by Josh Cole, Hellenic College Holy Cross Manager of Marketing and Communication; Executive Producer of All Creation Trembled
The CD recording was all planned out. We had two days to record the Holy Cross Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir. It was an ambitious schedule for an ambitious project—capturing a selection of the music from the Orthros of Great and Holy Friday, the service of the Crucifixion and the Twelve Gospels.
Professor Grammenos Karanos had been rehearsing the selections with the choir for months. The majority of the musical settings were being recorded for the first time ever.
The Greek compositions were by Petros the Peloponnesian (d. 1778), widely acknowledged as the greatest post-Byzantine Greek ecclesiastical composer. There was also a rarely performed arrangement of a hymn by Konstantinos Vyzantios (d. 1862).
The English settings were composed by John Michael Boyer, a Holy Cross MDiv candidate and Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, under the supervision of Dr. Karanos. Despite the 250-year gap between Petros’s and Boyer’s work, there is a meticulous unity of musical content, an incredible achievement by itself.
The CD was to be recorded in celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.
Then, the Monday before the recording was to happen, there was a bombing at the Boston Marathon. Over a dozen of our students were on the scene, including some eye witnesses. It was a very difficult and draining day for our students and everyone in Boston.
We realized more than ever that the Orthodox understanding of the co-suffering love of Christ and healing through the power of the Cross was what our city needed. The recording would go on.
Students from HCHC chanting at the bombing site that week.
When the manhunt locked down the whole metro Boston area, we weren’t sure if we would be able to get the equipment to the Holy Cross Chapel. We made contingency plans. But because we were using state-of-the-art sound equipment that had been shipped in from Switzerland and because the students were about to take finals and many then graduate, the recording had to take place.
Through the grace of God and the heroism of our local emergency responders, the bomber was captured and the streets opened just in time to begin the first recording session with the men’s choir that Sunday (we recorded the women’s Byzantine choir on Saturday, so stay tuned).
As the choir gathered together after chanting earlier in the day at local parishes, there was a deep solemnity and sense of purpose that permeated the chapel. Hour after hour, these men poured their anguish into music written expressly to transform anguish into joy, suffering into healing, death into life.
On Monday, there was to be a city-wide moment of silence followed by the ringing of bells at 2:51 p.m., exactly one week after the bombings and the ninth hour in the ancient reckoning of our Faith, the same hour that Jesus died on the cross and “all creation saw and trembled.”
All the men of the choir went outside, somber in their cassocks, and gathered around the bell that always calls the campus to prayer. We opened all the doors of the chapel. The recording equipment was running.
And the bell tolled.
The solemn toll of the bell outside Holy Cross Chapel opens the
CD entitled All Creation Trembled.