This Double Album is dedicated to the Sacred ARIAS and AVE MARIA of most famous classic composers (Schubert, Gounod, Bruckner, Franck, Schumann) as well as to the Christmas Songs of the the mainstream Christian churches having their origin in Antioch and leading a parallel existence since the first centuries of Christianity :
the ancient Syrian Church (Catholic and Orthodox), the Maronite Church, which celebrates in Syriac and Arabic, and the Byzantine Melkite Church, which celebrates the Byzantine rite in Greek and Arabic.
It is exclusively monodic and almost always strophic and syllabic. The melodies always proceed in stepwise motion, and rarely extend beyond a fourth or a third in range.
The rhythms are varied. Byzantine Melkite chant also has its origins in the primitive Church of Antioch.
It was first used in the fourth and seventh centuries. It was performed in Greek and Syriac, and later in Arabic; at present, it is performed only in Greek or Arabic.
This noble chanting is very sophisticated and melismatic, composed according to the principle of the eight modes and requiring a singer with a wide range and a highly developed technique.
It is performed without instrumental accompaniement, but a vocal pedal note (called an isson ) underpins the melody.
Alongside these two traditions, which require different vocal techniques, a new manner of composition has begun to make its appearance in the oriental churches since the beginning of this century.
This style is more developed, but is still based on traditional Syriac or Byzantine themes, or on Arabic maq‰ms.
These songs are always based on a Christian religious theme : prayers, psalms, etc., and they give fresh inspiration to the traditional repertoire.
No insrumental accompaniment is allowed in the Byzantine church tradition.
The tradition of the earliest Syriac Maronite church was restricted to a small number of metal percussion instruments reserved for a few solemn feasts such as the offices for Christmas and Easter.
At present, the chants are accompanied by raditional instruments such as the lute ('&d), the zither, the n‰y (flute), the violin and percussion, the music of which becomes a form of prayer in its turn.
Improvisation occupies a major part of these traditions.
Its aim is to express the ineffable. Music born from faith is subordinate to the next and manifests the deep faith of the singer.
Improvisation is based on theology, emotion and vocal capacities, and has long been used for singing readings.
On the threshold of the third millenium, we hope this recording will be a canticle, an intercession and a double prayer, to become a language to express a believing heart or the aspirations of all those in search of openess to others, the consequence of which is a return to the Creator.
Sister Marie Keyrouz