Iveria: Folk Songs and Hymns from the Republic of Georgia

Georgian choral singing goes back a thousand years and more. Style, sound and structure vary from region to region and even from valley to valley in the mountains of the Caucasus. Georgia adopted Christianity in the fourth century, and independently developed a polyphonic singing style that was incorporated into the liturgy and taught in singing schools. Orthodox priests from Constantinople, visiting Georgia in the seventh century, are said to have been amazed by the Georgians singing their hymns in three part harmony. Georgia has been both a trade route and a battleground between Christian Europe and Muslim Asia, both of which have left echoes in Georgia’s distinctive singing tradition. Even today, local choruses and choral competitions are an integral part of Georgian life.

Here are some of the things that we appreciate and hope you will enjoy in these songs. This music stretches the ear. The neutral vowels and spare chords, often fourths and open fifths, allow the overtone harmonies to be heard. It is part of a tradition different from ours in the West, but it is lovely enough to create its own surprising familiarity. This music conveys emotions—love, sorrow, hatred, humor, hospitality—with freshness and power. Georgian songs have an uncanny ability to get themselves into stark, strange near-dissonance, and then resolve themselves into hauntingly gorgeous harmony which seems both absolutely unexpected and absolutely inevitable: the mountain path, the craggy precipice, the wind, the storm, the battle, and suddenly, around a turn, the most exquisite blossom.

Size: 3-6 performers

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