Vlad Morosan, Musica Russica
This CD presents, very simply, the complete three sections or “stases” of the Lamentations (also known as “Praises” or “Encomia” in some Orthodox traditions) sung at the Matins of Great and Holy Saturday, the Funeral Service for the Lord Jesus Christ. The verses are chanted to the traditional Byzantine melodies by a single soprano voice of pure quality over an ison generated from sampled voices, in alternation with verses from the full Psalm 118, chanted by the priest. The English translation used is that of Holy Transfiguration Monastery. A beautiful, serene rhythm emerges out of this alternation between the longest Psalm (176 verses) and the New Testament poetry, attributed by some sources to St. Romanos the Melodist (6th century), but which probably predates him. It is a fact that in many Orthodox parishes today the Lamentations are severely abbreviated–either by omitting the psalm verses, or curtailing the number of Lamentations, or both. This CD allows us to experience, perhaps for the first time, the full “liturgical unit”–about 1 hour and 15 minutes altogether–this ultimate outpouring of human grief and praise to Christ’s entombment, as it was conceived and prayed for centuries by the Orthodox Church.
Ben Williams, Liturgica.com
This is an extraordinary recording for two reasons. First, it is the only recording of the complete Lamentations sung during the Matins service of the Lamentations of Holy and Great Saturday, and it is in English to boot! What most people know of the service, even Eastern rite Christians who regularly attend all Holy Week services, is a few stanzas of each Stasis sung on Friday night of Holy Week. So, the melodies of each Stasis, which are beautiful and unique, are well known, but most of the content of the service is not. Second, this is a wonderful performance: it includes a very balanced ensemble of singers supporting a father/daughter duo: Fr. John Tomasi taking the role of Cantor, and his daughter Lydia Tomasi-Given singing soprano solo. The female soprano voice is superb, lending a wonderful counterpoint to the male cantor role, and resulting in a musical presentation that is simultaneously spiritual and meditative, as well as musically engaging and uplifting. The presentation captures the traditional Byzantine renditions of the stases’ melodies, and presents the joyful sorrow that so characterizes the hymns and services of Holy Week. Whether you listen to it as a devotional, meditative or musical experience, it is superb and a worthy addition to any musical library. A meditative listening would do well to be accompanied by the entire text published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery.
Amazon Reviews (source)
Byzantine Liturgical Music
Reviewed in the United States on June 17, 2013
The Passion of Jesus Christ and the economy of salvation are clearly understood listening to the three stasis of this spiritual work.
Simple, beautiful, and reverent.
Reviewed in the United States on April 11, 2015
This recording from Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Mission in Culver City, CA (OCA/Orthodox Church in America) was made in 2011. Fr. John Tomasi, his daughter Lydia Tomasi-Given, and a small number of supporting singers used a superb but not-well-known 1981 English translation (from Greek) and arrangement published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, MA (not affiliated with the OCA). The exact title of that translation is THE LAMENTATIONS OF MATINS OF HOLY AND GREAT STATURDAY, a 58-page sewn-paperback (currently in-print). I mention this because the cover/booklet that comes with the CD — difficult to read as it employs a strange white font on a black background — does NOT include the text of the service.
Sounds of Orthodox Lent
Reviewed in the United States on April 23, 2012
There are many people who would claim that Greek and Russian Orthodox services could never be sung in English. They insist that the meaning of the words could never be conveyed in anything other than Byzantine Greek or Russian, and that it would be impossible to get words to carry Byzantine melodies. The production of this masterpiece will prove them wrong. The result here is quite sublime.
To me, the sound is something like traditional Greek Byzantine but the words are in clear American-English. It has the affect of breaking down the cultural barriers which can exist between Greek, Russian and English Orthodox, while having an appeal to a general audience. It is a magnificent and uniquely rare achievement for the English-speaking arena.
The sense of a dark and mystical beauty emerges within me as these chorals fill the space of my head and heart with images of Christ. You are left with contemplative reflections.
The music is deeply moving and the mastery of the choir is nothing short of remarkable.
The long, sustained, exquisite harmonies transport me to another place and time. These are the kind of lyrics contained within sounds that compel you to search your own heart.
‘Lamentations of Holy and Great Saturday’ is top-notch, featuring excellent English-language performances of Holy Week music from both the Orthodox traditions. The choir is well-directed and I expect to listen to this album over and over during Orthodox Lent.
It is remarkable, both in composition and performance. There is a brilliance of sound, perfect tuning, clarity and fluency of line, a fading blend and heavy feel from line to overlapping line; the deep solos are especially haunting and yet soothing.
A choral group of exceptional ability, the group consists of a small number of male and female singers who have trained themselves well to their task.
The soloists are quite superb in their portrayals of Christ’s Passion. Having written all of this I need to mention the skill involved in performing these ‘Lamentations’. These soloists are on their accustomed strong form, shading the music with sensitivity and evenness of tone. The dimly colored and gently inflected support provided by the ‘Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church’ Choir deserves full praise. They have lengthy solo passages and perform them within a proper emotional framework. These are difficult pieces to be sung so well.
Highly recommendable. These performances are excellent and very gripping, as they should be.
Reviewed in the United States on March 28, 2012
Beauty and sincerity permeates the chanting and spiritual voices of this awe-inspiring rendition of the “Lamentation of Holy and Great Saturday” service. For those who are English speakers, this iteration will be especially moving. A journey of lament that brings the listener to their knees, and their hearts into the joy of paradise. I highly recommend this recording to any and all spiritually-minded people.
Mr. A. PRYCE
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 17, 2017
Beautifully sung Byzantine music in English, a pure joy to listen too. Would definitely recommend.