Coptic Orthodox Liturgical Chant & Hymnody
The Ragheb Moftah Collection at the Library of Congress
Special Presentation: Timeline of Coptic Music, 1874-1922
|Year||Egyptian History: Major Events||Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research||The Ragheb Moftah Collection|
|1874-1893||Pope Cyril V (1874-1927): Following the revivalist spirit of the Pope Cyril IV before him, His Holiness Pope Cyril V established the Theological Seminary in Mahmashah, Cairo in 1893. He also opened the Saint Didymus Institute for the Blind to train blind cantors who would later become Mu'allimīn, or appointed teachers and singers in their local Coptic churches. Mu'allim Mikhā'īl Jirjis al-Batanūnī was one of the first instructors to begin teaching at this school.||François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871) publishes a brief chapter assessing the tonal framework of Coptic liturgical chant in the monumental Histoire Générale de la Musique, 1874. [view translation of chapter]||Mu'allim Mikha'īl Jirgis al Batanūnī is born on September 14, 1873 in Batānūn, a province of Menoufiya, Egypt.|
|1881||Comprised of the Coptic elite, the Tawfiq party is founded in Yusuf Moftah's home and becomes one of the most powerful philanthropic societies of its time.|
|1882||Egypt is annexed by the British Empire.
George May Powell. Egypt, Arabia Petraea, and Southeastern Turkey, Pyramid Plateau, Cyprus, and the Delta: Folding and Wall Map Combined. Philadelphia: Published by Watson Brothers, 1882.
John Bartholomew, Edinburgh. Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, Abyssinia, &c.
|1888||Beginning the 1850s, in an effort to reach Eastern Churches such as the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Pius IX (r. 1846-78) allowed new Catholic converts to maintain their traditional liturgies and languages as long as they recognized the authority of the Roman Papacy. In doing so, Copts could become Uniate or Catholic Copts without losing their indigenous liturgical traditions or the sacred language of their old church rites. Working with these newly converted Catholic Copts, French Jesuit missionary, Father Jules Blin publishes Chants Liturgiques des Coptes, the first transcription of the liturgy of St. Basil, 1888. [view translation of preface]|
|1890||Though not accurate, S.G. Hatherly attempts to harmonize Blin's transcription in his article, "Coptic Ecclesiastical Music" in The Scottish Review, 1890.|
|1894||The Clerical College to train Coptic clergy is established in Cairo.|
John Bartholomew & Co. Bartholomew’s New Map of Egypt. Bartholomew’s Tourist’s Map of Egypt and the Lower Nile prepared from the latest surveys. Edinburgh: The Edinburgh Geographical Institute, .
|1898||Ragheb Moftah is born in Al-Faggala, Cairo, Egypt, 1898.|
|1899||Much like Father Blin, French Jesuit priest Louis Badet also worked with the newly converted Coptic Catholic community in Cairo and publishes Chants liturgiques des Coptes, 1899. [view translation of preface]|
|1903||A French priest named Abbé J. Dupoux ventured to compare Coptic chant with Gregorian chant in his work, "Les Chants de la Messe," in a series of articles from 1903 to 1904. His work inspires more in-depth research of Coptic chant.|
|1904-1974||As early as 1904, scholars such as Basil Thomas Alfred began translating into English the historic opus, Ta'rīkh Batarikāt al–Kanīsah al-Misriyah, or History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church (HPCC), by Sawirus Ibn Al-Mukaffa, Bishop of Al-Ashmunin (849-880 A.D). It tells the history of the Coptic patriarchs from the first Patriarch St. Mark down to the current Patriarch Shenoudah III. Originally written in Arabic and begun in the Medieval Period, it was also translated into English by Yassa 'Abd al-Masīh in 1943, and then in a joint effort by Aziz S. Atiya and Yassa 'Abd al-Masīh in 1948. Other translations appeared up until 1974. The HPCC is not only an ecclesiastical history, but also a record of Egyptian social, political, economic and cultural events covering some twenty centuries.|
|1908||John, Marquis of Bute, translates the Coptic liturgy into English to "provide English-speaking travellers in Egypt a means of following intelligently the Sunday morning Service of the native Christians." (1908: iii).|
Edward Stanford, 1827-1904. The Nile Valley including Egypt, Nubia, Uganda, Abyssinia, British East Africa and Somali Land. London: Stanford's Geographical Establishment, .
|W.H.T. Gairdner, a member of the Anglican Church, publishes Oriental Hymn Tunes: Egyptian and Syrian. Along with Syrian church hymns, Gairdner offers a brief transcription of secular Coptic tunes as well as Coptic hymns, 1910.|
|1914||Egypt becomes a British Protectorate. WWI begins. By this time, a growing national consciousness is emerging in Egypt, initiating what would later become a full-blown nationalistic movement in all sectors of the Egyptian population and leading to the first attempt at independence in 1922.|
Bacon's Excelsior Map of Egypt, The Nile Basin and Adjacent Countries. London: G.W. Bacon & Co., Ltd., [1916?].
