Professor Emeritus performs in historic showpiece at Westminster Abbey.
Alexander Lingas, Professor Emeritus of Music in the Department of Performing Arts at City, University of London played an active role in the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III as he led an ensemble for a traditional Byzantine Chant.
The coronation, watched by more than 20 million people in the United Kingdom and many others across the world, included a rich variety of musical performances during the procession.
Byzantine Chant originates from Eastern Christian traditions of liturgical song, tracing its origins back to Greek-speaking parts of the late Roman Empire – known popularly as ‘Byzantium’. As a prominent sibling of Gregorian Chant, Byzantine is both an historical tradition, with notated musical manuscripts going back over one thousand years, and a living one practised today by millions of Eastern Orthodox Christians.
Although there are evident common links between historic coronations and the imperial rituals of late antique and early medieval Constantinople, Byzantine Chant has not traditionally played a part in coronation services. However, as part of his ceremony, the King had requested the inclusion of Greek Orthodox music to honour his late father and Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.
Professor Lingas’ opportunity to lead the ensemble came about through his study of Orthodox chant and liturgy through his directorship of Cappella Romana, a vocal ensemble that combines passion and scholarship in its exploration of the musical traditions of the Christian East and West. He led an ensemble of seven accomplished cantors who performed verses from Psalm 71 while the King received the Sword of State from Penny Mordaunt, Lord President of the Privy Council.
Professor Lingas said he was honoured to have been asked to perform, and was fully aware of the significance.
“It was truly thrilling to be asked to perform at His Majesty’s coronation at such a special moment for both the country and the world,” he said.
“The role involved many hours of rehearsal but I was very happy with the final performance.
“Performing the traditions of Byzantine chanting in the midst of such a carefully planned and immaculately executed service, and witnessing a piece of history with my own eyes was a real privilege.
“My colleagues and I in the Byzantine Chant Ensemble were both humbled by the honour of participating and grateful to learn how effective our contribution had been.
“As a historian of Byzantine music, I was also keenly aware that we were probably the first Byzantine cantors to have sung alongside members of the Chapel Royal since 1400, when Emperor Manuel II spent Christmas with King Henry IV in the year 1400.”
Find out more about the Department of Performing Arts at City, University of London.