Friday, April 15

Let all mortal flesh keep silence...

Holy Week, the deepest and most beautiful week of the year is approaching! In the Orthodox Church, there is such a vast richness of hymns, music, meanings. If only I could even give a hint of all that - but, alas, it's not possible.

Musically speaking, the best example of the profound beauty of so-called Byzantine music is a hymn sung on Great Saturday morning. I think it's an ancient hymn. Here are the words:
Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; ponder nothing earthly-minded, for the King of kings, the Lord of lords, will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food. Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on the way, the Principalities, the Authorities, the Cherubim with countless eyes, the six-winged Seraphim, veil their faces to the presence, as with ceaseless voice they cry: Alleluia

The best version (known to me) is written by Iakovos Protopsaltis and it is sung by the Hellenic Byzantine Choir (directed by Lykourgos Angelopoulos). It's such a moving hymn, especially when put in the particular context of the day and time it is sung. On the other hand, the music is not sentimental, yet it conveys with great power and solemnity a spiritual intensity which, to me, goes beyond feelings.

I know that this music seems very strange to those who are not familiar to its sound. But it's worth spending some time discovering it. And this particular hymn is a very good introduction.

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