Two Traditions of Chant
In our previous article, we discussed the
znamennyj chant, the oldest element in the system of eight
hlasy ("tones" or "modes") of the Carpatho-Rusyn
We also observed that from the late fifteenth century on, the church
singing of the Eastern Slavs split into two traditions, the
"Muscovite" tradition (followed in the Grand Duchy of Moscow, and
based on Novgorod church singing) and the "Ruthenian" tradition
(followed in the Lithuanian-Polish state and in the Hungarian-ruled
Both were originally based on the znamennyj chant, but some
melodies, especially those sung from memory rather than from books,
developed rather differently in the two traditions, and the
distinctive Ruthenian forms of these melodies are called in Russian
terminology "Kiev chant."
This name is not applied to melodies of the eight-hlas system
in chant books of the Ruthenian traditions; it arose only when the
Muscovites came into contact once again with the Ruthenian chant, in
the 1650s, when the city of Kiev passed from Polish-Lithuanian to
Cantors from Kiev were brought to Moscow, where they introduced a
number of Ruthenian chant melodies, introducing distinctive variants
of melodies based on znamennyj tradition, especially those
commonly sung from memory.
These are an important element in the Carpatho-Rusyn
prostopinije, where, of course, they are not designated "Kiev
chant". The most important of these are the melodies for
prokimny and for the stichiry samohlasnyja.
The prokimen is an ancient way of singing psalms. One selected
verse from a psalm is sung; then one or more other verses from the
same psalm are "read" in the liturgical recitative (intoned on a
single note), the sung verse being repeated after each of the read
Prokimny are sung at various services. In most cases, the text
and the melody are governed by the cycle of eight hlasy.
There are also prokimny in which the text does not change, and
only the melody is governed by the cycle of hlasy; these are
not called prokimny, but are referred to by the first words of
the text: Boh Hospod', Vsjakoe dychanije, and Svjat
Hospod' at Matins, and Alliluja at the liturgy.
Prokimny, Troparia, and Kontakia
Formerly, when the troparia appointed for each day had no
proper melodies, they were read as far as the last phrase of the text,
and that phrase was sung to the appropriate prokimen tone. This
method is still used for some special troparia at Christmas and
Epiphany, and was also applied to the kondak of Matins at
St. Nicholas Monastery, Mukachevo.
More elaborate versions of the prokimen tones, to which Boh
Hospod' and the end of the tropar' were sung at Matins, are
still known in both Muscovite "znamennyj" and Ruthenian "Kiev"
versions, although they are no longer used much. The "Kiev"
prokimen tones usually repeat the last half of the text of the
psalm verse (called okonËanije), in contrast to the Muscovite
The oral transmission of these melodies has led to the development of
local variants, whose connection with one another is not always obvious.
The short text of the prokimen makes it convenient to compare a
number of variants.
The relationship between the Carpatho-Rusyn prostopinije and
other representatives of the znamennyj-"Kiev" chant family can
be clearly seen in such a comparison.
Next: Prostopinije in the family of chant