The Paschal Canon in the Russian Znamenny Chant Traditions
(Пасхальный канон)

Transcriptions and notes by Nikita Simmons
Woodburn, Oregon, 2008

Over the past several years I have been compiling recordings and manuscript versions of all the known "mainstream families" of melodies for the complete Paschal Canon according to surviving Znamenny manuscript and oral traditions, and I am gradually making transcriptions of these sources. In addition to those presented here, I am still trying to locate more settings, such as Siberian groups of Old Believers (particularly the Semeiski Zabaikal groups), but so far nothing else has been located.

Definitions of terminology:

a) "Naonnoe" melodies (наонное пение): singing texts according to the archaic pronunciation; the "hard sign" (ъ) is sung as «О» ("o" in oar), and the "soft sign" (ь) is sung as «Э» ("e" in bed).
b) "Narechnoe" melodies (наречное пение): singing texts according to the current received pronunciation (without vocalization of the hard and soft signs).
c) "Raspev" (распев) : chant; a cohesive system or repertoire of chant melodies.
d) Singing "Na raspev" (пение на распев): singing "to a melody" (unspecified); singing a lengthy or difficult melody according to a more simplified (or abbreviated) oral tradition.
e) "Na podoben" (на подобен): singing "to a melody" (specified); singing a text with a melody known to be associated with another text; using the same melody for multiple texts.
f) "Pripevy" (припевы): the Refrains before the troparia of each Ode.

i.) For Odes (песни) 1-7 and Ode (песнь) 9, we sing:
"Christ is risen from the dead." (Христос воскресе из мертвых.)
"Glory..." (Слава...); "Both now..." (И ныне...)

ii.) On the 8th Ode we sing the Refrains: "Christ is risen from the dead" (Христис в оскресе из мертвых); but before the third troparion we sing: "Most Holy Trinity, our God, glory to Thee" (Пресвятая Троице, Боже наш, слава Теве).
Instead of "Glory..." (Слава...), we sing "We bless the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Lord" (Благословим Отца и Сына и Святаго Духа, Господа); "Both now..." (И ныне...).

iii.) Following the 8th Ode, but before the Katavasia, we sing: "We praise, we bless, we worship the Lord; we hymn and supremely exalt Him unto the ages." (Хвалим, благословим, кланяемся, поем и превозносим Его во веки.)

iv.) In the Greek Rite and the Russian New Rite, there are special Refrains on the 9th Ode sung before the troparia. (Evidence points to these being very late additions to the Greek books.) Note that none of the traditional pre-Nikonian or Carpatho-Rusyn settings of the Canon which I located include refrains on the 9th Ode of the Canon; the only exception is the 1902 Galician setting, which also follows the New Rite text.

Authorship of the Canon: The text is the composition of St. John Damascene. The music gradually evolved out of the ancient Byzantine Slavonic neumatic/oral tradition; the earliest Russian manuscripts that can be sung with full comprehension of the notation date from c. 1600, both in Central and Southwestern Russia. The known sets of melodies dating from after c. 1600 are yje focus of this study.

The Lineage of the Paschal Canon Melodies

It is interesting to note that all these settings have recognizable melodic traits that tie them into a single "Znamenny" origin (an original "prototype"), but each have unique features that set them apart as distinctly different settings. Undoubtedly, the reasons for these variations are due to the dispersion of the original prototype over a wide geographical area, and the subsequent transmission of this prototype through the following centuries, subject to the fluid nature of oral traditions in a diversity of regions. An in-depth study of some of these regional variants (presented here) reveals that there are a number of discernable "sub-families" descending from the prototype, each of which share a fairly obvious relationship to each other. Furthermore, each of the "sub-families" is likewise subject to the same principles on a smaller scale; this has resulted in almost every single parish having its own unique interpretation of the Paschal Canon. (Tracing the lineage of these melodies is strikingly similar to tracing the lineage of a group of languages. One can establish that certain languages are closely related to each other, and then one can see that there are regional dialects within each language, and different accents and vocabulary in every town and village.) We might attempt to chart the lineage of these melodies in this manner:

