Divine Liturgy


The choral composer Gheorghe Cucu is little-known outside Romania. He was very active in arranging folk music for a capella choir, and also produced a significant corpus of church music arrangements. He freely mixed Byzantine chant melodies, snippets of folk songs, and Romantic lyricism in his settings. Because he closely married the rhythms of the Romanian language with the rhythms of his music, it is difficult to set many of his pieces in another language. The short refrain of “One Is Holy,” on the other hand, was quite easy to set in English.

Nicolae Lungu was a 20th-century Romanian professor, choral director, composer and arranger. He was co-author of what is quite possibly the most accessible book on learning to read Byzantine psaltic neumes, and for this I am eternally in his debt.

This setting of the Beatitudes has existed in monophonic form in the Romanian repertoire for a long time; Professor Lungu harmonized it for posterity. The melody is traded between men’s and women’s voices, sometimes coming together for a unison phrase.

Ghelasie Basarabeanul was a Romanian archimandrite, protopsalt and liturgical composer in the first half of the nineteenth century. His compositions were always within the framework of monophonic Byzantine chant. In the 20th century, some of his compositions were anonymously harmonized. I recently ran across this one and decided to set it in English.


In the nineteen-teens, one P. M. Kireyev published several short volumes of choral church music for mixed choirs. There are some very nice pieces in them by relatively obscure composers. Indeed, I haven’t been able to locate any biographical information about the composer of this piece; I can’t even determine his first name.

Many composers have harmonized the famous Sofroniev hermitage chant melody for the Cherubic Hymn. In America at any rate, the Kastalsky arrangement is most commonly performed, but Pavel Chesnokov’s harmonization is every bit as deserving of performance.

In the original, the music is set in free rhythm, without barlines except those denoting the ends of phrases. For ease of performance, I have added barlines and an editorial time signature of 4/2 (though at the ends of many phrases there is a 2/2 measure).

This setting of the Beatitudes by Protodeacon Pyotr Kozlovsky (a contemporary Russian composer) was originally for male chorus, but by pitching it up a fourth I have made it suitable for mixed chorus instead.

Mirko Kolarić was a Croatian composer (born near the present-day borders with Slovenia and Hungary) of the early twentieth century. He was a Roman Catholic, and composed both Roman masses and Byzantine Catholic liturgical music. He narrowly escaped the Bleiburg massacre, but on returning home was brutally murdered by an acquaintance at the age of 35. As a result, he had not yet composed a large corpus of work, and he faded into obscurity.

Johann von Gardner was a prominent Russian Orthodox musicologist of the twentieth century. Among other works, he published the two-volume scholarly opus Russian Church Singing, which explores the structure of Russian liturgical services and outlines the history of Russian church music from the time of the conversion of Rus’ in the eleventh century until the beginning of the Romanov dynasty in the early 17th century, when more Italianate musical forms emerged under the influence of Tsar Peter the Great and his successors.

There exist several editions of this piece in English. My church choir had a particularly bad nth-generation photocopy of a handwritten/typewritten score, so I created this cleaned-up version which will hopefully be easier to sight-read.