This post is also available as a podcast: https://anchor.fm/teague-mckamey/episodes/Heaven-and-Earth-e1qfn0b
Years back, my brother-in-law, Richard Barrett, and my sister, Megan Barrett, became members of the Orthodox Church. Since then, their family has been involved in various aspects of church life, including leading music and chant during the worship service.
Richard has also sung with Cappella Romana for a number of years as a tenor. Since he’s not busy enough (wink, wink), Richard also helped found the St. John of Damascus Society, which seeks to reveal “Orthodox Christianity through its sacred music.”
In today’s post, I want to share about a unique collaboration between Capella Romana and the St. John of Damascus Society: Heaven and Earth. This is a recording of two different works: 1) “Ikon of Light” by John Tavener, which sets to music a prayer by St. Symeon the New Theologian ; 2) “Heaven and Earth,” which is a setting of Psalm 103 in the Septuagint (Psalm 104 in the Hebrew Bible). Six different composers collaborated on “Heaven and Earth”: John Michael Boyer, Tikey Zes, Alexander Khalil, Kurt Sander, Matthew Arndt, and Richard Toensing.
Cappella Romana describes their presentation of both works as “Byzantine informed,” meaning that while each composition owes something to Byzantine chant material and tradition, neither is strictly a work of chant. “Ikon of Light” is a fascinating amalgam of chant and modern classical sensibilities, and is scored for choir and strings. Tavener effectively uses expanded harmonies and dissonances to create an otherworldly feeling appropriate to his text, which presents God “in his uncreated energies.” Given these things, “Ikon of Light” can feel musically foreign and abstract. While this is perfect for his text, those who are unaccustomed to modern classical music might find it less accessible.
“Heaven and Earth” is a choral piece and incorporates elements of Byzantine chant, renaissance choral music, and modern tonalities. It is a breath-taking work that glorifies God’s creative virtuosity. Bass voices plumb musical sea-depths, tenors and sopranos soar in ecstatic heavenward praises, and all the space in between reverberates with contemplative mystery.
If you enjoy sacred classical and choral music, I highly recommend Heaven and Earth. I say this not only as Richard’s brother-in-law, but as someone with a deep love for classical and choral music. Listen to tracks on Youtube. Heaven and Earth is available on Amazon in multiple formats. It is also available on i-Tunes.
2 Comments Add yours
Heaven and earth sound exciting. I’m going to find it on U Tube
Great! Thanks for stopping by 😊