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home >> Events and Announcements >> Botkin Lecture Series >> Botkin Lecture Series Archives >> 2005 Botkin Lectures >> Botkin Flyers: Erkvanidze Lecture

Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series: Texts from the Event Flyers

Collecting and Performing Traditional Song in the Republic of Georgia

presented by Malkhaz Erkvanidze, Ethnomusicologist, scholar and performer

The Anchiskhati Choir, will assist him with performance of material he and the members of his ensemble have collected.

Anchiskhati ChoirLecture/Performance

Director - Malkhaz Erkvanidze.
Ensemble: Dato Zatiashvili, Koba Beriashvili, Gocha Balavadze, Grigor Bulia, Vasil Tsetskhladze,
Zaal Tsereteli, Dato Shugliashvili, Levan Veshapidze, Mamuka Kiknadze, David Megrelidze, Gocha Giogadze

Free and open to the public
Closest Metro Stop: Capitol South (orange and blue lines), located one block south of the Madison Building main entrance

Thursday, November 17, 2005
12 noon-1:00 p.m.
James Madison Hall
1st floor, Madison Building,
Library of Congress
101 Independence, Ave., SE
Washington, DC

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or ADA@loc.go

Georgian choral polyphony is unique within world music. It consists of three main styles - chanting, singing and humming. In church chanting, three separate melodies are brought together within a modal harmonic structure, a tradition that was current in the seventh century AD, three hundred years before polyphony developed in other parts of Europe. The seven-member ensemble, Dzveli Kiloeb (Old Modes), has been developed within the Anchiskhati Choir to research and perform this ancient music.

The roots of church chanting lay in the secular music that pre-dates Christianity and survives today in the folk music of the Georgian regions. The songs and dance music relate to the circumstances of village life - the weddings, funerals, lullabies, harvest and hunting songs - and contain vocal techniques, such as Krimanchuli (a kind of yodelling), unique to Georgia. The Anchiskhati Choir researched and now perform the songs; and are expert players of the rare Georgian folk instruments.

The unique traditions of polyphonic singing in Georgia began before Christianity, but were incorporated into church worship during the early Middle Ages. Choral singing flourished in the remote mountain monasteries. The Anchiskhati Choir has researched the age-old carols and hymns that celebrated Easter, Christmas and Harvest festivals and has recorded them with a "glorious exuberance and spirituality"

The secular music is equally remarkable. These folk songs celebrate every aspect of village life - hunting, feasting, courtship, marriage, funerals and lullabies. They are performed within an unfamiliar but haunting harmonic mode, and demand exotic vocal techniques, such as Krimanchuli, a kind of yodelling, from Western Georgia.

The members of the Anchiskhati Choir come from different regions of Georgia and have absorbed the traditions of this unique musical sound world from their parents and grandparents, as well as from listening to the singing in the villages. But they are all expert musicians and passionate ethno-musicologists, who teach, hold workshops and regularly perform at the 6th Century Anchiskhati Church in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Malkhaz Erkvanidze the leader of Anchiskhati Choir since 1988, is a world authority on Georgian polyphonic choral music. He has spent his life rescuing the church hymns and prayers that were suppressed under Soviet communism. His four books of Georgian hymns have been published with CDs; and he has written many articles about the distinctive musical structure of Georgian polyphony. He leads the "Dzveli Kiloebi" or Old Modes group within the Anchiskhati choir, dedicated to preserving the authentic Georgian tuning system with the traditional singing styles. He teaches at the Tbilisi State Conservatoire, the State Seminary and the Academy of Theology; and is the consultant to the Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia the Second, on liturgical chant. He plays several stringed folk instruments, including the Chonguri, Panduri and Chuniri, to accompany the choir. With Anzor Erkomaishvili from the Rustavi Choir, Malkhaz Erqvanidze is a founder member of the International Centre for Georgian Folk Music, which now has branches and members world-wide. He is married with two children and loves playing jazz on the piano.

The Anchiskhati Church dates from the sixth century AD and is the oldest Orthodox church in Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia. Its name derives from "the sacred icon (khati) of Anchi" (a community or tribe); and it has been a centre for Georgian culture since the Middle Ages. But under Soviet communism, church music was prohibited in Georgia for three generations, but in 1989, Malkhaz Erkvanidze and members of the Anchiskhati choir researched and revived the hymns in their appropriate settings.

  • Changi a triangular harp, from the Svaneti region, which is claimed in legend to have derived directly from David's biblical harp.
  • Chiboni a bagpipe made from goatskin, from the Ajara region in Western Georgia.
  • Gudastviri a goatskin bagpipe from Racha, in the Caucasus mountains.
  • Panduri a three-stringed plucked instrument, from Eastern Georgia.
  • Chonguri a larger, three stringed plucked instrument, with a fourth fixed stringed that plays a high drone, from Western Georgia.
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   November 9, 2010
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