   
The Byzantine-Slavonic Prototype (theoretical, but logical)
   
     
|
     
 
 
 
|
     
|
 
Medieval Northern Russian Znamenny Chant
- Novgorod, Pskov & Moscow singing schools (without pitch marks)
 
Southwestern (Rusyn) Znamenny Chant
- Kievan & other singing schools (without pitch marks)
 
|
     
|
 
 
|
   
 
|
   
|
 
|
Old Russian Znamenny sub-family (1a)
& New Russian Znamenny (1b)
 
Carpatho-Rusyn
sub-family
(7)
Kievan (Kiev Caves)
sub-family
Galician sub-family
(8)
 
|
         

       
|
|
|
       
Northern Russian (Pomortsy) oral variants (2, 3, 4)
Central Russian
oral variants
(5)
Lipovan
oral variants
(6)
       

One further note: In the pre-Nikonian rites, the Pascal Troparion "Christ is risen..." is not sung three times after each Katavasia; the addition of the Troparion is a feature of the Greek tradition. At the Paschal Matins (on Sunday only) there is a Small Ektenie following each Ode of the Canon.


 
Paschal Canon
(Пасхальный Канон)
Theotokia
(Богородичны)

A. NORTHERN RUSSIAN ZNAMENNY CHANT

   

1a) Older Great Russian Znamenny Raspev

Source: Pomorskii Obikhod, Preobrazhenskii Almsgiving House, Moscow, 1911. Naonnoe text; neumatic musical notation; heirmological melodies. This printed chant book strictly follows the manuscript tradition of Novgorod and Moscow (c. 1600), and is still used by the majority of Pomortsy and Fedoseevtsy Priestless Old Believers (primarily in Northern Russia and the Baltic Republics).

PDF

MIDI

PDF

MIDI

1b) Newer Great Russian Znamenny Raspev

Source: Krasnoiarsk Museum manuscript No. 145031, Обиход (1694-1696 гг.)
New Rite narechnoe text with neumatic notation (a rare find).

ALSO: Two other manuscripts (one [original] and two [original]), contemporary adaptations of the Pomorskii version using the New Rite reformed texts.

in production
 

   

B. ORAL TRADITIONS: "NA RASPEV" (abbreviated melodies)

   

2) Riga variant

Source: Recording by S. Pichugin, 2004. Naonnoe text; the melodies are sung "na raspev" according to the Riga (Pomortsy) oral tradition. The Theotokia are not included in the recording.

PDF

MIDI

 

3a) Erie (Pennsylvania, USA) variant - Slavonic

Source: Tape recording by N. Simmons, c. 1990.

Naonnoe text; the melodies are sung "na raspev" according to the oral tradition of the Pomortsy Old Believers who settled in Erie, Pennsylvania in the 1920s, after leaving their original villages in the Suwalki region of Poland. As expected, the melodies are quite similar to the Riga community, but it is very interesting to note that the Erie community sharpens the high B-flat to B-natural, producing a modal sequence that is not characteristic (or even possible) within the Znamenny "gamut" (scale). This phenomenon, however, is found in a few other recordings I have found, especially in the Lipovan tradition (which has some interesting implications).

The melodies for the Theotokia I have reconstructed based on analysis of the Canon melodies, since the Erie community has all but abandoned the use of Church Slavonic in favor of English, and I made my recording long after these particular melodies were lost. (There is the possibility that the Theotokia were never sung to the Paschal Canon melodies, as is the case in the vast majority of places, but I have found it easy to make a theoretical reconstruction which seems entirely plausible.)

PDF

MIDI

PDF

MIDI

3b) Erie variant - English adaptation

The pre-Nikonian text was translated by Rev. German Ciuba, c. 1983, and was adapted to the traditional melodies by N. Simmons, c. 1990. (Note: these are not the same settings sung by the Erie community, but have been arranged to more closely match the oral tradition of this Pomortsy community.)

in production
 

4) Another (Staropomorskii) variant

Source: A tape recording of an unidentified Staropomorskii/Fedoseevtsy community (location and year unknown, possibly somewhere in the Baltic Republics), which I purchased from a collector in Moscow. Naonnoe text; the melodies are sung "na raspev", quite similar to the Riga oral tradition, but somewhat slower than the other local variants I have heard.

