Tag Archives: Transfiguration

Service Book Update: Nearly There

The service book I’ve been working on, has passed through a bunch of version numbers as various little problems have surfaced (one of the most recent being a missing “us” in “forgive us our trespasses” in the Lord’s Prayer), and the formatting has had some tweakings, so in theory it’s easier to pick up again after skipping stuff (mainly the Tones you’re not doing that week).

Father Dan gave the thing a quick once-over today, and gave it a thumbs up. But then a part that has been slightly-problematic-but-we-kinda-got-used-to-it was pointed out, and so I inquired about how OK it was to modify that bit.

There’s a psalm that’s read early on in the service, 104 in the Western numbering, and the translation that’s in the service books we’ve been using is a bit awkward: the Thou/Thy isn’t so bad, but there’s places with “hast” rather than “has”, but then the rest of the text uses “did” rather than “didst”, and that sort of indecisiveness doesn’t help it just flow off the tongue.

We have some options, but we’ll probably stick with Thou and Thy, but more modern language for the rest.

There’s still some bits I think I’ll pick the others brains about:
“The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place which Thou did appoint for them. Thou did set a bound which they should not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth”
I wonder if “Thou appointed” might be better than “Thou did appoint”, and “Thou set a bound” without the did. That kind of thing.

So, nearly there, and I’m looking forward to when we can print off a bunch of copies of Version 1.0, the one we’re happy to use for the services. Version 0.9b and 0.9c both got labelled “Final Review”, I hope I can avoid a similarly-labelled 0.9d.

Service Book Editing

Father Dan visited on Thursday. We ended up not doing the Vespers service, but we got a lot of pointers on the parts we hadn’t been doing. Some wasn’t in the materials we had.

I wonder if we’ll settle into a time of “Well, we’ll learn this chunk next, and when we’ve got the hang of that, we’ll add another chunk”.

For example, there’s 8 Tones (a Tone could loosely be described as a Tune), but it seems that there are parts of the Vespers service where one might veer off into using a Tone other than the one that, in general, one ought to be using for that week.

So I wonder if we’ll spend some weeks sticking with One Tone Per Service until we’ve got the hang of some parts we’ve been skipping (it might not take all 8 weeks to figure it out).

After two songs in our sets of music, there was another song, that wasn’t mentioned in the white service book (I think they were mentioned in the red book, but I think one was truncated there). We found out another (related) song is supposed to slip in after another song, but it wasn’t in the sets of music, or mentioned in either service book. As the songs are related, we were told we could just repeat the first one.

Went hunting for that song today (I say “that song”, really there’s 8 of them, one for each Tone), found at least four sets of words, and at least three sets of music. One of the musics matched the Tones we’re already doing. I added the text of these into the with-Priesty version of the text-only service books I’ve been working on, and added some things based on notes I made on Thursday.

Got a bunch of changes to make on the other books (some the same as the ones I’ve made today, which should be straightforward).

Busy week ahead, getting ready for family coming, then family being here for a couple of weeks. Might be able to fit in some of that editing in the next couple of days anyway.

Working on our Vespers service book

Today’s project for me was to slave over a hot service book.

Our Vespers service is the service we’ve been doing the longest. As we’ve been doing a priestless version for a while, my first revision of the book cut out all the stuff we don’t do.

We actually have at our disposal TWO different Vespers service books (multiple copies of each, we’re not all hunched around trying to peer at the words). The simple one is the white one, which are branded for our former overseeing church. It doesn’t have the music in, and there’s places where it notes that extra songs are added in.

The red book is more complicated, as I was reminded when I was looking through it to fill in some blanks. now some parts have me more confused…

We also have a set of music, which I believe we’ve been using in conjunction with the white books. There’s some songs in there that we haven’t done (the ones noted in the white book). This is the stuff that has mainly thrown us off when we’ve had a priest with us, and our recent visit to K-town’s Vespers used them, so we’ve decided to add them in.

So that’s what I’ve been collecting and adding today. The extra verses and parts of Lord, I Call Upon Thee, the Apostikha verses, and the Troparia. There’s also the Prokeimena, but I skipped those today. They weren’t in with the music, and the red book was seven shades of confusing in that regard. Plus the other stuff already took me most of today.

There are eight Tones, and we cycle through them. So Tone 7 started today, Tone 8 starts next Sunday, then it goes back to Tone 1 after that. All the things I added today (text only, thankfully, though some of the music could really use redoing), I had to add for each of the eight Tones.

