Many holy hymnographers of the Orthodox Church were inspired to write not only the text of the hymns but also their melodies. As Photios Kontoglou explains in the Epilogue, this is why liturgical texts and their melodies have an absolute correspondence. In order to preserve this correspondence, an effort has been made in this book to keep the original melodies with minimal alteration. To this end, the translation offered is one that preserves the original meter wherever possible and when no violence is done to the meaning. This method of translating was also employed by the missionary Saints Cyril and Methodius when they trans­lated hymns into Slavonic. [1]

Another technique used in these settings (primarily in the cherubic hymns, the long communion hymns, and the "dynamis" of the Trisagion) to help preserve the original melodies is word repetition. The ancient practice of repeating words or parts of words in a hymn is employed when a word or syllable is held for many notes. It is a technique employed primarily in compositions containing lengthy, melismatic phrases, although it can also be found in shorter pieces as well. Its purpose is to help those listening to the hymn not to lose track of the words being chanted (something that can happen when a certain syllable is extended at length). Occasionally hymnographers use it merely to emphasize a certain word. It can be found in compositions written by St. John Koukouzelis [2] in the fourteenth century, St. Mark of Ephesus [3] in the fifteenth, Manuel Chrysaphes the New [4] in the seventeenth, and Theodore "Phokaeus" [5] in the nineteenth. All contemporary composers of Byzantine-style music in Greece continue this tradition.

The hymn texts have been translated into Elizabethan and Modern English. Both translations are available since the purpose of this book is to bring Byzantine music to people in a form they will use in their churches, irrespective of their linguistic preferences. Due to space limitations, certain Greek hymns already available in Western notation in other publications have been omitted.

The hymns in the liturgies section of this project (i.e., the upper row of five orange buttons) have been translated, transcribed, and arranged by an Athonite hieromonk of our monastery, who learned the sacred art of Byzantine music on the Holy Mountain in Greece. His secular education included music studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Arizona State University, and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and Greek and Byzantine studies at Harvard University.

The hymns in the remaining sections of this project,—which include the Vespers, Orthros, Menaion, Triodion, and Pentecostarion sections (i.e., the lower row of five orange buttons)—have been translated by the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts. These texts are copyrighted and we have used them with their kind permission. We chose to use their translations of these texts because many people throughout the world hold their liturgical translations in high regard due to their precision, meter, and elegance.


[1] The theory that Sts. Cyril and Methodios translated hymns to meter is supported by the philologist Roman Jakobson, the musicologist Milos M. Velimirović, and the historian Dimitri Obolensky.

[2] See page 454 in this book. (Transcribed from Ἀθωνικὴ Μουσικὴ Ἀνθοδέσμη, 1ος Τόμος, Θείας Λειτουργίας, σελ. 314-316.)

[3] See page 532 in this book. (Transcribed from Ἓν Ἄνθος τῆς καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς Ἐκκλησιαστικῆς Μουσικῆς, σελ. 300.)

[4] Vid. Μουσικὸς Πανδέκτης, Τόμος η᾽, Ἀδελφότης Θεολόγων ἡ ΖΩΗ, δ᾽ ἔκδοσις, 1996, σελ. 11.

[5] See page 228 in this book. (Transcribed from Μουσικὸς Θησαυρὸς τῆς Λειτουργίας, Α᾽ Τόμος, σελ. 141.)

If you find any problems on the Divine Music Project pages, please contact us through this form.