St. Nersess Seminary is offering an innovative course on Armenian Hymnography this Spring. Entitled, "Armenian Hymnography: History, Theology, Function," the course takes place on Tuesday evenings from 7-9 PM at the Seminary in New Rochelle, New York, and is open to the public.
The course is being taught by Seminary Dean and Professor of Liturgical Studies, V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan.
A Vast Tradition of Sacred Music
This course presents an introduction to thesharakans or hymns of the Armenian Church. Just one of several Armenian sacred music forms, the sharakans are sung during many Armenian Church services, particularly during the Morning and Evening Services. More than 1100 in number, they are a sublime storehouse of the Church's theology and spirituality.
Fr Findikyan will survey the historical development of the the sharakans within the context of the history of the Armenian Church's liturgical tradition. He will also compare them with the hymnography of the Byzantine, Syrian and Georgian traditions.
"During the last 10 years there has been a remarkable scholarly interest in the hymnography of the Armenian Church, particularly by European and Armenian liturgical scholars and musicologists," noted Fr. Findikyan." Some of the recent findings regarding the origin, authorship and original function of our sharakans may come as a surprise to many," he added, with a tinge of intrigue in his voice.
Most church-going Armenians could probably recall and even hum a few sharakans from theBadarak (Divine Liturgy) or other services. But how many could explain the meaning of the hymn, much less the composer's motivation in writing those words and setting them to music for use in the Church?
Students of the St. Nersess Hymnography Course will have the rare opportunity to analyze many of the sharakans in depth. Fr. Findikyan has translated a large anthology of them into English to facilitate the examination of their various genres, their literary and liturgical structure, poetic characteristics and theology.
The historical evolution, organization and scope of the massive Sharaknots (Armenian Hymnal) will be examined. Fr. Findikyan will also briefly survey Armenian sacred music theory in a lecture entitled,How to Sing a Sharakan: An Introduction to Armenian Music Theory for Non-Specialists.
Students will discuss the original use of these hymns in the early Armenian Church and their impact on the Armenian people. From there, they will assess their current status and use in Armenian monastic and parish life today, before exploring some prospects for restoring them.
Fr. Findikyan is uniquely qualified to teach a class on Hymnography. Before earning his Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome (1997), he earned two simultaneous Master's degrees: one in Theology (1989) and the other in Musicology (1990). He also did coursework in the History of Armenian Music at the Komitas Conservatory in Yerevan.
"This course combines history, theology and music, so you will be reading, praying, listening and singing!" said Fr. Daniel last week at the first class session.
Those wishing to audit the course may feel free to attend class sessions as their schedules permit, and as their interest inspires them. The full class syllabus is below. The fee for auditors is $100. For further information contact the Seminary at email@example.com or by telephone: (914) 636-2003.
LS450 Armenian Hymnography:
History, Theology, Function
V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan
Tuesdays 7:00 - 9:00 PM
This course presents an introduction to the sharakans (hymns) of the Armenian Church. The development of the sharakans is surveyed within the context of Armenian liturgical history and in comparison with the hymnography of the Byzantine, Syrian and Georgian traditions. The various genres of sharakans and other Armenian sacred music forms are discussed. A close reading of a selection of sharakans in Armenian and in English translation will allow students to examine their literary and liturgical structure, poetic characteristics and theology. The development, organization and scope of the Sharaknots (Hymnal) are examined, and a brief excursus is taken on Armenian sacred music theory. From the perspective of the original function of hymnography in the Armenian Church, the course will evaluate its current use in Armenian monastic and parish life today and explore some prospects for restoring it.
The student will:1. Describe the development and original function of extra-biblical refrains within the context of the Biblical odes of early Christian daily worship.2. State the influence of early worship in Jerusalem on the development of Armenian hymnography.3. List the nine sharakan genres and the Biblical odes and Psalms to which each is associated.4. List some literary and poetic features of the sharakans and state how theological concepts are expressed through their use.5. Evalutate the role of hymnography in the life of the Armenian Church today and suggest ways to restore its original function.
1. Students are expected to have read and studied the assigned readings by the dates on which they are indicated below.
2 Three written assignments of approximately 10 pages each.
3. A 20-minute presentation to the class.
January 24 Introduction to the Course. Worship and Music. The Psalms.
January 31 Psalms, Psalmody and the Psalter in Armenia and Neighboring Christian Traditions. Terminology and Hymn Genres. Armenian Liturgical Books.Robert Taft, SJ, Christian Liturgical Psalmody: Origins, Development, Decomposition, Collapse, in Psalms in Community: Jewish and Christian Textual, Liturgical and Artistic Traditions, Harold W. Attridge and Margot E. Fassler, eds (Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series 25, Christopher R. Matthews, ed.). Atlanta, 2003.
February 7 Biblical Canticles and Extra-Biblical Poetry in the Early Armenian Church.
LS450 Texts, #3a-h
*MONDAY, February 13
Annual Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan Memorial Lecture (1989)Armenian Hymns of the Cross: Setting, Significance and SoundTexts will be distributed at the lecture
*NO CLASS ON TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14
The Development of the Canon in the Syrian, Byzantine and Armenian Worlds. The Avag Orhnutiwn SharakanLS450 Texts, #4, 5Paper #1 Due Today
The Sharaknots: Its Development, Content and Organization. Authorship of the Sharakans.
Poetic and Literary Characteristics of Sharakans and their Theological Significance
How to Sing a Sharakan: An Introduction to Armenian Music Theory for Non-SpecialistsAram A. Kerovpyan, Armenian Liturgical Chant: The System and Reflections on the Present Situation, St. Nersess Theological Review I/1 (February, 1996) 25-42.
*THURSDAY, March 23
Christmas Hymns: Setting, Significance and SoundPaper #2 Due Today
*MONDAY, March 27
Hymns of Mary the Mother of God: Their Function and Message
April 4 Penitential Hymns: Setting, Significance and Sound
LS450 Texts, #6a-h
April 11: HOLY WEEK. NO CLASS
April 18 EASTER WEEK. NO CLASS
April 25 Easter Hymns: Setting, Significance and Sound
LS450 Texts, #8
May 2: CLERGY CONFERENCE. NO CLASS
May 9 Additional ClassPaper #3 Due Today
May 16 Hymnography in the Armenian Church Today and Tomorrow: Class Presentations by Students