v To learn about the origin and history of Coptic music
v To appreciate the treasure preserved in our church.
“Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the assembly of the saints” (Psalm 149:1).
“The Ancient Music of the Coptic Church,”
by Ernest Newlandsmith,
v “Christmas 1995 Newspaper Article”
“Third Meeting for Coptic Music,”
“Preserving Pharos Psalms For Christ,” by
“Introduction to Coptic Music,” by
Hossam Adeeb Nashed,
v “The Coptic Liturgy Text (according to St. Basil)”
“Painting with scales,” by Hossam Adeeb
For centuries, Coptic music scholars and many archeologists tried to understand the roots of Coptic Hymns. They agreed that there may have been three influencing sources: Jews, Greeks and Ancient Egyptians.
Jews played a big role in the spread of Christianity, since the Old Testament and many rituals originated from them.
Ancient Egyptian music greatly influenced that of the early Church. There seems to be a relationship between the Coptic Kyrie and the ancient Egyptian tradition of sun worship. Furthermore, the Antiphonal singing system was used between groups of priests and priestesses. Ancient Egyptian music was also characterized by the melismata (singing many notes over one of the seven vowels, which were called “Magic Vowels,” giving an immense feeling of piety and humility in religious occasions). Ancient Egyptians also used professional blind singers and some percussion instruments during worship. Scholars have noticed many similarities between Egyptian village folklore and Coptic music.
Coptic music has evolved through three different stages:
the reign of the
After the Council of Chalcedon, the Church was divided. The Copts cut contact with all other churches, except the Syrian church, in order to keep their Orthodox faith uncontaminated. This, although unpredictable, had a very positive influence on preserving the ancient musical heritage.
Egyptian ability of preserving and maintaining their culture could be seen
after the Arab invasion of
Because the clergy were not professional singers, the Church decided to use talented singers (usually blind). The German archeologist Hans Hickmann proved that those cantors still move their hands and fingers systematically (Cheironomy) with the music, as their ancestors did when conducting music in the Fourth Dynasty (2723-2563 BC). These cantors played a big role in transferring this heritage to us with great precision! They considered it a precious treasure to be kept for future generations.
the time of H. H. Pope Kyrellos, Father of Reformation (1854-1863 AD), the
senior Cantor at the Great St. Mark’s Cathedral in
In 1927, in an effort to preserve Coptic music heritage, a young man named Ragheb Moftah invited the famous British Musician Ernst Newlandsmith, who transcribed 16 volumes of Coptic hymns to modern musical notation in 9 years. He also taped Coptic hymns sung by Moalem Mikhail and several others. By doing that, Dr. Ragheb Moftah inaugurated the new age of Coptic Music. These records are considered to be the world’s most precise, upon which most studies are conducted by scholars such as Hans Hickmann, the Hungarian ladies Ilona Borsai and Margerit Toth, and the Americans Martha Roy and Marian Robertson.
Several theses have now been written on Coptic Music:
v Master Thesis-1975 on Coptic Music Bibliography by Salwa El-Shawan
v Master Thesis-1976 by Nabil Kamal Boutros
The first Ph.D.-1986 by Nabila Erian in
In 1989, the Coptic Encyclopaedia was compiled by
the efforts of Professor Aziz Suriel Attia at
v Fouad Asaad Attia submitted another Ph.D. thesis, ICS-Cairo-1995, on the psychological effect of Coptic Music.
What we need to stress here is that this strong and impressive music, inherited from one generation to another, has begun to disappear and to be influenced by modern, attractive media. Instead of using it in our daily lives and allowing it to flourish in universities, musical institutes, musicology, ethnomusicology, music therapy departments and choirs as one of the most precious and oldest music in the whole world, it is unfortunately ignored by many. We pray that it will last and not be forgotten along with ancient Egyptian secrets such as building the pyramids and mummifying the human body!
Try to attend Coptic hymn classes in your church to learn a few hymns, or listen to Coptic hymn tapes and try to memorize them.
v v v
Tones of the Hymns in the ChurchW
1. Festal (joyful) tone
2. Palm Sunday tone (hosanna)
3. Kiahk tone
4. Fasting tone
5. Annual tone
6. Holy Passion Week tone
The Joyful tone is said during the following:
1. From Nayrouz feast, Thuout first, to the Feast of the Cross, on Thuout 19
2. From the Nativity Feast, Kiahk 28 or 29, to the Circumcision Feast, on Tobi 6
3. From the Epiphany Feast, Tobi 11, to the Feast of the Wedding at
4. From Easter (Resurrection Feast) to the end of the prayers for the reading of the Gospel in the 2nd Kneeling Prayer on the day of Pentecost
5. All the major and minor Lord's Feasts, except the Annunciation Feast if it comes in the period between the last Friday of Lent and Easter (In this case, the feast is not celebrated)
6. On the 29th of every Coptic month, except the months of Tobi and Amshir
The Palm Sunday tone is said on:
1. The Feast of the Cross, Thuout 17-19 and Baramhat 10
2. The day of Palm Sunday
The Kiahk tone is said during the month Kiahk until the Paramoun of Nativity Feast.
