"Theotokos" Orthodox Choir
By the grace of God, the Theotokos Orthodox Choir, led by the Psaltis Mr. Ramzi Saad, made its debut in 2015. The choir holds its regular weekly meetings and rehearsals in the Presentation of the Theotokos to the temple Greek Orthodox Convent Church in Ashrafieh.
The choir was firstly known as “Psaltika”, until it decided, later on, to take our Holy Lady - the patron saint of the convent and the church from where the choir saw the light - as its patroness. Some of the choir intoners are committed to service in the Presentation of the Theotokos Church in Ashrafieh, while others serve across the Orthodox churches widespread all over the Dioceses. On the other hand, you may find our intoners devoted to other present and active Byzantine Orthodox choirs at the same time.
The Theotokos Orthodox Choir - the Nightingales of Byzantine Music - has taken the Nightingale as a role model for its performance and work, for this small bird resembles the choir in terms of novelty. Accordingly, the Nightingale and the choir members match with regard to mobility, the eagerness to learn and the desire to give. And just as the nightingale masters as many tunes as it can, the choir brings into play each and every melody, apparently new to some. This is but a buried treasure waiting for voices to set it free. To that we add the serene aspect of the bird that reaches the aim of the choir, seeking it through its rehearsals and performances along with sobriety and perfection.
As the choir intoners come from different backgrounds, they totally share the passion to serve the divine word and to convey the Gospel to the faithful ears through Byzantine music. Church music made its way from ears to hearts through the inquisitiveness of the intoners to learn more about the history and heritage of this music in order to revive it. Following this passion and spirituality, the choir served many church and liturgical services in different Orthodox parishes in a multitude of cities and villages scattered over the Dioceses. Moreover, the choir hosted many chanting Byzantine evenings and concerts, most notably the one which hosted one of the most renowned Byzantine music pillars in the world, Professor and Protopsaltis Theodoros Vassilikos, along with his disciple, Protopsaltis Evangelos Gkikas, which were guests on April 3rd, 2016 at the Congress Palace in Dbayeh. Both Protopsaltis sang along with the choir and its leader in one of the brightest Byzantine evenings in our region. The choir also participated in a chanting Byzantine evening with the Greek Melkite Catholic choir St. Stephanos the Melode.
In May 2018, the choir participated in the 37th edition of the International Festival of the Orthodox Church Music Festival, held annually in Bialystok-Poland, under the high patronage of H.E. the Polish President, and also gave a concert in Warsaw, the Polish Capital. The choir won a Special prize presented by the organizers and the jury of the festival for the exceptional performance of the Ecclesiastical Music, and its conductor was honoured by a special prize for the choir conducting.
In October 2018, with the blessings of Most Reverends Joseph, Metropolitan of North America and Elias, Metropolitan of Beirut and Dependencies, Fr. Joseph (Hector) Abouid, in collaboration with the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP), organized for the Theotokos Orthodox Choir to tour Texas, to give three Byzantine music concerts and to chant the divine services in three Texas parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America: St. George of Houston, Anthony of Spring, and St. George of El Paso. In the tour's last stop, the Choir’s conductor, Mr. Saad, gave on October 11th a first-of-its-kind Byzantine chant workshop at the University of Texas at El Paso, providing a rare opportunity for the students and members of the faculty to experience a music rooted in ancient practices, and understand how this music survived and now thrives in the Orthodox Church worldwide. The tour's final concert was held on campus, UTEP's Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall on Friday, October 12th, in the presence of the Reverend Basil, Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, who presided the Hierarchal Vespers and Divine Liturgy in Saint George Parish, El Paso.
Spring is a time of fruition. Spring is the enriched garden with the everlasting songs of the Nightingale. Spring is when the choir bloomed at first with the release of a CD in praise and worship of Saint Nektarios the Wonderworker, Bishop of Pentapolis, and then with another one serving the Holy Saturday service hymns, and third with a CD of the Paraklisi (Supplications) in praise and worship of Saint Dimitrios the Myrrh-Steamer; and last but not least, with the “Sun of Righteousness”, a release serving the Hymns from the Forefeast and the Royal Hours of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. We hope to strive and follow the right path as to acquire the qualities of the Nightingale, for “It is time for you to act, O Lord”, and time of glorification.
Ramzi Samir Saad
Ramzi Samir Saad was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1993.
Mr. Saad holds a Master’s Degree in Physics from the Lebanese University. From 2004 till 2011, he studied Byzantine Ecclesiastical Chant under the tutelage of Protopsaltis Mr. Mike Hourani. In 2015, he obtained a Diploma in Byzantine Ecclesiastical Music from the Institute of the Archangels in Athens, Greece under the supervision of Fr. Romanos (Joubran), and the patronage of Mr. Spyros Pavlakis. From 2012 till 2016, Mr. Ramzi served as a Chanter and Teacher in the School of Ecclesiastic Music (SEM) of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Mount Lebanon. Since 2018, Mr. Saad is studying an advanced program in Byzantine Ecclesiastical Music under the tutelage of Dr. Georgios Konstantinou, in Athens, Greece.
Mr. Saad has also served as a First Chanter in many churches of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Byblos & Botrys (Mount Lebanon). Since 2012, Mr. Saad serves as the First chanter of the Monastery of the Presentation of Our Lady to the Temple in Achrafieh-Beirut, in the Orthodox Archdiocese of Beirut and its dependencies.
In 2015, Mr. Saad founded his choir and called it "Psaltika", which later took the Theotokos as a patron saint, and the choir is now known as the Theotokos Orthodox Choir. The choir has participated in numerous concerts, performances and liturgical services on a National and International level, showing a high rate of success and professionalism.
Mr. Saad has also been honoured with a Special Prize for Choir Conducting by the Jury of the International Festival of the Orthodox Church Music, in Poland.