In time, there will be descriptions of all the tones and their characteristics. Until then, we will be placing up recordings of the hymns of Vespers as found at St. Anthony's Monastery (with the permission of Papa Ephraim).
The hymns will be presented in two ways: melody (melos or μέλος) or note-names (parallagē or παραλλαγή). Melody will have the hymn chanted with the words and ison as one would do in a service; Note-names will have the melodic line of the hymn chanted, but using the note names (Ni, Pa, Vou, etc.) instead of the words. This practice of "parallagē" is important for learning the note names, the relations between notes, the contour of the melody and the tone, and for learning ison. A common phrase when learning byzantine chant is: "One thousand times on note-names, once on melody" ("Χίλιες φορές παραλλαγή, μία φορά μέλος").
Throughout this page, three terms will be used for different parts of the hymns. Each hymn will have a basis note on which it starts, which is determined by the tone and style of the hymn. After the start, an imperfect ending, [I], is a place in the hymn where the sentence cannot stand alone; it is not a complete statement, but requires more to be said to seem complete. A tentative ending, [T], is a place in the hymn where a thought being expressed is complete, and you can stop the hymn without seeming unfinished; this, however, is not the end of the hymn. A perfect ending, [P], is the end of the hymn. The rules presented below for each stopping point are guidelines. The emphasis is word painting, not following rules.
For example, the first stichera of the Tone 1 Resurrectional Stichera for "Lord, I have cried":
[Start] Accept our evening prayers, O holy Lord, [I] and grant us the remission of sins; [T] for Thou alone art He Who hath shown forth [I] the Resurrection unto the world. [P]
Slow, or sticheraric, Tone 1 stichera begin on Pa. At imperfect endings, the melody often rises to Ga. At tentative and perfect endings, the melody returns to Pa. Before most perfect endings (and some tentative endings as well), the melody will rise to Dhi before the final resolution on Pa.
The arc of the melody, therefore is: Pa → Ga → Pa
In general, the ison will follow the base of the melodic sequence, although the melodic sequence is not based on tetrachords, as in Brief Tone 1. If the melody is navigating in the lower part of the melodic scale (between Pa and Ke, but hovering around Pa or Ga), the ison will be Pa. If the melody resides in the upper part of the scale (between Ga and Ni'), the ison can switch to Ga. Other notes may also be used to fit the melody (common notes would be Ni, Zo, low Dhi and low Ke, besides Unison).
NOTE: The Tone 1 verses have been included here under "Slow" melodies, since they are found in most Vespers Books after the Slow "Lord, I have cried". They are, technically, part of the heirmologic genera, however. Also, Verse #18 is chanted here according to a change in the music established through personal correspondence with Papa Ephraim (of St. Anthony's Monastery); this alteration has not yet been reflected in the digital music. Here, "-cute" becomes an ison followed by a kentēmata, rather than just an oligon.
Brief, or heirmologic, Tone 1 stichera begin on Pa. At imperfect endings, the melody often rises to Dhi. At tentative and perfect endings, the melody returns to Pa.
The arc of the melody, therefore is: Pa → Dhi → Pa
In general, the ison will follow the base of the operating tetrachord (a set of four sequential notes). If the melody is navigating in the lower tetrachord (between Pa and Dhi), the ison will be Pa. If the melody resides in the upper tetrachord (between Dhi and Ni'), the ison can switch to Dhi. Other notes may also be used to fit the melody (common notes would be Ni, and possibly Zo, besides Unison).
NOTE: The Tone 1 verses have not been included here under "Brief" melodies, since they are found in most Vespers Books after the Slow "Lord, I have cried". They are normally sung faster, however, with 1-2 notes per syllable, putting them under the heirmologic genera.