October 2, 2021

Protopsaltis Sotirios Tattis and the Musical Tradition of the Orthodox Church (2 of 2)

 ...continued from part one.

3. The Decalogue of the Unwritten Typikon of the Church for the Chanter

The Apostle Paul, referring to the way of worship that took place in Corinth, and the disorder that was observed between the gifts of prophecy and tongues and defining an order in which the manifestations of these gifts took place, said: "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40).

It is within this perspective that our entire ecclesiastical tradition operates. The 75th Canon of the Penthekti Ecumenical Synod (692) states:

"We will that those whose office it is to sing in the churches do not use undisciplined vociferations, nor force nature to shouting, nor adopt any of those modes which are incongruous and unsuitable for the church: but that they offer the psalmody to God, who is the observer of secrets, with great attention and compunction. For the Sacred Oracle taught that the Sons of Israel were to be pious."

Saint John Chrysostom says:

"Let us come to the church with proper reverence, so that we do not pray here and instead of receiving the remission of our sins, we add to them."

This ecclesiastical tradition also included the chanting that was formed over the course of time and a standard form was drawn up for how the chanter should chant and how to stand at the sacred analogion.

This "Decalogue of the Unwritten Typikon of the Eastern Orthodox Church" has been written by the Archon Protopsaltis John Damarlakis, in the year 1993, and I will present it below, because this unwritten typikon was expressed in the actions of the late Protopsaltis Sotirios Tattis. I will record every point of the decalogue and I will adapt it to the life of our Protopsaltis.

1. To stand at the hour of the Divine Services in a posture of regal humility without unnecessary movements, facial gestures, etc.

Sotiris would stand at the analogion regally with a humble mind, he remained motionless, majestic, a true archon, he did not make strange movements, he did not speak, he did not comment and when he wanted to say something to his fellow chanters, he would show them with hand movements. During ecclesiastical worship his mouth was offered only to chant.

2. To always wear the sacred cassock and to try to have his helpers also wear cassocks. This gives solemnity.

At the analogion Sotiris was solemn. He wore his cassock, his figure was attractive, his thick white hair gave him a grandeur and decency. In general, during the sacred services he changed his appearance and form, he was not seen as an ordinary smiling person, but as pensive, careful and in a way he seemed altered. He chanted with special attention, as it seemed from his eyes and the whole expression of his face.

3. To always chant from the books of our Byzantine Ecclesiastical Music, in accordance with the canon of the Synod of Laodicea "chanting from parchments".

Sotiris did not extemporize in his chanting, he did not chant with improvisation. Even the "Lord have mercy" and the "Grant this O Lord" he chanted according to the music books, namely from "parchments". Although after many years of experience he could chant from memory, without musical texts, however he did not do it, but he always respected the members of the church. He was also helped by the fact that the services were broadcast by the State Radio Station and no mistakes had to be made.

4. To always chant the same whether he is alone in the church or whether the entire congregation is present, for in all occasions he chants to God, Who is everywhere present.

I noticed that Sotiris sang with the same attention and diligence in all the sacred services. I happened to attend the Vespers of Saturday, where he chanted with the same seriousness that he chanted on Sunday morning in the Divine Liturgy. I remember on the Friday of Renewal Week I did not go to the Sacred Church of Peribleptos, as I did every year, according to the custom of the people of Ioannina, and I went to the Metropolitan Church. The church attendance was considered small. There I enjoyed the Cherubic Hymn of the first tone according to Priggos, which he chanted in a mystagogical manner.

5. To unite the mood of the psalmody with the meaning of the hymn. For example, the diatonic tone is chanted one way on Holy Thursday and another on Pascha. Namely he should chant colorfully and not plainly.

Sotirios Tattis, as I mentioned above, always borrowed from the excellent music books and never improvised. However, he also colored them appropriately with his own state of soul, and with his own musical education, which he had inherited from the tradition he had received from listening to the music of Epirus. And this coloring of his voice was considered analogous to the feasts of our Church.

