I’m quite happy today. Someone was getting rid of their Finale 2008 software and was willing to part with it for a mere $70.00 on Amazon. I snatched it up. Despite claiming to be for both Mac and PC, It refused to install on my Macbook Pro (a laptop I’m borrowing from school) but installed beautifully on our extra PC, a used machine we picked up a while back for $80.00 so that Ian could play games while we were using our regular PC. It hasn’t seen much use since then, so I guess it’s going to be Mom’s choir computer.

(Wait, I just called myself ‘Mom.’)

I mocked up a bit of chant I wrote experimentally a few years ago and YES! the programs DOES INDEED allow me to hide time signatures. Can you believe I went through all that just for one stupid trick?

Here’s the deal. I already own Finale PrintMusic 2011. I bought it so I could re-write all the choir music that we use at church. The music (and all the notes and jottings from previous choir directors, some of whom obviously had no musical sense at all!) has been copied so many times that it’s barely readable. No one knows where it originally came from. However, since most of it is in some form of chant (non-metrical music) I needed a notation program that could create music documents with measures of varying metrical length – without showing a time signature change at every measure! Yes, Finale, the point is for my old choir ladies to become LESS CONFUSED, not more so!

PrintMusic, it turned out, could not do this for me at all. So I wasted all the money getting that level of the program, except in the sense that Ian is having fun teaching himself how to use Finale and write music.

Hopefully my big choir project can now get underway, as it seems fairly quick to simply enter pre-written music in Finale 2008. The whole thing reminds me, though, how little I actually know about Orthodox music. I wish, wish, wish, that I were actually composing, or that I could actually read the higher forms of chant. This carpatho-russian chant we do at my church is pretty stodgy.


  1. Boo.. Carpatho-Russian chant is the best! Maybe you just have a bad example…

    I’m struggling to get Finale 2011 to do Orthodox non-metrical chant (obikhod in my case), but haven’t quite got it down yet (probably because I’m not all that proficient at scoring metrical music in Finale, either.) The part I’m having trouble with is the reciting tone… normally they use a filled in whole note (or stemless quarter) with two bars on either side, but I would settle for the first and last note of the section with empty space in between (just the lyrics.) I’m thinking I could accomplish the spacing by using hidden notes.. or I could leave one quarter note visible in the center and hide the stem? I’m also assuming the only way to make this appear non-metrical is to change the beats per measure for every system, and then just hide the time sig from displaying?


    • Hi Nick, welcome,

      Yes, that is the only way to make it appear non-metrical. What’s fun is the procedure for creating unusual time signatures.

      As far as the reciting note, I never found any way to do that. The problems are 1) the lyrics tool which only allows one syllable per note 2) making a whole note equal more than four beats) and 3) making a measure with enough space in it to accommodate a lot of text but only one note.

      So I think I would use the text tool instead of the lyrics tool as it’s very versatile. As far as 2 and 3 it’s just a matter of research to see if it can be done… unfortunately I can’t do that myself as I have moved out of state and given the computer with the program on it to my sister since writing this post.

      If worst comes to worst, I think you could create several single-measure mus. documents, which automatically forces the measure to expand across the entire page, then export the mus. document to some kind of image document, then use a photo editing program to crop each measure from its image document, then paste all the measures together on a single image project. That’s why I had decided to just go with note-per-syllable.


      Obikhod… I’m glad you like it since you are working with it. I confess anything sounds better when it’s attacked with a sense of timing that doesn’t resemble a freight train and some serenity and a light touch. But the chord structures burned scars into my brain and I can’t even stand to look at the stuff anymore, much less listen to it! My current parish (of which, Thank the Lord, I am NOT the choir director) sings a lot of classical-sounding stuff which is quite lovely. But I burn for Byzantine chant.

      My reasons: In chord-based music, the melody is defined by its relationship with the triad it overlays, which constantly changes. A C can be tonic in one triad and fifth in another. Contrarily, with a melody overlaying an ison, each note is defined by its relationship to the foundational note, which doesn’t change much. This creates a sense of space – depth and height – that feels permanent rather than relative. It is literally the only way to assign meaning to a note within the song, which means it’s the only way for the music to be a true language instead of just communication. It’s fundamentally different. What’s worse, in my opinion, is that with Obikhod you have a melody that was created against an ison (because the melodies are largely borrowed from High Russian which is borrowed from Byzantine) and then someone added chords underneath it so it’s kind of bastardized. And when I hear the music, it’s like I hear the wings of the melody beating against the bars of the harmony and groaning for its lost companion, the ison. It makes me want to scream.

