Axios | Axios: Celebrating the Hymns of Greek Orthodox America

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Axios: Celebrating the Hymns of Greek Orthodox America

by Axios

Poignant choral arrangements of centuries-old Greek Orthodox hymns sung by an unaccompanied 14-voice choir in one of San Francisco's most beautiful acoustic settings.
Genre: Classical: Choral Music
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Forty-fold Kyrie Eleison
1:50 album only
2. Enite
2:41 album only
3. Litrosin
2:52 album only
4. Tis Theos Megas
2:59 album only
5. Tin En Presvies
1:42 album only
6. Trisagion Asmatikon
3:07 album only
7. Ton Nymfona Sou Vlepo
1:36 album only
8. Osi Is Christon
2:48 album only
9. Allilouia
2:39 album only
10. Makaria I Odos
1:01 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
1 Forty-fold Kyrie Eleison
Elevation of the Holy Cross, arr. Frank Desby (publisher: Greek Sacred and Secular Music Society)
Lord, have mercy.

2 Enite
Communion hymn, arr. Anna Gallos (publisher: Evangeline Music Press)
Praise the Lord from the heavens. Alleluia. (Psalm 148:1*)

3 Litrosin (publisher: George Raptis)
Communion hymn for the Nativity, George Raptis
The Lord has sent redemption to His people. Alleluia. (Psalm 110:9)

4 Tis Theos Megas (publisher: The Diocese of Denver Choir Federation)
Prokeimenon for Pentecost Vespers of Kneeling, arr. Tikey Zes
Who is so great a god as our God? You are the God who alone works wonders. (Psalm 76:13)
(chanter: Caitlin Tabancay Austin)

5 Tin En Presvies (publisher: Federation of Greek Orthodox Choirs of the Western States)
Kontakion for the Dormition of the Mother of God, arr. Theodore Bogdanos
Neither the grave nor death could contain the Mother of God, who through tireless intercessions is our eternal refuge and hope. For He who dwelled within an ever-virgin womb carried into life the Mother of Life.

6 Trisagion Asmatikon (publisher: Zes Press)
Procession of the icon of Christ's burial on Good Friday evening, arr. Tikey Zes
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

7 Ton Nymfona Sou Vlepo (publisher: Alexander Georges)
Exapostilarion for Holy Week, arr. Alexander Georges
I see your bridal chamber adorned, O my Savior, and I have no garment that I may enter therein. Make bright the vesture of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me.

8 Osi Is Christon (publisher: Federation of Greek Orthodox Choirs of the Western States)
Festal Trisagion, arr. Paul Maritsas
As many as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia. Glory to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (Galatians 3:27)

9 Allilouia (publisher: Vivian Cardwell)
Allilouarion for Holy Week, arr. Vivian Cardwell
(chanter: Caitlin Tabancay Austin)

10 Makaria I Odos (publisher: Zes Press)
Funeral prokeimenon, arr. Tikey Zes
Blessed is the way which you walk this day, for there is prepared for you a place of rest.

*Septuagint numbering


Developing a passion for Greek Orthodox music wasn’t easy for a young boy living in America’s heartland during the 1980s. I relied on my father—a priest with an exquisite voice—to transform our lonely outpost in central Illinois into a rich Byzantine empyrean. There was also our parish youth choir, which, through my mother’s direction, brought an ancient liturgy alive for me and my MTV generation. While a wealth of Greek Orthodox compositions existed in the United States at that time, my only opportunity to hear many of them was through a handful of treasured LPs. The one commercial recording known to me was a single communion hymn arranged by Frank Desby and recorded by the Roger Wagner Chorale in 1958. Four other LPs trickled into my life when my father returned home from national Church conferences with rare recordings of Greek Orthodox choirs from America’s urban centers. With these records, I first heard the musical settings of many of the composers featured on this CD, whose work ushered in a new chapter in the history of Greek Orthodox music unique to 20th century America.

While harmony and counterpoint have featured in Catholic and Protestant music for centuries, the Greek Christian East (with some notable exceptions1) has maintained the practice of a single melodic line, or chant, adding only an ison (vocal drone), whose use was first documented in the early 16th century.2 Western European music styles made an uneasy appearance in Greece in the 19th century, at a time when post-Ottoman nation-building brought Western influences to bear on Greek cultural life. In a famous example, the Athenian musician John Sakellarides (c. 1853–1938)—highly critical of what he perceived as the “Ottomanized” state of Greek chanting3— converted eastern-style chants into western-style melodies, sometimes with the addition of simple harmony. While these and similar innovations drew support from certain circles, they were met at times with official Church condemnation and even provoked public riots in the cathedral of Athens in 1836 and 1869.4,5

While this westernizing trend eventually lost steam in Greece, the work of Sakellarides and others gained momentum as well as hierarchical support in the early 20th century in the Greek immigrant communities of the United States, where choral music grew deep roots and remains the dominant style used in our liturgies today (with chant still utilized during matins and for many feast day hymns). More sophisticated arrangements of Sakellarides’ original transcriptions were composed throughout the last century. Notably, several Greek-American musicians created arrangements with the aim of preserving the musical ethos of the chant on which most Greek Orthodox choral music is based. Innovative monophonic/ison, harmonized and even some contrapuntal compositions formed a new tradition of Greek hymnody and to this day provide a valuable and cherished aural framework for our religious practice. This recording is a celebration of that tradition and a tribute to the musicians who have shaped the liturgical sound for generations of Greek Orthodox Americans.


