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Byzantine Sacred Music

Posted On February 20, 2014 | 17:12 pm | by jamesc | Permalink
James N. Carder (March 2014)

 James N. Carder (March 2014)

Part of the Five-Album Set of Byzantine Sacred Music Recorded in 1943 by the Schola Melurgica della Badia di Grottaferrata, Under the Direction of Father Lorenzo Tardo. Dumbarton Oaks Archives.

On May 29, 1950, Father Lorenzo Tardo (1883–1967), from the Exarchic Greek Abbey (the Badia Greca) in Grottaferrata, presented a lecture at Dumbarton Oaks: “The Abbey of Grottaferrata and Byzantine Music.” One of his chief arguments was that the eleventh-century form of the Byzantine chant, as it survived in Grottaferrata and its associated churches in Italy, was uncontaminated by fifteenth-century Turkish influence, as it was elsewhere. During the lecture, Father Lorenzo played samples of late Byzantine sacred chants that he and his choir, the Schola Melurgica della Badia Greca, had recorded in 1943.

The Abbey of Grottaferrata, which is located twelve miles into the hills above Rome, was founded by Saint Nilus the Younger in 1004, fifty years before the schism of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Although Catholic, the Greek Abbey’s liturgy and culture remained that of the Greek Byzantine rite from its founding to the present. As a monk of the abbey, Father Lorenzo became a pioneer in the transcription, publication, and interpretation of ancient Byzantine liturgical music, including music preserved in two important chant manuscripts at the abbey.

After the 1950 lecture, Father Lorenzo gave Dumbarton Oaks the five 78 RPM shellac discs (RDX 556 to 560) that the Schola Melurgica had recorded in 1943 for the Cetra label. The discs include sixteen titles, translated into Italian for the record labels, although the chants are sung in medieval Greek. Most of the chants date from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. These five discs remain in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives.

A sample of the Schola Melurgica della Badia Greca performing the apolitikion, "O kalé mou" (from the Life of St. Nilus) under the direction of Father Lorenzo Tardo is found at

The titles (in Italian translation) on the five discs are:

1a. Melodia calofonica in onore della Beata Vergine delle colonie italo-albanesi (secolo XIV)

1b. Crocifisso col ladrone (melodia secolo XIII); Strofetta dell'Inno Acatistos in onore della Beata Vergine (melodia secolo XII)

2a. Testo liturgico inno cherubico di Crisafi (secolo XVII)

2b. Strofa in onore del Cristo morto; Echo II: melodia secolo XIV delle colonie italo-albanesi / trascriz. P. Tardo

3a. Taccia ogni mortale : melodia della colonia italo-albanesi di Sicilia pel Sabato Santo (secolo XIV)

3b. Strofetta pasquale (secolo VIII) di San Giovanni Da Masceno; Melodia melismatica per l'Epifania (secolo XII)

4a. Versetto salmodico: A te ho gridato o Signore: Preghiera vespertina

5a. La voce del Signore sulle acque: strofa per il battesimo del Signore; O anima mia sorgi : strofa quadragesimale delle colonie italo-albanesi (secolo XIV)

5b. Il nemico espulse Adamo; Tutte le genarazioni: strofette processionali pel Cristo morto: melodie tradizionali delle colonie italo-albanesi; O e bukura shqipri: canto degli esuli albanesi; Canto popolare per la chiusa della quaresima: melodie tradizionali delle colonie italo-albanesi / trascriz. P. Tardo