Jul 17, 2014

The Moving Icon: Episode 9 - Love story: an Orthodox film by Shawnee Smith

Shawnee Smith has a long career in film, TV and music. One of her most memorable roles was the airhead secretary, Linda, on the hit sitcom Becker but more recently co-starring alongside Charlie Sheen in Anger Management. However, what you might not know is that she converted to Orthodoxy over a year ago. Now, after a long journey towards the Truth, Shawnee is working on a documentary film called Orthodoxy: A Love Story where she shares not just her own story but that of ordinary Orthodox from across America.

To listen to this podcast, click the show’s logo:

To stay up-to-date with the film click LIKE Orthodoxy: A Love Story on Facebook

Shawnee Smith’s IMDB page


Jul 16, 2014

Roger Hunt Music

After developing a thirty-year career in music which encompassed writing and arranging for church ensembles, producing commercial jingles, organizing concerts, and writing for and producing alatin band, Roger moved to Los Angeles (2002) to work in the film and television industry. In 2011, he moved back to his home state of Florida and joined the team at The Orthodox Christian Network, producing music and podcasts for them to the present day.  

Roger’s main goal and dream is to connect with Orthodox Christian filmmakers and to assist them with their musical concerns (such as songwriting, scoring and music supervision).  His website, www.rogerhuntmusic.com, has a good number of musical examples demonstrating the power and range of his composing capabilities.  Perhaps one of Roger’s most notable advantages is his “dual musical citizenship”--he is a classically-trained (i.e., Western tradition) composer, and he serves as an Orthodox Christian chanter in the Byzantine style in his home church.  Additionally, he is very comfortable in a large number of ethnic musical environments.  Therefore, filmmakers wanting to “build a bridge” to the heterodox world would do well to consider putting Roger on their team.

To hear samples by Roger and to learn more about services offered at RHM, including music publishing, click the logo:

Roger Hunt Music: Music Scoring for Film, TV, Video and the Web


Jul 9, 2014

WOAH - Orthodox Art & Film Exhibition

The first-annual Orthodox art & film exhibition-networking event. Bringing together Orthodox artists, filmmakers and art lovers for celebration, fellowship, and in order to provide an organized, artistic witness for the public to the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven.


ALL THESE FLOWERS – request for crowdfunding

This feature-length documentary by Orthodox filmmaker Kevin BryceWE ARE SUPERMAN – deals with the challenging topic of people living with Bipolar Disorder.

Over the course of one year, the crew films the lives of six people who have been diagnosed with the disease and follows their journey ahead. This is the story of their relationships with their families, counselors, medications, and communities.

Please help support this very important project.

OFA blog
has already contributed

To learn more, go to the official website: ALL THESE FLOWERS
Stay up-to-date on the film’s Facebook page

Click to read OFA article about Bryce’s film, WE ARE SUPERMAN.


Orthodox Hip Hop: Nastoyatel

Rap and Orthodoxy come together in a strange mix. Though this may be seen as a current fad, such Faith-based popular music is becoming increasingly popular in modern Russia.

Extracts from article ‘Holy hip hop: meet the Russian rappers singing about Christian Orthodoxy’, published online 23 June 2014, The Calvert Journal

Hip hop and religion probably don’t seem the most obvious bedfellows. But over the past few years Russia has seen the emergence of a genre marrying the two: Orthodox hip hop, a local equivalent of the burgeoning Christian rap scene in the US. In fact, the new Christian hip hop is perhaps not so different from the mainstream: as elsewhere the lyrics tend towards the misogynistic, with women depicted as two-timing temptresses who will draw you into their web before running off with another man. Infidelity aside, the main topics covered have a familiar feel: brotherhood, revenge for murdered friends and sport. But there's another very specific subject that keeps cropping up: God.

While some believers chastise the new genre as an unholy alliance, others are happy to increase the size of the flock by whatever means necessary, especially if it means getting young Russians into churches. Something, at least, seems to be working. Although the Russian Orthodox Church struggled for survival under Communist rule, it has staged an impressive comeback in the past 20 years, and particularly under President Vladimir Putin. According to American think tank Pew, the proportion of Russians identifying as Orthodox Christian more than doubled from 31% to 71% between 1991 and 2008.

When it comes to rapping about God, Maxim Kurlenko (aka Nastoyatel) certainly knows his stuff. And he should: the 40-year-old is a practising priest in the small Cheboksary, a small town on the Volga; his stage name is a reference to a monastic rank. His sermon-like tracks fuse biblical verses with right-wing political messages (“Where has morally pure, white Russia gone?” he asks in one song) and attacks on “liberasty” — a portmanteau of liberal and pederast. Not a fan of hip hop? Not to worry. Kurlenko also produces a spoken-word podcast, God is With Us, which tackles similar issues. 


