Saturday, May 31, 2008

What I’m listening to
Panihida from the Chrysostom Chamber Choir and O Theotokos, Mother of Life from the Tampere Orthodox Choir
An older, semi-retired Orthodox priest, once a longtime Anglo-Catholic curate going back to the 1950s, lent me these CDs from Finland. Beautiful, in the Russian tradition of church music taking a lot from Palestrina and other Western masters (and resembling Anglican chant) but made uniquely one’s own. Finns like their Estonian cousins across the Baltic Sea were ruled by Russia for a long time after being ruled by Sweden for a long time; they’re related to neither but most of the culture (but not the language, which isn’t even European) comes from the Swedes. (Which is why popularly they’re considered Scandinavian even though they’re not.) They were never russified (nor did the Russians try) but a legacy of the Russian presence is Finnish Orthodoxy, about 1 per cent of this traditionally Lutheran, now very secular Nordic country and a state church alongside the Lutherans. Essentially it’s Russian Orthodoxy with all the Slavonic translated into Finnish. (As part of this Finnish nationalism they’re not in the Russian Church any more but autonomous under the Patriarch of Constantinople.) The second CD, music for the feast of the Dormition/Assumption, is largely that: Russian music with a few original modern Finnish pieces; the first, the prayer service for the dead, original work from a composer born in 1985 whose name gives a hint of this church’s origins, Mikko Sidoroff. Based on the liner notes, though, most Finnish Orthodox have Finnish names.

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