Anaphora and Kyrie

October 26, 2009

ImageAnother post from the mighty Kevin…

What I don’t know about Coptic Orthodox Christians could fill a whole shelf of books.  St. Mark (of “the Gospel of Mark” fame) is said to have arrived in Egypt somewhere in the 40s AD, and is credited with bringing Christianity to Africa.  Today, 8-12% of Egyptians are still members of this same church.  And that’s where my knowledge runs out.

Fortunately, the Library of Congress has created a wonderful Web resource based on the collection belonging to a leading expert on Coptic music.  Ethnomusicologist Ragheb Moftah, who served as the chair of the Music Department at the Institute of Coptic Studies in Egypt from 1954 until he died in 2001, dedicated his life to the field of Coptic studies.  The Library has generously cataloged and digitized many of his materials.  Turns out, Coptic Christians have a unique and ancient tradition of liturgical vocal music.  Here are some samples:

Procession of the Host 1 – Mikhail Girgis al-Batanouni, Sadiq Attallah

LC Record

This Kyrie, part of the procession of the host from the liturgy of Saint Basil, is almost certainly unlike any Kyrie you’ve ever heard.  It sounds very North African to me, in timbre, vibrato, and affect.  This is part of the liturgy that is the core of the Coptic religious experience – it is performed almost every Sunday, replaced only on special days, such as Christmas or Easter, with the liturgy of St. Gregory.

The Anaphora – Mikhail Girgis al-Batanouni, Sadiq Attallah

LC Record

This Anaphora, from the liturgy of St. Gregory, contrasts powerful unison and subdued, vulnerable solo singing.

The collection also includes links to musical transcriptions, photographs, and some terrific old maps.


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