Jun 21, 2014

OCMP Project

The Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project (OCMP), was founded in the summer of 2009 by Com­poser and Choir Direc­tor Robert Sirico for the advance­ment of sacred music both litur­gi­cal in func­tion and devo­tional in spirit.

The cat­e­chism of the Ortho­dox Church is no more clearly expressed than in the ancient hymnog­ra­phy sung dur­ing the sacred ser­vices of the litur­gi­cal year. We, as com­posers of Sacred Music, say noth­ing new or express our own opin­ions.  Rather, we echo what has been time­lessly repeated by the Holy Ortho­dox and Catholic Church which pro­claims ‘Jesus Christ who is the same yes­ter­day, today, and for­ever ….’ (Heb 13:8)

The Mis­sion of the ‘Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project’ is mul­ti­fac­eted and its works include:
Bring­ing the sacred texts of the ancient church to the ears of the mod­ern listener by assim­i­lat­ing and re-presenting them through orig­i­nal music rooted in ancient forms.  When one plumbs the riches of the texts of var­i­ous hymno­g­ra­phers from var­i­ous peri­ods in the churches’ his­tory, there is an astound­ing cor­pus which reflects the diver­sity of top­ics for which, and needs of per­sons about whom, the church prayed.  The church has always been con­cerned for the wel­fare of her suf­fer­ing souls here on earth as well as for their eter­nal sal­va­tion in the age to come.  This is nowhere more appar­ent than by sur­vey­ing the table of con­tents of the Menan­ion or the ‘Great Book of Needs’. 

Char­i­ta­ble Outreach: It is the explicit objec­tive of the OCMP to com­pose new music from the ancient sacred texts and to pre­mier these works in con­certs, prayer ser­vices, or Divine Litur­gies to spir­i­tu­ally min­is­ter to the needs of the souls of our hear­ers, to raise social aware­ness about the needs of our suf­fer­ing brethren, and to coop­er­ate with the char­i­ta­ble works of  the Holy Ortho­dox and Catholic Church and orga­ni­za­tions such as the Inter­na­tional Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Char­i­ties (IOCC).

Pro­mot­ing Good Musi­cian­ship and Pro­vid­ing Sup­port and Train­ing for Choir Staff of the Parishes in the Ortho­dox Church in America: As an endeavor of the OCMP, sem­i­nars and work­shops are in devel­op­ment to pro­vide sup­port, train­ing, and music mate­ri­als for choir direc­tors, choir mem­bers, and ‘Read­ers’ to help them learn the cycle of ’Ser­vice Books’, pre­pare for the holy feasts, improve their singing tech­nique, and to chant fluidly.

Future Endeavors
The Orthodox Christian Music Project has had the privilege of premiering original liturgical music to accompany services at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers New York, the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection in New York City, as well as para-liturgical performance cantatas drawn from the hymnography for Christmas and Holy Friday. A full video playlist is available on the Orthodox Christian Music Project YouTube Channel.

There are two OCMP concerts planned for the future which include “The Epiphany Cantata” due for performance in 2015 and the biographical cantata, “The Life of St. Seraphim of Sarov”,  half complete but due for premier in 2016-17.  

As the Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project is still in its infancy, there is a long road ahead to achieve, by God’s grace, all the objec­tives listed in the mis­sion state­ment and on the performance agenda.  Nonethe­less, we are pleased to be of ser­vice to the Church and her flock, and hope to receive the bless­ings and finan­cial sup­port to con­tinue this min­istry for years to come.  Please visit the “Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Music Project” website, or our Facebook page for status updates on projects, concerts, and ministry activity.

Robert Sirico
Composer & Founder
Orthodox Christian Music Project


Jun 4, 2014

His Music, Entwined With His Faith

At Heart of Arvo Pärt’s Works, Eastern Orthodox Christianity

Originally published on The New York Times website, dated 16th May 2014.

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The Estonian composer Arvo Pärt in 2001. Credit: Roberto Masotti
“Religion guides all the processes in our lives, without us even knowing it,” the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt said in a recent phone interview. “It is true that religion has a very important role in my composition, but how it really works, I am not able to describe.”

Mr. Pärt, 78, is a practicing Eastern Orthodox Christian, which is frequently mentioned but often left unexplored. Critics and fans compare his contemplative, austere music to the painted icons central to Eastern Orthodoxy, but rarely delve into those connections in great detail.