6. To respect the liturgizing priests and his brethren and work peacefully with them.

Sotiris respected and honored the occasional Metropolitans of this historic Metropolis, he showed in various ways his respect for them, but he also honored the occasional pastors of the sacred church. He spoke kindly to them as well as to everyone, and most importantly he respected the way they served. Mostly this respect was also evident during the sacred services.

This means that he fully respected liturgical time and synchronized the chanting of the Cherubic Hymn, depending on the movements of the priest. He did not let the priest wait at the north gate of the church with the chalice and continued the slow chanting of the Cherubic Hymn, for the sake of observing the lesson. He knew that the main protagonist in the worship is the liturgist and not the chanter, for he was a servant to the hierarchs and priests who liturgized, so he shortened the chant.

7. From the moment in which he dons the sacred cassock and begins to perform his holy duty, he should take leave of "every earthly care".

The mind of Sotiris during sacred worship was focused on his duty. I never heard him talk during the breaks of his chanting music, during the communion hymn or when the left choir chanter was chanting. He was silent and chanted.

He was an ecclesiastical man, and he knew the great mission entrusted to him by the Church. He felt the chanting not only as an art, but also as a sacred mission, as a sacred hymn, he felt himself as a representative of the people who participated in the worship and served the liturgist.

8. To pronounce the readings and chant the melodies pleasantly and meaningfully so that the faithful may understand and participate.

The articulation of Sotiris was considered complete, it rendered the meanings of the troparia and the readings and colored them appropriately for them to be understood by the churchgoers. The important thing is not that he did not read the readings appropriately and secularly, as an actor would do, as if it were a secular manifestation, but he did it ecclesiastically.

The ecclesiastical tradition foresees that even readings should be done with a tone though without chanting, nor just reading, but something in between, that is, the so-called logaoedic style. I remember as an example the way in which he read the kontakion and the oikos of Holy Week, but also the Apostolic reading. Through the reading came an entire tradition, with the right articulation and tuneful reading, without, however, exaggerations.

9. To know that every exaggeration during the time he chants causes irreparable damage.

As a Protopsaltis, Sotiris was a man of Aristotelian measure who avoided extremes and deficiencies; he was level-headed as a chanter and as a man.

It is characteristic that he strictly observed the schedule of the service. When he went up to the chanter's stand, he immediately put on the analogion, next to the music books, a pocket watch, to control the time and to adjust the chant accordingly.

10. He should participate in the things taking place in the divine services, so that the words of the troparion are not fulfilled in him that say: "Many times while chanting, I am found committing sin, [for with my tongue I pronounce songs of praise, yet in my soul I think unseemly things]" (from the Aposticha of the Praises, Third Tone, Monday morning).

The presence of Sotiris at the analogion of the Metropolitan Church was considered majestic and careful. He showed a man who does this work with seriousness and decency. He was also concentrated during the chanting.

He once told me that on Saturday night he would retire early to his room, not talk to others, because he was carefully preparing for what he was going to chant the next day and most of all he was resting so that he could get up in the morning rested and to chant properly for the church.

At the end of the "Decalogue of the Unwritten Typikon of the Eastern Orthodox Church" is written a general conclusion:

The ordained chanter as lower clergy must behave accordingly. His general appearance (attire, hair, etc.) should always show his office/ministry. He is first and foremost a churchman and to be successful in his work, he must live a life of virtue, in study, in learning, in faith, in fasting, in patience and obedience.

There are two choirs, right and left. In today's understanding, the right is considered the first choir while the left the second. In older times the primacy switched between the two choirs each week; the right choir one week and the left choir the next. All that remains of this practice today is in the small vespers when the left choir has the primacy, while at great vespers it is the right.

