City Research & Enterprise Review 2011
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  1. Byzantine Chant hits the right notes
City Research & Enterprise Review 2011

Byzantine Chant hits the right notes

A City academic is awarded a highly regarded fellowship to bring major research work on medieval chant to musicologists, art historians, theologians and the public.


Doctor Alexander Lingas (pictured) is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Music. He is also the founder and Artistic Director of the vocal ensemble Cappella Romana and a Fellow of the University of Oxford's European Humanities Research Centre. His work embraces historical study, ethnography and performance. His awards include Fulbright and Onassis grants for musical studies with cantor Lycourgos Angelopoulos, fellowships at Harvard University's Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and the St. Romanos the Melodist medallion of the National Forum for Greek Orthodox Church Musicians (USA).

In 2009 the British Academy awarded Dr Lingas the Thank-Offering to Britain Fellowship to support his work on a new historical introduction to Byzantine chant for Yale University Press. The fellowship was one of eight awarded by the British Academy that year to provide established scholars with a year of leave to concentrate on bringing a major piece of research towards completion.

Byzantine chant is the medieval Greek sibling of Gregorian chant. With historical and cultural roots in the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire that was governed for a thousand years from Constantinople (modern Istanbul), it is the forebear of the music sung in worship today by hundreds of millions of Eastern Christians from Beirut to the Baltic Sea. Due for completion in 2013, Dr Lingas's study will be the first book-length introduction to the subject since Egon Wellesz's landmark History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography (1961. 2nd ed. Clarendon Press). This new introduction will serve not only a range of scholars including musicologists, art historians and theologians, but also those seeking to learn more about ancient forms of song that continue to inspire listeners in contemporary churches and concert halls.

Dr Lingas is deeply committed to sharing the musical traditions of the Christian East with a wide range of audiences. In 2012 his American-based ensemble Cappella Romana ( will release a CD of medieval chant from Mount Sinai (the group's 14th disc) and offer a concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in conjunction with the exhibition 'Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th-9th Century)'.

More research outcomes from City University London.