Filling in these gaps is one of the goals of the Arvo Pärt Project, which will bring the composer to New York for the first time in 30 years for a series of performances in New York and Washington. The New York events include an all-Pärt program at Carnegie Hall on May 31, featuring the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; on June 2, his choral cycle “Kanon Pokajanen” will be staged in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur. The project — which will also include panel events and academic collaborations — is sponsored by St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers.

It’s the perfect match: a major Orthodox cultural figure celebrated by a pre-eminent Orthodox institution. But the Arvo Pärt Project also opens up a more complicated issue: What does it mean to speak specifically about the religion of a composer whose music’s spirituality has been interpreted so broadly for so long?

“There’s this kind of universally accessible spirituality going on, and yet it evidently has some particular sources in the context that he locates his own prayer life,” said Peter Bouteneff, a professor of theology at the seminary. “It’s where he goes to church, it’s the texts that he reads, the ancient Greek fathers,” he added. “This is what feeds his soul, and therefore: Is there some connection between this universally perceived and universally accessible spirituality, and the particular foundations in Eastern Orthodoxy?”

It is a question that Mr. Pärt is not quite comfortable answering, though he will receive an honorary doctorate from the seminary. When asked about the religious content of his music, he responded: “I am actually writing music for myself, based on my own cognition. Because of that, it reflects values that are important to me.”

“If the listener also perceives what I felt while composing, I am very happy about it,” he added. “I am not taking the task in my music to discuss some religious or special Orthodox values. I am trying to reflect the values in my music that could touch every individual, every person.”

Mr. Pärt’s fervor did not always work in his favor. He first made waves in the Estonian compositional world for “Nekrolog,” an orchestral work critiqued by Soviet censors for its 12-tone language. The 1968 premiere of “Credo,” his first overtly sacred piece, drew further negative attention. This time, it was not the music but the title that irritated the authorities: The religious message was interpreted as an act of political dissidence. (The music theorist Yuri Kholopov once remarked that “God and Jesus Christ were bigger enemies to the Soviet regime than Boulez or Webern.”)

Mr. Pärt was unofficially censured, his music disappearing from concert halls. In a radio interview the year of the “Credo” premiere, he attempted to voice his beliefs publicly. Questioned about his main influences, Mr. Pärt responded: “Of course, Christ. Because he solved his fraction perfectly, godly.” The section was edited out of the broadcast version, to avoid a government ban.

Following the “Credo” controversy, Mr. Pärt fell mostly silent. He converted to Orthodox Christianity in 1972 upon marrying his second wife, Nora. When he re-emerged in 1976, it was with the crystalline stillness of “Für Alina,” the first composition shaped by his tintinnabuli technique: a weaving-together of melodic lines in which one voice outlines a chord while the other circles around it.

It would be easy to view Mr. Pärt’s compositional arc as unique to his personal vision, but it was also in line with an international exodus from serialism that began in the mid-’60s, looking inward and backward. He pored over the writings of the early church, and immersed himself in medieval chant and Renaissance polyphony. The sparse, gothic music for which he is known emerged out of that period of study. Today, “Für Alina” and its complement “Spiegel im Spiegel” — ubiquitous from film soundtracks and as accompaniment for modern dancers — represent études in Minimalist technique that point toward more promising developments.

Tintinnabuli comes to fruition in Mr. Pärt’s masterful choral works, including the 1997 “Kanon Pokajanen.” But it is music that also presents a conundrum for the secular listener, one who might seek out the spirituality of classical music at large rather than that of the Orthodox Church.

These works are rhetorically charged, their most effective musical moments matched to the message of their sacred creeds. Mr. Pärt once wrote of the “Kanon Pokajanen”: “I tried to use language as a point of departure. I wanted the word to be able to find its own sound, to draw its own melodic line. Somewhat to my surprise, the resulting music is entirely immersed in the particular character of Church Slavonic, a language used exclusively in ecclesiastical texts.” The exactitude with which Mr. Pärt sets the text is consistent with Orthodox theology, which stresses the reciprocity between beauty and truth.

Historical distance has tempered the explicit Lutheran message of Bach’s cantatas or the Roman Catholicism of Palestrina’s Masses. Disregarding the scriptural details of Mr. Pärt’s music, though, might mean ignoring an aspect integral to a living composer, even if he is vague about it.

