What does Patriarchal Psaltophile mean?

Patriarchal is something related to any Patriarchate, but we mean it specifically for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Patriarch of Constantinople, currently his all-holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, is the 'first among equals' among other Christian Orthodox Patriarchs. Unlike a Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, an Ecumenical Patriarch does not claim supremacy over any other Orthodox Bishop. However, from ancient Councils, the Church of Constantinople was called the First-Throne Church, meaning that it has special honors and privileges among other churches. The etymology of the word patriarch comes from the noun πατὴρ (father) and the verb ἄρχειν (to lead).

A psaltophile is someone who likes chanters, a friend of the chanters, or someone who loves chanting. In English, it's not a real word (not registered in any dictionary). But in Greek, ψαλτόφιλοι are people who would seek out and follow acclaimed chanters from church to church (especially before the internet era) just to enjoy their chanting. The etymology of the word psaltophile comes from the noun ψάλτης (chanter) and the verb φιλεῖν (to love or admire or befriend).

So, a patriarchal psaltophile is a friend of the patriarchal chanters. And a Patriarchal Psaltophile is one who makes the inner commitment to uphold himself to the higher standard of the patriarchal chanting tradition.

What is byzantine music (or byzantine chant)?

It's the ecclesiastical (church) music used by some Christian Orthodox churches around the world. It's strictly vocal (a capella), monophonic (not polyphonic, that is, not three- or four-part harmony). Some say it sounds like Gregorian chant. If Gregorian chant was the ecclesiastical music of the Western Roman Empire, byzantine chant is the music of the Eastern Roman Empire (aka Byzantium). Among all types of Christian church music, it is the oldest known to us, with its roots in the ancient church of the first centuries. It is also the only church music with its own complete notation system, other than the staff notation.

Its hallmark 'majestic simplicity' is realized more evidently as the 'clothing' of the lyrics. The music is auxiliary, there only to promote and elevate the word to its true potential, so it's understood, moving, and easily memorized. It's less about the aesthetics of the music itself, but rather a tool to a higher purpose. Steeped in tradition, which meticulously preserved only its finest, purest, most useful form throughout the centuries. Specifically, within the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, byzantine chant was not left unchecked and up to laity musicians, but to lower clergy lifelong chanters, guardians of what was handed down to them from previous generations. Committees often ruled against the use of music not fit for church. This is why the Patriarchate is considered the 'ark' containing the most appropriate and also oldest form of this sacred art.

It's called byzantine, because it was developed and flourished during the byzantine empire (Eastern Roman Empire), whose capital was Constantinople, or today Istanbul, Turkey. Our Ecumenical Patriarchate is still located in Constantinople and still uses this same music for centuries. Even though the language used in the Patriarchal Church is Greek, byzantine music has been adopted as the church music of choice of most geographical areas traditionally thought to have belonged to the byzantine empire, no matter the language or ethnicity.

Is this really free, for real?

Yes, for real! Everything you see in this website is for free. Even if you wanted to donate money, we wouldn't accept it (it's a principle thing).

Now, if you wanted to buy a softcover copy of the book from Amazon, you will of course pay the cost of the book and shipping, but we don't make any profit off of it. We cannot provide free physical copies of our book (or any of our reprints for that matter), because the printers (Amazon) needs money for paper, ink, etc. to actually produce and send the book over to you. Providing free physical copies would mean that we fund that cost for you, and we cannot do that.

But then again, we don't make any profit either off of our Amazon reprints or our Psaltic Method book, so the prices are likely the lowest you will ever find.

Will you be hosting any online meetings?

If we get enough interest, we could plan 'office hour' virtual online meetings (for free). There you could ask questions about the materials in this website or just hang around with others who enjoy byzantine music.

If you are interested, please use the Facebook logo at the bottom of each page to follow our page. We will be posting any announcements for such online events there.

The Book's Preface

To become a chanter, one needs to be apprenticed to a chanter. In the Greek Orthodox churches in the United States, however, Liturgy, the most well-attended service, is sung by a polyphonic choir with organ accompaniment. Because of this, chanting became foreign to children. Because children were less inclined to learn how to chant within their communities, the population of trained chanters declined. Because of less trained chanters, Orthros suffered. Badly chanted Orthros and Esperinos (Vespers) is attended even less. Most churches abandoned Esperinos altogether, since there were no chanters and little congregation. Orthros is still read before Liturgy, but chanted rarely—and chanted well even more rarely.

