By Dan Lazar Trifan
English editor: John D. Powell (Vermont, USA)
Mister Marc Lepage, humanitarian, activist, and lecturer, offered a conference on March 21st, 2010 at the Basilica Notre-Dame de Quebec on Orphans in Romania; the conference can be viewed in the full version at on the Catholic Church of Quebec web site ECDQ.TV .
We witnessed an eloquent, honest speech about cultural differences, about personal amazement when facing so many contrasts that Lepage experienced while working with children in an orphanage in Romania.
For an astonishing example, when children were promised a Sunday recess outside the orphanage Lerpage expected to see children in their day-clothes so that they could get dirty carefree- as was familiar with parents ‘practices’ in Quebec. To his surprise, the children were dressed in beautiful clothes, a sign of appreciation, and that they had to honor the invitation,
“The most beautiful,” LePage repeated, who saw in this gesture of the children a different system of values, a different perception of the person, of the event, where human relationship outweighs the “economic”. The lecturer, who worked for years in humanitarian missions, had many other examples like this.
The host of the event was the father Denis Bélanger and The Choir Armonia of the Orthodox Mission of Saints Peter and Paul opened the conference with a concert of liturgical songs, old Romanian songs of Byzantine origin.
I had the honor and satisfaction of being a member of this choir for the concert. We were a bunch of true “amateurs”, from which the skilled hand of Mrs. Alina Ganes-Ngo, choir director, achieved an outstanding performance in only a few months of practice. This is a bright example of what a talented master can do. It did not matter the musical talent, measure of mastery, or age ranges that made up the choir; when synergy is in place, one plus one can be more than two. In this case, our 7 + 1 produced an original choir and a memorable concert that conveyed great emotion to the public in attendance, in the beautiful, impressive Notre-Dame de Québec cathedral.
On a personal note, when I was invited to rejoin the choir, I was struggling to get out of a dark, difficult, and painful period that changed everything, a real breakthrough in my life. I was convinced until that point that I was a man too strong to be defeated, even by the hardest and most painful life challenges. Then I learned that I have my own limits. When the most powerful of personal beliefs are destroyed, demolished, proven impractical from some point of view, it is difficult to find yourself again. It’s painful- heartbreaking- to “redefine” your inner self.
The few months of musical practice for a few liturgical pieces gave me a first solid backup, a first “milestone” on my way back. And that, not by attention-shifting thoughts onto different topics, but the emotional construction of accepting the situation, the pain, and the defeat.
Weird, right? “Emotional Construction” based on the words and tones of Byzantine liturgical songs? Or, rather, they were only the means, the channel, of communication with a specific state of mind, a certain deeper “presence” of our sub-consciousness. It comes back to Doina, in the interview (part three), and questioning if the music brings us closer to God? One answer might be sought in listening to the music that I describe here, in the tranquility of one of your late nights, alone or shared with a loved one, when you can abandon yourself, to be transported to another kind of perception of the spirit.
Ultimately, as one of my sons says, “There is no love and hate; there is only love.”
I wish you a pleasant listening to, you improbable, uncertain, and incognito visitor.
Here’s a brief overview of the songs, thanks to Alina, who wrote a detailed presentation of each one:
- Cuvine-se cu adevărat – Hymn to the Mother of God
The text of this song was used many times along the centuries to sing the glory of the Mother of God, by Orthodox Christians composers, particularly by Orthodox monks of Mount Athos. This song, whose second part is attributed to the Holy Roman “Le Mélode” (5th century A.D.), is one of the most important songs used in Orthodox liturgy. The melodic variant was composed by Ion Popescu-Pasarea (1871-1943, A.D), who was professor of Byzantine music at the Bucharest Theological Seminary:
It is truly right to bless thee, O Mother of God, / thou the ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God. / Thou the more honorable than the cherubim, / and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, / who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, / thou the true Mother of God, we magnify thee.
The text of the liturgical melody is part of the 17th Psalm of David the Prophet, and is sung in the Orthodox liturgy before the Nicene Creed. In 1957, Nicolae Lungu composed the musical variant for choir from the old Byzantine traditional song.
“I will love you Lord, my strength: The Lord is my firm support, and my refuge, and my deliverer.”
The Psalms of the Prophet David come back again in the Byzantine melody Praise the Lord, more exactly, in Psalm 135. This Romanian song of Byzantine type uses only nine verses, most of which refer to the power of God in Creation.
“0.1 Praise the Lord: he is good; his love is everlasting! / 02. Give thanks to the God of gods, his love is everlasting!”
- Heruvic the Sambata Mare – Hymn of the Cherubim from the Holy Saturday before Easter
This “Cherubim’s Hymn” is sung especially in the liturgical service only on the morning of Holy Saturday before Easter. This Byzantine song originates from Mount Athos, though the composer is unknown. It describes the world petrified before the execution of Jesus Christ on the cross. Words are few in the chant; there’s not much place for words in such a painful moment. (During the concert, Alina’s voice, coming as if from another world, another realm, on a specific byzantine melodic line, penetrated emotional depths that we never suspected we had!)
“That all that’s human body stand in silence, with fear and trembling, and nothing earthly within himself to not think, for the King of kings and Lord of lords is going to kill himself to be food to the faithful.”
- Tatăl nostru – Our Father who art in heaven
The last religious song is made of The Lord’s Prayer, which is the most famous in the Christian religion. It is recited by Orthodox and Catholics at every Mass, by Lutherans and Reformed Protestants to worship each cult.
“Our Father which art in heaven, / Hallowed be thy name. / Thy kingdom come. / Thy will be done in earth, / as it is in heaven. / Give us this day our daily bread. / And forgive us our trespasses, / as we forgive those / who trespass against us. / And lead us not into temptation, / but deliver us from evil: / For thine is the kingdom, / and the power, and the glory, / forever and ever. / Amen.”
A few words about the Romanian community in Quebec City, and its choir.
The Armonia Choir was born in October, 2005 within the Romanian Orthodox Mission “Holy Apostles Peter and Paul” in Quebec City. The choir’s repertoire consists of religious songs, Christmas carols and Easter songs, songs of Romanian and international choir repertoire, and Romanian folklore. In the pure Romanian tradition during the Christmas season, the choir visits the Romanians in the Quebec City region to sing their carols.
The Romanian community in the Quebec City region is stronger by about 1,000 people. The first wave of Romanian immigration in the region occurred in the 1980s and the second in mid-1990, after the fall of Communism in 1989. It continues peacefully during the 2000s. The Romanians from Quebec are organized around two very active organizations, the Orthodox Mission “Apostles Saints Peter and Paul” (created in 2001) and the laic organization CRQ-Romanian Community of Quebec (established in 2003, see www.roquebec.com ).
The Community has its own Orthodox church (see www.petrusipavel.org )