Ancient Faith Radio · October 4, 2012
Bobby Maddex interviews the Rev. Dr. Konstantinos Terzopoulos, the founder and executive director of Psaltiki, Inc., an organization that promotes the advancement of the Hellenic Psaltic Art, also known as Byzantine and post-Byzantine Chant, by facilitating, cultivating, and supporting its academic study, as well as initiating projects that transmit the psaltic heritage.
Bobby Maddex: Welcome to Ancient Faith Presents. I’m Bobby Maddex, operations manager of Ancient Faith Radio. Today I will be talking with the Rev. Dr. Konstantinos Terzopoulos. Dr. Konstantinos is the founder and executive director of Psaltiki, Inc., which we’re going to learn more about here in a second. But first, welcome to the program, Dr. Konstantinos.
Rev. Dr. Konstantinos Terzopoulos: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Mr. Maddex: We’ve never met before, so why don’t you begin by telling me a little bit about yourself and your background?
Dr. Konstantinos: Sure. I was raised in the St. Louis area to Greek parents, although both of my parents were born in the U.S. My mother was raised in Greece and then came back as a young child. We were parishioners at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church there, where I was raised. I grew up being very much a musician, playing piano, guitar, drums, and went on after high school to study music at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
One day, however, when I was there, and I was researching a paper that we had to do for our philosophy class, I ran into a book by Georges Florovsky, the famous Russian Orthodox theologian, and it was his book, Creation [and] Redemption. I opened it to the Prophecy of Ezekiel, with the bones that took on flesh, and I had never read anything like that. I stood at the stack in the library and read the entire book from beginning to end, standing there. It was a kind of a formative moment in my life in that I decided from that point that I wanted to study theology.
So I went on to Holy Cross in Brookline, Massachusetts, Hellenic College and Holy Cross, where I got my M.Div., but I never left my music side behind. What I did is I combined my love of theology with my love of music, and began studying and researching our Byzantine chant and hymnology and hymnography. Once I graduated from [Holy] Cross, I went on to the University of Athens in Greece where I studied theology and got a doctorate in theology, working mostly in Byzantine musicology. Parallel to that, I was at the Conservatory of Athens in the Byzantine School of Chant, and chanted with the world-famous choir that my professor, Gregorios Stathis, had established, and who [with] Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas was often with the Maïstores choir of chanters, or the “masters” or the “maestros” of chant.
Ever since that time, I’ve been involved in the academic and scholarly research of Byzantine chant manuscripts from the Middle Ages and been involved with organizations and projects such as the Neumed and Ekphonetic Universal Manuscript Encoding project, which tries to encode with an extended xml everything that exists on Western and Eastern chant manuscripts so they can become data and they can be compared and researched and facsimiles can be created from and images can be hyperlinked to, and even the American Society of Byzantine Music and Hymnology.
A few publications: anybody involved in the order of the Church knows about the Typikon. I’ve translated the Protheoria of the Violakis Typikon, which is the Typikon used by the Bulgarian and the Greek churches. My doctoral dissertation, which has been published in Greek, on Konstantinos Byzantios, the last protopsaltis of the patriarchal church in Constantinople to read and write in the old notation and also the compiler of the Typikon that is used in the Greek churches, the Arabic-speaking churches to a great extent, and as I said before, the Bulgarian. Also a recent publication just this year is an introduction to the new method of the Byzantine chant notation, which you can find on Amazon or other places that have a wide database of books.
Right now I’m translating an important work by my professor called, The Introduction to Kallophony, the Byzantine Ars Nova, which will be a very important book for people who want to study the development of Byzantine chant in the middle and late Byzantine period. I’m also involved in cataloging and describing the Byzantine chant manuscripts on the island of Patmos and the famous monastery of St. John the Theologian.
But what I’m very specially interested in is combining this traditional research with modern methods of data examination and dissemination. That was one of the founding elements of why I decided with a couple other people that it was time to start Psaltiki.
Mr. Maddex: Tell us a little bit about Psaltiki and how it fits in with all this research that you’ve been doing.
Dr. Konstantinos: Psaltiki was established just a few years ago in 2007 and received our non-profit classification in the state of Florida in 2008. We’re dedicated to the advancement, promotion, and dissemination of this venerable and long Byzantine and hymnographic heritage of the Orthodox Church. What we want to do is to utilize the computer and the web and all these abilities that we have to communicate with each other to communicate and educate people about this incredible history and tradition that we have in the liturgical life of our Church, and more specifically in the chant tradition that we have, by putting things out that anyone can access wherever they are.
