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SEM Achievements

This page lists the achievements
SEM was able to accomplish since
its start in 1997.

SEM main achievements can be grouped in the following categories

Academic Achievements

The New Curriculum:
SEM achieved the new curriculum for teaching Byzantine Music; the revolutionary curriculum of the century in Byzantine Music.

Arabic Research Articles:
SEM published unique, research based Arabic Byzantine Music articles. The only previous similar work in Arabic was the book of Archimandrite Antoun Hibbi (in its section addressing the History of Byzantine Notation). These articles are part of a general project at SEM to encourage the Arab chanters to study Byzantine Music history and theory.

Arabic Byzantine Compositions:
SSEM composed a wide collection of Arab Byzantine Music compositions known to be very professional, developed, and meticulous.

English Byzantine Compositions:
SEM composed and recorded the Orthodox Liturgy in English. This CD proved that Byzantine Music is suitable for the English language as well. It is still considered as the best English Byzantine CD ever performed and recorded.

SEM Innovative Concerts and Recordings:
SEM composed and recorded many research subjects and innovative concepts in Byzantine Music (Pannikhis CD - research CD), Nativity Oratorio (New concept in Byzantine Concerts), Abana (New style in Byzantine Music Composition), Byzantine Syriac Compositions, etc.

Students Level:
SEM choir members are known for their distinguished level in reading Byzantine notations. This is due mainly to the level of difficulty students got used to from the scores of the chants interpreted by SEM.
On the other hand, SEM students are known for their exceptional knowledge in Byzantine Theory and History. This is lacking tremendously in the other schools of Antioch.

Choir Achievements

On the Orthodox Antiochian Level:
SEM choir became the leading choir in Antioch.

On the National Level:
SEM choir became one of the most known choirs in Lebanon, not only on the Orthodox level, but on the National level. It is considered as one of the few classical and cultural professional choirs in Lebanon.

On the Orthodox International Level:
SEM choir reached an international level of professionalism and performed in many countries like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Greece. It participated in professional festivals as well like Dimitria annual festival in Thessaloniki - Greece.

SEM developed a professional expertise in preparing and organizing concerts on an international level.

Culture of Cooperation:
Cooperation is a key factor to maximize the efficiency of any group, and SEM was aware that the current phase marks the dawn of a renaissance in Byzantine Music in Antioch, meaning that the coming generations would regard this phase as a cornerstone. Hence, SEM pulled special efforts to encourage cooperation between the different schools of Byzantine Music in Antioch. Such cooperation will encourage the next generation to follow our steps. Accordingly, SEM took the initiative of releasing a joint production with the choir of Beirut, the Pannikhis album. Then SEM engaged all its efforts in the joint recitals that were made in Beirut between the choirs of Mount Lebanon, Beirut, and Tripoli.

Institutional Achievements

SEM opened its own studio where it executes its recordings at the time that suits the chanters and at no cost. This enabled SEM to make her recordings more professional and to be able to execute any recording demands in the shortest deadlines.

Recording Expertise:
SEM developed a professional expertise in recording and editing and mastering CDs.

Achievements in Media

Image of Byzantine Music:
SEM managed to convince the audience and the media that Byzantine Music is attractive for all kind of audiences.

Media Coverage:
Each feast, SEM is omnipresent on all national TVs and on important broadcasting times. So far, no other Orthodox groups managed to reach that scope of coverage as for the duration and the timing.

Motivating other Entities to Start Media Activity:
SEM motivated other Orthodox groups to start their own programs on TV channels. For example, SEM offered MJO to broadcast a joint TV program entitled "Al Sawm Tarik Al Kiama" (Lent: the road to resurrection). SEM used all its influence to get the program properly done with Télé Lumiere TV Channel. This program motivated MJO to start its own Media group.

Assisting other Entities in Media
It is obvious that all prominent Orthodox Media programs mostly rely on Byzantine Chants, since the audience does not enjoy listening to lengthy talk shows. Given the fact that SEM has the largest number of high quality recordings and can afford executing any recording within the shortest deadlines, it has become the main supplier of all Orthodox groups working in the Media field: MJO, Jesus is the Life (RF Athanasios Chehwan), Radio Orthodoxia, etc.

Preaching Achievements

New Image of Byzantine Music in Lebanon:
SEM managed to change the image of Byzantine Music from an Orthodox heritage strictly addressing Orthodox believers, to a National cultural treasure addressing all Lebanese citizens of different backgrounds. This was mainly due to the professionalism of SEM, its new compositions and the professional organization and presentation of recitals in outstanding cultural centers.