My co-producer and dear friend, Greta Boesel, was long aware of my interest in Greek Orthodox music, but had only been formally introduced to the genre when I asked her to sing with me a two-part festal hymn after we discovered an acoustically rich stairwell at the university where we both work. Inspired by our impromptu performance, Greta and I drew up a plan to produce a recording. Beginning with several trained singers whom I knew personally, and with considerable help from tenor Sanford Dole, we recruited 14 accomplished choral musicians. Cortlandt Bender, father of my friend (and AXIOS soprano) Emily Bender, kindly agreed to conduct. To minimize the time commitment required of these very generous and very busy individuals, all rehearsals and recording took place during the course of a single week. I considered a substantial number of arrangements that I collected from around the United States, ultimately selecting hymns by composers most closely associated with my earliest memories of Greek Orthodox music. I also identified hymns that, to the best of my knowledge, had never been recorded. It is particularly thrilling, therefore, to be able to offer the premiere recording of eight of the ten hymns on this CD.**

“AXIOS” (Greek for “worthy”) is sung at the ordination of Greek Orthodox clergy. I chose the name “AXIOS” to commemorate my father’s ordination and my mother’s partnership in their 48th year of service to the Church. “AXIOS” can also mean “of like value.” Having attended numerous Orthodox worship services in both the United States and Greece, I have encountered a range of chant and choral styles, each of which was effective in engaging me in the text and guiding me through the service. To represent this co-existence of traditions, I re-spun a common symbol in Eastern Christendom, the two-headed eagle, representing here my bi-cultural experience of Greek-American Orthodoxy and my wish to see both chant and choral traditions thrive in the United States with ecclesiastical, scholarly and popular support.

Panos Filandrinos
San Francisco, 2011

**Litrosin, Tis Theos Megas, Tin En Presvies, Trisagion Asmatikon, Ton Nymfona Sou Vlepo, Osi Is Christon, Allilouia, Makaria I Odos

1. Lingas, Alexander. “Medieval Byzantine chant and the sound of Orthodoxy.” Byzantine Orthodoxies: Papers from the Thirty-sixth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Durham, 23–25 March 2002.
2. Conomos, Dimitri. Personal communication.
3. Sakellarides, John. Preface, Hymns and Odes.
4. Lingas, Alexander. “Music.” Encyclopedia of Greece and the Hellenic Tradition.
5. Lingas, Alexander. “Sakellarides, John Theophrastos.” Encyclopedia of Greece and the Hellenic Tradition.


All 14 choir members and our conductor volunteered for this project—each with busy lives and other primary singing commitments. Their dedication was an extremely generous gift, and I am forever thankful to each of them for creating such a beautiful sound and helping me realize a life-long dream.

Our conductor, Cortlandt Bender, took on the challenge of turning 14 singers into an ensemble while working under a harrowingly short schedule. It was a delight to hear these hymns come alive under Cort’s direction. He brought a wonderful collaborative spirit to each rehearsal and recording session, and the excellence of the choir’s performance is a testament to his fine work.

One of the most satisfying parts of producing this CD was observing my co-producer Greta Boesel's musicianship in action. She has an extraordinary ear. There was not one aspect of this project in which Greta’s guidance did not play a decisive role. She volunteered her talent with sensitivity and a deep appreciation for the music and its place in the Greek Orthodox heart. I am extremely lucky to have created this work with such a gifted and giving friend.

When I left home for college in 1988, I joined the choir of Sts. Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Glenview, Illinois, where I met the choir director Vivian Cardwell, who arranged the beautiful Allilouia on this disc (Track 9). Vivian was an extraordinary and dynamic director. I audiotaped rehearsals, not only to learn my part but also to be certain I captured all of her insights. I carry cherished memories of Vivian treating me to lunch after church, sharing her views on Orthodox music and in 1989 helping me form a small Orthodox student choir. She was a role model and a friend. Vivian passed away in 2007, leaving behind many wonderful liturgical arrangements. It gives me great pleasure to include her Allilouia on this recording so that more people might know her music and also as an expression of deep gratitude for her kindness and mentorship.

It was a very special honor and thrill to become acquainted with some of the composers whom I have admired so very much since my childhood. Many thanks to Theodore Bogdanos, Anna Gallos, Paul Maritsas, George Raptis and Tikey Zes for their time and support and for their kind permission to record these arrangements.

CD printing was funded through the generous donations of Paul Nickolatos and Katherine Ryden; David Attyah; and Warren Longmire.

I am grateful for the support and guidance given to me by Cate Cardwell, Robert Cardwell, Dimitri Conomos, George Demos, Neal Desby, Diane Konstantelos, Bill Lappas, Sara Meghrouni, Georgia Mitchell, Cynthia Sotiriou and David Alfred Zimmerman. Alexander Lingas’ work on the history of Greek Orthodox music was extremely helpful in preparing these notes.



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