Jahrbuch der Østerreichischen Byzantinistik. 2017, 66, 1-10
Refrains were vital to the hymnic genres which emerged in Late Antiquity: the Hebrew piyyut, the Syriac madrasha, and the Greek kontakion. This article studies the complexities of congregational participation by exploring the narrative dynamics of refrains in relation to the hymn-performance in Constantinopolitan churches. The most outstanding and influential refrain composer seems to have been Romanos the Melodist. Through a close reading of his kontakion On the Ten Virgins I (LI), this article shows how thoroughly Romanos enhances the involvement of the assembly, on both a vocal and an emotional level. At the same time, the identification of the singer with the narrator in the hymn is carefully blurred. Although many scholars have interpreted kontakia as “verse homilies”, the dynamics of the refrains contributes to a destabilization of the roles (teacher–pupils) typical in homilies.