The Fasting tone is said on:
1. The three days of Ninevites’ Fasting
2. Great Lent: there are 2 tones, one for Saturdays and Sundays and the other for weekdays
The Holy Passion Week has special rites and tones:
Psalms are said by what is known as the Adreebi tone.
The Annual tone is used during the rest of the year.
v v v
(Lesson Outline for Junior High Students)
A. When we sing hymns, we join Angels and Saints in pursuing the life in God’s Kingdom.
B. Praising God is a sacrifice and an offering.
1. The Sacrifice of Praise
2. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15
C. “Praising with psalms is a medicine for the sick soul.” St. Athanasius
D. Understanding and meditating on the deep theological meanings is not as important as simply praising the Lord from a sincere heart.
1. Meditations end quickly; there is not need to be philosophers.
2. Enjoying prayers and praises with a simple and sincere heart lasts forever.
II. Coptic Hymns
A. Coptic Hymnal Books (display to the students the large number of hymns)
1. The Psalmody Book
2. Deacon Service Book
3. The Kiahk Psalmody Book
4. The Pascha Book
B. Ancient Hymns
1. Our church has the most ancient hymns, older than those of all other churches!
2. Some Coptic melodies date back to the days of the Pharaohs!
3. Greek hymns date back to the days of early Christianity!
4. Great Saints used to sing hymns in Coptic: St. Mina, St. Anthony, St. Bishoy, etc.
C. Preserving our Christian heritage
1. By neglecting Coptic hymns, we contribute to the loss of Church treasures.
2. We become careless with the inheritance handed down by our Church fathers.
3. We cannot appreciate the beauty of the hymns when we don’t put an effort to learn them.
4. We cannot enjoy Church services if we don’t participate by singing the replies.
v v v
first last .
Verse to memorize:
Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the assembly of the saints.
1. With no effort to learn Coptic hymns, we
a) Cannot enjoy Church services
b) Cannot appreciate the beauty of the hymns
c) Contribute to the loss of Church treasures
d) Lose a major part of our ancient heritage
e) All the above
2. The Fasting tone is used during (Circle all possible answers)
a) Palm Sunday
d) Great Lent
3. The Festal tone is used during all the following occasions, except
a) Nayrouz (Coptic New Year)
b) Holy Passion week
d) 29th. of almost every month
4. During which Coptic month is the Kiahk tone used? ___________
5. Which tone is used during Palm Sunday & the Feast of the Cross?
a) Fasting b) Annual c) Kiahk d) Passion Week e) Sha-anini
6. The ___________ tone is sung _____________ the whole _________, when there is no specific ________________ to use the other tones. [year, Annual, occasion, throughout]
7. The melody-type Adam is used on (Circle all possible answers)
W Notes from
the Seminary course Liturgical Studies I, Very Reverend Hegumen Felimon
Mikhail, Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church,
|| The Orthodox Faith (Dogma) || Family and Youth || Sermons || Bible Study || Devotional || Spirituals || Fasts & Feasts || Coptics || Religious Education || Monasticism || Seasons || Missiology || Ethics || Ecumenical Relations || Church Music || Pentecost || Miscellaneous || Saints || Church History || Pope Shenouda || Patrology || Canon Law || Lent || Pastoral Theology || Father Matta || Bibles || Iconography || Liturgics || Orthodox Biblical topics || Orthodox articles || St Chrysostom |||| Bible Study || Biblical topics || Bibles || Orthodox Bible Study || Coptic Bible Study || King James Version || New King James Version || Scripture Nuggets || Index of the Parables and Metaphors of Jesus || Index of the Miracles of Jesus || Index of Doctrines || Index of Charts || Index of Maps || Index of Topical Essays || Index of Word Studies || Colored Maps || Index of Biblical names Notes || Old Testament activities for Sunday School kids || New Testament activities for Sunday School kids || Bible Illustrations || Bible short notes
|| Prayer of the First Hour || Third Hour || Sixth Hour || Ninth Hour || Vespers (Eleventh Hour) || Compline (Twelfth Hour) || The First Watch of the midnight prayers || The Second Watch of the midnight prayers || The Third Watch of the midnight prayers || The Prayer of the Veil || Various Prayers from the Agbia || Synaxarium