1846 Patriarchal Encyclical Against Harmonization
(introductory note by John Presson, Diocesan Protopsaltis GOC )
John's Note: This historical document of November, 1864, was written by the Patriarchal Synod of Anthimos of Church comunities abroad in Vienna, subject the chanting traditions of the Great Church who began to introduce Italianate 4 part harmonies into their services and Divine Litrugies. It has been the recently published opinion of certain ecclesiastics that this document is neither command nor possesses authority over Churches that stem from the Tradition of the Great Church. I sharply disagree, and would point out that this encyclical was written at a time considered of mutual authority before the Calendar Schism of 1923, and I am publishing the Encyclical (on facebook - jh) so it can be read in its entirely and people can judge for themselves on the merits of the document. As holding the rank of Protopsaltis, I believe this document should be taken seriously by all us whose chanters stands and ministries stem historically from that of the Great Church. Those who historically follow the Slavic traditions in which 4 part music has made its inroads may take ot leave the paternal counsel of the Holy Synod here presented.
An Official Condemnation of Four-part Harmony in Orthodox Ecclesiastical Music
An Encyclical of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Translated from: «Ἐπίσημος Καταδίκη τῆς Τετραφωνίας», Κιβωτός, Ἰούλιος, 1952, σελ. 302-303.
November 5, 1846
From: Anthimos, by the grace of God Archbishop of Constantinople, the New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch.
To: Reverend priests, venerable hieromonks, pious governers, esteemed merchants, and blessed Christians, comprising the Orthodox community of Capella in Vienna; beloved children of my mediocrity, may you have grace and peace from God, and prayers, blessings, and forgiveness from us.
Some time ago, the Holy Church of Christ was informed unexpectedly with no small grief that you, the blessed Orthodox Christians dwelling there, true children of our common Mother, the Holy Eastern Church, though raised on the milk of piety by your forefathers, have fallen into a sinful mistake by rejecting from your holy church the ancient ecclesiastical music handed down by the Fathers, and have introduced in its place a foreign four-part music, which you have adapted to the holy services following some foreign lead.
This news troubled us and grieved us justifiably, not only because the alteration of an ancient holy tradition without ecclesiastical permission reveals arbitrary meddling in a matter regarding the Church, and having done so, it furtively leads the few Orthodox who are amongst so many heterodox to other dangerous opportunities, especially since the reform is related to other foreign customs, but also because of the nature of the matter, since it is evident that this newly appeared tetraphonic music is unbecoming to ecclesiastical propriety due to its enervating melody, and consequently its introduction into the sacred services goes against the sacred Canons of the Church, which has inherited the tradition of praising God in spiriutal odes and contrite, decorous hymns, in the manner of the hymns composed by our Holy Fathers in our ancient ecclesiastical music which are so God-pleasing and salvific.
We are at a loss to explain how it could have seemed permissable to you to estrange yourselves from their holy footsteps by pushing aside the venerable hymnody sanctified and established by these inspired men which Christians are accustomed to hearing, and which—along with other patristic traditions— characterizes all Greek Orthodox people, and how you could have followed foreign and alien examples, without realizing that in doing so, you also become guilty of sinning with reference to the Canons and the holy Church of Christ, the common Mother of the pious, which in no way tolerates any change whatsoever of the ancient Christian customs and order, and that you will thus scandalize and bring grave sorrow to the other Orthodox Christians.
For these and other substantial reasons, both we and our Holy Synod of holy hierarchs, unanimously agreeing we published in print our ecclesiastical encylical letters proclaiming our ecclesiastical reckoning and decision regarding this matter, namely the abolition of four-part music in the sacred services of Orthodox churches everywhere and the unthwarted use of our ecclesiastical music, which has been instituted for canonical reasons as you will be informed more precisely by what is written in these encyclicals.
In one such encyclical, in November of 1846 the Holy Synod wrote among other things the following:
“This sinful innovation... is a grave mistake and dangerous and will cause greater transgressions and novelties to be introduced. It grieves our heart, as it leads to other unforseen dangers, especially since it approaches the customs of the foreigners and heterodox...
Besides all this, since almost all of our Church’s sacred hymns and songs were composed as a whole along with the words of this ecclesiastical music, it is evident that they cannot be sung modified and adapted in another foreign manner, without altering their melodic rhythm to something else strange, chaotic, and cold, bare of any compunction... Four-part harmony seduces the ears, charms the senses, and enfeebles the soul, and is not the music of those who pray and glorify God with piety and fear, but the music of those who are relaxing and amusing themselves, thus mixing the angelic doxologies of sacred prayers with passionate melodies, profaning the spiritual songs with foreign novelties in singing...
These sensual and unbecoming melodies are alienated from the salvific purpose of prayer done through sacred psalmody, which should be an entreaty to God to propitiate for sins, which admittedly requires both an ethos and a heart and a hearing that are entirely spiritual and compunctious, and as such, free from worldly ideas and causes...
