John of Damascus

revealing Orthodox Christianity through its sacred music

Directors' Notes



A couple of updates

Hi all; as Lent draws near, I wanted to pass along a couple of updates.

First — Kurt Sander submitted his finalized section of the Psalm 103 Project yesterday. Only one section remains before we have a completed score!

Along the way, people have had questions about how the collaborative process was working for this undertaking. As it works out, Kurt had submitted an earlier version of the score last spring, and his revisions provide an opportunity to give a peek at the working approach of this project, and how everybody has endeavored to produce a unified whole even within separate idioms.

When the composers met in October of 2013, an aspect of the structure they came up with involved the key moving by step in each section. The first section is in D, the second section in E, the third in F#, the fourth in G, and so on. Everybody worked out the solutions for smooth transitions between sections amongst themselves; for example, Alex Khalil’s section leads into Kurt’s like so:

Alex's ending
Alex’s ending


A melody line in the Fourth Mode (using F# as Vou) ending on F#, with a bass drone/pedal point on F# is picked up by Kurt and used as the basis for a modulation into G major:

Kurt's beginning
Kurt’s beginning


Kurt’s section originally ended thus, in G minor:

Kurt's first ending
Kurt’s first ending


However, Matthew Arndt’s section begins this way:

Matthew's beginning
Matthew’s beginning


In looking at each other’s work when we got together in Cincinnati last June, Matthew and Kurt felt that a better transition was possible; Matthew made a couple of suggestions, and this is what Kurt came up with:

Kurt's revised ending
Kurt’s revised ending


Matthew’s initial tone cluster of B-G-A is now set up a little more in advance, and the seam between sections is far more smooth and elegant.

The collaborative effort has been great all around, and I’ve learned a lot from watching everybody work together. I really can’t wait for you to hear this, and I’m hoping that I can make a formal announcement soon both about the score being completed, and also about when it might be possible for people to hear it!

Which brings me to my other update: an anonymous donor has made the Finland trip possible, so the ticket is booked and the registration paid for. I am hopeful that it will be possible to do some score reading during the presentation; in any event I will plan on getting as much video from the presentation as I can manage. If you want to support our ongoing activities of this nature, please contact me or click on the Support button above.

Thanks very much for your continued support, and we’ll talk more soon!

The Psalm 103 Project in Finland

The Psalm 103 Project is going to Finland!

The Saint John of Damascus Society has been invited to the 2015 conference for the International Society for Orthodox Church Music in Joensuu, Finland this coming June ( ) to give a presentation on the first phase of the Psalm 103 Project. It’s an honor to get to go, and a blessing to have the chance to present what we’re doing to such a broad audience. We will be able to show the completed score, and possibly even do some reading from it. It’s an exciting opportunity!

To go to the ISOCM conference will cost us approximately $2,000. Registration, meals, and accommodations are all provided by the conference for a very reasonable $255; the airfare, based on current rates, will be about $1,600. Will you help us get there? You can give online by going to our website and clicking on the Donate button:, if there’s something else you want to do — donate frequent flyer miles, perhaps — or if you have any questions, send me an e-mail ( richardbarrett AT johnofdamascus DOT org ), and we can go from there. We are a tax-exempt nonprofit (501(c)3), so all gifts are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

If you have already contributed, we are deeply grateful for your support of The Saint John of Damascus Society and the Psalm 103 Project! We could not have gotten this far without you. The work that our composers have done have elevated this project into something far more exciting than we initially envisioned, and it’s all because of your participation in the vision. You have a major part in helping us in our mission of revealing Orthodox Christianity through its sacred music.