      I need to back up… I don’t want to presume to say that Obikhod is unOrthodox or unspiritual. I just think (I may be completely mistaken) that it has relatively low capacity to contain what I am looking for in music, which is to accurately inform my inner being how spiritual people think and feel, plus it offends some of my artistic sensibilities, which is a completely separate issue.

      On a related tack, what do you think of this list I made a few years ago? I feel that I was getting at something but couldn’t pull it together for a general conclusion.

      Some Inappropriate Uses of Feeling In Christian Worship

      Dullness, Apathy, Indifference
      Stolid, Brutish Plodding
      Turbulent Gaiety of Soul
      Sensual Sweetness
      Engulfing, Rushing Sensual Glory
      Mental Enthusiasm
      Excitement of Physical Organs
      Doubt or Placation With Reference to Doubt
      Moral Indignation
      Frantic Grief or Sorrow
      Guilt, or Misery Arising From Guilt
      Wallowing in the Evil of One’s Past
      Groveling or Self-Punishing Regret
      Hypnotically Induced Calm
      Frivolous Laughter
      Generic Jolliness or Cheer
      Passionate Relief or Gratefulness
      Insistent or Impatient Desire
      Obsessive or Relentless Preoccupation
      Drama or Display
      Intimate Testimony of Spiritual Progress – the public opening of the heart
      Hysterical Promises or Vows
      Insistent or Forceful Persuasion
      Self-Congratulatory Improvement of Morals

      Some Feelings or Moods Appropriate for Worship

      Bright or Lightsome Joy
      Deep Comprehension
      Tender Attention
      Patient, Sober Renouncement
      Steadfast Appeal
      Burning Quiet Wonder
      Sweet Harmless Sorrow
      Firm Inward Confession
      Kindly-Loving Blessing
      Glad Gentle Thanksgiving


      • Thanks for responding!

        I played around with Finale for a while last night after posting that comment, and was fairly successful at coercing it to do my bidding. For the reciting note, I just counted the syllables and included them in the time sig, and used the lyric tool, making some adjustments with the note position tool. However, I think using the note position tool in combination with the text tool may be a better strategy, and will provide the clear visual cue that it’s the reciting tone.. Although doing it the way I did it does have the small bonus of being able to hit play and hear something sort of approximating how it should sound (how it will sound when my choir and I sing it is something else altogether.)

        Obikhod.. it’s not so much that I like it, but that I’m comfortable with it now that I’ve been in the OCA for 10 years. I like some of it, I love a little bit of it, and I tolerate the rest. I was raised in the Byzantine Catholic Church (from which the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox split) so I am a bit biased toward their Prostopinije plainchant. It’s much more “chant” sounding than modern Obikhod stuff, with some ‘folky’ hints thrown in, and sounds great in one part, lending itself well to congregational singing… I’m especially partial to their paschal music, Great Russians can make anything sound like a funeral (although I’ve seen plenty of cases of Carpathians doing it too.. thankfully not a problem at my present parish or that of my childhood, because I really hate it.)

        I love Byzantine chant. I love hearing it, especially when done very well. It moves my soul and always creates a prayerful atmosphere.. I just can’t sing it, other than the “Byzantine” melody for Gladsome Light we like to use during Lent, but we still manage to make it sound more like choral music, probably due at least in part to not having the ison.) I can sing along Byzantine chant it if I’m standing right next to someone proficient in it, but I come from a slavic background and it’s just never been a regular part of my life or worship. Learning it is on my long term to do list, because I think Orthodox music should be chant (and preferably in a church with good acoustics) and generally only in one or two parts — although there are a few Bortniansky arrangements I absolutely love. (I like the ‘two-part Orthodox music’ stuff that came out of St. Tikhon’s monastery not too long ago, and agree with their reasonings:

