By the Waters of Babylon

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Russian female choir “Sirin” performs Biblical psalm #136* in ancient Russian traditional orthodox style. From the french documentary “Le Silence des anges – Terres et voix de l’Orient orthodoxe” (by Olivier Mille et Jean-François Colosimo, France – Belgique, 1999) (H/T)

By the rivers of Babylon
there we sat and wept,
remembering Zion;
on the poplars that grew there
we hung up our harps.

For it was there that they asked us,
our captors, for songs,
our oppressors, for joy.
“Sing to us,” they said,
“one of Zion’s songs.”

O how could we sing
the song of the Lord
on alien soil?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!

O let my tongue
cleave to my mouth
if I remember you not,
if I prize not Jerusalem
above all my joys!

*Psalm 137 (Greek numbering: Psalm 136)

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • John Thayer Jensen

    Just curious – I had understood that only men were allowed to sing in a Russian Orthodox church – is that true?

    Of course this isn’t in a church, and anyway you said ‘style’ – but I just wondered whether my understanding is correct.


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  • Maureen Decaire

    Women can absolutely sing in any Orthodox church I have been in.
    I am speaking mostly of Russian influenced churches – maybe things are different in the middle east
    We do have some awesome male choirs though.

  • Marion

    Thank you for posting this, it was just the moment of peaceful beauty I needed this morning. :)

  • Erica

    Wow. This is why I love listening to Ancient Faith Radio on the Internet.

  • Christian

    About 12 Thanksgivings ago my wife & spent a couple of weeks in & around Moscow for an adoption. One day we came upon a group of women turned out like this on the sidewalk, singing sacred and folk music for tips. It was about 30 below zero, and except for the fiery-red cheeks, it affected them not a bit.

    I think this is the first time I’ve heard such music since then.

  • Jeanne
    Here is a link to the choir of Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, IL chanting “By the Waters of Babylon” ……they have a CD that is lovely!! Father Thomas Loya has a radio program “Light of the East” that was available for download on itunes.

  • Jewel

    Perhaps only the men are like cantors. I love listening to Rachmaninov’s Vespers.
    But here’s a lovely version of By The Waters of Babylon by Don McLean