To connoisseurs, the Christian music of the East is an endless occasion for wonderment. The area has preserved archaic melodic forms especially well, and studying them causes one an unsettling return to the origins. Marie Keyrouz’s music is just such an occasion for the revelation of origins. Born in a space of interferences (Deir el Ahmar, Lebanon), raised inside the Maronite Church (one of the most ancient of the Eastern churches, descended from the Church of Antioch), and appertaining at present to the Melkite Greek Catholic congregation by virtue of her monastic vocation, Sister Marie Keyrouz is the holder of a twofold PhD degree in musicology and religious anthropology from Sorbonne University (1991), as well as the Founding President of The National Institute of Sacred Music in Paris.
Conversant with ancient musical manuscripts as well as with Eastern liturgical dialects (Arab, Greek and Syriac), Marie Keyrouz covers a large interpretative area: from Maronite, Byzantine and Melkite chants to Syrian catholic and orthodox music. More recently, she has devoted herself (with equal passion) to the sacred tradition of the Christian West (Gregorian and Ambrosian chants, cultic religious airs).
In Lebanon, the condition of the Christian verges on that of the confessor (or the martyr). Religious warfare has made many victims here. Perhaps for this reason, Marie Keyrouz founded (as early as 1984) a meaningful Ensemble of Peace, composed of professional musicians who accompany themselves with traditional instruments. A distinguishing trait of this ensemble is its “ecumenical” makeup: its members belong to the multifarious religious traditions of the Middle East. What brings these people together is their passion for sacred music and their belief in its pacifying message.
Among the appellations given to Marie Keyrouz has been that of “ecumenical voice” for the Christian East, not only because of the repertoire of her performances but also, and especially, because of the authenticity of her interpretation. Marie Keyrouz inhabits each tradition in a manner that evinces it in the most suitable light, and the universality of the Christian message receives numerous nuances, depending on the type of vocal emission specific to the given context, be it Syriac, Byzantine Greek, Arab, or Latin.
A performance of sacred music can leave no one indifferent. Laymen, atheists or agnostics all throb with the mystic chords of this music. Moreover, Marie Keyrouz is the typical figure of an illuminate, and with each concert she “solemnizes” a genuine “liturgy of the peace.” The revelation of the liturgical origins of Christianity comes as an unadulterated “shock” (LA CROIX) for a Western world more or less “opaque” to its own traditions. The pledge of this music is a recuperation of origins and its message is one of understanding and love.
Christianity has often been reproached for an insufficient valorisation of women. However, such people overlook the fact that in the Church the woman is highly favoured, the Lord is with [her] (Luke 1:28), therefore her solemnization is an “apophatic” one, which is to say beyond any indifferent naming. The churches would be truly “empty” without the secret solemnization of the woman. In the Church, the woman serves by means of her simple presence. This is why Marie Keyrouz serves so convincingly and so fully, by means of her charismatic presence and of her voice “descended from the Heavens” (TELERAMA). Her music is a heart-rending Stabat Mater, equally archaic and actual, seemingly reiterating the drama of the Christian East, the drama of the Cross…
Alexandru Valentin CRĂCIUN
I especially thank Sister Marie Keyrouz for her generous consent that she gave me to publish these lines in Lumea Credinţei [The World of Faith] magazine. May the message of her music also reach the heart of Orthodox Romania!
Nota bene: varianta în limba engleză a articolului „Revelaţia originilor: Sora Marie Keyrouz”, apărut în revista Lumea Credinţei în luna august 2008 se datorează d-nei prof. Mirela Adăscăliţei, căreia îi mulţumesc şi pe această cale.