Issue 83:The Hymn of St Kassiani

I played a Hildegard von Bingen track from Heavenly Revelations with a year 1 and 2  class at the end of last term. It was a bit of a random choice – it just happened to be the track that I had just been listening to on my mp3 player, and I wanted something for the children to listen to as they settled down after playtime. What caught my attention this time (apart from the magical stillness that came over the children as they sat waiting for the “real” lesson to begin!) was the lower voice, singing just a series of drones.

I hadn’t come across this type of singing before, and was ntruiged, but the moment passed, and the next events of the day (more teaching, more activity, more errands, more administration) just buried that moment of curiosity.

Later, I was following up a reference to “Spy Wednesday” in relation to the week before Easter Sunday. The Wikipedia entry took me by stages to these wonderful, wonderful videos of an ancient Byzantine Eastern Orthodox hymn written in the 9th century by St Kassia.

In the youtube clips that follow, you can hear the second voice singing the drones that form the accompaniment for the beautiful, flowing melodies. The third link takes you to the sheet music for the second version of the song.

Russian icon of St Kassia holding a scroll
with her hymn written on it.  using tone 8  using tone 4 

I browsed through the information on the website. This is a whole new world of music and liturgy of mind-bending complexity. I’ll have to save it for when I have several years to begin to study it properly.

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