        I also agree with your assessment of spacing in chord-based vs ison-anchored music. I think you did a good job putting to words the sense I feel when listening to one vs the other. When done with more of a “sense of chant,” a lot of the Obikhod stuff can actually become quite nice, in my opinion anyway. You are also right about your history of Obikhod and its ison.. I think I see remnants of it in the stichera melodies for some of the 8 tones, where the tenor part is essentially an ison. The problem, or my theory about it anyway, is that you really only ever see one of two extremes with choirs singing Obikhod: the full, well trained choral choir singing in 4 parts, where the ison (and the resulting sense of space) gets washed away by the chords surrounding it, or the untrained choirs (like my own) who sing the melody more or less in unison, and the “ison” tenor part gets ignored (of the two extremes, I actually prefer this one.) I’ve further theorized that if we sing the melody as we do now, plus the “ison” part, it might actually sound pretty good… although it could just as likely sound terrible, I suppose, since I’ve yet to test this theory as I’m the only male in the choir, and, while I do happen to be a tenor, I don’t really have any experience singing polyphonically, but I’m working on it. I only became choir director because our former (and original, our parish down here in Tampa, FL was established in 05) retired and I, being young, full of energy, having a modicum of talent, and being the only of our motley crew with any formal music training to speak of at all (and being a liturgical geek), was nominated by my predecessor. Thankfully I did study a bit of music theory in college and on my own, so I’m slowly growing into the role, and hoping to gradually increase our knowledge and abilities as a choir, and to expand our musical repertoire. Unfortunately, I’m exploring the wilderness largely unguided, but I love love love liturgical music so it’s a labor of love… as often as not, at least. Pray for me!

        As far as your list, I reckon it’s an enumeration on the idea that our worship is to be focused on God, the true object of our worship, rather than ourselves, who we can easily make the center of our worship instead. Reading through them reminded me of the uncomfortable awkwardness I feel attending a Protestant contemporary rock music service, versus Orthodox (or traditional western) worship. The few times I’ve attended the former, I always found myself wondering, are we worshipping God or seeking a self-centered sensationalism? Orthodox music is by no means immune to this if done in the wrong spirit, but I don’t think it lends itself to it the way the other does. I think part of the reason is inherent in our style–of both music and worship–but I think that like so many things, it goes back to doctrine, specifically our understanding that worship on earth models worship in Heaven, as revealed to us by God.

        These thoughts are where they lead me, anyway.


        • Hi, Nick,

          I wanted to wait to respond until I had a chance to read the link you sent me. Yes, I wish I had seen this when I was a choir director. I did not really have much leeway to introduce new music but I would have liked to try a few things from that website… my choir had two untrained men who struggled to sing the bass part, and no tenors so I ended up singing tenor or bass a lot while I directed. No one understood why I was doing that, but as a trained pianist I knew that in four-part harmony the middle note of the triad cannot be left unsung because that leaves the chord empty and creates an unstable sound. So I got a lot of flack for that. If I didn’t sing the missing note, people would say, “Wow the choir sounded flat today, what happened?” And if I did people would say, “Wow the choir sounded great today. But why were you singing all over the place? It really threw me off!”

          Also, all the people cared about with the music was whether it sounded the same as when they were kids. However, when they were kids the church was maybe ten times larger than it was when I was there. It was completely unrealistic, esp. since some very vocal members considered rehearsal a waste of time. In addition to this, as a female choir director I had no status or authority… I was just a tool. In regards to trying to hold a position in a church, you are fortunate in your sex!

          Eh. Negativity aside, I do love liturgical music as well. Hopefully that love and joy will carry you through and God will use you to build the choir in a way that’s fitting for your parish

          I agree, Bortniansky is tops in four-part music. ‘The Angel Cried’ at Pascha was a favorite for most of us. Prostopijne… I didn’t have much chance to learn it but the priest would sometimes sing it and I agree, it is a superior sound. Wow, I did not realize that the Carpatho-Russians split from the Byzantine Catholics! That explains so much.

          I began directing choir long before my chrismation due to the dire need in the parish (sounds a lot like your situation) so I guess from my perspective it would have been just as easy to learn Byzantine chant as it was to learn all the other stuff I was drowning in. I’m trying to learn a little Byzantine chant on my own… I can sing the Paschal Troparion just based on listening to that Divna video on youtube over and over again. It’s very likely the greatest hymn in the world, I think.

          You may be right in your theory that if you found the ison and substituted it for the three parts even the Obhikod would sound more chant like. I’m not sure because it sometimes seems that notes got pulled up or down to fit a common chord structure but I’m no musicologist so I could be off on that. I was never sure whether the ison would be the bass note or something else… it’s a whole different tonality, right? You might try singing duets until something sounds right, I suppose.

          I’m glad you found a way to make Finale work for you. It sounds like 2011 had a few more options than 2008.

          I do think that you are right about the theology of worship and its relationship to the quality of our music. In this era of relativity it’s wonderful to have so much that is permanent and eternal in our religious experience. I also would not discount culture and the fact that ancient music was far more philosophic than ours.

          In Christ


          • I know what you mean about switching around and singing different parts to fill in the sound.. I’m not a trained pianist (or really a trained musician of any sort), so I couldn’t have explained it as you did, but I have a pretty decent ear so I just fill in the note that sounds appropriate to complete the chord. When I’m not there, the people say the same thing: that it sounds flat. Thanks for explain that to me in music theory terms!

