The Fifteenth Antiphon at the Matins of Holy Friday (12 Gospels) is a highly dramatic moment in the Graeco-Middle Eastern liturgical tradition. The lights in the church are extinguished ("It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour..." Lk. 23:44) as the clergy process carrying an icon of Christ's body, which they then proceed to nail physically upon the cross in the middle of the church. The first time this Russian-raised Orthodox witnessed this liturgical ritual as practiced in the Antiochian tradition, it was incredibly powerful, and continues to be so, year after year.
Musically, the Russian tradition of the last few centuries has not singled out the Fifteenth Antiphon in any special way--the text "Today He who hung the earth" is sung simply to common Tone 6. Recognizing this anomaly, Sergei Zosimovich Trubachov (also spelled Trubachev, but pronounced TrubaCHOV) (1919-1995) composed two different settings of this text--the first, a stark unison version, and the second--a four-part harmonization for men's voices of the unison melody. This setting became a repertoire standard at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, with which Trubachov had a long and fruitful musical collaboration (dating from 1980, when he retired from his secular musical career and a conductor and pedagogue), and where he was ordained to the deaconate in the last two months of his life. Though musically uncomplicated, this setting finds the proper measure of expressiveness that highlights, in a liturgically appropriate manner, this powerful and prayerful text.
In 2003, on their first CD, "With the Voice of the Archangel," Archangel Voices recorded a two-part arrangement of Trubachov's melody, which I adapted into English and arranged as a duet for Fr. Sergius Halvorsen and myself. On the "Lamentations" CD it seemed fitting to revisit this same setting, now in its 4-part incarnation, rearranged for mixed voices.