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17 January 2014

Heruvicul lui / Cherubic Hymn (Ioan Zmeu)

Carii pe heruvimi cu taină închipuim,
Şi făcătoarei de viaţă Treimi întreit-sfântă cântare aducem,
Acum toată grija cea lumească să o lepădăm,
Ca pe Împăratul tuturor, să primim,
Pe Cel înconjurat în chip nevăzut de cetele îngereşti.
We, who in a mystic way represent the Cheubim
And sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity,
Let us now lay aside all earthly care
So that we may welcome the King of All,
Who comes escorted by invisible angelic hosts.
Ioan Zmeu was a great 19th century chanter, composer, and professor of Romanian Orthodox music. He was born January 30, 1860, in Botoşani where he studied with his father Emanoil Zmeu at the School of Church Music. He completed his studies in Constantinople and Jerusalem. He served as protopsalt (head chanter) and professor of vocal music at the the School for Church Singers in Rimnicu Vilcea (1882-1886), the great monastery of Curtea de Argeş (1886-1894), and from friom 1894 to 1901 at the Metropolitanate (subsequently as of 1922, the Patriarchate) in Bucharest. He returned to Curtea de Argeş and spent the last twenty-one years of his life there dying on April 28, 1922 at the age of sixty-two.

Zmeu was one of the greatest composers of Romanian Byzantine chant in the 19th and early 20th centuries with numerous compositions and editions of books of chant to his credit. There was an explosion of interest in chant in Romania beginning in the early 19th century with the printing and composing activities of such great names as Anton Pann and Dimitrie Suceveanu, and Zmeu is one of the outstanding figures of the era.

Unlike composers in the Latin Church, Romanian composers continued to compose liturgical chants well into the 20th century. The last major plain chant masses in the Gregorian tradition in the West were composed during the French Baroque period by Henri Dumont (1610-1684) and Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) and remained in the repertorie of some French parishes into the early 20th century.

This Heruvic or Cherbuic Hymn is among the greatest of Zmeu's compositions. The Cherubic hymn accompanies the preparation of the eucharistic gifts for the Great Entrance of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy. Since the ritual and prayers invoved may be quite lengthy, Cherubic Hymns may last as long as ten minutes and more. The length of time required by the liturgical action make the Cherubic Hymn the longest piece of music by far in the Divine Liturgy allowing composers ample scope for their art.

The Heruvic is sung by the group Psalmodia under the direction of Dr. Archdeacon Sebastian Barbu-Bucur (b. Feburary 6, 1930).

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