The Lord, I Call stuff started straightforward. The first set of music I found turned out to not be the full set, the second set was more complete (missing a page, I think). After the “Lord, I Call” part, there’s 3 verses, each with a “Stikhera” (for the sake of not looking it up, let’s describe it as “a choiry bit”) afterwards.

This was just fine until Tone 7, where on the music sheet, the third Stikhera kind of gets interrupted by the third verse coming back and saying “wait! I wasn’t done yet!”, then the third Stikhera finishing off. (“I’ma let you finish…”)

In a rare display of being easier, the red book just includes “Verse 3 ctd” as part of the uninterrupted Stikhera.

The three verses have the same words in all 8 Tones. The red book lists 10 verses, the first 3 being the ones that we use. The verses are labelled 1-10, 1 and 2 being in the section (X), 3 and 4 in (V111), 5 and 6 in (VI), and 7-10 in (IV). I have no idea what this means; in the following pages, the words (and most of the music) are displayed, and only use the same 3 verses.

And after the last Stikhera, before the Theotokion which rounds out each Lord, I Call section, it says “(etc.)”

What etc? I don’t know the etc! Can’t you tell me the etc?

I have no idea. Maybe I’ll find out. That’s maybe one to ask now-Father Dan.

In the meantime, have to check with musicy people about which construction of Tone 7 to put in the book.

The Apostikha(s? e?) were a lot more straightforward, the only issues I see cropping up here are noting that I need to enforce consistency with capitals (just corrected a bunch of Thys and Thous, cross usually has a capital C, as in “By ascending the Cross, O Lord…”, “Thy most pure Body” is in the Troparia, do I capitalise the B in “His holy body”? and so on).

I suspect proof-reading will be a lot of work.

The last section was the Troparia, and here things got a little complicated.

The wording on the music sheets mostly matched up with the Troparia in the Sunday service book, so a quick copy-and-paste did that job. I think the tunes were different, so I made notes where things were different. the differences were minor, Thy/the, to/for, some extra ands and an our. Some of the sheets had music for “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.” Others had [G.N.E.] written on them (I’d say “scrawled”, but don’t mean it to be disparaging, and also it’s better writing than mine). Following that, there’s a Theotokion.

The white book just says “Troparia (sung or chanted)”, followed by priesty parts we usually have to skip. So previously our service would stop just before this point.

The red book at this point in the service has a Troparion to the Theotokos (one set of words, two options for music, not a different one for all eight tones like in the music sheets). then it has page numbers for the appendices for Sunday Troparia and Lenten Troparia, so essentially the other way round from the music sheets. But the Sunday Troparia (words, at least, didn’t check the tunes) seem to be the same as on the sheets and in our Typika service book, so grateful for some consistency, there.

I’m grateful for the consistency we do get, and I do enjoy this project. It’s just that everything turns out to be more work than you think it’ll be. Lord willing, we’ll know what we’re doing someday!


Today, Deacon Dan became Father Dan.

This has been a milestone in several roads. Now-Father Dan’s, of course. Father Russell’s, now handing off this area to Father Dan, after looking after us from a distance that wasn’t very practical. And K-Town’s,  the Orthodox community building up from being very small, to crowding out someone’s living room, to crowding out an entire basement used for services, to getting a church building, and getting it ready over the last few weeks.

It’s been interesting – my role has mainly been with the choir, and I feel like a bit of an imposter there – I can generally tell when I haven’t got the right note, but not necessarily when I’m in the wrong octave, and I don’t think I’m very quick at correcting myself. Still, I’m told I’m improving, and things seemed to go well for both services. Even with the few things that changed on the fly.

It was cool that our community at Transfiguration could help with K-town’s preparations and participate in this event. Two in particular helped with the building work, one made the iconostasis and was doing other work. Last week the iconostasis was mostly done (but without the icons), and there was a bit of a setback when he had to go for an emergency appendectomy. It was good to see him well this week, and the place certainly looked finished.

Transfiguration certainly feels networked, somewhat connected to quite a few of the other Orthodox churches in the state. Bishop Maxim brought some things for K-town which connected them more with Serbia, who administratively we’re under. Old and new, connected.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from His Grace, but I think I was surprised at how much I liked him. I lucked onto his table last night after Vespers. I was going to sit on another table nearby, somehow we got talking before I sat down, and he liked Youngest (who I was holding at the time). After a couple of minutes, I asked if I could join him at the table, on one of the empty seats opposite, he seemed to like that. Soon I was surrounded by other clergy who were present, and I really felt like an imposter – not even a catechumen yet, and lucked onto the clergy table. Not that I’m entirely unused to being around clergy (more used to those of a different tradition, though) There was a spare water on the table, which he gave to Youngest, and a little later there was a spare beer on the table, which he gave to me. And clinked, with a “Cheers!”

