The Classical Station’s interview with Alexander Lingas for Preview!

Interview with Alexander Lingas
by Bethany Tillerson (photo credits: © Cappella Romana)

This Sunday for Preview!, Dr. Alexander Lingas, Music Director of Cappella Romana and scholar of Byzantine music, will speak with Rob Kennedy, the host of Great Sacred Music, about the history of Byzantine chant. Cappella Romana has recently released their interpretation of Robert Kyr’s composition for the All-Night Vigil recognized by most Orthodox churches. 

ROB: What were the origins of the All-Night Vigil? Which churches use it in the 21st century?

LINGAS: The origins of this All-Night Vigil go back to the Church of Jerusalem. We have testimony from the fourth and fifth centuries about how dedicated people would stay overnight in the holy sites, in between the major offices of evening and morning prayer before each Sunday, the celebration of the Resurrection. Monasteries in the area around Jerusalem kept up this tradition of doing it in one go every weekend. There are two practices. One holds a vigil every Saturday night, the practice of monastic churches and Slavic churches. The second is the urban Greek tradition of doing Matins and Vespers separately, which is continued in most Greek and Arab parishes.

ROB: Can you tell us about those early examples of church music and what they might have sounded like?

LINGAS: Cappella Romana specializes in this kind of music; we’ve recorded music from Hagia Sofia, the great cathedral built by Justinian. Chant song was one line of melody, perhaps in some cases augmented by a drone or by singing in octaves. Byzantine chant was the major sibling tradition to Gregorian chant. Byzantine chant is the chant of the new capital of New Rome, with Greek being the basic language, and that forms the underlay for all the received traditions of today’s Orthodox churches.

ROB: You mentioned setting some of the vigil by Baroque and Classical composers. It sounds like many of these pieces have never been recorded. Can you tell us what we might expect?

LINGAS: The ones by Baroque composers sound a lot like the music of Heinrich Schütz or Monteverdi. I was just listening to a recording yesterday of a Ukrainian choir singing some of them, but they just fell out of fashion. At the end of the 18th century, a style was brought in that you can still hear in many Slavic churches—essentially, the style of Mozart and Haydn, but sung a cappella. One example would be the music of Dmitri Polansky. It sounds very much like Mozart’s Vespers, but without the instruments.

Listen to the full interview at 7 PM on Sunday, February 26th! Download our app, stream online on, or turn your radio to 89.7 FM!