Really Early Music Byzantine Greek Choir Makes a Rare Visit

Article excerpt

Intricate Byzantine-style mosaics blanket the walls. A soaring dome sits above the center of a cross-shaped nave. The choir chants the oldest extant hymn in Christianity.

You could be in Constantinople, at the final Divine Liturgy before infidels breach the city's walls to extinguish the 1,000-year-old glory of medieval Byzantium.

Yeah, sure . . . and you could be Shirley MacLaine in a past life. More likely, you're in the St. Louis Cathedral at 8 p.m. tonight, attending the Byzantine Greek Choir's only U.S. performance outside of New York. The world-renowned choir will perform the liturgical music of the Byzantine Empire, a civilization that flourished while the rest of Europe slogged through the Dark Ages. The choir will sing hymns composed for Greek Orthodox church services. Orthodoxy and Western Christianity (read: Rome) parted ways in 1054. Regardless, the St. Louis Cathedral is a natural venue for the Athens-based choir's performance here. The so-called Greek cross design with a dome gives the cathedral an appearance not unlike that of Hagia Sophia, the giant church built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. ("Solomon, I have outdone thee," he is said to have shouted at the church's completion. …