Speech at the Opening Session of the
Third International Conference on Orthodox Church Music, Joensuu, Finland
June 8, 2009
Honorable Vice-rector, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today we are opening the third international conference on Orthodox Church music here in Joensuu. The conference theme is “Church, State and Nation in Orthodox Church Music”; and participants have arrived from all over the world.
Undeniably, Orthodox Church music stands unequaled in the world. The musical principles were founded during the early days of the Christian Church, empowered by spiritual knowledge and wisdom; and prominent Byzantine theologians and Church teachers have contributed to its development and refinement.
These early roots are evident in the Orthodox musical tradition of today. The musical practice of the Church is universal. Indeed, regardless of location, the Church chants the same texts to the same melodies, at the same occasions, in every corner of the world. This is attributable to the Oktoechos-system that the Church developed, the established framework of the service, the prevalent hymns and texts. Every Easter, the Oktoechos-cycle is initiated anew.
The wealth of the musical tradition is emphasized by the practice that when the Church spread, service texts were translated into local language - a universal Church language not being a common denominator of the Eastern Churches. Instead, local language and custom have been allowed to influence the garments of the Church music, while its fundamental principles and rules have been maintained and followed everywhere. In this way, Orthodox Church music has remained a unity, but one that seemingly shines with different colors, like a precious stone, a diamond. This week, we are here in Joensuu to examine, and ponder the colors of this gem.
On behalf of the section on Orthodox church music I wish you all very welcome to Joensuu, and hope that this week will be both enjoyable and fruitful for you all.