Our holy Church tolerates no innovation or novelty regarding this sacred music of hers... and through this patriarchal and synodical letter the Church proclaims the infiltration, introduction, and use of any foreign and strange music whatsoever in church services to be unacceptable and reprehensible... If any people out of ignorance or for some other reason have introduced into their holy churches the aforementioned unsuitble tetraphonic music, they should remove it immediately.”
Taken from Παπαδόπουλος, Γεώργιος, Ἰστορικὴ Ἐπισκόπησις τῆς Βυζαντινῆς Ἐκκλησιαστικῆς Μουσικῆς, Ἀθῆναι, 1904, pp. 275-283.2
In writing you this patriarchal and synodical letter of ours, we paternally advise and ecclesiastically urge you, who by God’s grace comprise the Orthodox community there, that you “remove not the eternal boundaries, which thy fathers placed”(Prov. 22:28) nor divide the unity of the Church in regards to her sacred services and prayers, nor remove the best ornament of the Greek Orthodox race, but as genuine children of our holy Church remain firm in keeping her patristic, sacred customs and venerable traditions, and put an end to the foreign melodies of tetraphonic music in both of the holy churches there, and in its stead bring in once again the ancestral, ancient, traditional music, and thus disagreeing in no way from the rest of the Greek Orthodox churches and avoid becoming the cause of a scandal and stumbling to the pleroma in Christ through such a novelty, but by imitating with a keen sense of honor the ever-memorable, God-loving founders of this sacred church of Capella, who were exact guardians of the sacred and ancestral ecclesiastical customs and champions of the ethnic character, so that you may leave to posterity models and examples of Christian virtues and God-pleasing zeal.
We have advised these things to you out of ecclesiastical solicitude and presented them to you, awaiting the results of our paternal exhortations from your filial and Christian eagerness, so that we may adorn you with our wholehearted synodical prayers and with well-deserved praise and commendation.
May the grace and infinite mercy of God be with you.
November 5, 1846________________________________________
Please also find below the following article that was part of the Byzantine chant section of the former Metropolis/Diocese of Portland site, now the Cathedral website regarding an Athenian westernizer who was censured for his promulgation of westernized music into the repertoire of Greek Orthodox tradition. reference: http://gocportland.org/chant_john_sakellarides.html
Concerning John Sakellarides
by Dr. Alexander Lingas
The following article appeared on one of the Byzantine chant discussion groups in 2005 concerning the late and sorrowful John Sakellarides, whose negative influences on Greek Orthodox Church music can be felt today throughout the Greek Orthodox world (particularly in America) and even cryptically amongst so-called traditional chanters. The article, while written academically and objectively, speaks volumes to the dangers of the rising tide of Western musical theory and practice, even in traditional Byzantine liturgical chant. –Protopsaltis John Peter Presson
The life and work of John Theophrastos Sakellarides, teacher, arranger and erstwhile reformer of Byzantine chant, is of fundamental importance for understanding the development of sacred music in the Greek Orthodox Church since the late nineteenth century. Born ca. 1853 outside of the Greek kingdom in Litochoros, Olympus, he received his first instruction in Byzantine chanting from his father, a priest. Sent to Thessalonica for secondary school, he continued his study of chant under the noted cantor Papa-Theodoro Mantzourani, a former Constantinopolitan who also taught the young man Arabo-Persian music. Sakellarides then enrolled Medical School of the University of Athens, transferring later to its School of Philosophy. During this period he secured the first of his many cantorial positions in the Athens area, while also studying Western musical theory under a German teacher at the recently founded Athens Conservatory. Sakellarides' encounter with Western music proved decisive, causing him to reject many elements of the received tradition of Byzantine chanting as relics of Turkish domination. He began to view the repertories of florid chant as bodies of formless creations in which the meaning of the text was obliterated by senseless melismas, and to criticise traditional vocal production as barbaric "rhinophonia" ("nasal-singing").
Thereafter he cultivated a more Western manner of singing and embarked on a mission to purify Byzantine chant through a radical recomposition of the central repertory. He simplified or eliminated most melismatic chants, while rewriting many of the less florid chants to conform to his classicising theories of metre and punctuation. In 1880, while still at university, he published his Christomatheia ekklesiastikes mousikes, a book of liturgical music in modern Byzantine notation containing a theoretical prologue recommending the adoption of equal-temperament tuning, followed by a compendium of the most frequently encountered chants for the Divine Liturgy and major offices. This volume was soon followed by others in both Byzantine and Western staff notation, some of which also contained elementary harmonisations in two, three and occasionally four parts. Sakellarides justified the latter innovation with citations of classical and patristic texts, dubiously interpreting references to harmonia as evidence for harmonised singing in the modern Western sense. Moreover, he defended his harmonisations (often little more than parallel thirds or sixths over a rudimentary bass part) as "triphonia" not subject to the recent synodal and patriarchal proscriptions of "tetraphonia" (i.e. polyphonic compositions, usually in four-parts).
