Archon Protopsaltes of the Great Church of Christ
Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas was born at Hypsomatheia of Constantinople in 1910 (or according to others, in 1907). He received his first music education from his uncle Demetrios Therapeianos. Afterwards, he was educated by Michael Chatziathanasiou, Demetrios Voutsinas, Giaggo Vasiliades, and John Palases.
He chanted in various churches of the City: at Hypsomatheia, St Menas, Divine Ascension, St Constantine, and at Galata at St Nicholas as a left cantor with John Palases at the right.
In 1939, when the Lambadarios Constantine Priggos succeeded the retired Protopsaltes Iakovos Nafpliotes, Stanitsas was called from outside as the most suitable for the post of the Lambadarios of the Great Church of Christ from the 1st of March of the same year. It must be noted that Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas, as he confessed it himself, initially found it difficult and put a lot of effort into chanting, until he learned the lessons that are chanted according to tradition in the Patriarchal Church, being invited from the outside. It is said that the ever-memorable Anastasios Michaelides, also known as «sompatzis» due to his profession, , who was First Domestikos under Nafliotes, trained him every week on the lessons that he was about to chant.
This seems to be the way things happened when previously cantors had been hired «from outside» to the Patriarchal Church. A. Voudoures (First Domestikos of the Patriarchal Church) in an article in 1937 in Orthodoxy mentions the following: «The people summoned from outside to the positions of the Protopsaltes (and the Lambadarios) of the Patriarchal Temple found great difficulty to the patriarchal psalmody, a difficulty, which they overtook with great effort, being required during their time as Protopsaltai to be directed and dragged along into chanting by the Lambadarioi and the Domestikoi of the Church, as this happened with S. Gregoriades (1866) and G. Violakes (1876) who immediately became Protopsaltai».
But, Stanitsas managed very quickly to become a worthy successor of the position of his predecessors. With his pacience, his unique talent and ability, his fame was spread to the whole City, especially with his successes to the «Σὲ ὑμνοῦμεν» (We praise you...), the Communion hymns and foremostly the «Troparion of Kassiane», which after chanting it at the Patriarchate he was called to chant it and at other Churches of the City «at the modest patriarchal command». Stanitsas was Lambadarios for 20 years opposite Constantine Priggos, and thus sucked in all his art and maestry. After a lengthy illness of his predecessor C. Priggos, in 1960, Stanitsas was promoted by the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I into Archon Protopsaltes of the Great Church of Christ. The ceremony took place on the third Sunday of the Lent of 1961. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to stay for a long time in the Patriarchal Temple as Protopsaltes, as he was expelled in 1964 due to the known Turkish government policy on the Cypriot issue, when it expellel 30.000 Greek natives living in Constantinople. Thereafter, Stanitsas came to Greece, and stayed for a year in Chios where he chanted all around the island. Then he goes for two months in Beirut, and from 1966 until his retirement in 1981 he chants in St Demetrios Acharnæ, Athens, and leaves back a tradition, while in the meanwhile, in 1967, he goes for 3 1/2 months to America. But generally, at periods, he chanted all around Greece.
Publications of T. Stanitsas
Stanitsas continued the work of Priggos and in the compositionary work and published in 1969 the «Music Triodion». Thus, he left us what he received from the Patriarchical Tradition, completing the Anastasimatarion, the Great Week, and the «Music Kypsele» of Priggos, which had already been published.
From the compositions of Stanitsas, distinctive are the two Dynamis «Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός» and «Tὸν Σταυρόν Σου», Cherubic hymns, Communion hymns, the Liturgics in first-second tone, the «Χαῖρε Νύμφη» and «Alleluia» of the Salutations and the Akatist Hymn in mode pl. I, the Canon of the Akathist hymn, and others.
From the discs of Th. Stanitsas we have
From choir performances under his direction, Stanitsas has to display the Choir of the Constantinopolitan Friends of Music for the Jubilee of Priggos, in 1962, at Peran; and the French room Union Francais, in 1963. Also, in Greece, he directed the Choir of Greek cantors in performances at the Lyric Stage (26.1.1970), at Hilton (17.4.1970), at «Parnassos» (20.10.1971 and 2.4.1972), at the theatre «Rex» (9.6.1972), the city theatre of Peraius (15.4.1973). Also in other performances, such as in the Old Parlament House, at the memorial of the Emperor Palæologos (29.5.1970), at the Archæological Society (27.1.1971), and at various feasts of the Association «New Circle of Constantinopolitans».
Besides his performances in Greece, Stanitsas takes up an ecumenical rôle and undergoes important choir performances in Europe, promoting the true Byzantine music. Hence, he visits twice London, and a third time in May 1971 by invitation taking part at the Bach festival. In 1975, he goes to Russia. He goes three times to Belgium, and in November 1979 he performs at Brussels, Gande and Louvain. He also tours around Switzerland. He finally chants in the historic moment of the handing of the «Tome of love» to the Pope, in the temple of St John Lateranus in Rome, at the presence of the Pope and the representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in 1972.
The Association of Friends of Byzantine Music has some recordings of Stanistas, for the promotion of the true Patriarchical style. Many live recordings also exist in the hands of many music lovers, as in each Divine Liturgy or Service, 5-10 recording devices were placed around his Analogion.
Stanitsas had many bright students. From those we know, we have B. Emmanuelides, former Archon Lambadarios of the Great Church, C. Demou, Fr George Tsetsis, the Great Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne and standind representantive of the Patriarchate at the WCC in Geneva, the Economos Fr John Kalamakides, the Protopresbyter Fr Gregory Nakos, A. Petrocheilos and D. Paikopoulos, his Domestiki and renowned Archcantors, George Tsaousis, the founder and chorarch of our Association, with whom Stanitsas worked lenghthy together on the lessons of his publications, Lycourgos Petrides, D. Joannides, D. Goutse, C. Zarakovites, P. Fortomas, N. Giannos, and finally his Lambadarios and successor E. Meneggas.
His students and fans also founded a musical association in Attica named «Thrasyboulos Stanitsas», and also in Sparte, where there functions a School of Byzantine Music named after him.
Stanitsas died on the 18th August, 1987. His funeral service at St Demetrios Acharnæ (24.8.1987) was attended by many cantors, clerics and a lot of people, who paid tribute to him. The funeral speech given by the Metropolitan Maximos of Stavroupolis, representative of his All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios, and scholarch of the Theological School of Chalki, mentioned that «one cedar of our music has been dried up, the mystic of the Byzantine Music of our fathers has completed the life, the many-sounded lyr has become quiet, it was bent by the weight of the unailable disease, singing and chanting almost until his last breath....».
For this was Stanitsas, for 20 years the Lambadarios of Priggos, and then the Archon Protopsaltes of the Great Church of Christ, whose name will be discussed and sang for centuries together with the great protopsaltæ of the history of Byzantine music.
original text by Protopresbyter Seraphim Farasoglou