The reason that we started Psaltiki is that, frankly, we didn’t see anyone else interested in giving the wider, bigger vision. There are organizations out there and even within the different Orthodox Archdioceses that are in America that would do weekend camps or conferences or lessons, but that, of course, only appeals to a small group either of specialists who can attend a conference or other people who have time on their hands to go and visit these things and to travel to these things, while we have, most of us, either in our hands or in our pockets or on our desks, the ability to communicate directly, wherever someone is. Most people don’t have the luxury to go to a conference. They don’t have the luxury of going to a weekend or a few-day camp session to be able to learn something. When it comes down to it, that’s going to bring the knowledge into the wider spectrum of the people that are out there in the United States of America who may have never ever heard Byzantine chant in its traditional form.
Mr. Maddex: Your organization has many aspects, and we’re going to get to all of those in a second here, but why don’t we begin with you telling us a little bit about the Psaltiki website.
Dr. Konstantinos: The Psaltiki website right now, of course, is our window to the world. Actually, it’s been quite interesting to see how many people come through there on a weekly basis if not on a daily basis, and the fact that they’re from all the hemispheres… I see people logging in there from Brazil, from Argentina, from Japan. I’m not sure what they’re looking for, but I can tell that people are accessing from those parts of the world. Very simply, it’s our communication and it’s a window where people can just make a click and start to communicate with us and tell us what they want and what they’re looking for. Just last night I received a message from a priest in South Dakota who says he’s in the middle of nowhere and yet he has people who are interested in learning how to chant; how can he help them? It’s the main point that we want to become our outreach. It’s that main point because, very simply, we can reach people all over the world without having to actually travel there.
Mr. Maddex: I also understand that Psaltiki is also several digital and CD releases. What can you tell me about those?
Dr. Konstantinos: Yes, we’re very excited. We’ve been working over the past three-and-a-half years on a couple of recording sessions, and I must say that we were very happy to receive donations for both of those. One of them was donated the money that was necessary to actually bring chanters together and to do the recording and the editing and produce the final product. [It] was done by a woman in Oklahoma who wanted to dedicate something to her great-grandfather who was a chanter on the island of Samos.
In our first CD, which is called “Hagios,” which is the Greek word for “holy,” or for many people familiar with Western chant, “sanctus,” we have chants from the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, chants that are from composers from the 13th to the 15th century. That is dedicated by another lady who wanted simply to honor the memory of her husband.
The one dedicated [to] Nikolaos Loizos, a chanter on the island of Samos and teacher of Byzantine chant who passed in 1923 contains more practical content. It contains the hymns of supplication, the canons, the great and small canons to the Virgin Mary in both Greek and English, and it’s called, “Paraklesis,” which is the Greek word again for “supplication”: hymns of supplication.
We’re very excited about both of these CDs which are available from our website, but they’re also available as digital downloads from places like Amazon and iTunes and other places that are out there doing that. We have received, just in the few weeks that they’ve been out, an incredible response from people, a good number of orders, and people thanking us for bringing these ancient treasures into our world again today so they can inspire people and become a part of our lives, as they are very much in Orthodox countries. Unfortunately, in places like America we’re surrounded by another musical culture, so one has to kind of go out of their way to surround themselves with these treasures.
Mr. Maddex: Then you also have an online journal. Tell me a little bit about that.
Dr. Konstantinos: The online journal has also been surprising in the fact that we have had some very prestigious people send us articles. The idea behind it is, to begin with, was to allow people who are out there in the field, people who are chanting in the churches in the United States, people who are involved or want to know more about the chant, to be able to share what they learn. We also welcome scholarship in Byzantine chant musicology, the hymnology, the order of service, typikon, anything that has to do with our liturgical tradition.
For instance, this new issue, which is our fourth volume, has an interesting article by John Wortley, who is in Canada. He’s a Byzantine history Byzantinist, and his article, “Psalmody in the Desert Fathers,” talks about chanting and the Apothegmata Patrum. I don’t know if your listeners know what that is, but that is a very ancient text that we have, where we have the sayings of the Fathers and the stories about the Fathers of the desert in the early monastic tradition. John Wortley is famous for his work on relics in the city of Constantinople. Everett Ferguson, a very famous patrologist, gives us an article in one of the past editions on singing in the church, and how and why singing in the church in ancient times has been a cappella, without instrumental accompaniment. Dimitrije Stefanović, a famous musicologist, has a reflection on his trip to the St. Paisios women’s monastery in the Sonoma Desert in Arizona, and that’s extremely popular. People enjoy reading that.
We also have just some very instructional things, like P. Paschos, who was for many, many years a professor of hymnology in the School of Theology in the University of Athens. His lectures ended up being published in a book which is an introduction to Byzantine liturgical hymnography. We’ve been translating that and putting chapters up in the journal. Another article, which is in one of the first issues, which is by Lykourgos Angelopoulos, who is the director at the Athens Conservatory of the Byzantine chant school, has an article on his teacher, Simon Karas, and that is accompanied with some really unique videos and illustrations.
The journal not only brings you new scholarship, living scholarship, but we’re also trying to bring some very basic texts from the past into the English language and posting them there. Again, we’ve had a wonderful, wonderful response from people; they love reading it. I’m going to take this opportunity to say if there’s anybody else out there who’s working in the field with regards to any of the chant traditions within the Church, we welcome their articles and their reflections, and any kinds of texts they’d like to share with the journal we’d be happy to publish.