            Regarding my ison theory for Obikhod, it’s derived simply from the fact that in some of the strichera melodies (note: haven’t noticed it in the troparia melodies), the tenor part stays on the same note the entire time (except for the ending part), and the bass part too, to a lesser extent, because it does like to drop in response to the melody rising. I’m sort of guessing, but it makes sense to me that that is the evolution of an ison (although the music is written that that part actually sing the words, not just make an ison).

            Yep, the Carpatho-Russians came from Byzantine Catholics! Of course, the Byzantine Catholics themselves were originally Orthodox, until 1626 when they became an autonomous (sui juris) Catholic Church, for largely political reasons, with the Union of Uzhorod–very much like the creation of the Ukrainian Catholic Church with the Union of Brest 30 years prior.

            ACROD (American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese) was actually the second wave of Byzantine Catholics to leave the Papal Unia for Orthodoxy in America.. The first was led by St. Alexis Toth, one of the first few Byzantine Catholic priests in America, sent from the old world. The Byzantine Catholics had no heirarchs in America at that time (1890s) so we paid a visit to the local Roman ordinary, Bp. John Ireland in Minneapolis, who was quite hostile toward him for being a widower priest, even calling him “not a real priest” for having been married. Several other priests had similar experiences and under St. Alexis’ leadership, 20,000 Eastern-Rite Catholic faithful joined the Russian Orthodox Church (by 1917, eastern Catholic 163 parishes accounting for 100,000 people had done the same) in what would later become the OCA. The Carpatho-Russians played no insignificant role in the building of the OCA, which was shown in the Metropolia’s former name, before autocephaly: The Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America.

            By the 30s, many of those who remained in the Catholic union were getting very upset with the “Latinization” that was happening within their churches.. they had lost their right to ordinate married men to the priesthood, and now even liturgics, art, and architecture were being latinized to match the Roman Catholic culture, from forces within and without. (Since JP2 they’ve seen a revitalization of their Eastern-ness.) Thus, another group decided to leave for Orthodoxy, but the primary reason they didn’t join the Russian Church was to preserve their unique music and culture. The Russians had insisted that St. Alexis’ converts be Russified, hence very little Carpatho-Russian music exists in the OCA still (and most of what is left is poor.) So they petitioned the Ecumenical Patriarch to start their own autonomous diocese, and that’s what happened! By this time American Orthodoxy was already the post-Revolution jurisdictional mess we have today, so one more small jurisdiction wouldn’t really matter..

            Regarding the Prostopinije, it descends from the znammeny chant from which I believe Obikhod does as well, at least in some fashion. I think znammeny is itself a derivative of Byzantine chant. A careful observer will also notice slight differences in the prostopinije used by the Orthodox and the Catholics in America. This is due not just to separated use over time, but also minor old world differences– the Orthodox tend to use the melodies used the old-world Mukačevo (Ukraine) diocese, while the Catholics tend to follow the usage of the Diocese of Prešov (Slovakia). There are no ACROD parishes where I live, which is why I joined the OCA. I spent a week some years ago at the ACROD seminary and discovered just how familiar, yet slightly different the melodies are. Also Carpatho-Russians have a huge repertoire of “para-liturgical” hymns (A New Commandment, etc) from their pilgrimage culture.. it was funny to me to hear some with the exact same melodies of hymns I grew up with as a Catholic, but completely different words in English. I assume this is because the translations into English from Rusyn happened much later (the 70s, I believe.)

            Ugh.. sorry for my verbosity. This is just a subject I spent a lot of time learning about as I was myself contemplating and then walking the path St. Alexis forged a century prior, and you seem at least a little interested.

            I’m also sorry that your being female had a negative impact on your being choir director. My Byzantine Catholic parish had no choir, just a very good male cantor, but my first OCA parish had a female choir director, and the previous choir director at my current parish was female. All were respected. I think sometimes you just have to put your foot down and kindly remind people who is in charge of music (after the pastor.) This comes naturally to my personality, for better or worse. Regardless, while its my prerogative to introduce new music and the pastor supports me, my choir is stubborn and HATES it. They, too, are reluctant to rehearse. I have no idea if I’ll be able to mold them into something like what I have in mind or not. It can be frustrating and make one want to just give up and accept the status quo.

            God bless.


