Songs and Chants for Hellenic Worship
"Hail, children of Zeus! Grant lovely song and celebrate the holy race of the deathless gods who are forever..." Hesiod, Theogony
Why this collection?
I have long felt a need for liturgical music that was easy enough for nonspecialists to learn and sing and that grew out of the particular theological and practical needs of Hellenic polytheists.
We are very lucky to have some examples of actual ancient music to draw on. Unfortunately, many of these are fragmentary; most are written in rhythms and modes that are unfamiliar and even jarring to most western ears; and all have linguistically complex lyrics. So while these pieces may serve as inspiration, to try to use them as is for group worship is to set ourselves up for frustration and failure.
In researching the development of liturgical music in various cultures, I discovered that virtually every religion borrows musically from the surrounding culture. Jewish niggunim (wordless devotional tunes) borrowed from Russian drinking songs, and the earliest Jewish Reform movement hymnal was full of Methodist songs! In particular, it is common for folk tunes or well-known classical melodies to be fitted with religious lyrics. This makes things easy for the worshippers: they already know the tunes, or can learn them easily, making religious song an equal-opportunity aspect of worship, not the province of professionals.
About the Songs
Accordingly, most of the songs here are either arrangements or adaptations of traditional folk tunes, themes taken from ancient or modern Hellenic music, or classical melodies simplified for congregational singing. A few are original compositions. Likewise, some of the lyrics come from traditional sources like Homer, the Orphic Hymns, or the ancient dramatists, while others are my own work. My hope is that this modest offering will inspire others with greater talent than I possess to compose liturgical music for our community.
Permission is hereby given for these songs to be reproduced and performed for non-profit religious purposes, as long as the copyright notice at the bottom of each page is retained and the material is not modified in any way. I would appreciate hearing from any groups that might use these songs in their worship.
Many thanks to my wife, Anne, for her help in cleaning up the image files for this part of the site, and for her patience with my noodling on the recorder and lyre at all hours. <g>
Prosodia (Processional Hymns)
Songs and Chants for Specific Deities
Paean (Closing Hymn)
Ih Paiwn (Alalalai)
Other Songs and ChantsKore mou (Blessing Song for a Daughter)
There are a number of CDs of ancient Greek music available for those who prefer recorded music for their rituals or who just want to hear what scholars think ancient music may have sounded like. Here is a selection:
Atrium Musicae de Madrid, Musique de la Grèce Antique (Harmonia Mundi)
Ancient Greek Music by M. L. West (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992) contains a detailed discussion of the subject and includes transcriptions of the extent musical scores.
This article originally appeared on Andrew Campbell's Nomos Arkhaios site which is currently on hiatus.
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