Peter Lambadarios

The name of Peter the Peloponnesian, Lambadarios of the Great Church, constitutes a period on its own of our music. He was the great musician of the XVIIIth century, the fourth fount of music, the only rightly marvelled as an excellent music teacher and a classic writer, whose works and the simple, unpretentious, ecclesiastical music melody and tone always remain as a guide to our cantors and as a classical monument of our sacred music. He greatly beneficed the sacred art by using, instead of the old complicated musical characters, a new notation system to write down the melodies. Through this work, he simplified the notations of St John Koukkouzeles and of his teacher John of Trapezon, and explained the positions of the more ancient melodies. Peter was marvelled by his contemporaries for his excellent music understanding and immitation, as he could faithfully keep with his notation any melody even if chanted only once by somebody else. Hence, the Ottomans called him Hirsiz Peter (thief) and Hotza (teacher), because whatever they composed with great labour, by hearing it only once, he could steal it by writing it down, and after beautifying it a bit, he could give it back as a supposedly new work of his. As the connaisseurs of arab-persian music describe, by agreement they would not compose any new work without the prior permission of Peter. He is also considered a benefactor of Armenian music, as he taught the Archcantor of the Armenian Patriarchate's church at Kontoskalion, Teretzoun Hambarzoun the method of writing down melodies.

Peter was born around 1730 in the Peloponnese, and studied from his childhood by some musician hieromonk in Smyrna, and later by John of Trapezon, the Archcantor of the Great Church, in Constantinople. With him, he chanted as a second Domestikos. After the death of John of Trapezon, Peter was made Lambadarios of the Great Church, when Daniel was Protopsaltes. He retained this position until 1777, when he died from the plague that took place in the Queen of cities. He had many students (Greeks, Ottomans, and Europeans) to whom he taught our and/or the arab-persian music He also taught music together with Daniel Protopsaltes and the then Domestikos Iakovos the Peloponnesian in the patriarchal Music School, the second music school after the Fall, which was founded in 17776 when the Patriarch was Sophronios from Jerusalem.

Peter, as Lambadarios, explained in his method many lessons by ancient melodists, as for instance the great kekragaria of John Damascene, the great Eothina of John the Sweet, the great Anaxandaria of various poets, some slow Pasapnoaria of Matins, the «Ἄνωθεν οἱ Προφῆται» and other lessons of the Oikematarion and the Mathetarion. He also composed the whole series of the prescribed music lessons, namely the Short and Long Sticherarion, the Heirmologion, the Kratematarion, the Oikematarion, the Papadike, the Mathematarion and various others. He also composed two Anastasimataria (slow and fast), Heirmologion of the Katavasias, and the Doxastarion, ie the new or short Sticherarion. He wrote three series of slow Cherubic hymns, one series of shorter ones, three series of Commnion hymns for Sundays, and other Chrerubic and Communion hymns for the feasts of the Lord and of the Mother of God in the eight modes; slow, short, and shorter Eulogitaria; Polyelei, short and medium Doxologies in various modes; slow pasapnoaria of Matins, of whom three in mode pl. II; Kalophonic Heirmoi, kratemata, and various compositions sung at small and great Vespers, Vigils, Matings, at Divine Liturgies, funerals, ordinations, baptisms, weddings, the anointing service, etc. He also composed verses in the spirit and style of the Ottoman makamia.