            • I’m always interested in Church history. St. Alexis Toth is not someone I had heard of before… one comes upon so few American saints, you’d think I would have. The history you’ve spelled out here is a sort of meta-narrative to the history of my former parish, much of which I didn’t understand. Once I put an add in the newspaper for them, stating that a cookie walk would be held at (Parish Name) Bulgarian Orthodox Church, because I understood that we were under the Bulgarian diocese. I received a very gentle scolding for this from an older lady who said I should have crammed in “Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic” and left out the “Bulgarian.” So I guess these fragments of past identities were so important to them. To me it was huge just being Orthodox!

              Another time I kept trying to explain during a rehearsal why it was appropriate to do something a certain way. Having read a book on the subject, I would begin, “In the history of Russian Orthodox music…” and a lady kept interrupting and saying, “What KIND of Russian Orthodox?” Finally she became so angry I had to ask her to leave. I just couldn’t see the point – precedent is precedent and Orthodox is Orthodox. But I think I understand now. They didn’t want to become any less Carpatho-Russian than they already were. Meanwhile, I wanted to absorb their Orthodoxy but not their Carpatho-Russian-ness (why should I? I wasn’t an immigrant.) The funny thing, the only people who cared about this were the choir members and a couple or three others. The congregation by and large just wanted singable melodies in English, with enough variation from Sunday to Sunday to not get bored.

              It’s a good thing your pastor supports you. You at least have something to work with there. On the occasions that my priest gave me new music to introduce into the choir, it was completely different. I simply sang it solo for a few Sundays, and then the rest started joining in. Sometimes the harmonies they made up were more pleasant than the written ones. I once introduced a two-part communion hymn and almost right away they added in parts.

              It’s funny you mention ‘A New Commandment’ and that it was originally Catholic. I had a deep aversion to it as soon as I heard it. I never allowed the choir to sing it if I could help it. Then one day a bride requested it for her wedding recessional and I pretty much had to. So we messed around with it trying to make it sound halfway decent and eventually came up with the idea to sing it about four times more slowly than before. It still wasn’t my favorite but at least we got through it without sounding like we were around a campfire.

              I did love a setting of “What Shall I Render To The Lord” – it’s from one of the Psalms but I forget already which one, and who wrote the music.

              I always wanted to have a Choir Day maybe four times a year to try to increase the choir’s esprit d’ corp and smuggle in some rehearsing as well. I didn’t get support for this from the priest, so it never happened. But I thought a meal in the hall and a couple of different classes – maybe basic note-reading, a short history of Orthodox music, some vocal exercises, a little theology of worship… and especially a chance to play some recorded music for them so that they could be inspired to greater efforts. I think only two choir members ever listened to classical music and none of them listened to Orthodox music. How could they know the abysmal chasm between what I was hearing and what I wanted to hear? But perhaps they simply felt, This is our Carpatho-Russian way and it’s good enough for us.

              Well, I really do hope you can make some progress. It’s good you know how to put your foot down but I do think that comes more naturally to men than women (most of the time.) I did not have that at all. When I tried it, it came off mean. Ugh. So, you do have a few things going for you but the most important thing is to keep the relationships strong and in order so that you retain hope for future improvement.

              God bless you, too.


  2. Dear Madam,

    I have just discovered your excellent ‘blog via Fr Freeman’s “Glory to God”.
    Forgive me for adding to an old discussion, but I was prompted by your writing:
    “I’m trying to learn a little Byzantine chant on my own… I can sing the Paschal Troparion just based on listening to that Divna video on youtube”.

    I am also trying to learn Byzantine Chant, and I have found the videos by Nicholas Jones to be particularly useful. They seem to be recordings of workshops he runs for his choir. The first one can be found at

    I hope they may be of benefit to you too.

    With warm regards,


      • Goodness gracious! That was my comment!

        How has it gone with chant for you, Alana?

        As for me, eight years on, I am now the de facto cantor of my parish! Interestingly, we have had our share of troubles, particularly a clash between my generation, who want traditional Byzantine chant, and the older folk who want the Westernised Greek chant of their era (Which to my ear sounds Italian in style).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hey there, Yannis. Good for you, I’m glad to hear that. It is interesting how the younger generations longs for substance, beauty, and tradition; while the oldsters just want to relive their childhoods, which in their case were rather revolutionary! I had a similar experience as choir director. Sadly, I never got any training in proper chant, and the priest was not on my side. I’m not longer a choir director. So I’m just as ignorant as ever, and I don’t sing much any more. It’s a huge hole in my life – not having sacred songs to sing around the house, to pass on to my children. I’ve been Orthodox for years, but I feel I’m still standing in the outside looking in, inches from the glorious liturgical feast my soul longs for, but never able to touch it.


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