These rationalisations did not prevent his censure in 1886 by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece for breaking the ban on polyphony with his choir at the church of Hagia Eirene, as well as for having introduced female voices into his ensemble. Although the synod's action forced him to resign from Hagia Eirene, it did little to stem his rapidly growing popularity. The subsequent accession of a new archbishop from the Ionian Islands brought Sakellarides toleration followed by official sanction as he successively assumed musical directorships at the most prominent churches of Athens, including its cathedral. Attracting large crowds wherever he went, he was renowned for the clarity of his tenor voice, his diction, and for inviting the congregation to participate in certain of his simplified chants with the command "Laos!" ("People!"). He eventually returned to Hagia Eirene, where he remained protopsaltes until his death on 15 December 1938.
Prior to the Asia Minor Disaster of 1922, Sakellarides worked vigorously as a composer and teacher to reconcile the musical cultures of Ancient Greece, Byzantium and the contemporary West. In addition to producing a comprehensive repertory of reformed chant that was constantly republished, he wrote incidental music for three classical dramas and composed a large number of patriotic songs intended for use in schools, many of which appear in his nationalistic collection Tyrtaios (1907). Sakellarides personally taught his music to nearly two generations of Athenian clergy and laity (both men and women) at such institutions as the Rizareios Seminary and the Arsakeion school for girls. His firm belief in the fundamental unity of Greek musical culture through the ages took him and his three children to Munich in 1903, where they presented lecture-recitals of sacred and folk music. These included a concert featuring the participation of the Munich's Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of his son Theophrastos, a composer of operetta who had orchestrated the music performed on that occasion. Back in Athens, from 1904-7 he instructed the young H.J.W. Tillyard, a future co-founder of the Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae, in the received tradition of Byzantine chanting, thereby influencing the subsequent course of Byzantine musicology in the West with his reformist views.
Sakellarides continued to clash with traditionalists even after his Hiera Hymnodia (which contains such curiosities as a Greek adaptation of Wagner's famous march from Lohengrin among its chants for the Orthodox wedding service) was recommended for general use by the Holy Synod and Ministry of Education in 1902. In that same year, he provoked a public disturbance by attempting to provide piano accompaniment for the public final examination of one of his chant students. His 1904 transcription of an acclamation for the last Byzantine emperor from a medieval manuscript precipitated a bitter debate in the periodicals of Athens and Constantinople regarding the true nature of chant in Byzantium. This was also the first of many conflicts with the newly arrived Constantinos Psachos (ca. 1866-1949), another student of Mantzourani who had just been sent by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to direct a school of traditional Byzantine music at the Athens Conservatory. The influence of Sakellarides on liturgical music in Greece began gradually to wane after the 1950s. By the late 1980s, a revival of traditional Byzantine and folk music had relegated the vast majority of Sakellarides' reformed chants to the musical periphery. An exception to this trend is his melody for the vesper hymn Phos hilaron, which has all but completely displaced the ancient chant even on Mount Athos. For a variety of cultural and historical reasons, the music of Sakellarides has proven far more durable in the Greek Orthodox churches of the West. This is particularly true of the United States, where his reformed melodies were so widely disseminated during the heaviest periods of Greek immigration that they have since come to be regarded by most people as 'traditional.' Yet with the rise of professionally trained Greek-American musicians, his elementary harmonisations have largely given way to more sophisticated modal arrangements by such composers as Frank Desby, Anna Gallos and Tikey Zes.
Selected Further Reading
Desby, Frank Harry, "Growth of Liturgical Music in the Iakovian Era," in M. B. Ephthimiou and G.A. Christopoulos (editors), History of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, New York: Greek Archdiocese of North and South America, 1984, pp. 303-23.
Idem, The Modes and Tunings in Neo-Byzantine Chant, D.M.A. diss., University of Southern California, 1974. Filopoulos, Giannes, Eisagoge sten hellenike polyphonike ekkelsiastike mousike, Athens: Nefele, 1990 [with a very brief summary in English]
Lingas, Alexander, "Performance Practice and the Politics of Transcribing Byzantine Chant," in Le chant byzantin, état des recherches, Christian Hannick and Marcel Pérès (editors), Rencontres à Royaumont Series (forthcoming).
Sakellarides, John Th., Hymns and Odes: [With] Translations by Philolaus Kalavros, M.D., Hollywood, California: Angelos Desfis, 1949 [Widely distributed American reprint of the 1930 edition of Hymnoi kai Odai, with an edited English translation of Sakellarides' preface].
Tillyard, H.J.W., "The Rediscovery of Byzantine Music," in Jack Westrup (editor), Essays presented to Egon Wellesz, Oxford:1966, pp. 3-6.