In their first ever tour of the United States, the Anchiskhati Ensemble from Tbilisi, Georgia will be performing in Midtown Manhattan at SAINT PETER’S CHURCH. The program will include repertoire from Georgia's reviving medieval church chanting tradition, as well as the world famous early polyphony of various Caucasian regions within Georgia. The traditional vocal music of Georgia (the country not the state) with its mind-bending harmonics has been declared by the UNESCO to be "one of the intangible spiritual treasures of humanity." Rowdy drinking songs, war chants and love songs contrast with hymns of breathtaking spirituality. Anchiskhati is the real thing, an authentic folk group touring the US for the first time from Tblisi, Georgia. Saint Peter’s is directly above the E & 6 trains and within a few blocks of the 4, 5, N & R trains at 59th and Lexington.

The men of the Anchiskhati Ensemble come from different regions of Georgia where they have absorbed the unique singing traditions of their parents and grandparents. Singing weekly in the famous 6th century Anchiskhati Church in Tbilisi, Georgia, the group collaborates as a group of expert and passionate ethno-musicologists, who teach, hold workshops and regularly perform in Georgia and abroad.

Anchiskhati specializes in reviving the authentic tunings and arrangements of ancient Caucasian three-voiced polyphonic folk-singing. This repertoire includes brusque, mountain defying work songs, funeral laments, historical ballad songs, and love songs, and can be characterized as expressing the emotional and spiritual culture of a deeply musical people. The music features unusual, dissonant harmonies, a biting but deeply sonorous vocal timbre, and in some songs the unique Georgian yodeling known as krimanchuli.

Music from Georgia rests heavily on a strong three-part a capella tradition, but Anchiskhati will also present the diversity of Georgian folk instruments including three and four string lute-type instruments, traditional mountain bagpipes, as well as highland round dances accompanied by singing.

During Soviet times, the medieval church chanting tradition was firmly suppressed along with the Orthodox Church, but since the late 1980s, the Anchiskhati Ensemble has led a national revival of this music, sparking worldwide interest in the 9th-12th century hymnographic tradition. The ensemble has produced at least eight recordings and six publications of medieval Orthodox Christian church chanting.

The Anchiskhati Ensemble has toured in twelve countries throughout Europe and the former Soviet Republics. The US tour is sponsored by Village Harmony, Inc. based in Montpelier Vermont, an organization specializing in world music choral activities including singing workshops in South Africa, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Corsica, as well as prolific choral and tour activities within the United States. The Manhattan concert is sponsored by the Kartuli Ensemble, the first vocal ensemble outside of Georgia devoted entirely to Georgian music, in celebration of their 20th anniversary.

The men in the choir of the ANCHISKHATI Orthodox Church in Tbilisi, Georgia, play a special role in their country's preservation of its musical heritage. For almost three generations, during the Communist regime, church music was prohibited. In 1989 as the Soviet Union was disintegrating, the singers of Anchiskhati were the first to revive medieval church music in services. They sing chants that were previously unknown or available only in indecipherable manuscripts.
An ancient center of enlightenment, the Anchiskhati Church, which dates from the sixth century, is the oldest church in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.
Georgian church chanting is one of the country's chief artistic traditions and widely regarded as unique among world music's. Nothing like its polyphony, with three independent melodies juxtaposed in harmony, exists anywhere else in the world. Some musicologists believe that polyphony originated in Georgia before spreading to Europe. In any case most experts agree that polyphony was established in Georgia by about the seventh century three hundred years before it developed in Western Europe.
The church music and the folk music of Georgia are closely intertwined, and the Anchiskhati Ensemble sings them both boldly. The common roots of both kinds of music in Georgia's history lie with an ancient modal system, which predates western octaves and common practice harmonies.
The Anchiskhati singers are strongly committed to the authenticity of their singing. They gather their material from archival recordings and, whenever possible, travel to different areas of Georgia to study church music and folk songs in their many regional variations. They have also learned to play the instruments traditionally used to accompany folk singing the chonguri and panduri (both small tambura-like stringed instruments).
Although the Anchiskhati Ensemble has been singing together for the past ten years, traveling and recording as frequently as possible, their music is still relatively unknown to western ears.

The Anchiskhati Ensemble includes two folklorists, four composers, a pianist, a conductor, a mathematician, and a theologian. The leader, Malkhaz Erkvanidze and David Shughliashvili, are both folklorists, members of the Georgian Composer's Union, and teachers at the Tbilisi conservatory. Other choir members teach chanting at Tbilisi’s Theological Academy and Seminary. The choir members have recently formed a society called The Georgian Voice, dedicated to the revival and spread of Georgian music, both in Georgia and around the world.

For more information about the Anchiskhati Church Choir visit:
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Sample of their music and pictures of the Anchiskhati Church can be found at: