Two Vespers Hymns

1. O Gladsome Light (Phos Hilaron)
2. Song of Simeon (Nunc dimittis)

SATB Choir (min. div) a cappella

Recording credit: Choir of the 2008 International Festival of Orthodox Liturgical Music at Joensuu University, conducted by Father Ivan Moody..

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1. O Gladsome Light (Phos Hilaron)

O Gladsome Light of the holy glory
of the Immortal Father,
heavenly, holy, blessed Jesus Christ.
Now that we have come to the setting of the sun
and behold the light of evening.
We praise God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
For meet it is at all times to worship Thee
with voices of praise,
O Son of God and Giver of Life,
therefore all the world glorifies Thee.
                              – Ancient Christian Hymn, Author unknown


2. Song of Simeon (Nunc dimittis)

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word,
For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation,
Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples:
A light to enlighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people, Israel.
Luke 2: 29–32



After a wonderful concert concert in Seattle given by the choral group, Cappella Romana, and guest-conducted by the esteemed and prolific Orthodox composer, conductor, and priest Father Ivan Moody (of blessed memory), Father Ivan and I and a mutual Orthodox friend were enjoying a post-concert meal, during which Fr. Ivan asked me if I had ever composed any music for the Orthodox Church services, to which I replied, “No.” And his response was something to the effect of, “Why not? You’re Orthodox, and you’re a composer, so it seems appropriate for you to be composing music for the Church.” To which I replied, “Well, frankly, no one has ever asked me to compose msuci for the Church, and I thought it presumptious for me to just spontaneously write something of my own accord. I have always felt that I should compose something only if I am called to do so.” And Father Ivan, always gracious, generous in spirit, and straight to the point said, “Then I’m asking you to compose something for the Church.”

Needless to say, I was thrilled to be asked by someone of Fr. Ivan’s reputation and stature within the compositional world in general and in Orthodox Church music specifically to compose something for the Chuirch, so I immediately and gladly accepted. As it turned out, he was in the process of looking for some music for a festival of liturgical music to celebreate the Jubilee for the 90th Anniversary of Orthodox Theological Education in Finland and the 20th Anniversary of Orthodox Theological Education at Joensuu University, where he had studied Eastern Orthodox Theology and later was Professor of Church Music in the Department of Orthodox Theology. Accordingly, he invited me to compose two hymns for the Vespers service that was to be part of the festival, and the two hymns in this collection were premiered at the 2008 International Festival of Orthodox Liturgical Music in Joensuu, Finland with Father Ivan Moody conducting.

After the premiere, our paths crossed several times when Father Ivan would be in Seattle to guest conduct Cappella Romana, and I always found him to be kind, humble, and supportive, both musically and spiritually. Then, in January of 2024, I was heartbroken to hear that Fr. Ivan had died at the all-too-young age of 59. Even at such a young age, he had left an indelible stamp on the compositional world through his melding of Orthodox and classical musical styles and on the hearts and minds of everyone who knew him. He is profoundly missed. May his memory be eternal!

Notes by John Muehleisen