic College/ Cross commencement ceremonies.

The examining committee will convene annually on the campus of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Brookline, MA) during the month of May to administer a separate examination for each candidate.  The ASBM will arrange all details pertaining to the examination.