March 29, 2020

One of the Greatest Byzantine Music Moments of the 20th Century

In 1970, when Protopsaltis Photios Ketsetzis was in his early 20's, before he was drafted into the army and before he was married, after recently completing his academic studies in Byzantine Music, and residing in Athens where he was slowly making a name for himself in the world of Byzantine Music, he joined the fifty-plus member choir of Protopsaltis Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas, as one of its youngest members. Stanitsas was most noteworthy as being the Protopsaltis of the Great Church of Constantinople from 1960 until 1964, when he was expelled from Turkey by the Turkish authorities, along with many other Greeks living in Constantinople. He lived and chanted on the island of Chios for a year, moved to Beirut, and finally chanted in Athens in the Church of Saint Demetrios from 1966 until his retirement in 1981. Along with Konstantinos Pringos before him, Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas is known for bringing the Patriarchal style of chanting to Greece and because of his many recordings he is still known as its primary teacher. When Ketsetzis joined his choir in 1970, it was this Patriarchal style of chanting and choir directing from Constantinople that he credits as a major part of his own personal education in the art of Byzantine Music.

With the recording below we find ourselves on March 28, 1971 at the Solemn Great Vespers for the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent at the Church of Saint Nicholas in Chalandri. The church had invited Stanitsas to chant in the right choir. Needing to fill the seat for the left choir, they invited Ketsetzis, whose name was just circulating in Byzantine Music Athenian circles. Even though Ketsetzis was a member of the choir of Stanitsas, they really didn't know each other on a personal level because he was very young and a beginner of a choir of fifty or sixty members. Nonetheless, the first and only time they chanted together was captured on tape, which is a rare treat. Stanitsas and Ketsetzis are considered two of the greatest Byzantine chanters of the 20th century, and you can hear the 47 minute recording below. In the video below it, at the the 36 minute mark, you can hear Ketsetzis recall the moment himself (in Greek).