The Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir
Shortly after the formation of the Archdiocesan School of Music in October 2010, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America expressed a desire for the formation of a choir to promote the rich Byzantine musical heritage of the Orthodox Church. The Archbishop’s vision became a reality with the help of Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos who observed the musical talent of chanters in the Direct Archdiocesan District and established the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir in December 2010 as a ministry of the Archdiocese.
The talented members of the choir consist of Greek American clergy and young men whose ages range from 16 to 40. The majority of the choir members are established head-chanters (protopsaltis) in churches from within the Direct Archdiocesan District. All members of the choir have had formal training in Byzantine Music while some have even received advanced degrees in Byzantine Music from conservatories in Athens and Thessaloniki.
The choir enjoys a broad programmatic reputation and ecclesiastical repertoire with performances in various venues such as universities, churches and recital halls of NYC. Its primary mission is to share the beauty of Byzantine Music beyond the borders of Orthodox Churches and reveal the spiritual depth of this ancient form of ecclesiastical chant.
Since its inception, the choir has been directed by Demetrios Kehagias. Born in Queens NY, Mr. Kehagias began studying Byzantine Music at the age of 14 under the tutelage of Archon Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Mr. Nikolaos Steliaros. Among his top students in musical theory and application, Mr. Kehagias advanced swiftly and, at age 20, obtained the Certificate of Chant with highest distinction from the National Conservatory of Athens.
Thereafter, Mr. Kehagias was appointed Protopsaltis at St. Demetrios Cathedral of Astoria, NY, the largest Greek community outside of Greece, where he served for 10 years. In 2009, he received the advanced degree of Byzantine Music Teaching (Diploma Mousikodidaskalou) with highest distinction from the National Conservatory of Athens. Mr. Kehagias also has a firm knowledge of western music, having studied jazz and composition at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY.
In October 2010, Archbishop Demetrios of America appointed Mr. Kehagias first instructor for the newly established Archdiocesan School of Byzantine Music. He currently serves as Protopsaltis at the Kimisis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church, Brooklyn, NY. His dedication to teaching Byzantine Music and his vision to find creative ways to share Byzantine Music with the general public has led this choir to a level of excellence demonstrated by their concerts and in the presentation of the choir as seasoned performers.
The choir has grown significantly in reputation, becoming a premier Byzantine Music choir in the New York Metropolitan area as well as among Greek American communities. The choir’s goals are to provide a positive social setting based on the Orthodox Faith, to help the members of the choir achieve excellence in musical performance, and to provide them with the rewards of participation in the choral arts. Committed to musical excellence, the choir gives talented young chanters the opportunity to share the treasure of Byzantine Music with all people.
The Choir’s dedication to musical excellence and broad range of musical presentation has resulted in unique concerts even though it has only been in existence for less than a year. The following are some of the choir’s special performances:
2010 December Debut performance at Fairfield University as part of a lecture series on Orthodox Theology.
2011 January Annual Three Hierarchs Greek Letters Celebration organized by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, NYC.
2011 April Invited by the Consul General of Greece in New York, H.E. Agi Balta, to chant for the inauguration of an exhibition of paintings by George Lelekopoulos on the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
2011 May First Paschal Concert entitled “Arise, O Lord” at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, NYC.
2011 September Performed as part of an inter-religious call to prayer for a special commemoration on the 10th Anniversary of September 11th organized by St. John the Divine Cathedral in NYC.
2011 October First Washington OXI Day Foundation Doxology in commemoration of October 28th, 1941, at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Washington DC.
2011 December Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Concert entitled “ASMA KAINON (A New Song): Chant of the Greek Orthodox Church.”
2012 January Annual Three Hierarchs Greek Letters Celebration organized by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America at the Onassis Center USA in mid-town New York.
2012 March Invited to perform at the 100 year anniversary celebration from the establishment of the Panchiaki “Korais” Society of New York in St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Flushing, NY.
2012 March Invited to perform two mini-concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Byzantium and Islam Family Day celebrations.
2012 June Concert hosted at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity entitled, “We Have Seen the Light.”
2012 September Invited to perform with the St. Romanos Choir of the Archdiocese of Beirut in St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY.
2012 December Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. Concert entitled, “Glory in the Highest.”
2013 May Concert in honor of Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece entitled, “He is Risen!” at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, NYC.
2013 November First historic concert in honor of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew entitled, “Blessed are the Peacemakers” in the ancient church of Hagia Irini dating back to 381 in Constantinople for the Thronal Feast of Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle.
2014 October Chanted the historic Ground Blessing for Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Church at the World Trade Center.
2014 November Second historic concert in honor of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the first visit of Pope Francis of Rome to the Patriarchate entitled, “A Doxology of Peace” in the ancient church of Hagia Irini dating back to 381 in Constantinople for the Thronal Feast of Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle.
2015 June Concert in honor of the new church edifice of the Dormition of the Theotokos Church in Southampton, NY entitled, “All Creation Rejoices.”
2016 June Concert hosted at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity entitled, “hymns of Pentecost: A prayer for the Great and Holy Council .” This was the first joint concert of the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir and the Archdiocesan Byzantine Women’s Choir of St. Kassiani.
2016 December Concert hosted by the Church of the Resurrection in Brookville, NY entitled, “A Byzantine Christmas.” This was the second joint concert of the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir and the Archdiocesan Byzantine Women’s Choir of St. Kassiani. This concert featured the renowned multi-instrumentalist Spyros Koliavasilis.
2017 December Concert at Kaufman Music Center / Merkin Concert Hall in NYC, “A Byzantine Christmas.” Honoring His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, Celebrating his 50 Years as a Bishop. This was a joint concert of the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir and the Archdiocesan Byzantine Women’s Choir of St. Kassiani. This concert featured the renowned multi-instrumentalist Spyros Koliavasilis.
2018 September Inaugural concert at St. Veronica Catholic Church in the West Village as part of a series entitled, “Sounds of the Great Religions.” This concert concluded in honor of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center.
2019 February Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival 2019 at Symphony Space in New York City. Philip Glass, Paul Barnes, and Victoria Bond were at the Music Festival which featured three hymns sung for by the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir.
All photos by D. Panagos.