Mr. Maddex: I want to talk a little bit more about that, about ways that listeners can participate in Psaltiki in a second here. But first, I noticed on your website the Psaltiki “Holy Week on Mount Athos” Award, which sounds very exciting. Why don’t you explain what that is?
Dr. Konstantinos: The Psaltiki “Holy Week on Mount Athos” Award, we’re offering it—actually, the competition is underway—for a third time. Every other year we have been able to fund this. We’d like to fund it every year, and we’d like to fund it for more people. What Psaltiki does is it provides transportation to and from an Athonite monastery for Holy Week and Pascha. The recipient, in other words, we’ll fly them into Thessaloniki, and get them away from Thessaloniki to Mt. Athos, and we have set up for them there a monastery where they can spend from the Saturday of Lazarus to Tuesday of Bright Week.
The purpose, then, is to allow students of Byzantine chant to come into contact with the living psaltic heritage in its probably most traditional setting of the monastic republic of Mt. Athos. In this way, we can provide access to this excellence for people in America who otherwise would probably never be able to, even if they wanted to do it. In order for them to get to a monastery and for them to let you stay during Holy Week is not an easy thing, because there are many pilgrims that go to Mt. Athos, especially during those holy days.
We’re trying to give this opportunity for people to live and to witness and participate in this native liturgical setting for our chant tradition. Up until now, we have only been offering it for students at Holy Cross and Hellenic College for a number of reasons, mostly practical, but we do hope, if we can get more support, to broaden the project’s scope to a wider pool. We even have played around by communicating with other monasteries and other chant traditions such as the Arabic and the Slavonic chant traditions.
This year’s competition is underwritten by the Helen Petriti-Stratigos Memorial Fund. If there’s any music-lovers out there and they have the means to support projects like this, we’d love to be able to work with them to open up the award to a wider range of people and in that way provide the access to this very unique opportunity that a lot of people ask us to be able to participate in. We think that’s a very important and a very exciting thing that we do.
Mr. Maddex: In addition to offering submissions to your online journal, what are some of the other ways that listeners can participate in Psaltiki?
Dr. Konstantinos: As I said before, people who are in the field and who are working seriously with their own chant and music traditions are welcome to send articles to the journal, which may in turn generate discussion and movement in their particular localities, but of course we have a wonderful staff of about eight people who volunteer and help us. We need more hands. The more hands we have, the more evangelization we can do. The more skillsets that people can bring to Psaltiki, the more that we can do.
We’re always on the lookout for foundations and sources for funds to be able to widen the scope, as I said before, of the projects that we have, but there are also some major projects that are out there, including other recordings that can be done that would be very practical in the dissemination of this chant heritage. [There are] also some ideas for some very real instructional tools that people could access from their phones, from their iPads, from their computers, from their desktops, and bring the practical knowledge needed for someone with musical talent to be able to learn and to offer this chant tradition in the liturgical context of their local communities.
What anybody can do is, of course, go to our website, look around, do some clicking, tweet us, like us, tell other people about us—that’s the most important thing—and, of course, one can make a donation, either by sending in a check to our mailing address or by clicking on the “donate” button on most pages of our website. All of that, of course, goes toward this project of trying to bring this ancient chant form into the modern world and into American society as far as the Orthodox churches are concerned there.
So visit us. There also are personal, on the board side, the page that has the list of our board members, each of us has our personal emails there. You’re welcome to email us and share your ideas and tell us what you’d like to see us do and how you can help us out. We need hands.
Mr. Maddex: I can’t remember if we mentioned the actual web address or not, but even if we have, it’s probably a good idea to give that again, so why don’t you give us that?
Dr. Konstantinos: It’s really easy. It’s psaltiki, P-S-A-L-T-I-K-I, dot org. You asked me before we started, “How do you say that? What is it?” Well, “psaltiki,” very simply, is the Greek word for chant, just like we say “cantus” in Latin or “chant” in English, “psaltiki” is “chant.” If you can connect those two and think a little bit in Greek, you’ll be able to remember: psaltiki.org, and the “ee” sounds are both /i/s: P-S-A-L-T-I-K-I dot org.
Mr. Maddex: Is there anything else you would like to add before I let you go today?
Dr. Konstantinos: I’m fine if you’re fine. I could go on for hours.
Mr. Maddex: All right! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today, Dr. Konstantinos.
Dr. Konstantinos: We appreciate your being interested and helping us out and helping us get the word out. Thank you very much.
Mr. Maddex: Again, I have been speaking with the Rev. Dr. Konstantinos Terzopoulos, the founder and executive director of Psaltiki, Inc. I’m Bobby Maddex, and this has been a listener-supported presentation of Ancient Faith Radio.