The 15th century church of St John the Baptist in the Maddermarket, Norwich, which featured in my recent article Now the audience composes the music, served as a Greek Orthodox church between 1982 and 1990.
This Overgrown Path led me to listen again to Ivan Moody's 1998 setting of the sixth century Byzantine meditation The Akáthistos Hymn. Ivan Moody is an authority on early music and a member of the Orthodox Church. He studied privately with John Tavener (who composed his own hymn Akáthist of Thanksgiving), and his compositions have been recorded by the Hilliard Ensemble and other leading exponents of contemporary choral music.
The Akáthistos Hymn (Akáthistos Ymnos) is the best known Byzantine hymn to the Virgin Mary. Ivan Moody's version uses an English translation of the twenty-four stanza poem, and is believed to be the first complete setting since medieval times. It has been captured by the Seattle based Gothic record label, and the choir are Capella Romana (left), who specialise in Slavic and Byzantine repertoire, directed by Alexander Lingas. The performance is very fine, and the acoustics of the Agnes Flanagan Chapel in Portland, Oregon are excellent. This is an inspirational recording of a revelatory work that successfully combines early Byzantine modes with contemporary writing - well worth seeking out.
* The Akáthistos Hymn is available on Gothic Records catalogue number CD49210-2, and can be purchased from Gothic's website
* St John the Baptist, Maddermarket in Norwich is still consecrated, but is not used for regular services. It is now part of the Churches Conservation Trust which was set up to care for Church of England churches no longer needed for parish use. All their churches are architecturally or historically important with most Grade I or Grade II. Their website contains a wealth of featured churches, which include St John's.
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