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A Byzantine Nativity Hymn to accompany a Byzantine Crèche

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It's always good to hear from you, and I'm delighted that I can share some of my correspondence on these pages.

Crèche Enthusiast Michelle Martin asked me about church music in San Francisco, where's she's going to be visiting. And her question brought to my mind a beautiful service I once attended at a Russian Orthodox church that bordered Golden Gate Park. I can still remember how moving it was to be hearing those angelic hymns, and what did it matter that the words were in Russian? Every iota of meaning was felt.

Then another Enthusiast, Noelle, wrote me about trying to Download the Byzantine Crèche. It wasn't a stretch, then, for my mind to combine Michelle's music and Noelle's nativity and come up with a video especially for you.

It features the Byzantine icon of the Nativity that was the inspiration of the Byzantine Créche, and of one of the most beautiful hymns of the Orthodox Church:
I Parthénos Símeron, "The Virgin Gives Birth Today,) composed by the Byzantine hymnologist Kosmas the Melodist.

It was this hymn, when I was child, that proclaimed Christoúgenna Christmas. There were no Christmas decorations in my village, no Christmas lights—there was no electricity.

But the candlelight-filled church sparkled no less brightly, because it was proclaiming the "Birth of the Sun of Righteousness."

As the chanters raised their voices in praise, it was as if they were describing not only the miracle of the Incarnation, but also—would you forgive me for saying so?—a crèche:

The Virgin gives birth today,
To the Transcendent One,
And the earth offers a cave,
To the Unapproachable One.
Angels, with shepherds glorify Him,
And Wise Men journey with the star.
For to us was born a Little Child,
Who is God before all ages.

I Parthénos símeron
Ton Iperúsion Tíkti
Ke i gi to spíleon
To aprosíto prosági,
Ággeli, metá piménon doxologúsi,
Mági the metá astéros odiporúsi.
Di imás gar egeníthi,
Pedíon néon, O pro eónon Theós.

If you enjoy this English Translation, imagine how much you'd love the poetry of the Greek, sung by a Greek Orthodox choir. (I'm including the transliteration of the hymn, just in case you're tempted to chant along, as I do. the letter "i" is pronounced as in "me;" "e" as in "egg;" "d" as in "thee;" "g" as the "y" in "yes;" "th" as in "theocracy;" and "gg" as in "go.")

Tired of singing along? Mouseover the video screen, and stop, start, and volume controls appear. Mouseoff and they're gone:

I hope you enjoy one of my favorite Christmas hymns. And this brings me to wonder about your favorite Christmas music—hymns, carols, songs, instrumental pieces, not to mention the music of other lands—a subject I'm sure we'll be talking about.

For now, I think I'm going to follow Noelle's example, download the Byzantine Crèche, and be ahead for next year.

What about you?

Alexis

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