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Choral Corner #4: What is a prokeimenon?

A prokeimenon (Greek for "what is set forth") is a short series of Psalm verses that precedes a Scripture reading. At the Sunday Divine Liturgy, this is usually the Resurrection prokeimenon in the tone of the week. When there are two appointed Epistle readings, there are usually two prokeimena, just as there are typically two alleluias before a double Gospel reading (technically, the alleluia is a prokeimenon before the Gospel).

At the Divine Liturgy, the prokeimenon is a performed in responsorial style by the reader, who chants the verses, and the choir, which sings the verses melodically. In addition to the Liturgy, prokeimena occur at Great Vespers (even when there are no appointed Old Testament readings), and at Matins when there is a Gospel. In the Slavic churches, however, the manner of performance is different than at the Liturgy: at Great Vespers and Matins, the verses are chanted by the priest or deacon, not the reader. In the Greek practice, the reader always chants the verses.

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