|Egyptian lieutenant, Kāmil Ibrāhīm Ghubriyāl, is the first Egyptian to attempt the transcription of Coptic hymns in his book, The Musical Notation of the Responses of the Church of Saint Mark, 1916. [view translation of preface]|
|1917||While most research on Coptic music had been undertaken by non-Copts in the past, Egyptian Tawfik Habib publishes "Alhān al-kanīsa al-Qibtiah" ("The Tunes of the Coptic Church"), which criticizes Blin's faulty work and calls for more accurate transcriptions of the chant and the formation of a choir school, 1917.|
|1918||The first Egyptian wafd, or delegation, is formed. Led by Saad Zaghlul, one of the leading nationalists of his time, the delegation petitions for independence at the Paris Peace Conference in September.||S.H. Leeder publishes his ethnography, Modern Sons of the Pharaohs: A Study of the Manners and Customs of the Copts of Egypt, and refers to musical instruments, hymn texts, and vocal style, 1918. Begun rather informally in 1908 by the man who would later become the archdeacon of the Patriarchy, Habīb Jirjis, the Sunday School movement was an effort to protect young Orthodox children from missionary influences by educating them about the lives of Coptic saints, Orthodox history and rites, by teaching them the Coptic language, and by reviving interest in spiritual songs and hymns. Rooted in the Egyptian middle class, this movement drew upon the existing political situation and awakened a distinctly Coptic nationalism. By 1918, it was an official Coptic renaissance, counting 42,000 children enrolled in Sunday school classes all over Egypt. Interestingly, this revival started in the Fagalla district, precisely where Ragheb Moftah was growing up.|
General Map of Cairo. [Cairo]: Published by the Survey of Egypt, 1920.
|1921||Eminent German musicologist, Curt Sachs (1881-1959) publishes his study Die Musikinstrumente des alten Ägyptens, 1921.|
|1922||Though Egypt officially gains independence, Great Britain will occupy and retain a strong hold over the country through King Fouad I and King Farouk II.Egyptologist Howard Carter uncovers the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Egypt-mania begins.|
- François-Joseph Fétis, “Chapitre Septième. Le Chant dans les Églises de l’Afrique.” Histoire Générale de la Musique. 5 vols. Paris: Librarie de Firmin-Didot Frères, Fils et cie, 1869–1876. Call number: ML160.F42. See vol. 4, 1874, pp. 94-123. Coptic music is discussed on pp. 96-101. See translation of this section by Maryvonne Mavroukakis. [return to timeline]
- Ragheb Moftah Collection, Box 8, contains a published text celebrating the society’s 50th anniversary in 1930: Al-Jam’iyyat al-Khayriyyah al-Kibitiyyah (The Great Charitable Society, established by the late Boutros Pasha Ghali. Golden Jubilee: The Fifty-year History of the Society, 1881-1930. Report in the year 1931.) Cairo: Mat ba‘at al-Ma‘ārif, 1931. This book contains photographs of Moftah’s uncle and two of his brothers-in-law. [return to timeline]
- Heather Sharkey, American Evangelicals in Egypt: Missionary Encounters in an Age of Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008, p. 32. [return to timeline]
- Jules Blin, Chants liturgiques des Coptes. Notés et mis en ordre par le Père Jules Blin de la Compagnie de Jésus missionnaire en Egypte. 1 Partie chantée par le peuple et le diacre. Cairo: Imprimerie nationale, 1888. Call number: M2159.B7. Maryvonne Mavroukakis and I have translated and edited the introduction. For more information on this, please refer to the essay, "Notating Coptic Music: A Brief Historical Survey," by Carolyn Ramzy. [return to timeline]
- S.G. Hatherly, "Coptic Ecclesiastical Music," The Scottish Review 15(April 1890): 315-364. Microfilm 05419, reel 416. [return to timeline]
- Louis Badet, Chants liturgiques des Coptes, notés et mis en ordre par le Père Louis Badet, S.J. Cairo: Collège de la Sainte-Famille, Petit Séminaire Copte, . A reprint of this edition was issued in Rome: La Filografica, 1936. Call number: M2159.8.C6L5. Maryvonne Mavroukakis and I have translated the introduction. [return to timeline]
- See series of articles by the Abbé J. Dupoux, "Les Chants de la Messe," in La Tribune de Saint-Gervais: Bulletin mensuel de la Schola Cantorum. 9, nos. 4 through 12, April through December 1903; and, 10, nos. 2 or 3 through no. 12, February or March through December 1904. Issue no. 5 (May 1903):161-171, is devoted to the chants of the officiant of the Coptic Mass, with examples of the music and words of the liturgy. All of the articles are available online via the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, at http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k69747z. [return to timeline]
- John, Marquis of Bute, The Coptic Morning Service for the Lord’s Day. London: Cope and Fenwick, 1908. Call number: BX137.A3 1908. [return to timeline]
- Posthumous edition: W.H.T. Gairdner, Oriental Hymn Tunes: Egyptian and Syrian. 2d ed. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1930. Call number: M2143.G2507. [return to timeline]
- Kāmil Ibrāhīm Ghubriyāl, Al-Tawqī’āt al-Mūsīqiyyah li-Maraddat al-Kanīsah al-Murqusiyyah (Collection of Songs for the Coptic Church: A Monophystic branch of the Eastern Church). [Actual translation of title: The Musical Notation of the Responses of the Church of Saint Mark]. The Government of Sudan and Egypt, 1916. Call number: M2159.8.G3C5. [return to timeline]
- S.H. Leeder, Modern Sons of the Pharaohs: A Study of the Manners and Customs of the Copts of Egypt. London and New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1918. Chapters 1 and 2: "The Oriental Christian in his Church," and "The People at Worship," pp. 169-208; pp. 196–197 specifically refer to music. Call number: DT70.L4. [return to timeline]
- S.S. Hasan, Christians versus Muslims in Modern Egypt: The Century-Long Struggle for Coptic Equality. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 76. [return to timeline]
- Curt Sachs, Die Musikinstrumente des alten Ägyptens. Berlin: Karl Hurtius, 1921. Call number: ML164.S22. [return to timeline]