A Greek-Byzantine musical island inside an Italian island: the Byzantine chant of the Arbëresh of Sicily

Risultato della ricerca: Conference contribution


The Albanians (the Arbëresh) constitute the largest linguistic ethnic “minority” in Sicily. The community is made up of around 20,000 people living in 5 towns, all of which are in the province of Palermo. The most important of these villages is Piana degli Albanesi, where the Bishop (whose Greek name is Eparca) of the Diocese (the Eparchìa) of the Albanians of Sicily has is seat. The cultural identity of the Albanians of Sicily is basically expressed by the Arbëresh language and the Byzantine rite. The chant is a fundamental element of the Arbëresh-Byzantine Liturgies and Offices (Matins, Vespers, Hours). The liturgical repertoire is very wide and accompanies the entire liturgical year. The origin of the Arbëresh musical tradition traces back to the period between the end of the XV century, when - after the fall of Constantinople into the hands of the Turks in 1453 - a great exodus of Albanian and Greek populations occurred from Albania and Morea towards Sicily and other southern Italian regions. Since that time the Arbëresh-Byzantine chant has been handed down only orally: therefore in the Mediterranean area it represents one of the very few “local” Byzantine oral traditions surviving to the present day. Until few decades ago songs were sung only in Greek; translations into Arbëresh were used only recently. Musical and poetic forms still used today belong to the Byzantine hymnals. The musical system of the Sicilian-Albanian liturgical repertoire is modal and follows the Byzantine theory of oktòichos. In the musical tradition of the Arbëresh of Sicily there are also important devotional and para-liturgical repertoires. During the year, on the occasions of several holidays, ancient melodies alternate with more modern ones; Arbëresh or Sicilian dialect texts alternate with Greek or Latin compositions; signs of Eastern tradition are interwoven with western practices. The religious musical traditions (both the Byzantine-liturgical and the para-liturgical ones), along with the Arbëresh language, the Greek rite, the female costume for weddings and feasts, and the icons, represent a fundamental element of the cultural identity of the Arbëresh of Sicily.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteChurch Music and Icons: Windows to Heaven (Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Orthodox Church Music
Numero di pagine14
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2015


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