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Orthodox Music - What Dose it Mean?
See: Orthodox Music - See: Orthodox Bell Ringing

Orthodox Music - What Dose It Mean?

Troparion: A generic term to designate a stanza of religious poetry. We sing the troparion at the end of Vespers and in the Liturgy. The stanzas used in the canon at Matins are also called troparia.

Trisagion: Sometimes called the "thrice holy", it refers to the words Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us. They are usually repeated three or more times and occur 1) in the Liturgy, 2) in Matins at the end of the Great Doxology (Glory to God in the Highest) and 3) in the beginning of almost every set of prayers as part of the short petitions before the Our Father.

Time Signature: It consists of two figures, one above the other. The upper figure tells how many beats there are in a measure, the lower figure tells which note gets one beat. In other words a time signature of 4/4 would tell us that there are four beats to the measure and the quarter note gets one beat. In a 2/4 time signature there would be two beats to each measure and the quarter note would get one beat. What do you think a time signature of 2/2 would mean? It means that there are two beats to each measure and the half note would get one beat. In much Orthodox chant, of course, measures are long and "beats" are different from Western music. The principle of the time signature is the same, though.

Kontakion: A liturgical hymn that gives, in an abbreviated form, the meaning of the feast of the given day.The Kontakion is sung after the 6th ode in the Matins canon and also on Sunday, after the Troparion. St. Romanos the Melodist is considered to be the most important hymnographer of the Kontakion.

Theotokos : A Greek term used for the Mother of God. It means "God-Bearer." In the Russian Church the Slavonic term Bogoroditsa is used, in addition to Theotokos.

Theotokion: Also known as a Bogoroditchin, it is a hymn to the Mother of God, which praises or refers to her. The Theotokion is usually sung or read after "now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Note Rhythm: You can tell how many beats a note gets by the time signature (see Issue #1). If the time signature is 4/4, then you know that the quarter note will get one beat. That means the notes will have the following rhythms: quarter note = 1 beat, half note = 2 beats, whole note = 4 beats . How many beats do you think the eighth note would get? If you guessed one-half beat, you were right. Try to figure out how many beats each note will get if the time signature is 2/2. How about 3/4?

Epiclesis: (Greek: "invocation"), in the Eucharistic prayer (the anaphora, meaning the prayers that begin with "A Mercy of peace..."), the special invocation of the Holy Spirit; in most Eastern Christian liturgies it follows the words of institution - the words used, according to the New Testament, by Jesus himself at the Last Supper - "This is my body... This is my blood..."

Akathist Hymn: (Greek Akathistos: "Not seated") A devotional poem or chant praising the Theotokos, dating from the 7th century AD. It is sung in Orthodox churches during Great Lent and during the Dormition Fast 1-15 August. The verses of the poem in the original Greek are an acrostic, i.e., the first letter of each verse is a sequential letter of the alphabet.

Scale: a series of eight notes in a pattern of whole-steps or half-steps. The pattern determines whether the scale is major, minor, chromatic etc. The seven are 1 = doh, 2 = re, 3 = mi, 4 = fa, 5 = sol, 6 = la, 7 = si. Doh is also the 8th step.

Major Key: A tonal center based on a major scale in which the half steps occur between the 3rd and 4th steps (mi and fa), and the 7th and 8th steps (si and doh). Generally said to produce a happy uplifting mood.

Minor Key: A tonal center based on a minor scale, which is a major scale with the 3rd, 6th, and 7th steps (mi, la and si) are lowered one half step. Generally said to produce a sad or anxious mood.

Antiphon: 1) A short verse from the scriptures, especially the psalms, sung or recited in the liturgy and other church services. 2) Any verse or hymn sung or recited by one part of the choir or chanters in response to another part.

Epiphany: (Gr. Theophania; Sl. Bogoyavleniye). Also known as Theophany, it is the feast commemorating the baptism of Christ and the ''manifestation'' of God in the Holy Trinity. (In the Western church Epiphany has come to symbolize the coming of the Magi to the infant Jesus.)

Compline: (Gr. Apodeipnon; Sl. Velikoye Povecheriye). A worship service performed after dusk. It is often combined with Matins, to form an all-night vigil. There is a Great Compline and its abridgement, known as Little Compline. We celebrate a Vigil consisting of Compline and Matins on the eves of Christmas and Theophany.

Canon: 1) Short hymns consisting of nine odes, sung at the service of Matins. 2) The special service known as the Great Canon sung on the evening of the Wednesday of the fifth week of the Great Lent.

Litany: A prayer form characterizing Orthodox services and consisting of priest's or deacon's petitions for various intentions with choir responses. Western Christian services also include litianies but with a slightly different format.

Prokeimenon: Literally, "What is set forth." Verses from the Psalter (Psalms) sung responsorially immediately before the reading from Holy Scripture.

Liturgy of St. Basil: A liturgy sung 10 times in the church year which differs from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in that the "secret prayers" at the Anaphora are longer, the words at the Epiclesis (see Tuning Fork Issue 4) are different, and, instead of "It Is Truly Meet," the Hymn to the Theotokos is "All of Creation," or a special hymn of Holy Week is sung.

Presanctified Liturgy:
A liturgy celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent and on the first 3 days of Holy Week, with gifts sanctified the previous Sunday.

Dynamics: (1) signs that indicate the loudness or softness of music; e.g. f = loud, p = soft, mf = medium loud. (2) the actual loudnesses and softnesses themselves.

Phrase: A musical sentence that lasts a single "breath", with a beginning, end, and a clear shape, usually melodic. Phrases in music are most often four or two measures in length.

Triad: Consists of three notes (the root, the third, and the fifth) on top of one another and all on either lines or spaces. The bottom note is the root, the middle note is the third and the top note is the fifth. When choir directors give pitches for "plain" litanies, most often they are giving them in the form of a triad consisting of the notes F (root), A (third) and C (fifth). These notes are given from the top down (fifth, third, root).

Kathisma Hymn: A Kathisma is a division of the Psalter (Book of Psalms). During the reading of the Kathisma the congregation may sit (Kathisma means "seat" in Greek). The Kathisma Hymn is sung immediately before or after the Kathisma reading.

THE TUNING FORK - A NEWSLETTER FOR THE ORTHODOX CHURCH SINGER From the Orthodox Church in America and is a very good source for any choir or person to get more information on Orthodox Music.

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