Fans Boasting our CDs:
SEM even managed to raise its audience pride (even the non-committed audience) of acquiring its recordings. Local public figures offered our CDs to different personalities as valuable gifts, and they were encouraging their friends to listen to SEM chants at home.

Conversion of SEM Fans to Orthodoxy:
People in London were converted to Orthodoxy after listening to the English Liturgy recording. Other non Christian people converted to Christianity after attending a concert of ours, etc.

Proving the Preaching Role of Byzantine Music:
SEM was able to prove the preaching role of Byzantine Music through attracting all types of people.

Presence in major Occasions
LBCI invited SEM to participate in its anniversary, along with NDU (Notre Dame University) choir. Our choir also took part in the beatification of Fr. Jacob Al Haddad Al Kabbouchi. SEM performed in front of hundreds of thousands of people live and millions on TV. Moreover, SEM performed with a group of the best classical choirs in Lebanon, whereas it proved its high professionalism and profound spirituality.

Attracting the Youth
SEM's image and achievements contributed to raising youth eagerness to join the choir.

Spiritual Achievements

Spiritual Value of Chants:
Even non-Christian audience felt the deep spirituality of the chants we were performing each time. After some recitals, many non-Christian people ended up in tears because of an unexplainable deep feeling. Everybody felt that such performances constituted an unforgettable spiritual experience.

Active Students in parishes:
Byzantine Music attracted many students who were previously not even committed to the prayers at their parishes. After a period of study with SEM, they became skilled chanters serving their parishes and eager to constitute choirs and spread Byzantine Music.

Chanters Becoming Monks Nuns and Priests:
Five chanters from SEM became monks in Hamatoura Orthodox Monastery. Another female chanter became a nun. Many others became deacons and priests.

Meeting of all Orthodox Groups at SEM:
One of SEM major roles was that it gathered students of different backgrounds. In other circumstances, such different people would not have had the chance to meet on a weekly basis and enhance their comprehension and knowledge of the other party. This gathering opened a new consolidated network between different groups working in the church.

Relationships with other Christians:
SEM has built very strong trust relationships with other non Orthodox entities.

Achievements on the Parochial Level

Parish Choirs:
Obviously, SEM students gathered in Parishes to form choirs serving regular prayers and attracting people to Holy services. Moreover, SEM encouraged its students to teach Byzantine music in their parishes, especially for those who could not come to the school due to transportation problems. As a result, new choirs appeared in many parishes, and some of them started presenting their own recitals and recordings.

The Joint Concert of all Parishes's Choirs:
SEM organized the first Parishes' Choirs concert in Antelias. It joined around 100 chanters from the parishes. Such a concert is intended to be done on a yearly basis in order to encourage parishes to enlarge their choirs and enhance their performance.

The Isson Course:
The Isson course, tested for the first time in the 2008 summer camp, yielded excellent results. It is intended to teach, within around 3 days, people who have no musical background at all, the main principles of Isson and train them to perform its techniques. Given the fact that an acceptable ratio for Issokratima in a choir would be 2 Isson for every chanter, parish choirs would multiply the number of their chanters by 3 within 3 days. Indeed, many people who may not be interested in learning Byzantine Music because of its long learning curriculum would accept to learn Isson within 3 days only.

The US Parishes:
SEM's English Liturgy convinced many US churches to drop the Slavonic style and adopt the Byzantine style; this will enable them to have more elaborated services such as vigils. US parishes asked SEM to compose and record the main Orthodox chants in English so that the parishes would start learning the new style and be ready for the change.

Conservation Achievements

Proving that Byzantine Music Still Address the Youth:
SEM is known especially for its ability to attract the youth to Byzantine Music. By that, SEM proved that there is no need to reconsider the suitability of this music to the XXIst century believers.

Performing Ancient Styles of Byzantine Music:
SEM revived old Byzantine styles in Arabic chanting, especially prolonged versions of the Melismatic and Stachiraric styles. Such versions had almost disappeared from Arabic Byzantine chanting.

Translating the Works of Major Old Byzantine Composers:
SEM gave a special focus to translate the works of major old Byzantine Composers and revive them in Arabic during concerts or vigils.

Honoring Old Chanters:
During a concert that wasbroadcasted many times on several TVs, SEM honored Mr Elias El Murr, the son of the late Mitri El Murr, who was the first chanter in the Antiochian Chair. SEM intends to continue honoring old chanters in order to focus on their conservative works.


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