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Liturgical Music and Songs (Greek Albanian Community)

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Technical sheet prepared by: Region of Sicily - Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity - CRicd: Regional Center for the inventory, cataloging and documentation and Sicilian regional film library

Intangible Heritage Register

N. Prog. 19
Well: Liturgical Music and Songs (Greek Albanian Community)
Book: REI - Book of expressions
Approval date: 25-01-2006
Category: Vocal-instrumental music
Province: Palermo
Municipality: Piana degli Albanesi
Chronological News
The music and liturgical songs of the Greek-Albanian Community of Sicily are part of a cultured oral tradition dating back to the period following the fall of Constantinople into the hands of the Turks in 1453 and the consequent diaspora of the Albanian and Greek populations of Albania and the Morea towards the coasts and lands of southern Italy, where they brought their cultural and linguistic heritage, religious customs, the Greek-Byzantine rite and the songs that accompanied the liturgical ceremonies.
Not all scholars agree that the liturgical musical tradition of the Albanians of Sicily re-proposes unaltered the melurgia of the Neo-Byzantine period (1150-1350 ca.) and of the first period kukuzelico(Ca 1350-1600). More likely, the repertoire, in slow but constant evolution over the centuries, has been transmitted according to the methods of the oral tradition, often undergoing variations and continuous re-elaborations; on the other hand, the music and songs of the community were affected by external influences due to contacts with neighboring “Latin” communities.
The presence of the monks of the Basilian Monastery of Mezzojuso, founded in 1605, who gave asylum to monks and ecclesiastics from the East was decisive. Consequently it can be said that tradition melurgica Sicilian-Albanian does not have a unitary origin, but is made up of an original nucleus, dating back to the era of the Diaspora, and of chronologically successive layers, matured thanks to an evolution enriched by external contributions.
This complex and articulated historical genesis has however produced a coherently structured repertoire in its stylistic and formal aspects, both from the point of view ofinnography how much under that of musical grammar. The aggregating force of orality has, in fact, made the evolution of the repertoire consistent over time and has made it possible to filter the various external contributions, bringing them back to rigorous principles of organization.
The musical expressions of this important ethnic group represent the way of feeling and beingarbëreshë.
Recurrence: Annual
Occasion: Ceremonies and rites of the Liturgical Year
Function: Devotional
Actors: Cantori
Participants: The community
The Catholic-Byzantine church of Piana degli Albanesi has a vast musical heritage that entirely accompanies the complex articulation of the liturgical year.
The weekly and festive celebrations and the various Officials always appear richly adorned with an incessant counterpoint of melodies. According to the Byzantine rituals, the acting it befits the secret prayers whispered by the celebrant, the Our Father and the Creed which arise from the assembly. Everything else is singing: from short declamatory modulations (ekfónesis) of the deacons to the psalms intoned by the priests, from the schematic cantillation formulas of the Readings and Gospels, to the sumptuous hymns performed by the faithful. Through the pure flow of mélosWithout any use of musical instruments, the word escapes the use of everyday communication and becomes an expression of prayer.
The transmission of the songs still takes place almost entirely through oral tradition. Due to their significant documentary value, many handwritten testimonies on staves have been handed down since the beginning of the 900th century, written by priests or monks with the aim of safeguarding the integrity of the sacred tradition.
Until a few decades ago the songs were performed exclusively in Greek, but today several translations have been adopted in Italian and especially in Albanian (papás Gjergji Schirò).
The poetic-musical forms in use today are those of Byzantine hnography: from the simple lines oftroparium to the complexity of the contacio and canon. "Minor" forms are the katavasía, theotokíon, thestikirón. A fundamental element, even in the most composite forms, is the tropárion, a sort of monostrophic hymn with a free scheme and meter that takes on different names according to its characteristics or subject.
The musical grammar of the liturgical repertoire arbëresh, similarly to ancient Mediterranean music, Gregorian chant or cultures of ethnomusicological interest, it is not based on the tonal sensitivity and on the opposition between major and minor modes that characterizes Eurocult music. His music system is in fact of type modal and refers to the Byzantine theory ofoktoíchos.
The repertoire is used by the faithful for oral transmission of the songs, in the terms illustrated, allowing the faithful in lack of technical musical knowledge, to appropriate a patrimony which, according to the occasion, provokes atmospheres of great psychological suggestion and profound spiritual adhesion. The liturgical musical tradition is, therefore, also an expression of self-identification processes that reinforce the sense of belonging to the community. Byzantine music, together with the language, the ritual, the costume, the icons, therefore constitutes an essential piece for the reconstruction of that mosaic of peculiarities that gives Arbëresh of Sicily a solid and vital cultural identity.
Di Marco, Pietro and Alessandro Musco, edited by. 2005. Aspects of Byzantine and Albanian culture in Sicily, Palermo: Workshop of Medieval Studies.
Garofalo, Girolamo, edited by. 2001. Byzantine chants of Mezzojuso. Palermo: Sicilian Region, Department of Cultural and Environmental Heritage and Public Education.
Garofalo, Girolamo, edited by. 2002. Music and paraliturgy of the Albanians of Sicily. Proceedings of the Study Day (Mezzojuso, 28 April 2002), Mezzojuso - Palermo: Department of Cultural and Environmental Heritage and Public Education of the Sicilian Region - Cooperative Alessandro Scarlatti of Mezzojuso.
Schirò, Giuseppe. 1923. Traditional songs and other essays from the Albanian colonies of Sicily. Naples, L. Pierro Edition.
Schirò, Giuseppe. 1998. Notes on the origin and foundation of the Albanian colonies in Sicily. Catanzaro: Rubbettino.
Garofalo, Girolamo. 2006. The Byzantine songs of the Arbëresh of Sicily. The recordings of Ottavio Tiby (Piana degli Albanesi 1952-'53) and today's tradition, in “EM”, magazine of the Ethnomusicology Archives of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, year II, n. 2, (monographic issue on "Music and religion" with attached DVD), pp. 11-65.
Choral S. Demetrio of Piana degli Albanesi. Byzantine-Greek liturgy: chants of the office and of the mass recording: Leo Levi, V. ZganecN. State nightclub.
Similar repertoires, although less intact, are also found in the other centers of arbëreshe origin of the Eparchy where the Greek rite is practiced (Contessa Entellina, Mezzojuso, Palazzo Adriano) and in Palermo at the church of S. Nicolò dei Greci (The Martorana).
The sound documentation of the Sicilian-Albanian liturgical songs, the result of systematic ethnomusicological research, is significant.
Of particular importance is the one kept in Rome at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, two collections created respectively by Ottavio Tiby between 1952 and 1953 and by Father Giuseppe Valentini and Leo Levi in ​​1965. The first testifies almost entirely to the tradition of Piana of the Albanians; the second amply documents the repertoire of the Martorana in Palermo.
A large number of recordings (both audio and video), made in the years 1990-1995 in the various centers of the Eparchy, are deposited in Palermo in the ethnophonic archives of the Folkstudio and Cims (Center for Musical Initiatives in Sicily).
Card Author: Chiara Dell'Utri
Apolitìkion anastàsimon of the first tone (fragment)
Palazzo Adriano concert, 5th May 2006
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