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Eleni Traganas, Alexiad Chorale Perform at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

On May 19, the Alexiad Chorale with director and composer Eleni Traganas performed at historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan along with St. Patrick’s Choir under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Pascual in a unique concert entitled An Evening of Eastern and Western Sacred Music.

The Chorale began with Traganas conducting her own compositions inspired by the sacred music of the Divine Liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Father Dennis Strouzas, Protoprsebyter of the Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church of Port Washington, NY gave a blessing to start the concert. Traganas spoke briefly about the history of the organ, an original Greek instrument, and how thrilled and inspired she was to write for the solo organ, especially the one in St. Patrick’s and have her work performed in the magnificent space of the cathedral. The rarity of new Byzantine sacred music compositions made the evening even more special, and the achievement of Traganas even more extraordinary. To hear the familiar hymns and prayers accompanied by wonderfully composed music on the organ played with tremendous skill by organist Michael Hey was a singular experience for the music fans present at the concert.

The closing event of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral concert series was well-attended by the season-ticket holders and members of the public. The first piece, “The Litany of Peace (Kyrie),” from the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom set to music is Traganas’ most recent composition, dating from this year. The first soloist, Stephan Kirchgraber impressed the audience with his powerful bass voice. The Alexiad Chorale’s entire performance can only be described as angelic, their voices in harmony with the spiritual quality of the music. Costa Tsourakis, bass-baritone and Associate Music Director at the Archdiocesan Cathedral, sang beautifully, bringing depth and a clear tone to the performance. After the concert, he spoke to TNH about performing at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, noting the excellent acoustics of the space. The organ seemed to fill the vast space of the cathedral with the vibrant sound of the sacred music.

Chorale soloists sopranos Roseanne Ackerley, Olga Xanthopoulou, and Maria Zollo, and bass-baritone Alessio Farina dazzled the audience with their technique and the lyrical quality of their voices. The St. Patrick’s Choir joined the Chorale for “Potirion Sotiriou,” the Communion Anthem of the Theotokos, and “Your Mystical Supper” from the Chrysostomian Liturgy, with music composed by Traganas.

The two groups representing the Eastern and the Western tradition in sacred music performed harmoniously, their blended talents magnified by the setting and the quality of the music. The audience, told at the beginning of the concert to hold their applause until the end of the performance of Traganas’ work, were enthusiastic in their appreciation of the new Byzantine sacred music.

Daniel Brondel took over on the organ for the second half of the concert, accompanying the Cathedral Choir under the direction of Dr. Pascual. The “Veni Sancti Spiritus” was sung as a chant and then in an arrangement demonstrating the splendor of each in its own way. Reverend Monsignor Hilary Franco, Advisor of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, was one of the honored guests in the audience and at the end of the performance told the Chorale and the Choir that “John Chrysostom would be very proud of you.” He also quoted St. Augustine in Latin, translating into English, “He who sings prays twice,” adding “whoever sings well prayed for all of us twice.”

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