Its performances “like jeweled light flooding the space” (Los Angeles Times), Cappella Romana is a vocal chamber ensemble dedicated to combining passion with scholarship in its exploration of the musical traditions of the Christian East and West, with emphasis on early and contemporary music. Founded in 1991, Cappella Romana’s name refers to the medieval Greek concept of the Roman oikoumene (inhabited world), which embraced Rome and Western Europe, as well as the Byzantine Empire of Constantinople ("New Rome") and its Slavic commonwealth. Each program in some way reflects the musical, cultural and spiritual heritage of this ecumenical vision.
Flexible in size according to the demands of the repertory, Cappella Romana is one of the Pacific Northwest’s few professional chamber vocal ensembles. It has a special commitment to mastering the Slavic and Byzantine repertories in their original languages, thereby making accessible to the general public two great musical traditions that are little known in the West. Leading scholars have supplied the group with their latest discoveries, while its music director has prepared a number of the ensemble’s performing editions from original sources. In the field of contemporary music, Cappella Romana has taken a leading role in bringing to West Coast audiences the works of such European composers as Michael Adamis, Ivan Moody, Arvo Pärt, and John Tavener, as well as promoting the work of North Americans such as Fr. Sergei Glagolev, Christos Hatzis, Peter Michaelides, and Tikey Zes.
The ensemble presents annual concert series in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Critics have consistently praised these for their unusual and innovative programming, including numerous world and American premieres. The group has also frequently collaborated with such artists as conductor Paul Hillier, chant specialist Ioannis Arvanitis, and composer Ivan Moody.
Cappella Romana tours regularly and made its European début in March 2004 at the Byzantine Festival in London with concerts at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sophia. The Metropolitan Museum of Art presented the ensemble in its New York début for the exhibit “Byzantium: Faith and Power 1261–1557” in April 2004, which included the release of a CD of primarily live performances by Cappella Romana, Music of Byzantium, to accompany the exhibit. The ensemble has appeared in the Indiana Early Music Festival, the Early Music Society of the Islands (Victoria, BC, Canada), and the Bloomington Early Music Festival. The J. Paul Getty Museum recently presented Cappella Romana in the context of its exhibition, “Byzantium and the West,” and will again for its exhibit “Sinai” in 2006. The ensemble recently toured Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, hosted by the University of Limerick and the Byzantine Studies Center of the Queen’s University in Belfast, and presented concerts of Medieval Byzantine chant at the Grottaferrata Monastery near Rome and at the International Congress of Byzantine Choirs in Palermo, Sicily.
Cappella Romana has recorded eight compact discs: Tikey Zes Choral Works and When Augustus Reigned (Gagliano Records); The Akáthistos Hymn by Ivan Moody, Epiphany: Medieval Byzantine Chant, and Gothic Pipes: The Earliest Organ Music (Gothic); Music of Byzantium (in cooperation with the Metropolitan Museum of Art selling over 11,000 copies); Lay Aside All Earthly Cares: Music by Fr. Sergei Glagolev and The Fall of Constantinople (CR Records).
Forthcoming recordings include the Fall of Constantinople, the Byzantine Divine Liturgy in English, the Divine Liturgy set by Peter Michaelides, and 15th-century music of Cyprus.