Under the Byzantine dome of the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City, and in the presence of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, the newly formed Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir performed its first ever concert entitled, Arise O Lord. The concert was organized by the Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music (ASBM) which was established in October of 2010.
The concert’s central theme was the Resurrection of Christ, featuring a 21 member choir consisting of chanters from the New York area and from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA under the direction of Mr. Demetrios Kehagias. In addition, a performance by the four youngest students enrolled in the Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music ages 6, 8, 9, and 10 surprised the audience with their musical talent as they chanted a musical text in solfege fashion (paralagi), as well as with words (melos) in Greek. The concert concluded with a United States premier of the Gospel reading from the Agape Vespers of Pascha chanted in Homeric Greek.
In his opening remarks, Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos, Director of ASBM, said, “The Holy Bible again and again indicates to us the importance of music in liturgical worship. The Nativity narrative in the Gospel of Luke paints for us the image of angels praising and worshiping the incarnated Christ while chanting, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men in whom He is well pleased.’ Thus, at Christ’s incarnation the angels worship God using music!” Archdeacon Panteleimon continued, “we have taken seriously our Archbishop’s theme from the past Clergy-Laity assembly to Gather God’s people to His Home and to Come and See. When our faithful Come and See, their experience of worship is also impacted by what they hear. Archdeacon Panteleimon finished by asking, “what do our people hear when they enter our churches?” This question was the impetus behind the establishment of the Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music and as a new ministry of the Archdiocese has as its mission to teach Byzantine Music in order to enhance the musical ministry within our churches.
At the conclusion of the concert, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios thanked the choir and the four young students of ASBM for a remarkable performance. He continued by stating, “the Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music will play a decisive role in enhancing the musical ministry within our parishes.” His Eminence further commented, “Byzantine Music has been the liturgical music of the Eastern Orthodox Church for centuries and this concert is one more example of the timeless beauty and solemnity of this ageless ecclesiastical chant. I also extend my congratulations to the Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music for organizing this concert. This school represents a wonderful response to the ever-growing need to educate our faithful, and especially our youth, of the importance place music holds in the worship of the Church. Through the efforts of the Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music, Byzantine Music will not only be preserved in our Greek Orthodox parishes, but promoted and shared with the local non-orthodox community.”
There were 240 people that attended the concert and over 500 more who watched the live broadcast over the Internet. A reception for all attendees was offered in the Cathedral Hall where people were given the opportunity to support, through donations, the Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music. The event raised $25,000 towards this new Ministry of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese through another grant of $10,000 from the Kallinikeion Foundation and $10,000 from Mr. Demetiros and Georgia Kaloidis.