The Genesis of a Performance Revival
John A. Graham
Fall 2015 Lunch Series of the ISM Fellows in Sacred Music, Worship, and the Arts
The engaged and passionate discourse propelling the current revival of Orthodox ecclesiastical chant in the country of Georgia mirrors a similar revival in the late nineteenth century, one steeped in the verbiage of nation-building, religious autocephaly, and an emotionalized nostalgia for the past. While rhetorical exchanges remain similarly charged with nationalist rhetoric, the current revival has struggled to shed Soviet-era performance practices such as the ‘choralization’ of chants, an aesthetic now associated with the State-sponsored censorship of religious texts. These issues are discussed with examples from the unpublished notes of Artem Erkomaishvili (d. 1967), the last master chanter of the oral tradition of Georgian chant, and the peculiar transmission of the hymn shen khar venakhi [You are the Vineyard], which was popularized in the West by none other than the Yale Russian Chorus and serves both secular and religious function in contemporary Georgian society.
John A. Graham Lecturer in Ethnomusicology, joins the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University as a post-doctoral associate in 2015, and will teach a course on “Early Polyphony of the East and West” in the Yale Music Department. He holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from Princeton University and a B.A. in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. Graham has published extensively on subjects related to Georgian Orthodox music, including issues of performance practice, oral and written transmission, and the post-Soviet revival of chant in contemporary Georgia, where he has spent many years conducting archival research and fieldwork.