How were stichera sung at Valaam?


  • Jopi Harri


Although this paper deals with the historical singing practice of a single locality — Valaam Monastery — at a given time, it also seeks to answer a more general question pertaining to Orthodox church music. I am concerned with stichera — those short hymns of every Vespers and Orthros that are usually sung in chains, interpolated with psalm verses, and which make up a significant part of the changing hymnography. The question arises: How many stichera are there?

When this paper was being prepared, some investigation was made as to how many changing stichera there are in the Slavonic Octoechos, the present version of which has been in print as a text edition since the 17th century. When the hymns for tone 1 were counted, the result was 125. If it is assumed that tones 2–8 share the same number of stichera, the total becomes exactly one thousand. Now if we consider how many stichera there are outside the Octoechos, the first notion that comes to one is that the number is indefinable. This is on account of the fact that new stichera for Menaion saints are still being written. One could have counted the stichera of the Triodion and the Pentecostarion, which, like the Octoechos, are closed collections by now, but after some consideration this was deemed unnecessary. If we look at the Menaion we may see that there are some 3 to 30 stichera for each commemoration. If we conservatively assume that in some locality on each day of the year there are sung on average 6 stichera that are not found in the Octoechos, the number of such stichera is 2,190. So if we estimate that there are at least 3,200 different stichera that may be sung in a church during one year, we should be in the correct order of magnitude.

And now to the general question: To which music have all these stichera been sung? Rather than suggesting some general answer, I shall concentrate on the case of Valaam.

Conference Papers



How to Cite

Harri, Jopi. 2020. “How Were Stichera Sung at Valaam?”. Journal of the International Society for Orthodox Music 3 (January):151-84.