EASTER KONTAKION. For SATB choir and organ. Commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for their 2007 Easter Celebrations. Texts in Greece from the Greek Orthodox hymnology. 5 minutes. Score, organ part available through PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.


Easter Kontakion was requested by Robert Cooper, choirmaster and broadcaster for a special choral Easter Celebration in 2007 on CBC Radio 2. It was a year in which the calendars of the various Christian denominations converged and Easter was celebrated at the same time by everyone. I was asked to compose music reflecting the Greek Orthodox tradition and I chose the kontakion “I ke en tapho katilthes athanate” sung during the Easter Liturgy. The work for a cappella choir consists of two settings of the actual chant, the first in traditional Byzantine manner of melody and drone accompaniment and the second as a traditional western chorale setting. The original chant is in the plagal fourth echus (mode) of the Byzantine octaechus. If the chant is sung alone without the drone, a modern listener will hear it as a regular major mode, which accounts for the fact that most of the choral settings of the chant are in the major mode. The tonic, however, of the plagal fourth echus is the third scale degree of the major mode, and this is the note of the drone, which attributes to the melody a completely different character that that of its major tonal settings. So, even though the melody is E-flat major sounding, the tonic and the drone are on a G. The second setting of Easter Kontakion is in G major, a conventional chorale setting that uses the previous G drone as its tonic.

The Texts:

I k(i)e en tapho katilthes, athanate, alla tou adhou kathiles tin dhinamin. K(i)e anestiss oss nikitiss, Christe o Theoss, ghineksi mirrophoriss phthegksamenoss, cherete, k(i)e tiss siss Apostoliss irinin dhoroumenos, o tiss pessoussi pareghon anastassin;

(Even though you descended into the grave, Immortal One, you destroyed the power of Death. And you have risen as a victor, Christ our God, greeting the myrrh-bearing women and offering peace to your Apostles, You, who grants resurrection to those who are fallen).

Premiere performance: April 8, 7 AM. The Elmer Iseler Singers and other choirs. Lydia Adams, conductor. Part of the Easter Sunday concert celebration by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with live-to-air radio broadcast. Broadcast Centre. Toronto, Ontario..

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