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Serbian chant, traditional liturgical singing in the Serbian Orthodox church, is an important and specific form of cultural heritage. It was created on the foundations of Byzantine Christian tradition, and has been developed over the centuries through the liturgical practice in Church Slavonic language in various historical circumstances in which the Serbian Orthodox church worked since the times of its autocephaly (A.D. 1219)

The Treasury of Serbian Chant
In the more recent history (18th-19th century) the development of the church chant has mostly been tied to the region of the Metropolitanate of Karlovci, where the central role was played by the monasteries in Fruška Gora and later by the Serbian schools founded first in the Habsburg Lands and later in the Principality then Kingdom of Serbia where church chant was a part of the regular curriculum. Most of the Serbian composers in the 19th and the first decades of the 20th centuries learnt the music basics through the church chant.

After the First World War, in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, church chant was eliminated from the state schools, and remained only on the curriculum of the Orthodox seminaries. In the atheist Yugoslavia, created after the Second World War, there was no place for the church chant. Thus by the end of the 20th century church chant was only a segment of the liturgical practice, maintained only through the oral tradition, and only in the seminaries and monasteries. In these circles music literacy was rare, manuscripts and printed chant collections were only known to a few individuals, while the production of recorded music almost did not exist, and even today has not caught up with the demand. With little awareness of what really is being given up, this part of the music heritage is easily neglected and belittled, especially during the last two decades. For some unknown reason Greek church chant known as the ‘Byzantine chant’ and its Bulgarian variant have been upheld as preferable to the Serbian chant tradition, and even declared to be the ‘Old Serbian’ chant (in a published Octoechos).

The Treasury of Serbian Chant
After publishing several editions of scores of Serbian church chant, the idea is to make accessible to the next generation audio recordings of the church chant sung by the best singers of the traditional chant. These recordings of chant, sung by the bishop of Šumadija Sava Vuković (1930-2001) were made during the 1980s and kindly made available by Dr. Nenad Ristović, for whom they were originally made. This rich collection was supplemented through the kindness of the abbess of Grnčarica monastery, mother Domnika, by all three Stases (Lamentations) on Holy Saturday, the recordings of which were made for the nuns of Grnčarica in the early 1990s.

It needs to be stressed that these are amateur recordings, made through the exceptional personal effort of the singer – bishop Sava, and later technically cleaned (digital mastering) with lots of patience and skill by Zoran Jerković.

We hope that this edition, as the first one in the series, will be not only an example of how an important part of the Serbian music heritage can be preserved, but also help to all those who want to improve their knowledge of the church chant, and an inspiration to those who have recordings of old chanters to make them accessible to the general public.

Danica Petrović
Translated by Marija Petrović