Library of Congress > Collections > Coptic Orthodox Liturgical Chant and Hymnody

Introduction

Created by Carolyn M. Ramzy

Moftah's work emerged during a pivotal moment in Egyptian history at the beginning of the twentieth century. Egyptians were gaining a strong sense of national consciousness and a strong desire for a self-rule that they had not seen since the fall of the last Ancient Egyptian monarchy in 671 B.C. This nationalist fervor penetrated all aspects of their lives, including religious institutions such as the Coptic Orthodox Church.

This Timeline contextualizes these larger historical, political, and social developments in Egypt, leading up to Moftah's project and his generous donation of his work to the Library of Congress. Also, the Timeline outlines other significant moments of Coptic music studies as a growing discipline, when early missionaries, explorers, and scholars first took note of Coptic liturgical chant. Though this Timeline certainly does not include a comprehensive listing of every person who has ever mentioned Coptic music in his or her work, it certainly highlights the historical and cultural framework that prompted and shaped their research.

The Timeline is divided into four parts:

 

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3100 Bc to 1517

  • ca. 3500 B.C.

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Settlement begins around the Nile Valley.

  • 3100

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Pharaoh Menes establishes the first Ancient Egyptian dynasty and unites the Upper and Lower Kingdoms into one centralized monarchy. Hieroglyphic system of writing emerges.

  • 2700

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Hieratic script emerges alongside Hieroglyphic.

  • ca. 2500 B.C.

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Pyramids of Giza are constructed.

  • 800

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Demotic slowly replaces Hieratic script.

  • 671

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The last Ancient Egyptian monarchy crumbles and is conquered by Assyrians from Mesopotamia.

  • 525

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Persian Conquest of Egypt.

  • 332

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Ushering in the Greco-Roman period, Alexander the Great conquers and names the city of Alexandria after himself. Ptolemaic rule begins.

  • 300

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The hieroglyphic writing system falls out of use. Greek script becomes the official script of government documents.

  • 196

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The carving of the Rosetta Stone.

  • 31 A.D.

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Romans defeat the Macedonians and Egypt becomes part of the Roman Empire.

  • 45-60

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Saint Mark the Apostle brings Christianity to Egypt and establishes the unbroken Patriarchal Seat of Alexandria sometime in 61 A.D. Today, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III is the 117th Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

  • 100

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Coptic script begins to develop.

  • 251

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Monasticism, "the gift of Egypt to Christianity," begins with St. Antony (ca. 251-356) in the eastern desert of Middle Egypt, then steadily spreads across Egypt to the Western Desert and up the Nile Valley, even into Nubia and eventually into Ethiopia.

    St. Anthony in the desert. Etching by Nicolas Guérard, fils. Detail from a map, L'Ancienne Thebaide…, by Nicolas de Fer, 1738.

  • 284

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Coptic calendar, following an Ancient Egyptian solar calendar, is formally established in September of this year. Known as the year of the martyrs, the very first year commemorates one of the bloodiest eras in Coptic Christian history under the Roman Emperor Diocletian between 245 and 313 A.D. September 11 is yearly celebrated as the start of the new Coptic year.

  • 285

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Theban Legion (a contingent of the Roman Empire's Army forcibly recruited in Egypt) takes Egyptian Christianity, with its music and prayers, across the Alps into France and Switzerland.

  • 313-337

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Emperor Constantine the Great moves the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople. Henceforth Egypt comes under the hegemony of Christian Byzantium, which will grow ever more oppressive.

  • 451

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    After the schism of the Council of Chalcedon, the See of Alexandria is split into two lines of patriarchal succession: the Melkite (Greek royalist) line and the native orthodox (Coptic) line. For centuries, the Copts struggle to keep their indigenous liturgies intact, with surest success being in the isolated monasteries.

  • 452

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Under Roman rule, Demotic slowly gives way to a Greek-derived Coptic alphabet, borrowing seven extra letters from Demotic to represent Egyptian phonetics not found in Greek.