Transcribing this recording was a difficult task because the singers all sound very elderly and there were numerous "challenges" getting used to their unrefined vocal techniques (especially vocal imprecision). The most obvious feature of the recording is that each singer executes the melodies from memory in a slightly different way than all the others; while this is not always a problem, there are phrases where the pitches are very difficult to identify. The momentary difference in pitches usually create a consonant interval (thirds, fourths or fifths), but sometimes the interval is dissonant (seconds) or even an indistinct "tone cluster". All of this makes it difficult to determine which is the definite "correct" pitch. (One can argue that there is an unintentional "heterophony" at work here, and one can even create a "folk polyphony" as an academic exercise, but it must be stressed that the Old Believer singing tradition is strictly based on monophonic singing, as polyphonic settings are contrary to our Church teachings.)

Moreover, it is equally frustrating that the singers seldom repeat the same Heirmos or Troparion in the same way (even when it is immediately repeated), but there is a fluid, almost improvisatory nature to their performance that speaks to the "living quality" of this oral tradition. In transcribing the melodies, I frequently had to listen to the entire sequence of Heirmos and Troparia for each Ode, determine what the "motifs" sounded like, and strive to set down the melodies with consistency. At times I had to "tweak" the phrases to ensure that the Heirmoi and their Troparia have a unified melodic structure, and at times I allowed the difference to remain, as they complemented the text better. In a few instances where it sounded like two melodies being sung together, I deliberately chose melodic contours that were in contrast to the Riga melodies, in order to give some variety. (I had to reconstruct a portion of the Troparia of the 7th Ode because the recording is incomplete.) My final choice of melodic structure and phrasing is aimed at using these transcriptions for a practical use in church services. This is by no means a perfect transcription.

PDF

MIDI

 

5) Moscow/Nizhnyi Novgorod variant

Source: Tape recordings by N. Simmons, 2003, 2004 and 2005. Narechnoe text; the melodies are sung "na raspev" according to the Oregon (Priested Old Believer) oral tradition, which closely follows the Moscow/Nizhnyi Novgorod oral tradition.

in production
 

6) Turkish (Lipovan oral tradition) variant

Source: Digital recording by N. Simmons, 2006.

The text is quite fascinating; while it basically follows the Narechnoe text tradition, there are frequent vestiges of Naonnoe singing. This suggests that the community may have once followed the Naonnoe tradition and switched to Narechnoe singing at some point in time; typically, such communities in the Baltic Republics tend to revert to Naonnoe singing for many well-known pieces of music of the Great Feasts.

The melodies are sung "na raspev" according to the oral tradition of the Oregon Priestless Old Believer community which emigrated from Turkey to the U.S.A. c. 1963. This oral tradition is a unique local variant of the Lipovan oral tradition, which is preserved by Old Believers in Romania, Moldova, parts of Ukraine and Crimea. (I have not been able to locate any other communities which preserve similar melodies for the Paschal Canon.)

in production
 

   

C. SOUTHWESTERN RUSSIAN ZNAMENNY CHANT

   

7) Southwestern Russian Znamenny Raspev

Source: Carpatho-Rusyn manuscript [PDF], possibly from Peremyshl, c. 1780's (Jasynov'sky catalog number 228).

The narechnoe text follows the pre-Nikonian recension, but with a few regional oddities; "Kievan" staff musical notation is used. The melodies are quite similar to the Great Russian neumatic versions, suggesting a common shared lineage (i.e the "Prototype"), but some of the cadences have a different structure; this confirms the fact that the original neumatic notation had different regional interpretations.

The manuscript contains no melodies for Refrains, but it does include a unique melody for the Hypakoe and the Paschal Stichera (also without refrains). The Paschal Theotokia are not included in the manuscript.

PDF

MIDI

 

8) Galician variant

Source: Napevnik tserkovnyi (Напевник церковный), edited by Ignatii Polotniuk, Peremyshl, 1902.
The text is according to the New Rite, and the melodies are derived from a local or regional oral tradition of Galicia. Comparing these melodies with some of the other oral traditions, one can clearly see that they are derived from an abbreviated Znamenny tradition. It is interesting to note that this book provides only a single refrain for the 9th Ode of the Canon, but it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions whether the other refrains were sung or not.

in production