One would be forgiven if after listening to the majority of Eastern Orthodox liturgical recordings the conclusion was made they are predominately male voices comprising large choirs that sing only beautifully serene hymns! The fact is, and always has been, that Eastern Orthodox liturgical services are “sung services,” many parts of the services are responsorial (between celebrant and choir), and always the role of the hymn or chant is to serve as a vehicle for the prayer. That is to say, the hymn or chant is praise or intercession, and the understanding has always been that the most beautiful way to make a prayer is in song! The role of the composer and the composition, by addressing the listener’s senses and emotions, is to find new or enhanced ways to offer the same prayer that has been offered for over two millennia.
This recording then, is intended to offer selections of creatively arranged liturgical choral music that illustrates the wonder of the choir performance. The choirs are all from Bulgaria, and are male, mixed voice, female and a boys choir. Liturgical services do not always move from hymn to hymn; rather the hymn is most commonly a response to a call, and that is often an antiphonal interaction between the congregation/choir and the celebrant (priest and/or deacon), so there is frequently a solo voice that introduces the hymn, and may close it—and there may be solo voices in the hymn. How the solo voice and the choir interact and complement each other, and how they accomplish their joint purpose is what this collection is about. The selections purposefully contain highs and lows, quiet and loud, meditative and exuberant, in order to convey the range of emotions from the respective services.
The services represented are Great Vespers (O Gladsome Radiance and Blessed is the Man), Matins (where the Polyeleos is typically sung in the time before a Feast), and the Divine Liturgy (Holy God, Meet it is in Truth to Bless You, We Hymn Thee, We Bless Thee, In Thy Kingdom, Come Let Us Worship, Our Father, and We Have No Other Help). Festal services included are from Holy Week and Easter (The Noble Joseph, Resurrection), and the Nativity (Exaltation for the Nativity). Rejoice, Isaiah; Holy Martyrs... is sung at weddings.