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“Sangen fra Katakombene”/ “Song from the Catacombs”

The world’s oldest church music is on its way back into the catacombs. Christians in the Middle East are under pressure. A new CD with SKRUK and monks from two of the world’s oldest monasteries presents stories from the retreat of the church from its earliest core areas, giving us knowledge about a unique musical world heritage.


The liturgy of St. James, the world’s oldest liturgy in unbroken tradition, is disappearing as an active practice. It is sung in Jesus’ own language, Aramaic, and is still alive in a few communities in Syria, Turkey and Lebanon.


The well-known Norwegian choir SKRUK, in cooperation with Erik Hillestad and KKV, has created a collage of authentic elements of the liturgy and narrative songs in Norwegian. The songs reproduce in part metaphors and expressions of faith from the Primitive Church, and in part they tell the story of the marginalisation and exclusion the Syrian Orthodox Church is suffering from in our time.


On the record you will hear Father Yokin Unval and other monks from the more than 1600-year old monasteries of Mor Gabriel and Mor Augin in southeast Turkey. They belong to the Syrian Orthodox Church, which today is in full retreat due hostile environments around it and massive migration to Europe and the Americas.


Under its conductor Per Oddvar Hildre, SKRUK presents songs from the Syrian Orthodox tradition, arranged by Siyavush Karimi and Henning Sommerro. They sing, for example, the Lord’s Prayer as it would have been heard from the mouth of Jesus. The Norwegian lyrics are written by Erik Hillestad. This record primarily presents vocal music, but a duduk played by Shirzad Fataliyev creates some meditative wordless episodes between the songs.


The programme will be performed for the first time under “Lyden av det hellige” [“The Sound of the Holy”]/Oslo World Music Festival, on 3 November at 5pm in Kulturkirken Jakob. The project is funded by NORAD, Digni and the Stefanus Alliance International.

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