433. Music for the Feast

The Nativity of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ

Byzantiine, Fifteenth Century (available from skete.com)

Now that “the tumult and the shouting” have died, and Commercial Christmas is over, we Christians can get down to celebrating the Real Christmas. * Again this year, I’ve searched for some of the best Orthodox Christmas music I could find. Some is a repeat from last year; some is new.

  • Any Old Calendar Orthodox: I hope this music will provide a good preparation your celebration of the Nativity on January 7.

For the benefit of any non-Orthodox folks here present: I’ve added a few explanatory notes. Please understand that, with only very minor exceptions, all Orthodox sing the same texts at the same time each year. * Only the musical styles differ according to national or regional tradition: Greek, Russian or whatever. Almost all Orthodox worship is sung, so what follows here is only a very small sample of our Christmas music.

  • with the exception of the Coptic (Eyyptian) Church, which is part of the Oriental Orthodox tradition

We’ll take this in chronological order: Preparation for the Nativity, then the Feast of the Nativity. With the exception of two carols at the very end, all are appointed texts for the liturgical worship of the Church.

Except as noted, all the following are taken from the “Orthodox Christian Chants” website, which is an excellent source of good Orthodox music.   https://www.youtube.com/@orthodoxchristianchants5006

Enough talk. Let’s get to the music.

Preparation for the Holy Nativity

Kontakion before Christmas

This is sung at services during the latter weeks of the Advent Fast, chanted here by Father Apostolos Hill, senior pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona, in Greek Byzantine style which almost certainly derives from the Jerusalem Temple chanting which our Lord Jesus and the Apostles  knew.


A Hymn from the Service of the Royal Hours for the Nativity.

Despite the title on the video, this is definitely not a “Christmas Carol”. This is Byzantine chant, powerfully sung in Middle Eastern style.


The Feast of the Holy Nativity

Nativity Matins Prokeimenon

This is sung immediately before the Holy Gospel at Matins/Orthros for the Nativity, here by the choir of Saint Symeon’s Church (OCA), Birmingham, Alabama. Harmonized music in this Russian style is a later development in the Church during the last few centuries, but still based on the more ancient Byzantine Tones.


I think this is the same Psalm sung in the tradition of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is very unfamiliar to me.


This is from the Nativity Canon, a series of hymns sung at Matins.


The Christmas Troparion is the “keynote” hymn, sung at all services during the Feast of the Nativity. Below you hear in order the Troparion sung in: Church Slavonic, English, Arabic, French, Spanish, Albanian, Hungarian, Greek, Ukrainian, Romanian and Japanese.

courtesy of domkov.com

This is the choir of Saint Mary’s Cathedral (OCA), Minneapolis, Minnesota.


The Kontakion for the Nativity


Christmas Liturgical Music by the Men’s Choir at Saint Elisabeth Convent, Minsk, Belarus. Here’s how they describe themselves and their music: “The Male Choir of St. Elisabeth Convent is an active liturgical choir. Founded in 2001 by the monastic brethren, it has undergone several line-up changes. Today the Choir consists of laymen, most of whom work at the Convent. The repertoire of the Male Choir is based on ancient two-part chants, such as Znamenny, Valaam, Kievan, Byzantine, etc. In shaping its own sounding, the Choir takes a cue from the authentic chant of the Valaam Transfiguration Monastery, often described as a fusion of Byzantium and the Russian North with its severe nature.”


Orthodox Carols: Popular non-liturgical music.

Angelic Chant of Nuns from Camarzani Monastery in Romania. The Song is called “Din Cer Senin” (From the Clear Blue Sky). The Song is enriched by an insight in a men’s Monastery in Abkhazia:    • Служба в соборе Святого Пантелеймона …   Lyrics: From the Clear Blue Sky (x2)”

The text is below the video. If you have time, I’d say read the text first, then come back and watch the video, which is extraordinarily beautiful.


“From the clear blue sky, a divine choir Can be heard sweetly singing. (x2) Gifted shepherds appear on the hill Bringing white lambs as gifts. (x2) A star on the horizon watching over the paths, Shining in the distance (x2) Leads the magi with their precious gifts Carried in white bags. (x2) And a frail infant with a holy face Sits quietly smiling. (x2) And His Mother was cradling Him And everbody was joyous. (x2) And the holy sky and this earth Were illuminated by the Infant. (x2) And they became holy and they received God’s grace Those who let Him in. (x2) And us, having seen this, we pray And we kiss His face. (x2) Yearning to devote our lives to Him And to praise Him forever. (x2) From the clear blue sky, a divine choir Can be heard sweetly singing.”

Finally, a Carol from Ethiopia: “The Savior of the World is Born Today”.


That’s it!

A continuing Merry, Blessed, Happy, Holy Christmas to you!

Next Week: Evidence of the Holy Family’s years as refugees in Egypt

Week after Next: Well…  um…. uh….. .who knows? not I.

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