Great Vespers from Holy Transfiguration in Denver
In 2005, the Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Hirsch asked Matushka and I to take the handwritten Vespers music from Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Cathedral in Denver and typeset it in to a more legible format for use in the Rocky Mountain Deanery and elsewhere. While we set this music, and tested it at both Holy Transfiguration and St. Nicholas Orthodox Churche in Whitestone, NY, Fr. Joseph gave me permission to share this music as I saw fit. After significant thought, I have decided to place this music, dedicated to Fr. Joseph's memory, here.
The attached booklet is one man’s attempt to set an existing musical tradition down on paper. The music herein is based on “standard” North American practice of L’vov/Bachmetev’s Obikhod. In a few places, Holy Transfiguration’s singing tradition differs from what is considered standard or there are other ways of singing a piece that we were considering before matriculating to seminary. Where there are differences, I have attempted to provide two options within this book. All such differences are placed after the more standard melodies.
The differences between standard and this booklet are; The Tone 4 Troparia pattern in the bass line, a flourished pattern 2 in the Tone 6 stichera melody, and inverting Tone 5 to make the tenor like correspond to a general lack of male tenors I have observed in typical OCA parish choirs. The lower setting allows a high baritone to jump up and cover the tenor part, and is also the standard harmonization used at St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chapel.
As an additional note, there is sometimes controversy about singing from musical notation and singing directly from pointed text. Each system has its advantages and its drawbacks. With pointed text, it is more difficult to sing the music in a way that interferes with what the text is saying, focusing on the musical pattern at the expense of our Holy Church’s teaching. The disadvantage to singing from pointed text is that it is an oral tradition of singing. If, as is the case in many parishes in which I have served, you do not have a strong leader for a part, the part will either not be sung, or be sung poorly. With notated text, one can place several chanters who do not normally sing together in a choir and have relative assurance that they will move at the same place in the text and that all singers will be singing the same harmonies. It is also much easier to train a new choir member to sing a part with musical notation if there is not someone singing that part with them. Since so many of our OCA Choirs no longer have all four parts, and with many converts wanting to sing, yet being intimidated by a sheet of underlined words on the Kliros, it was the decision of Fr. Joseph to have all of his music written out in western style notation.
For the most part, the translations that Fr. Joseph has chosen to use are the standard OCA translations, with a consistent use of thee/thou form of English.