Here are some selections from our repertoire (to listen, you'll need RealPlayer)

Vaskliknete Bogovi

Make a joyful noise unto God, by Isaija Srbin (Serbian, 15th C) The composer's name means Isaiah the Serb. The music used in the Orthodox church was transcribed in the form of hooks and squiggles that look something like Arabic, which were written over the line of text. This type of music writing is called neumatic notation, (znamenny chant or krjuchkovoe penie in Russian) and a form of it is still used in the Orthodox church to this day. But the notation changed with time, and modern scholars spend much time trying to decipher the old manuscripts. The neums for this piece were deciphered by Dimitrije Stefanovic, a Serbian musicologist who got me interested in medieval Slavic music. The earliest Orthodox music was monophonic, in other words, there was only one vocal line -- instruments, by the way, were forbidden in the church.. To make the sound fuller, a drone was occasionally added, but it was fixed for the entire piece. The text reads "Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands. Rejoice, O Mary, full of joy, the Lord is with thee, Alleluia" and comes from Psalm 66 and Luke I. (Recorded 5/5/98)

Chashu spaseniia

The Cup of Salvation, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. "I take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord." (Recorded 29/4/94)

Vo gornitse

In the upper chamber (Nizhnjaja Pokrovka, Belgorodskaja obl.) The text is relatively incomprehensible, as is often the case with folk texts:

In the upper chamber, there Vanya was sitting.
Vanya's blond and curly, and under him there are boards,
Boards and thin planks of oak and fir,
I walked and strolled on those boards

Eventually she gets beaten for being playful and breaking the boards. There's a dance that goes along with this one called "peresek," which means something like intersect, since the beats of the two dancers are supposed to be at cross purposes. This is one of the songs we learned from the Pokrovsky Ensemble. (Recorded 5/5/98)

Bylina o korable-sokole

The tale of the falcon-ship (Terek Cossacks, Chervlennaja, Checheno-Ingushetia) A bylina is a folk epic, and the full text would take all night to sing, especially since the song is performed in a style that draws out the vowels. (Recorded 29/4/94)

It was not on the blue sea that thirty ships sailed out, one went in front, its nose like an eagle, beating its trunk like an animal. It was good on this ship, loaded with gold and fine pearls...


Lado (Kaluga region) is a ritual song said to bring on rain or labor. (Recorded 5/5/98)

The nightingale sings in the woods. No one hears his song but the white birch tree, which stands in the field with its boughs bending down.

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