Peter had a good reputation and enjoyed great respect by his contemporary musician, both Christians and Ottomans, due to his excellent music ability and his cleverness. This is evident by the following two historic anecdotes:
In 1770, three Ottoman musicians from Persia arrived to Constantinople bringing with them some musical composition which they wanted to first sing in front of the Sultan Hamit I on the feast of the bairami. As, however, this insulted the position of the imperial musicians and of the other musicians of the city, they asked Peter for advice as to what to do. He managed to get the song with the following trick. The dervisai of the Tekke at Peran invited the three foreigners to a dinner and divided themselves into three classes according to their ranking. The first class, after having offered the dinner to the Persians and having had a good time, requested them to sing initially some of usual songs which they accompanied with musical instruments, and then the song, which they were about to sing in front of the Sultan at the day of their feast. The request of the dervissai was granted, and Peter, who was hidden in an appropriate place, wrote down the song in his notation. Then the second and the third class of the dervissai arrived, for the pleasure of whom the song was repeated. Peter, having written down thrice the song, appeared arriving from the Tekke courtyard to the room where the symposium took place. The Dervisai rushed to welcome him, saying in turkish «the teacher is coming». After the usual introductions, the song was chanted again by the foreign musicians for the pleasure of the Roman teacher of the Dervisai. But Peter, then, claimed that the song chanted was his own composition, which was obviously disseminated by some of his students in Arabia or Persia, and who actually must have taught it to these musicians, but not faithfully and exactly. The three foreigners assured him that this song was their own composition, a product of great labour. Peter then took out his manuscript and chanted the song in question. Then, there was a serious fight between those present, in which one of the three Persians tore apart the manuscript of Peter. Another one, knowing that the Greeks have written music, understood the trick and attacked Peter trying to kill him. From this behaviour, the Dervisai caught the foreigners' hands and feet and imprisoned them. After a few days they were expelled as bastards, and thus the reputation of the Ottoman emperial musicians was saved, due to the incredible music understanding and the impressive mimicking of the great musician Peter the Peloponnesian. For this reason, the name «Hirsiz Petros» was included in the sacred list of the presence of the glorious Ottoman Sheikhs, and on the second Mausoleum that was by the inner gate of the Tekke. It should be noted that the fame of Peter reached the ears of the Sultan, who ordered that he be let to freely enter into the Palace. But he lost the respect of the Sultan due to the following incident.

One day the Sultan leaving from the Palace of Byzantium, went to the Yeni Tzami by the Palouk bazaar. After dinner, he stayed overnight in the kiosk of the mosque. Accidentally, on the same evening Peter visited the muezzin (cantor) of that mosque, and dined with him. During the dinner, Peter sung the morning prayer «selak» in a different mode than the two which were used at the time. And the muezzin, in order to take advantage of the art of Peter, setting aside every religious reason, forced the teacher to sing the «selak» from the minaret at dawn, which happened. But the Sultan heard the chanted song, and in the morning wanted to find out who made this new melody of the «selak». Being informed about the truth, he became tremendously mad and ordered two prosecutors to go to the Patriarch and inform him about the conduct of Peter the Lambadarios of the Great Church. In addition, Peter was arrested and brought in front to a religious court, where he acted as if he was insane. The judges, believing that our music teacher had got insane, ordered that he be closed in the national clinic at Egrikapi. By Sultan's order, everything was provided to him except from ink and paper. But the clever Peter found a way to heal this lack of resources, because he received paper by his visiting students from the neighbouring Egrikapi school, and from the given to him berries, he formed ink. Using these he wrote the slow pasapnoarion of Matins in mode pl. II, which is known as berry-written. On exiting the clinic as supposedly cured after 40 days, he continued his duties in the Great Church and the Palace.

At the funeral of Peter, which took place in the patriarchal church, the following incident occurred: The Dervisai from all the Tekkedes of the queen city came and asked for the permission of Patriarch Sophronios II that they might also sing their own funeral songs to the dead, as a sign of respect to the teacher. The Patriarch answered: «I also feel your great sadness, which was caused to all of us by the death of the blessed teacher. I do not say you no; but so that the Government does not get embittered, please could all of you follow us to the grave and there perform your duty towards him». The Dervisai obeyed to these words of the Patriarch, and followed in tears the dead and until the chanted trisagion and the deposition of the dead in the grave, they chanted passionately. One of them descended into to grave bringing in his hands his flute and said in Turkish: «O blessed teacher, receive this from us, your orphan students, this last gift, so that with it you might sing in the Paradise with the Angels». And deposing the flute in the hands of the dead, he came out with tears. Then the Christians, buried Peter as prescribed.

This eminent music teacher enjoyed the respect of the patriarchs Samuel (1763-1768 and 1773-1774) and Sophronios II (1774-1780), and of the Sultans Hamit I and Selim III; and was worshipped by his innumerable students.