Frederick A. Binkholder, Artistic Director

Paliashvili’s Georgian Sacred Chants on the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

Parker Jayne, CHC Founder

This is the last of our concerts this season in which the Chorale is singing what might be called “roots” music, that is, music that grew up among the people of a country as part of their singing tradition, perhaps as interpreted by a later composer/arranger. For this concert, the Chorale travels to the Republic of Georgia at the eastern end of the Black Sea. The music began as ancient chants in the Orthodox church service over a thousand years ago. The actual score we are singing is a beautiful setting of those chants written at the turn of the twentieth century by the most famous Georgian classical composer, Zakaria Paliashvili.

In addition to being beautiful, the piece is fascinating because it weaves together ancient Georgian chant with the composer’s Russian education in Moscow at the time when Rachmaninoff and other famous Russian composers were writing works for the Russian Orthodox service. As a proud Georgian, Paliashvili wrote the piece to help preserve Georgian chant when Georgia was being subsumed within the Russian Empire, and yet ironically he adopted Russian musical techniques in his composition. The piece disappeared because it was too Russian for the Georgians, too Georgian for the Russians, and of course too religious for the Soviets, who followed only a few years after it was written. The Chorale has the special privilege of not only reclaiming and performing Paliashvili’s score, but of recording this work for the first time in its original language, with the goal of acquainting choruses and listeners in America with the ethereal beauty of Paliashvili’s setting.

I had the privilege of accompanying Fred Binkholder and other members of the Chorale on a trip to Georgia in the summer of 2012 in preparation to make this recording. We were led by one of the leading scholars of Georgian chant and visited Paliashvili’s birthplace in Western Georgia as well as his apartment museum in the capital of Tbilisi. We sang surrounded by Georgians at a church service in one of Georgia’s oldest and most famous churches, held an early manuscript of this piece in Paliashvili’s handwriting at his museum in Tbilisi, and discovered the neighborhood church where Paliashvili worshipped and sang as a choirboy. It has made the opportunity of performing this beautiful work by Paliashvili all the more special.

One fascinating benefit of the internet is that music of other cultures can be heard and explored easily. People who have listened to music from the Republic of Georgia find it bold, haunting, exotic, and soul-stirring. I know Americans whose lives and careers were changed after hearing Georgian music, perhaps Tsmindao Ghmerto or Shen Khar Venakhi as sung by Rustavi Ensemble. Whether you’ve heard Georgian music before or this is your first introduction, we hope you will join us on May 31 or June 1 as we reprise our American premiere performances of Zakaria Paliashvili’s Georgian Sacred Chants on the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.