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Creative Spirit Found in Church Music is a Reality of Our Existence

Minneapolis, Minn. – The feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist was celebrated on Sunday, June 24 by over 100 singers, conductors, chanters, composers, and musicologists participating in this year’s Pan-Orthodox Music Symposium held at the historic St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral here.

The four-day event, sponsored by the International Society for Orthodox Church Music (ISOCM), concluded with a hierarchical all-night vigil and divine liturgy celebrated by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America.

Juliana Woodill of Alexandria, Virginia, leading a choral rehearsal for the divine liturgy celebrated during the Symposium.

“Creativity is found in the councils of the Church, in the defense of icons, and in the development of our liturgical music throughout the ages,” Metropolitan Tikhon told participants, “Creativity is not an innovation but rather the fruit of the Holy Spirit active in a human heart. It might even be argued that creativity is the foundation of our Tradition.”

Protopsaltis John Michael Boyer and members of the YPHOS Byzantine Schola present a concert of ancient melodies with English text.

For Devin Barnes, of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Kansas City, MO, “The symposium felt uniquely Pan-Orthodox, organized in a way that respected different Orthodox musical traditions,” Devin said. “The focus was on well-composed, traditional Orthodox hymnody that fit the English language well. It presented all of the music as part of the same Orthodox faith no matter the repertoire or genre.”

Devin was joined by other chanters from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and over 100 other participants from 26 states and 7 countries, representing 10 Orthodox jurisdictions, Roman Catholic, Byzantine Catholic, and Lutheran traditions.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon (OCA) and members of the panel discussion engage in dialogue about the merits of ancient and modern creativity in Orthodox hymnody.

Metropolitan Tikhon also encouraged participants to reflect on their role in working towards unity in North America. “This symposium is a significant event – we are here with one heart, mouth, and mind, worshiping our Lord, using different traditions of chant and singing, from different places, coming together in a remarkable choral symphony. It is a testimony to the years of transformation which have taken place on this continent.

“We are all hopeful of that Orthodox unity in the broader ecclesiastical context, but we also know that we already have that unity in the Faith,” Metropolitan Tikhon noted, adding, “This unity in singing, in prayer, and in worship is a concrete way hopefully leading us to that broader unity for which we all pray.”

In addition to the YPHOS Byzantine Schola concert, there are live video recordings from the vigil and liturgy available, as well as a professionally recorded CD which is expected to be produced later this year, being made available for purchase from the ISOCM.

Video of the Primatial Divine Liturgy:

Video of the All-night Vigil:

Video of the YPHOS Byzantine Schola Concert:

Enthusiasts of Byzantine chant and polyphony alike were represented during the conference and the liturgical services. Devin said, “Although we were in different choirs, I heard everyone singing along with each other, and feeding off one another's joy and energy. It felt like the Holy Spirit was truly with us.”

The positive response from participants at this ISOCM event, along with those who attended the 2016 Symposium is encouraging for continued cooperation among church musicians from different administrative jurisdictions.

Participants of the 2018 Pan-Orthodox Music Symposium with Metropolitan Tikhon, outside the historic St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, Minneapolis, MN

Plans are already under way to identify themes and topics reflecting the diverse musical traditions found in the English-speaking world. It is expected the next ISOCM regional event in North America will take place in 2020.

The Society is also hosting a regional conference in Prague, 23-25 November 2018 ( and its regular biannual international Conference in Joensuu, Finland, 10–16 June 2019, when participants will explore the theme of "Sound of the Holy: from Manuscript to Performance.” More information about the Society and future events are available at

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