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A Perfect Example of the East-West Combination In Memoriam of Protopresbyter Ivan Moody (1964-2024)

Published on: January 25, 2024
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“Everything I write I hope is written to praise the Creator”
Protopresbyter Ivan Moody

Fr. Ivan Moody

The problem with writing something about a man who has done so much is that he’s done so much. Where does one begin without simply writing a biography or a chronology? But for those who don’t know him, perhaps something of his life is in order. So here goes…

Ivan Moody was born in London on June 11, 1964, into a “non-practicing Anglican family,” as he once put it. When asked how he found Orthodoxy, he responded, “An English teacher at school had introduced me to Greek culture, and I also came really independently, I think, to love Russian music and literature.”

He studied composition at London University and York University (where he earned his doctorate) and privately with the late Sir John Tavener. He also studied Eastern Orthodox theology at the University of Joensuu in Finland. Like Tavener, Father Ivan was drawn to the music, spirituality, and liturgy of the Orthodox Church, and that influence was to play a foundational part in his own compositions and life.

His research interests included the music of Eastern Europe, especially of the 20th century and contemporary music from Russia and the Balkans, the music of the Orthodox Church in the modern era, music and spirituality and as theology, Serbian church music, the aesthetics of modernism and postmodernism and their intersection with Orthodox church music, and the musical culture of the Mediterranean. You may find more about this in Fr Ivan’s book Modernism And Orthodox Spirituality In Contemporary Music.

Father Ivan was active as a conductor, having directed ensembles such as Voces Angelicae, the Kastalsky Chamber Choir (United Kingdom), Capilla Peña Florida (Spain), Cappella Romana (United States), the Choir of the Cathedral of St George, Novi Sad, (Serbia) the KotorArt Festival Choir (Montenegro), the Orthodox Choir of the University of Joensuu (Finland), and Ensemble Alpha (Portugal); and as a widely published musicologist. And if that wasn’t enough to make anyone tired, he was also the chairman of the International Society for Orthodox Church Music, taking an active role in a major conference they had every year.

Formerly a member of the choir of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London, under the direction of Fr. Michael Fortounatto, he served as cantor in both Greek and Bulgarian parishes in Lisbon.

If you have the impression that he was a busy man, keep in mind that this is only a handful of things he was doing. In fact, he once told me that he needed another lifetime to get everything done that he wanted to get done. Yet the seemingly short 24-hour day didn’t stop him from taking on another very important role.

In 2007 he was ordained to the diaconate and then to the priesthood the following year. I remember thinking he was crazy and was sure he was planning on working himself to death. If you’ve ever served a parish you know in any capacity you know how busy it can get. But no, of course that wasn’t the end. He was elevated to the Protopresbyter in 2012 and was made rector of the Serbian Orthodox Parish of the Transfiguration in Estoril.

I first met Father Ivan at a PSALM conference (long before he was “Father” Ivan), I can’t even remember where it was. We discovered we had a lot in common and would sit for hours chatting. Although we didn’t see each other in person very often, we’d correspond via email and lately on Facebook. During one of those chats, we talked about my choir, The Spirit of Orthodoxy Choir. Spirit of Orthodoxy had commissioned a piece of music from Fr. Ivan and had given him some guidelines to follow such as not too high, not too low, no more than four parts, etc. A daunting task. But once again he came through with flying colors with a composition based on Behold the Bridegroom, the text of which is sung during Bridegroom Matins. It was composed for us in 2006 and first performed the same year.

Although he was a very public person, often at conferences, concerts and other events, Fr. Ivan was, as someone once called him, a “secret philanthropist.” He’d often do things for people without expecting anything in return and without anyone knowing he’d done it. There are many out there who have their own personal stories of Fr. Ivan’s kindness and I’m no exception.

I love early music and had always wanted to see the Tallis Scholars in concert. The problem was that their concerts in New York were always on a Saturday evening, and being the choir director in my own parish meant I was busy on Saturday evening, so when they finally had a concert on a weekday night, I was ecstatic. There was only one problem: it was completely sold out. I mentioned that in a post on Facebook. Next thing I knew I got an electronic ticket, 5th row Orchestra and wondered why I’d gotten it. I certainly didn’t buy it, because there wasn’t anything available to buy. Then a message from Fr. Ivan popped up in my chat box: “I’ve taken care of it.” Seems he called his friend, who is the director of the Tallis Scholars, and got me a seat.

When I listen to Fr. Ivan’s music, it’s clear he was influenced by his mentor, Sir John Tavener, because their music is similar in style. Like Tavener, Father Ivan’s music blends the traditions of Christianity East and West in what I consider an almost perfect harmony (pardon the pun). Father Ivan has his Soundcloud page. At the very bottom you’ll find a piece called The Manger. This is a perfect example of the east-west combination.

Just as his music wasn’t wholly Eastern or wholly Western in nature, neither was Fr. Ivan himself. In his life, his thoughts and music, he was able to blend both traditions successfully. For me, as a Western convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, this was probably one of the reasons we got along so well.

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Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in this essay are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

About author

  • Doreen Bartholomew

    Doreen Bartholomew

    Choir Director at the Church of Our Lady of Kazan (Sea Cliff, NY)

    Doreen Bartholomew serves as the choir director at the Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Sea Cliff, NY (OCA). Her journey to Orthodoxy took root during her time in Tokyo, and she playfully notes that Japanese was her initial liturgical language. Doreen holds a degree in International Business from Empi...

    Read author's full bio and see articles by this author

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Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in the articles on this website are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

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