Monday, October 10,2011:Paradise Found

Philokallia, the female choir, perfomed with conductor Dr Marios Christou (right) in the Festival last year, and repeats their appearance in this year's festival

Paradise Found: Archaion Kallos Orthodox Music Festival

Ancient beauty again comes alive in Prague this year with the International Festival of Orthodox Music 2011, five concerts later this month, plus lectures and other events running into November.

The Archaion Kallos Festival is the brainchild of Dr Marios Christou, conductor and teacher, who founded the Philokallia vocal-instrumental ensemble. The Festival follows on last year’s first and only festival of Orthodox music in Prague.

Archaion kallos means “ancient beauty,” according to Dr Christou. But, he says, to the holy fathers of the eastern Christian church, it refers to the original beauty that people lived in after the Creation, while they still lived in Paradise.

The Festival represents the search for this ancient beauty through all aspects of sacred music, from composing to interpreting to performing – and listening.

Indeed, listening to Byzantine chant creates a special kind of spiritual connection, similar to prayer or meditation. Usually one voice chants while the surrounding singers sing only one drone note. The scale includes some intervals, or notes, that don’t exist in the traditional octave of Western music. And the concerts’ setting, the Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius, with its candlelight reflected from golden icons, further adds to the spiritual atmosphere.

You can hear the complete Liturgy of St John Chrysostom with principal chanter (protopsaltis) A. Chaldaiakis and the Cathedral’s Choir at 9:30 Sunday morning, Oct 30. Or choose the concert of Byzantine chants from Greek Orthodox hymnography, presented by the Tropos Greek male choir Oct 18. Further concerts will present Orthodox Romanticism, the Byzantine vs the Slavic tradition, and intriguingly, postmodernism and Orthodoxy.

Related events include the screening of the documentary film Stones of Famagusta, with discussion in English; a four-day photography exhibit of Orthodox art; and lectures on Byzantine music in Romania (in English) and on the theory of Byzantine music (in Greek with simultaneous translation in Czech).

Preparations for the first Festival last year were reported on in Opus Osm in November 2010. More details on this year’s Festival are available at www.philokallia.com. — oo

– Mary Matz

Philokallia and the Orthodox Tradition
This vocal-instrumental ensemble, founded by Dr Christou in 2005, will perform at some of the Festival presentations. The female-voice choir of the Philokallia Ensemble focuses on music inspired by the Orthodox tradition; the instrumental group mainly presents contemporary music. Members of both groups are mostly students at Prague’s major music academies.

About Marios Christou
Dr Christou, a native Cypriot, earned his doctoral degree in music theory and pedagogy from Charles University, and continues his studies of composition and music theory at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts. He is also the main conductor at the Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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