Sotiris Tattis was considered a pious Christian, an ecclesiastical man, who lived the worship of the Church, he had digested it internally and expressed it in an amazing way. He was considered a sweet and benevolent man, but also a devout Christian.

Eventually, Sotirios Tattis was seen as a living bearer and transmitter of this "Decalogue of the Unwritten Typikon of the Eastern Orthodox Church".

4. Ecclesiastical Chant According to Saint Paisios

Chanting is a sacred work, it is a participation in the work of the angels, it is an ecclesiastical ministry that reveals the whole spiritual life of the chanter. The condition of the churchgoers is conveyed through the sacred chanting, but mainly the spiritual condition of the chanters themselves.

Saint Paisios presents in an amazing way the correlation between sacred psalmody and the spiritual condition of the one who chants. I will quote some of his phrases that show the deep content of this sacred work.

"Chanting is a ministry, which is why the priest also prays 'for those who chant'. The chanter represents all the people who are in the church." The way he chants depends on his spiritual state. The Saint says: “If you are burdened, then you also chant burdened. This comes from your internal state; you are to rebuke this. One who has a gentle voice, if he is in a good spiritual state, he will sound like a nightingale; otherwise, it is as if he is shrieking. A man who has a thick voice, if he is not in a good condition, he will sound like an old man arguing." "When one chants without having a good spiritual state, this is worse than a musical discord."

In order to chant and perform the troparion one must have reverence. The troparia are already written with reverence, therefore the musical sound must have the same spiritual color. The Saint said: "Reverence is everything. Without reverence, the chanting is stale, like an instrument that is out of tune, that goes cling clang." "Art without reverence is ... paints; it is something external, false, it has no naturalness. Some chanters in the world put "paints" in their voices out of necessity, in order to go to a bigger church and to increase their salary. Be careful, your chanting should be natural, solemn, to chant for God and not for the art of chanting."

The whole presence of the priest, the chanter, the Christian in the sacred church, during the performance of the worship, especially during the Divine Liturgy, must be heartfelt, that is, the heart of man must function. When we speak of the heart we do not mean emotionally, but hesychastically, since the heart is that inner world that feels the Grace of God and prays with a pure nous. Saint Paisios said:

"Chanting is not only a prayer, it is also 'madness'; it is - how to say it? - a leaping of the heart, an overflow of your spiritual state. The heart thumps, just like the heart of a nightingale. The nightingale, when it sings on the tree, shakes completely and so does the branch that holds it. 'Leave me alone,' he says, 'I do not want anything; I have gone mad!' When the heart is at work, it departs from being bound and moves towards being boundless, and then the chanting is sweetened! Then, even if you are out of tune, it becomes sweetened, because the heart has become sweetened!"

Continuing this thought, Saint Paisios says that the heart is in fact the composer. He says: "The tone in the chanting comes from within, from the heart. When the mind is on divine meanings, this will give a heartfelt tone; the heart will break! The heart is a composer." Then the chanter influences the entire ecclesiastical space. The Saint says: "If the protopsaltis chants with his heart, the others who follow him, are affected, they are resurrected with the good meaning."

In general, Saint Paisios, who had spiritual experiences and this came out and in the way he chanted, paid attention to the energy of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the chanter. And he made a connection with the chanters who sing with passion, since in the meantime they also drink alcohol. He would say: "Alcohol! Alcohol! You see, some who play instruments, drink a little, and sing with passion; that is, they have the driving force of alcohol. You are moved by the spirit. With the divine Fire and the Holy Spirit."

Sotiris Tattis chanted in this perspective taught by Saint Paisios, he chanted all night long, carefully, prayerfully, ecclesiastically. Thus, his voice, which was sweet by nature, sweetened more and a harmonious music came out of his mouth and heart, it sounded like a nightingale.

Now the reader can listen to some live recordings from the Metropolitan Church of Ioannina, in which the Protopsaltis Sotirios Tattis and the lampodarios Athanasios Kontos chant. May their memory be eternal!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.