In the Greek Orthodox churches in the United States, byzantine (plain)chant, a vital component of byzantine liturgy, was replaced by accompanied polyphony. Some attribute this substitution to the need of Greek-speaking immigrants to assimilate into the American culture, others to the fact that late 19th to mid-20th century Greek immigrants brought polyphony to the new shores with them. In Greece, polyphony has since been abandoned and assimilation is not a concern anymore.

This unnatural substitution created a vicious cycle which spiraled chanting down to near extinction. Apprenticeship, the vehicle of oral transmission, collapsed, and with it, chanting. The experiment to substitute chanting for polyphonic organ choirs failed. An alternative is needed.

After a century of ostracism, the ancient and sacred art of byzantine music is organically re-emerging. And how could it not? These ancient melodies are the garment with which the words of worship are clothed. The Word ancient, and the garment tailored. Newer, shinier clothes were tried on, but none fit like the old. The time-honored model, i.e., byzantine chant for byzantine liturgy, is the proposed alternative to the current, non-sustainable model.

This manual is a tool aimed to help break the vicious cycle. The first part teaches the essentials of chanting as it has been preserved and cultivated for over one and a half millennia by our Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. The second part is the Liturgy of St John the Chrysostom in the original Greek language set in byzantine music notation.

No profit is being made on this title. Price covers only the printing cost. To the memory of my teacher, Hatzisavvas Psaltis from the once Greek-speaking town of St Ambrose of Keryneia in the island of Cyprus.

‘Kyriakos’ Michael Tsiappoutas

Be a Patriarchal Psaltophile

Patriarchal chanting tradition is not an exclusive club. Our Patriarchate is Ecumenical, above barriers like nationality, language, race, East or West. People of different ethnicities and languages (Africans, Arabs, Bulgarians, Romanians, Romans, Russians, Serbians, to name a few) have embraced Byzantine chant at one time or another. Its ‘majestic simplicity’ is sacred music’s best kept secret. It’s a timeless classic—as fresh in Constantinople today, as it was in Jerusalem five centuries ago, as it could be in the United States a hundred years from today.

Being a Patriarchal Psaltophile is not about color, language, or nationality. There is no organized group to subscribe to and no dues to pay. It’s an inner commitment to uphold a higher standard—the Patriarchal chanting tradition.

It’s easy to musically ‘let yourself go’, bounded only by the contemporary taste of your geographical region. What’s hard, is to hold yourself up to a higher musical standard. By respecting the ancient and sacred institution of the Patriarchal chanting tradition, you automatically already are a Patriarchal Psaltophile.

In practical terms, being a Patriarchal Psaltophile, means that you accept the Patriarchal chanting tradition as the final arbiter for all and any chanting-related disputes.

For example, suppose a chanter friend opts to use a drone generator (ὀργανικός ἰσοκράτης), or an organ, or a tablet instead of books, or use polyphonic instead of monodic music. A Patriarchal Psaltophile cannot participate in these activities, because none of them are acceptable in the Patriarchal chanting tradition. It’s not a dispute anymore, it’s a matter of a conscious choice to abide by the highest known chanting standards.

Can I Donate?

No, we don't accept donations. If you really want to donate to someone though, we recommend the The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation. From their website:

For the Sacred See of Saint Andrew, has been established as an endowment by the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Ours is a global mission and invitation for everyone across the various Eparchies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be united as one. Together, we can ensure that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, “the Light – continues to shine in the darkness.”



This website, the Patriarchal Psaltophiles project, and their creator, Michael Tsiappoutas, are not affiliated with any institution, organization, or entity, religious or other.

Legal Stuff

The Patriarchal Psaltophiles project as well as the book "Psaltic Method—A Greek Byzantine Liturgy Chant Primer" are both licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Licensing under Creative Commons does not mean the work is not copyrighted. The copyright owner is Michael Tsiappoutas, the creator of this project.

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