  • 642

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    'Amr Ibn al-'As enters into present Egypt in 640 A.D. and, in two years’ time, completes the Arab conquest of the country.

  • 685-705

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The reign of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. This Caliph established Arabic as the official administrative language for the public and government in Egypt. All Copts who wanted a government post had to learn Arabic.

  • 969-1171
    979-1003

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Meaning "The Triumphant," Al-Qahira, otherwise known as Cairo, is founded by the ruling Fatamid dynasty.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    It was under the tenure of Pope Philotheus that Arabic Bibles and church books were introduced in the Arabic language. However, many clergy, including Pope Zacharias (1004-1032), still celebrated the liturgy entirely in the Coptic language.

  • 1046-1077

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    During the reign of Patriarch Christodoulos, the patriarchal seat is moved from Alexandria to Cairo.

  • 1171-1250

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Great warrior, Saladin (Salah-al Din) begins the Ayyubid dynasty.

  • 1250-1517

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The last Ayyubid Sultan is murdered and Mamluke rule begins.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    As Arabic-speaking Christian intellectuals emerge beginning in the middle of the eighth century, Ishāq al-Mu`taman Abū ibn al-`Assāl (fl.1230–1260) dedicates a chapter to Coptic Church music in his book, Kitāb Majmū Usūl al-Dīn, which translates as "The Foundations of Religion." [1] By the mid-thirteenth century, another author, Yuhānnā ibn Abī Zakāriyyā ibn Sība' describes Coptic liturgical music of his time in the work al-Jawarah al-Nafīsah, which translates as The Precious Essence… [2] One more source appears from the early fourteenth century: Misbāh al-Zumlah fī Idāh al-Khidmah, The Lamp of Darkness, written by Shams al-Ri'āsah Abū al-Barakāt ibn Kabar. In this book, he lists Coptic hymns and defines how they are used in the Church.[3]

  • 1517

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt fall under Ottoman rule.

Notes

  1. Georg Graf has translated and edited this chapter into German: "Der kirchliche Gesang nach Abū Ishāq...."Extracts from The Foundation of Religion by Ibn al-Assāl. Bulletin de la Société d'archéologie copte 13(1948-1949): 161-178. [return to timeline]
  2. In 1922, this work by Ibn Sibā' was edited and translated by Jean Périer as La Perle précieuse: traitant des sciences ecclésiastiques (chapitres I-LVI). Patrologia Orientalis 16, fasc. 4 (1922): [593]-760. Paris: Firmin Didot, 1922. A reprint of this translation was issued in Turnhout, Belgium: Editions Brepols, 1973. [return to timeline]
  3. In turn, this document was also edited and translated by Louis Villecourt: "Les Observances liturgiques et la discipline du jeûne dans l'église copte." (Chapters XVI-XIX from Misbah al Zulmah by Abū al-Barakāt ibn Kabar). Le Muséon: revue d’études orientales 36(1923): 249-292; 37(1924): 201-280; 38(1925): 261-320. All three of these early resources are listed in The Coptic Encyclopedia, edited by Aziz S. Atiya. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991, vol. 6, p. 1735. [return to timeline]
Next: 1643 to 1869
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1643 to 1869

  • 1643

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    A recently discovered transcription of Coptic music by Father Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) in his Lingua Ægyptiaca restituta of 1643, in the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room at the Library of Congress, reveals that Western scholars were interested in Coptic music as early as the 17th century. [view translation] Father Kircher, a German Jesuit priest, offered a brief excerpt of Coptic chant in early music notation, claiming it was "from the mouth of my Coptic scribe."[1]

  • 1693

  • 1700-1750

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    By the eighteenth century, almost all Copts spoke Arabic, and the Coptic language became relegated to liturgical contexts alone. To this day, very few families in Upper Egypt continue to speak the Coptic language.

    Matthaeus Seutter, engraver, 1678-1756, after a drawing by Gottfried Rogg, 1669-1742. Deserta Ægypti, Thebaidis, Arabiæ, Syriæ, etc. ubi accurate notata sunt loca inhabitata per Santos Patres Anachoretas exhibita à Matth. Seutter. [Augsburg: Matthaeus Seutter, n.d.]

