John of Damascus

revealing Orthodox Christianity through its sacred music

Directors' Notes



The Saint John of Damascus Society on Ancient Faith Radio

This last Thursday morning, John Maddex of Ancient Faith Radio was kind enough to conduct a fairly lengthy interview with me about the Psalm 103 project. He seemed genuinely enthusiastic about what the Society is trying to do with it, it was a great conversation, and at the end of it, he said, “Okay, I’ll have that edited and posted this week.” Well, “this week” actually meant “in 24 hours”, so I’m very pleased to say that it is up now. Here it is: (LINK) Please give it a listen, and please help spread the word!

To recap where we’re at —SJDS networks of echoes flyer 2 med res

All six of our composers are coming into town next month; they’ll all be here by Friday, 11 October, and they’ll have a working weekend where they put together their creative scheme for the composition of piece. As part of the weekend, they will do a public presentation called “Networks of Echoes: Collaboration, Community, and Creativity in the Musics of Eastern Orthodox Churches” (LINK). Each composer will talk informally for probably 10-15 minutes about their approach to collaboration, what specifically they bring to the collaboration, how they see the different repertoires people are working with fitting together, etc. There will also be a 12-piece choir on hand to sing representative musical examples chosen by the composers, and it will be conducted by Christopher Grundy, a doctoral student here at the IU Jacobs School of Music who is the former Assistant Conductor of the Yale Russian Chorus and the Yale Glee Club. After each composer talks for a bit, there will be a roundtable Q&A with everybody. It’s free and open to the public, and it will be at 7pm on Saturday, 12 October at First Christian Church in Bloomington, 205 E. Kirkwood Ave (right off of the square on the main drag in the center of town). It’s the same day as All Saints’ Festival on Fairfax (LINK); that goes until 5pm, and we start at 7, so if you’re coming into town for the Festival, please stay for our event!

Networks of Echoes space1

We couldn’t be happier with our location; First Christian Church has been very gracious in letting us use a space that is central to town, easy to get to, and absolutely perfect as far as acoustics and setup go. It’s used frequently as a performance venue for the Bloomington Early Music Festival (LINK) and the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival (LINK), and for good reason. We got lucky in terms of space, to say the least!

You can anticipate a CD table in the lobby, where we will be selling CDs of works by the composers and/or works that are representative of the kind of repertoire in which each composer works. One item we’ll have on hand that I’m excited about is the brand spanking new recording just released by Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, All Creation Trembled: Orthodox Hymns of the Passion Service (LINK). This recording features prominently the work of Psalm 103 composer John Michael Boyer, and the timing managed to work out for us to get some copies for the table. Alas, I could not convince Mark Powell at Cappella Romana to let us sell some advance copies of their new recording of Tikey Zes’ Divine Liturgy due out in November (LINK), but you can’t win ’em all. And, no worries, we’ll be set up to accept credit cards at the CD table.

We’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Indiana University College of Arts & Sciences Themester 2013 effort (LINK); they’ve been very generous, and we’re very appreciative of the support. Also, this program has been made possible through a matching grant from Indiana Humanities (LINK) in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities. The IU Institute for European Studies (LINK)the Russian and East European Institute (LINK), and the Modern Greek program (LINK) have also given us substantial support.

This is a couple of months ago now, but Come Receive the Light on Orthodox Christian Network also ran a bit about us (LINK) over the summer, and that’s definitely worth a listen.

In short, things are really happening, and we’ve got no shortage of publicity at this stage of the game — what we need to make sure we have now is an audience sitting there on the evening of 12 October. So, please — if you’re anywhere nearby, make time to come and see what we’re doing, and help us get the word out!

And the seasons roll on by

It’s been a busy summer.

The summer started with our successful Kickstarter drive for the Psalm 103 project, and since then our Executive Board has been busy getting contracts written and signed, making travel arrangements for our composers, planning the October weekend in Bloomington, and more. We’re very excited about the way the weekend is shaping up, and you’ll notice that we’ve added details for the public part of the weekend to our calendar. We’ve also created a Facebook event. If you’re going to be around, please come! It should be a great evening.

ROCOR liturgical singing seminar 2013In the midst of those responsibilities, my own summer has also been full with my “other” life, concerned as it is with musical activities at my own parish, as well as academic and family pursuits, but I was also lucky enough to participate in a couple of musical gatherings sponsored by their respective jurisdictions. In June, I went to Cleveland, OH for the Liturgical Singing Seminar for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia’ Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America, put on by our Advisory Board member Kurt Sander and his wife Larissa. I got to sing a lot of amazing polyphonic Slavic repertoire, I met people like Jared Brewer, Sergey Furmanov, and Dn. Alexander Petrovsky, all fantastic church musicians in the Russian idiom, and made several new friends, too numerous to name. The services at St. Sergius Cathedral, including Vigil Saturday evening and the hierarchical Divine Liturgy that Sunday, were hours spent in heaven in every way.

MEFGOX 2013Also, in July, I both represented Holy Apostles and was invited to teach a Byzantine chant class at the 2013 Convention for the Mid-Eastern Federation of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians at Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Cincinnati. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know other GOA musicians in the area, including the great Evey Simon (my heart just soared when she started a rehearsal by saying, “If a rehearsal starts at 8:30, that means you’re ready to sing at 8:30, it doesn’t mean you’re sauntering through the door at 8:35”), Chris Zervos, Emanuel Creekus, Ted Niforos, Stan and Nancy Takis, Janice Kellaris, and others; I also got to meet His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas for the first time. I hopefully didn’t embarrass myself too badly talking about the Third Mode, and it was a joy to help chant Orthros and then join the choir for Divine Liturgy. Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas was a lovely church in which to sing, to say the least. I look forward to MEFGOX 2014 in Columbus!

It’s been a blessing to have such a productive summer, and I’m very excited to see how what we’ve got planned for the fall turns out. Keep an eye on this space for more details!