By George Capsis
The dramatic, almost theatrical interior space of St. Veronica invites imaginative uses and we came up with The Sounds of the Great Religions, a survey of great musical moments from the world’s great religions.
Having been exposed to the Greek Orthodox church (my father was Greek, my mother a Lutheran German), I knew how dramatic it could be so I called Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos who is in charge of music at the Archdiocese.
Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos (yes I know Greek names are a bit much but in this case the last name is appropriate—”Papadopoulos” which means “son of the father, or more accurately, son of the priest, for as you know, Greek priests can and do marry).
A very young looking Panteleimon came down for lunch in the garden and shortly it was like talking to a relative. That is what is great about being Greek—it is really one big family.
I casually mentioned how long I thought the presentation should be and he snapped “no, no, that’s too long. Yah gotta make it shorter.”
We were hours away from sending to the printer when I asked if he could send some thoughts about the presentation and here is what he sent.
Telling the story of the Greek Orthodox Church from Constantine the Great to Today
With every hymn that is being chanted a corresponding Byzantine Icon will be projected on the screen as an introduction and then followed by the hymn that will be chanted in English translation for the audience to see. A description of the icons displayed will be offered and a short analysis of each hymn chanted. This will provide everyone present with the necessary explanation to easily follow what the choir will perform and its significance within Orthodox theology and liturgical practice thus, bringing the Sound of this Great Religion to life for the listener.
The concert will begin with a short historical narrative by Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos about the Orthodox Church and the importance the Byzantine Empire played, and especially Constantine the Great, for the spread of Christianity throughout the Mediterranean. The first hymn that will be performed is a hymn dating back to the 4th century which is still chanted at every Orthodox Vespers service entitled, “O Gladsome Light.”
Then, the ancient Christological hymn, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us” will follow. The importance of this hymn will be discussed and its significance in history as a refutation to various heresies of the time. The final chanting of this hymn will be a much more drawn-out melodic version written by the greatest composer of the 20th century, Archon Protopsaltis Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas.
The concert will then move into a musical and iconographic overview of the major feast within the Orthodox Liturgical Calendar. The choir’s primary focus will be on Christocentric Feasts. Each feast will be complimented with a short explanation of what is celebrated and why it is important. This will be ascertained by an analysis of the hymns chanted and their theological importance.
1. Annunciation—“O Champion leader”
2. Christmas—Katavasies “Christ is born, glorify Him”
3. Epiphany—“As many as have been Baptized into Christ”
4. Holy Lent—“Don’t turn your face from” First Great Vespers of Lent
a. “They have removed my garments”—Holy Thursday
5. Anastasis—“It is the day of Resurrection”
a. Varis Mode Resurrection Hymns
6. Pentecost—“Birthday of the Church,” “Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth”
We want to finish off the concert with a solemn focus on the tragic events of 9/11. A short video showing the reconstruction of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine (6 minutes) will be shown. This church was the only house of worship destroyed on 9/11. A hymn from the Orthodox funeral service will be chanted in commemoration of the day followed by a select number of hymns dedicated to Saint Nicholas himself. Archbishop Demetrios of America, the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, will offer closing remarks.