I grew up in a tradition that has bishops, but without the same sort of liturgical role, and without the same sort of ceremony and stuff that goes on. When he arrived on the Saturday night, all the kids were given flowers to give to him. I let Middlest run up to him to give hers early, a few kids got there quickly (I’m pretty sure they got waved over), the rest waited in line. By the time he got to where I was holding Youngest, he was starting to express concern about being able to hold them all. He managed, but I liked what he said to Youngest (who is 2). I was just telling him to hand the flower over, and His Grace said “it’s all right, you can keep that one.” Youngest seemed to appreciate it, too.

This morning, at the beginning of the service was the blessing of the new church building, which was very interesting. Then the rest of the service, with the ordination as part of it.

I actually missed most of the ordination part, having to take Middlest to the bathroom, but got back in time for the last “He is worthy!”.

I’ve been to an ordination ceremony in my former tradition, though I don’t think I was really old enough to fully appreciate it. There was a long speech, which I was surprised and pleased to learn was boring all the adults, too. Lots of people got ordained at the same time, there, and not in the same place that they would be serving.

Though that system does have its advantages, there’s something special about an ordination happening within the context of the community that the new priest will be serving. Geographically rooted, and the enthusiasm of the congregation for their new priest can be an indication of whether the guy’s right for the job.

It’s been a good couple of days*, and seeing how some of these things work, has been very encouraging. Encouraging and moving, and those more than I expected.

what's the collective noun for clergy?
Photo credit and copyright my wife.

*corrected, originally accidentally left out an “o” – “It’s been a god couple of days” – guess it’s been that, too.

Sunday Adventures

So we went up to K-Town last Sunday and today (it’s still today for another hour and two minutes in the next time zone), preparing for Deacon Dan’s ordination to the Priesthood next week.

The new songs we have to learn, are really coming along. Or rather, the songs were already there, our learning of them is coming along.

I’m a bit… nervous isn’t the right word. I’m rather used to the Priest-less versions of Vespers and our Sunday service (Typika), and particularly with Vespers, it seem like we get a bit thrown for a loop when the Priest-y parts get thrown in, when one visits us. Spending time with K-Town, the stuff we are familiar with already, there’s some getting used to a different tempo.

Vespers with a Priest – one we’ve not done the Vespers service with before – is going to be different (hopefully we’ll do ok), but a Sunday service with rather a lot of priests plus a Bishop is rather outside the realm of experience for (I think) most of us – all of our group, and probably a lot of K-Town’s, too.

And there’s a few “If you see him do this, then do this” sort of instructions, which elicits a sort of “please please please let this go well” sort of reaction…

I’m looking forward to the service. I’m not sure I’m entirely confident about it, but fortunately the Bishop, visiting clergy and other guests, aren’t there to be critical.

For a lot of the rest of the day today, I’ve been working on a text-only version of the Sunday service. Version 1 is basically a copied version of what we do, and there were points I had some variations to work with (what a version of the service I’d typed up before said, as opposed to the version we use, and where the version we use has the same thing in a couple of places and there are slight variations).

Need to get this and the Vespers version I did the other week, checked over by a few people, get permission for artwork and so on, before I can put them on the Transfiguration site, but so far so good :)

One new song which I’m enjoying, is apparently also used as part of the wedding service. It’s called “Rejoice, O Isaiah”, and I haven’t immediately found the music in my brief Internet search. But I found the words on Orthodox Wiki (that wedding service link at the beginning of this paragraph), which if they’re different to what we’re singing are close enough (I did find some more varied ones):

Rejoice, O Isaiah! The Virgin is with child,
And shall bear a son Emmanuel,
Both God and Man,
And Orient is His Name,
Whom magnifying, we call the Virgin blessed.

Structure and Progress

A week or two ago, my wife and I started a new structure that gives us more time for Getting Things Done, and for Spending Time (with each other and kids).

After feeling a bit like a train that’s blowing steam and spinning wheels, this new structure is helping me feel like I’m getting some momentum.

Me up at 8, get stuff done before the kids get up, get everyone up at 10, spend time, oversee schoolwork and stuff, let the evening happen, and aim to get to bed…. about an hour ago. Not quite perfect at it yet.

