Mercy For The Living


Mercy For The Living  is a homage and back to rootsexperience of the Bulgarian Voices Angelite to Christianorthodox music from the 10th to 20th century. The album comprises liturgical chants for women’s choir and male vocalist.

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Mercy For The Living is Orthodox music from the 10th to the 20th century. Liturgical chants for a women’s choir and male vocalist.

On Religious and Church Music

In all historical times music was regarded as a supreme art allowing for the best expression of religious feelings. It has been and will remain the most intelligible language for prayer communion between God and man.

As early as the ancient times, the pagan religious cults have exploited the miraculous impact of the art of music on the souls of worshippers during religious rites and sacrifices.

The Christian religion has also introduced music as an integral constituent of the worshipping service.

Following the example of Jesus Christ, who sang out loud at the Last Supper with the Holy Apostles, the Christian Church, from the very beginning of its existence has established and canonised vocal music as the most suitable manner of temple performance, resting on the conviction that human voice is the most perfect musical instrument.

The theory of Eastern Church chants (which are still employed by the Orthodox Church) was set up by St. John of Damascus in the 7th century. From the multiple religious hymns performed by the various Christian communities, St. John of Damascus chose only those which he thought most suitable for the uniform use by the Church and compiled the so called Vocal Eight-Part Chants Book, which is still in use by the Orthodox Church.

The “Octoich” by St. John of Damascus is strictly defined within certain limits which restrict melody variation.

Bulgaria adopted Christianity as its official religion in 865. About the same time, the brothers St. Cyril and St. Methodius created the Slavonic alphabet (the Cyrillic alphabet), which allowed for religious scriptures to be translated into the Slavonic languages, whereupon services began to be performed in the language of everyday use. These events served as the impetus of a tremendous cultural and political bloom, which continued for the following two centuries.

The development of Eastern Orthodox singing saw another turning point between the 13th and the 14th centuries when the Byzantine emperor assigned John Kukuzel (The One Blessed with an Angel Voice) – a famous Bulgarian church musicologist of the time – to create a new fashion of singing: more solemn and impressive than that of John of Damascus, so that it could correspond to the grandeur of the Byzantine Empire. John Kukuzel accomplished his assignment very successfully and created the new type of singing which was called ‘Papadic singing’. He had left to the future generations a legacy of musical compositions of unattainable beauty and performing challenge, the most brilliant one being Selected Multiple Psalms to the Bulgarian Woman. The artist dedicated this work to his mother and used in it motifs from Bulgarian folk songs, which he had heard from his mother as a child. This set up the beginning of artistic singing in the Orthodox Church.

Another dramatic turn of Bulgarian history was the enslavement of the country by the Turks, which lasted from the end of the 14th to the end of the 19th centuries. Bulgarian cultural achievements were subjected to mass destruction. Ancient Greek (which was incomprehensible even to contemporary speakers of Greek) was restored as the language of worshipping service. Subsequently, the tradition of church singing was handed down orally: just like the folk song. This, in its course, provided for the mutual influence between folk and church music. All church chants composed between the 14th and the 17th centuries have reached us as anonymous works handed down from mouth to mouth. They were carried through Moldavia to Russia where they were preserved and used in the Russian religious services. In scientific theory this phenomenon is known as The Second Southern Slavonic Impact. This is how the artistic creation of various authors, both familiar and anonymous, was preserved in the treasury of Bulgarian music culture.

Written by Georgi Petkov



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