The Stichiry Samohlasnyja
The stichiry samohlasnyja, sung at Vespers and, on some days,
in the last part of Matins, are hymnic stanzas accompanying psalm verses.
The chant for the psalm verses is similar in style to the
prokimen tones, described in an earlier
In the old Greater znamennyj chant, the stichiry for feast days
have melodies that are sometimes long and rather difficult, but those
for weekdays have no melodies at all.
Simpler Melodies Are Developed
At some unknown time (the 15th century?), a set of eight melodies, one
for each hlas, was devised for use on weekdays, in a kind of
simplified znamennyj chant.
Each tone consisted of a small number (two to five) of melodic phrases
employing recitative to permit lengthening and shortening to fit any
phrase of the text. These phrases are repeated in a fixed sequence
until the singer reaches the last phrase of the text, which is sung to
a special concluding melodic phrase.
Singing From Memory
These simple melodies could be applied to any text; they could be
learned quickly by memory; and they made congregational singing easy.
They became quite popular, and soon replaced the older
znamennyj melodies on Sundays and often even on feast days.
The Written Record
The Ruthenian version of these tones, as adopted in Moscow in the
seventeenth century, was designated "Kiev chant".
Some manuscript chant books included these melodies; others gave only
their beginning; but most books omitted them entirely, since they were
simple enough the sing from memory.
They were included in the Irmologia printed in L'viv and
Pochaev, beginning with the edition of 1709. Characteristic regional
variants developed and were included in printed chant books of the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Influence of Folk Singing
As with the prokimen tones, Carpatho-Rusyns developed their own
distinctive variety of these samohlasen tones, incorporating
features drawn from local folk singing practices (most notably, a
final cadence on a downward leap of a fourth, which occurs in several
Only in hlas III have the alterations been drastic; here, the
tonality, contour, and melodic structure have been modified by some as
yet unknown influence.
Distinctiveness of the Prostopinije
The "ordinary chant" (obycnyj napiv) melodies employed for
similar texts in Russian choir singing are also based on the same
"Kiev chant" melodies.
The prostopinije tones differ from those of the "ordinary
chant" in accepting influences from folk singing, and in retaining
more successfully the live and tuneful character of the original
Next: Samohlasen yesterday and today