Aiming to blog here every day, and I’ve only missed one day since starting the site. the Transfiguration site is more of a Sunday project, Sundays are getting a little busy in the lead up to Deacon Dan’s ordination in a couple of weeks.

After not feeling like I was making any progress, I’ve come ahead in leaps and bounds for the documentation for my friend’s site (looking forward to the Big Reveal).

The site I’m looking forward to prioritising when my friend’s site is done, is currently more extremely on the back burner than is the Transfiguration site, but I’m managing to line up a bunch of stuff to help with content, once I’m ready to switch over (bookmarks, equipment, other plans – it’s like lining up the long stick piece in a verrry slllloooow game of Tetris).

Even managed to get some stuff done today that I knew I had to do, but had forgotten on more than one occasion (renewing the library card).

Feels like the wheels are turning. just need to remember that thing, “All work and no play makes you a jerk.”

Square Notes Into Round Clefs

Today I was working on stuff for the Holy Transfiguration site.

I went back into MuseScore and converted the Beatitudes from four staves (as I did it initially) to two (soprano and alto together on the treble clef, and tenor and bass together on the bass clef).

Copying and pasting first the alto and the bass, changing them to Voice 2, and then copying and pasting the soprano and the tenor, worked for the most part. Things like triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets (which is how I work around the notes that are chanted quicker than a quaver) didn’t survive being changed between the voices, sometimes slurs needed redoing, and fermatas didn’t survive the voice-switching either, so it was a bit more work than I hoped, but it went ok.

I tried following that up by transcribing “Vouchsafe, O Lord”. I’m not really happy with its’ current state: some parts seem a little slow, and I’m not sure if it’s that the whole thing is slow. The tuplets I put in seem ok, I’m a bit paranoid that they will be too fast if I end up needing to up the tempo for the piece as a whole. I’m not happy with this piece, yet. Not ready for the limelight.

I did, fairly quickly upon searching, find an image that would be good to use on our service books. When I’m closer to having all the pieces ready for one of the service books, I’m pretty sure I’ve found the right email address to ask for permission to use it. I found them on a blog, which linked back to another site, who credited someone for giving them permission, I’ve found the email address of someone with his name, so with any luck…

Not entirely happy with the free hosting place I’m using there. Throws up an ad when you go there, and it disagrees a lot with Internet Explorer. A friend has offered me a very charitable rate for hosting the Transfiguration site with him. Very much tempted to go with that. Need to discuss it before I jump into that.

A Different Kind Of Coding

In addition to the site for a friend that I mentioned the other day (nearly there, nearly there), I have also created a website for my church.

As part of the site, I’m uploading music that we use, hopefully to help new visitors, or people elsewhere looking into Orthodox Christianity.

To be honest, I started transcribing the music before I thought of doing the site: I’m not so good at harmony, and I was hoping to get the hang of the bass part before we were due to perform a song (that one’s not up yet, I’ll explain in a bit). It almost worked: singing and thinking the bass tune while hearing the soprano is somewhat tricky.

I’m using MuseScore for my transcription. I came across it a few years ago, when Windows Media Player was sucking at playing Final Fantasy MIDIs. Now I’m getting used to writing in it.

Time signatures in Orthodox church music are somewhat complex. Or to put it another way, they don’t really use bars. In a lot of cases, one tune (a “Tone”) is used for various different texts, so a line of music has to be adapted to different lengths to accommodate varying lengths of text.

What I’ve been doing, then, is when starting a new score, I’ve set a basic time signature (usually Common time), the tempo, and the number of bars I want. Then I delete the “C” denoting Common time (which at an early stage like this changes nothing), and change each bar to the length it needs to be (often between 8/4 and 15/4, few have been less, but a few have been more than that).

Took me a while to figure that out, also took me a while to figure out where to add in tempo, and how to have notes of differing length at the same place in the same stave (using Voices).

The earliest things I transcribed, I need to go back and redo, armed with all these things I’ve picked up along the way.

Today, despite missing the kids-having-rest-time and kids-watching-a-Sunday-show window of opportunity, I managed to do O Gladsome Light, one of my favourite hymns from Vespers. I like the “now that we have come to the setting of the sun” and “for meet it is at all times” parts. Orthodox Wiki has a nice page detailing the history of the song.

I’d started in earnest with transcribing Vespers (fewer changeable hymns), and started at the beginning. At this point I’ve skipped the changeable hymn, because I’m not sure how I’m going to integrate it into the new service book. Another day…

Today, I also started putting files up onto the Files page of the church site. The transcription and that website are my Sunday project, it’s nice to make progress on projects.