Being a convert to Orthodoxy can come with a great sense of loss. We leave behind our old religious traditions, and sometimes precious memories with them. I was born into the Anglican church, which has a very rich and very beautiful musical tradition, and it was sad to leave that behind. Not that there is anything wrong with listening to “Amazing Grace” or “How Great Thou Art” in my spare time- but all that music has ceased to be part of my liturgical practice, and so it has become a far less central part of my life.
Christ be with Me: Music from the Orthodox West is produced by St. Patrick Orthodox Church in the United States, which is a canonical Western Rite church under the Antiochian Orthodox Church. It contains a collection of western hymns, from the titular “Christ be with Me” to the popular Christmas favorite “God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen”. There are also elements of a typical orthodox service set to western-style music, like Mary’s Magnificat and the communion hymn “O Taste and See”. You can listen to samples and purchase the CD, whether a physical disk (US$14.95 + shipping) or a digital download(US$12.95) on their church website. Also of interest is an interview of their priest, Father Patrick Cardine, concerning the CD conducted by Ancient Faith Radio.
I find the quality of music to be excellent, surprisingly high-quality for the parish choir of a small-city church. The selection of hymns is also well-done. The album has a light Christmas theme, but unambiguously “Christmas-sy” music is only a small part of the selection. They have shied away from very famous hymns, and they are a lot of obscure songs here than frankly, deserve to be better known. Uniformly, they chose hymns whose lyrics reflect great truth and depth. I want the devotional music I listen to reflect proper Orthodox theology, and so it is important to me this is produced by a canonical Orthodox church.
I am squarely in the target market of such a CD: an Orthodox convert from a “high church” protestant tradition with an appreciation for liturgical music. But I think this is an album that can have a broad appeal among all Orthodox Christians, and anyone else interested in thoughtful, traditional Christian music.