(b Litochoros, Olympus, ?1853; d Athens, Dec 15, 1938). Greek cantor, teacher and composer. He received his first musical training from his father, a priest, who sent him to secondary school in Thessaloniki, where he also took private tuition in chant and Arabo-Persian music. After enrolling at the University of Athens, he secured his first cantorial position and embarked on the study of Western music theory at the recently founded Athens conservatory. He was soon to regard the received tradition of Byzantine chanting as rife with Turkish influence, judging its melismatic repertories to be formless and disdaining its performing practice, which he described as rhinophōnia (‘nasal singing’). Following this aesthetic reorientation, he was to devote his life primarily to the reformation of Byzantine chant along Western lines, advocating Westernized vocal technique, equal-tempered tuning, congregational singing and the introduction of simple harmonies, justifying the latter by dubious references to ancient texts. Bitterly opposed by traditionalists, he promoted his reforms while occupying a series of influential teaching and cantorial posts in Athens. In 1903 he visited Munich with his family to perform and lecture on Greek music. His teaching of the received chant tradition to H.J.W. Tillyard in 1904 decisively influenced Western study of Byzantine music.
As part of his reforming activities Sakellarides proffered a ‘purified’ post-Byzantine repertory in which most melismatic chants were radically simplified or eliminated, and less florid melodies were recast according to his classicizing rhythmic and metrical theories. His first collection of reformed chants, Chrēstomatheia ekklēsiastikēs mousikēs, was published in Byzantine neumes in Athens in 1880. Further publications in both neumatic and staff notation followed over the next 50 years, including Oktōēchos (1883), Asmata ekklēsiastika (1884–7), Hagiopolitēs (1905), Hiera hymnōdia (1902, 2/1914, 3/1923) and Hymnoi kai ōdai en harmonikē triphōnoi symphōnia (1930). He also composed patriotic songs, wrote music for three ancient dramas (including the Antigone of Sophocles, 1896) and made a controversial transcription of a medieval Byzantine acclamation. Although his reformed chant fell out of favour in late 20th-century Greece, it remains popular in the Greek diaspora and forms the basis for most Greek-American polyphony.
- H.J.W. Tillyard: ‘The Rediscovery of Byzantine Music’, Essays Presented to Egon Wellesz, ed. J. Westrup (Oxford, 1966), 3–6
- F. Desby: The Modes and Tunings in Neo-Byzantine Chant (diss., U. of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1974)
- K.D. Kalokyrēs: Ho mousourgos Iōannēs Th. Sakellaridēs kai hē byzantinē mousikē [The composer Joannes Th. Sakellarides and Byzantine music] (Thessaloniki, 1988)
- G. Philopoulos: Eisagōgē stēn hellēnikē polyphōnikē ekklēsiastikē mousikē [Introduction to Greek polyphonic ecclesiastical music] (Athens, 1990)
- A. Lingas: ‘Performance Practice and the Politics of Transcribing Byzantine Chant’, Le chant byzantin: Royaumont 1996
- K. Romanou: Ethnikēs mousikēs periēgēsis 1901–1912: hellēnika mousika periodika hōs pēgē ereunas tēs historias tēs neoellēnikēs mousikēs [A journey in national music, 1901–12: Greek music periodicals as a research source for the history of modern Greek music] (Athens, 1996)
- A. Lingas: ‘Sakellarides, John’, Encylopedia of Greece and the Hellenic Tradition, ed. G. Speake (London, 2000)