Victoria Bond's Illuminations
Byzantine Chants at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
By: Susan Hall - Dec 11, 2023
Victoria Bond is a composer who has experimented with many styles. Over the years she has worked with Dr. Paul Barnes, a pianist and Greek Orthodox chanter, developing Illuminations on Byzantine Chant. Barnes had hoped to capture the wide emotional range and spiritual message of Orthodox Christianity, Bond is captivated by this mystical world.
The St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and National Shrine is at 130 Liberty Street in lower Manhattan and the setting for this highly anticipated concert. It begins at 7 pm on December 12.
Chants were at first strictly vocal music, passed down from generation. They were based on a eight-tone mode, which has both exotic and familiar overtones. It is usually a single, unaccompanied melodic line that Bond uses to make revelatory variations. Rhythms emphasize syllables of selected words.
Bond has developed these chants and plays with them: in syllabic versions, one note corresponds to each syllable of the text. All the stanzas of an Ode have the same meter, and are sung to the tune of the first stanza.
Other chants have one, or two or even three notes, and eventually a syllable stretched over many notes. They may start singing all verses to one tune. They have a metrical form that can be compared to the one-sentence introductions in Latin liturgy. Another group that provides inspiration has a richly ornamented character from the beginning.
Sometimes lavishly rich ornamentation makes the understanding of the words impossible.
Sacred chants are thought to be divinely inspired and more than that: as the earthly realization of the chant of the angels. This helps us to understand the importance of its place in the liturgy, the mystical atmosphere that surrounds the service, and its ecstatic, dramatic character, so different from the soberness of Catholic rites.
Intriguingly this work is on UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.