The perspective also follows a trajectory of thinking about Mr. Pärt that dates back to the 1984 album “Tabula Rasa,” which started his collaboration with the ECM label and its producer Manfred Eicher. The elegantly wrought abstract spirituality of those records has helped position Mr. Pärt as a composer for all faiths. The global classical music market has mediated — or perhaps tamed — his religion, opening up the iconography of the Orthodox Church to a broader mysticism.

Mr. Kaljuste with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Vox Clamantis ensemble and the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance in Istanbul. Credit: Mahmut Ceylan
It is that tension that the Arvo Pärt Project will explore. “Some of the classic things that are observed about Pärt, and even expressed by him, are these utterly universal human realities, like the interplay between suffering and consolation,” Dr. Bouteneff said. “That’s the whole logic of tintinnabuli as well, that you have the melody voice, which is the human straying, and the triad voice, which represents the divine stability and consolation.”

But there are narrower implications for Orthodoxy that Dr. Bouteneff said he hopes the project will address. “What has our liturgical tradition done with that dynamic? And how might that feed into what Pärt is doing?” he asked.

This dichotomy is particularly evident in Mr. Pärt’s 2009 Adam’s Lament,” his most recent large-scale work and the centerpiece of the Carnegie concert. In a program note, Mr. Pärt described Adam as a “collective term which comprises humankind in its entirety and each individual person alike, irrespective of time, epochs, social strata and confession.”

But embedded within these universalities are the particularities of an Orthodox tradition. “Adam’s Lament” sets text in ecclesiastical Slavic, written by the Russian monk St. Silouan. Mr. Pärt wrote, “I wanted to remain as close as possible to Silouan’s words and, as far as I could, to entrust myself with them, to internalize them.” The music, bleak and majestic, is far from the placid sound world of “Für Alina.” Toward the end, the chorus takes on a declamatory tone, singing in a menacing unison as it describes Adam’s sorrow: “Only the soul that has come to know the Lord and the magnitude of his love for us can understand.”

In recent years, Mr. Pärt has castigated the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, dedicating his Fourth Symphony, of 2008, to the imprisoned Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Asked about the current crisis in Ukraine — which threatens to spill into Estonia — he said, “I am very critical of Putin’s government and absolutely shocked about the latest event in Ukraine.”

Mr. Pärt said that Mr. Putin “spread around him massive amounts of hostility and aggression, which has its own dynamics and can now only grow. You cannot take it back anymore. There is no control over it today. It cannot be called anything else but a crime. It is more than a crime.”

But, just as he hesitates to link religion and art, Mr. Pärt shies away from an overtly political interpretation of his music. “I have never participated in political art,” he said. “My compositions have never been political, even the ‘Khodorkovsky’ Symphony has really nothing to do with politics. It is written on text of prayers.”
Mr. Pärt, in 2011. Credit: Eric Marinitsch

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Jun 3, 2014

Ioannis Pane: composer, performer, artist

Ioannis is an independent artist from Thessaloniki, Greece. He is a pianist and composer whose experience in music began early in childhood. To understand Ioannis we need to see his life in three parts:

The composer
Ioannis has been composing and writing lyrics since he was very young. He was also a member in several local bands both as the vocalist and main songwriter. After making the decision to become a professional musician he started studying piano and music theory which sparked a big change in his life – he began creating instrumental music. Ioannis believes with music he can transmit all feelings and messages to all people around the world regardless of nationality. All his music is orchestrated and arranged by him and many of his tracks are deeply atmospheric and emotional. One of his great dreams is to work for the film industry as a soundtrack composer.

Ioannis has published only a very small amount of his work, until now. The rest is in his studio waiting for the right moment...

The performer
Ioannis is also a pianist. At this point in time, Ioannis feels his performing skills are tightly connected with his composing skills, because when he performs he composes at the same time.

He does not consider himself a “performer”, but the opposite. Improvisation and his very emotional style are the main characteristics of his performance. Playing the piano is the best way for him to express himself in a direct way, on many occasions even better than words. Ioannis believes when he plays he makes the piano ‘sing’, leaving no room for words.

The artist
Actually, when Ioannis says "the artist" he means "the human".

Ioannis has strong principles and this shines in his work. Because music has great power:
“we must use it to give people healthy and beautiful emotions, to give people examples of morality, and not to use it for promoting immorality and violence, as usually happens.”

He also believes that an artist must has an intense spiritual life, because talent is given from God and we must use it right. Even the word "inspiration" includes the word "spirit", and whatever an artist has in his soul is usually expressed through his work.

 Second part from "Hymn to the Truth"
Composed and arranged by Ioannis

To learn more about Ioannis, listen and buy his music, visit his official website by clicking this banner:

To subscribe and LIKE Ioannis’ latest work: