World Academy of Carpatho-Rusyn Culture


Carpathian Plainchant/Prostopiniie

Carpathian Plainchant/Prostopiniie — a form of vocal liturgical music unique to churches in Carpathian Rus’. In contrast to liturgical polyphonic music composed for and sung by choirs, the Carpathian plainchant—prostopiniie (from proste—pious, plain; piniie—chant), or tserkovnoie piniie (church chant)/tserkovnyi spiv (church singing)—is sung in unison by the entire congregation led by a cantor, or chanter (diak, kantor). The roots of Carpathian plainchant are found in Byzantine liturgical music arranged in the eighth century by St. John Damascene and based on a scale of eight tones. Whereas in the Roman (Latin)-rite church the plainchant has been unified (Gregorian Chant), in the Eastern, Byzantine-rite churches different plainchant are found, including the Russian znamennyi, Kievan, Pochaiv, Galician, Serbian, and the Carpathian/Carpatho-Rusyn chant, also known as the Mukachevo or Uzhhorod chant. The Carpathian plainchant shares several characteristics with the other Byzantine-rite chant traditions, but it is distinct in that it has been influenced by local Rusyn folk melodies and, when sung, is often rendered using Rusyn folk harmonization.

Liturgical chant began to be formally cultivated in *Carpathian Rus’ during the eighteenth century. It was first taught at the *Mukachevo Theological School (1744) and at a preparatory school for cantors and teachers, the *Uzhhorod Greek Catholic Teachers’ College, established in 1794 by Bishop Andrii *Bachyns’kyi. About the same time, a trained musician, cantor, and copyist, Ioann *Iuhasevych-Skliars’kyi, created seven handwritten books of liturgical music (irmoloi).

Initially, the music for the Divine Liturgy and other services and celebrations of the Eastern Byzantine rite were chanted only by the cantor. But during the second half of the nineteenth century texts began to be published which gradually reached the church-going faithful. Aleksander *Dukhnovych compiled a popular hymnal and liturgy book, Khlib dushy (1851), and Andrii Popovych (1809-1901) a collection of hymns for matins, vespers, Sunday divine liturgies, and solemn feastdays (Velykii sbornyk, 1866). Both the Dukhnovych and Popovych collections went through several editions (Khlib dushy eleven editions in Europe and several more in the United States), which helped to make congregational singing popular and then the norm in churches throughout Carpathian Rus’. It is this tradition more than any other that distinguishes Rusyns (both Greek Catholics and Orthodox) from other Eastern Christian peoples. The congregational chant contributes to a sense of spiritual togetherness at the same time that it provides individual inspiration. Another distinctive musical feature of Carpathian chant sung during the divine liturgy is the consecrational Amin (Amen) melody, repeated in more than 20 liturgical texts addressing Christ or the Holy Trinity. The Amin theme alternates with variable melodic themes from the eight tones and the solemn feastday melodies.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century Bishop Iulii *Firtsak commissioned two books to unify the chanted prayer culture of the *Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo. The result was the Uzhhorod Pisennyk (several editions, 1902-13), which contained the texts of 180 hymns compiled by Ivan *Sil’vai (published under the pseudonym Uriil Meteor). The first comprehensive manual of Carpathian plainchant, compiled by Ioann *Bokshai on the basis of melodies sung by the cantor at the Uzhhorod cathedral, Iosyf Malynych (d. 1910), was published under the title Tserkovnoie prostopinie (1906). Reprinted several times, the Bokshai-Malynych anthology became the systematic guide for learning Carpathian plainchant in churches throughout the Greek Catholic eparchies of Mukachevo, Presov, Hajdudorog, Krizevci, and in the various Byzantine Ruthenian (and certain Orthodox) eparchies in the United States and in the Byzantine Slovak Eparchy in Canada. Supplemental collections have been published for the *Greek (Byzantine Ruthenian) Catholic Church in the United States by Theodore Ratzin (Prostopinje, 1925), Andrew Sokol (Plain Chant, 1946; Basic Chant, 1955), William Levkulic (Byzantine Liturgical Chant, 1970), Jerry *Jumba (Marian Hymnal, 1984), Michael Slovesko (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, 1988, 1998); for the *Greek Catholic Eparchy of Presov by Stepan *Pap and Nikifor Petrashevych (Irmologion, 1970) and by Georgii Bobak (Pisneslov ili Eirmologion, 1978); for the *Orthodox Eparchy of Mukachevo-Uzhhorod by Fedor Kopyntsia and Dezyderii *Zador (Zbirnyk zakarpats’kykh bohosluzhbovykh tserkovnykh pisnespiviv, 1994); and for the *Greek Catholic Eparchy of Krizevci by Ioakim *Kholoshniai and Mariia Kholoshniai (Zbornik karpatoruskoho bohosluzhebnoho rozshpivu, 1996).

Bibliography: Iuliian A. Iavorskii, Materialy dlia istorii starinnoi pesennoi literatury v Podkarpatskoi Rusi (Prague, 1934); Fedir Steshko, “Tserkovna muzyka na Pidkarpats’kii Rusi,” Naukovyi zbirnyk Tovarystva ‘Prosvita’, XII (Uzhhorod, 1937), pp. 118-128; Stefan Papp, “Dukhovna pisnia na Zakarpatti,” Analecta Ordinis S. Basilii Magni, VII, 1-4 (Rome, 1971), pp. 114-142; Stephen Reynolds, “The Carpatho-Rusyn Prostopinije,” Carpatho-Rusyn American, II, 3 and 4 and III, 2 (Fairview, N.J., 1979-80), pp. 6-7, 4-5, 6; Joan L. Roccasalvo, The Plainchant Tradition of Southwestern Rus’ (Boulder, Colo., 1986).

Jerry Jumba

Paul Robert Magocsi

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.

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