About the English Hyphos Project
In the past fifteen years, there has been an explosion of understanding and proficiency in Byzantine Chant in the North American Orthodox community. However, there is a dearth of professional, high-quality recordings provided of the ever-expanding repertoire of English compositions. While there is some excellent work by Capella Romana in their English Divine Liturgy Project and their Sun of Justice recording, as well as a selection of one-time recorded albums – such as the recording from the Chicago-based Panagia Koukouzelissa Choir, The St. Romanos Byzantine Choir recording of Holy Thursday, and The Voice of the Lord recording for the Theophany School in Needham, MA – there is not a dedicated project with the sole focus of searching out and presenting the best of English Byzantine chant in a professionally recorded format.
The English Hyphos Project’s goal is to attempt to provide sustained infrastructure dedicated to professionally recording the best English language cantors in North America chanting selections from the best available English language Byzantine music scores.
Project Director – Samuel Herron
I have been a cantor in the Orthodox Church in both the Antiochian Archdiocese and Greek Archdiocese for 17 years. Along with my experience of chanting in several parishes, I have performed with several Byzantine chant ensembles such as the Greek Byzantine Choir, the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir, Psaltikon, the Holy Cross Seminary St. Romanos Byzantine Choir, and Capella Romana, as well as lived in several different regions of the country and so have been exposed to many cantors across the United States. For several years I have been part of a small network of composers in which we all exchange work and provide feedback and comments on methodology and application of composition in English. This developed into an exchange of recordings with other cantors in which we would compare interpretation, provide feedback, and discuss various ways to improve chanting style in English. The cantors who were in this network shared some rather stunning personal recordings, and yet only those of us on these email threads were hearing the impressive styles being developed and crafted. From this, I decided to try and see if I could provide the outlet for many of these cantors to be heard and for others to have a way to hear the unique expression that English language Byzantine chant has begun to develop in recent years.
~Samuel Herron, May 7th, 2018
Cantor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Phoenix, AZ
Project Assistant Director - Gabriel Cremeens
Gabriel has been chanting and composing for the last eight years, and in that time has earned a reputation as one of the best English language composers in Byzantine notation. Gabriel was recently hired as the Music Director at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Albuquerque, NM, and so initially suggested the idea of recording the hymns of St. George with a small Byzantine choir. You can find Gabriel's work on www.Englishmenaion.com. On this project, he will be leading the second choir during the hymns that are antiphonal as well as providing his excellent compositional work.
The hymns of St. george on bright monday
Our first project is a recording of the hymns of St. George on Bright Monday, which you can order here. St. George is one of the most revered saints in Eastern Orthodoxy - greatly revered in both the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Antiochian Patriarchate jurisdictions specifically. As such, his hymns have been recorded in both Greek and Arabic many times over by excellent cantors. This recording will attempt to provide a recording in English to add to the tapestry of wonderful recorded offerings of St. George’s hymns in other languages. The overlap with Bright Monday reflects the reality that in many years, when St. George falls before Pascha (a more common occurrence on the New Calendar), his feast is moved to Bright Monday. With the coinciding of Bright Monday, the hymns dedicated to St. George are paired with the hymns of Pascha, which gives the project a beautiful dual theme of the commemoration of a great martyr saint along with glorifying the life-bestowing Resurrection of Christ.
Hyphos translated literally from Greek simply means “style”. However, in the context of Byzantine chant it has taken on a deeper meaning, referring not just to the stylistic choices of a cantor, but many times referring to who they learned from, what chosen stylistic school they have incorporated into their sound, and can even reflect what geographical region or influence they have in their vocal production. It is a term used with great reverence when referring to revered master cantors that in Greece, Asia Minor, and Lebanon have attained a level of notoriety for the excellent way in which they chant. Many factors go into the development of an hyphos, and one of these factors is the chosen language. Arabic chant has a different character than Greek chant or Romanian or even Slavonic Byzantine Chant. With the proliferation of English Byzantine chant, different styles unique to English have developed and been refined, so the term “hyphos” has been used to describe the essence of this project.