Church Music

Lemko church music is represented both by congregational singing and by choral music. In churches of the Byzantine tradition, instrumental music is not used; all singing is a capella. Congregational singing, or "plainchant," is typically led by a cantor who is knowledgeable in the intricate system of varied tonal systems corresponding to the Byzantine liturgical year. Because the Lemko Region was always in the jurisdiction of the Eparchy of Peremyshl, the congregational chant of the Lemkos is essentially identical to the chant sung in Ukrainian churches of western Ukraine ("Galician chant"), with some local variations of the melodies. This Galician chant is part of the western Rus' chant tradition which evolved from the Old Bulgarian, Znamenny, and Kievan chant traditions. The Galician chant shares many features with the prostopinije plainchant of Subcarpathian Rus'. This is especially true in the Lemko Region, where many melodies are found on both sides of the mountains.105

Choral singing is especially prevalent in Orthodox parishes, following the model of the Russian Church. The compositions sung are typically those of Russian or Ukrainian composers such as Tchaikovsky, Bortniansky, Verbitsky, and others.

Popular, devotional hymns in honor of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, popular saints, and for liturgical seasons106 have developed over several centuries, especially since the time of the Union of Brest. These hymns are not part of the chant tradition, as they exhibit the usual structure of western hymns. Many of the hymns are found among Byzantine Christian Eastern Slavs elsewhere, especially in Subcarpathian Rus' and to a lesser extent in western Ukraine. They are typically sung before and after liturgical services, on pilgrimages, and at festive church holiday observances. Here are two examples of these hymns.


Prechystaja Divo Maty (in honor of the Virgin Mary)

Prechystaja divo maty Ruskoho kraju

S anhelamy y svjatymy

Tja velychaju

Ty hrishnykov v tjazhkoj muki

Cherez tvoji spasajesh ruky,

Ne daj propasty!

Purest virgin mother of the Rusyn land,

With the angels and the saints

We magnify you,

You ease the suffering of sinners

With your saving hand

Do not let us perish!107

O Kto Kto (In honor of Saint Nicholas

O kto kto Nykolaja ljubyt',

O kto kto Nykolaju sluzhyt',

Tomu Svjatyj Nykolaj

Na vsjakij chas pomahaj.

Nykolaje, Nykolaje!

O who loves Nicholas the saintly

O who serves Nicholas the saintly

Him will Nicholas receive

And give help in time of need,

Nicholas, Nicholas!108


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