Since the conversion of King Mirian of Kartli (Iberia) to Christianity in the early fourth century, the chant of the Georgian Orthodox liturgy has been performed in resplendent stone churches and cathedrals throughout the Christian nations of the South Caucasus. But what tunes were sung, what harmonies experimented? The study of this liturgical repertory is fraught with questions of continuity and change, with precious few pre-modern sources from which to understand the medieval development and transmission of the polyphonic system inherited in the eighteenth century. Important clues to these questions of continuity and change, and indeed the fundamental tenets of the oral transmission process, can be observed within the musical repertory itself. Some twenty-thousand pages of notated transcriptions from the turn of the last century, locked away in Soviet archives as a ‘banned’ music, attest to a sophisticated organization of model melodies in a Georgian version of the eight-mode system. In this talk, a demonstration of the various polyphonic manifestations of these model melodies—from musically distinct monastery schools in Georgia—reveals the fundamental characteristics of the pre-modern organizational and transmission process.
Accompanied by visiting members of the renowned Anchiskhati Church Choir from Tbilisi Georgia, Dr. John Graham (Yale ISM Fellow, 2015-2016) discusses some of the fundamental processes at work in the organization of Georgian polyphonic liturgical chant. This event precedes the ISM-sponsored Symposium: “Georgian Orthodoxy: the Revival of Art and Religion in the Caucasus,” 2:30-6:00 in Luce Hall, Macmillan Center. The Anchiskhati Choir will perform a public concert of sacred music, “The Orthodox Paschal Cycle,” at 8:00 pm in Christ Church, New Haven.