  • 1738

    L’Ancienne Thébaide ou La Carte Générale des Lieux Habitez par les S[ainct]s Pères des Déserts. Dressez sur celle des Religieux de la Trappe Par N. de Fer Géographe de Monseigneur. Paris: Chez I.F. Benard dans l’Isle du Palais sur le quay de l’Orloge a la Sphère Royale avec Privilège du Roy, 1738.

  • 1749-1752

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Richard Dalton, who visited Egypt in 1749, writes the first dissertation on Ancient Egyptian music, and describes the use of cymbals in his work, A Short dissertation on the Ancient Musical Instruments used in Egypt (London: J. Nichols, 1790).

    The Moravians initiate Christian missionary efforts beginning in 1752 and stay until 1782. After attending a Coptic Church service, one Moravian missionary describes his encounter with Coptic music, describing the cymbals and other percussion instruments that accompanied the singing. [2]

  • 1798-1801

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The brief but influential French occupation of Egypt, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, begins. Though it only lasted for three years, it was to leave behind a profound academic legacy, the first and largest scientific investigation of Egyptian ancient and modern history, natural history, science, music, and the arts, among other topics. The results of these studies were published in the Description de l'Égypte, initiating what was later to become a burgeoning European scholarship of the country.

  • 1799

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Rosetta stone is found and becomes a gateway to Ancient Egyptian history after the hieroglyphic language is deciphered in 1822.

  • 1805-1882

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Known as "the founder of Modern Egypt," Ottoman viceroy Muhammad Ali ushers in government reform, rapid modernization and increased contact with Europe.

  • 1809

    G.A. Villoteau, one of the musicians in Bonaparte's expedition, provides one of the earliest transcriptions of Coptic music in Description de l'Égypte [view translation] in a section entitled"De l'Etat actuel de l'art musical en Egypte," 1809.[3]

  • 1819

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The British Church Missionary society arrives in Egypt.

  • 1821

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Turco-Egyptian invasion of Sudan.

  • 1822

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    French scholar, Jean François Champollion, deciphers the Hieroglyphic writing system from the Rosetta Stone.

  • 1843

    Map of Egypt . From Wilkinson, [John] Gardner, Sir, 1797-1875. Modern Egypt and Thebes: being a description of Egypt, including the information required for travelers to that country. 2 vols. London: John Murray, 1843, vol. 1, facing p. 1.

  • 1853

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Pope Cyril IV becomes the 110th Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria from 1853 to 1861. He is otherwise known as "the reformer" for initiating changes that began modernizing what was then an ailing Coptic Church institution. He purchased the first private Arabic printing press in Egypt and, in 1855, established the Madrasat al-Aqbat al-Kubra, or the Great Coptic School, as well as a Coptic Patriarchal College in Cairo.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    It is during the influential tenure of His Holiness Pope Cyril IV that church cantors, otherwise known in Arabic as mu'allimīn (plural for mu'allim) emerged as gate keepers of Coptic liturgical music. Mu'allim Takla was one of the first blind cantors to be officially commissioned by the Pope to travel and collect Coptic hymns from all over Egypt. When he returned, he published the very first edition of the The Service of the Deacons in 1859, with the help of Ragheb Moftah's paternal great uncle, Iryān Jirjis Moftah, who was a Coptic language linguist and instructor at the Patriarchal College. Mu'allim Takla went on to teach seven students, two of whom were to become Mikha'īl Jirgis al Batanūnī's teachers. Mu'allim Mikha'īl is otherwise known in Coptic history as Mikha'īl Batanūnī the Great for his contribution to Moftah's project which recorded the entire Coptic hymnody.

    Learn more: A Musical Inheritance: Coptic Cantors and an Orally Transmitted Tradition [essay]

  • 1854

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The United Presbyterian Church of North America is established. This mission is to have the greatest influence on Coptic Christian social, religious and, consequently, musical domains. The Coptic Evangelical Church of Egypt is still active in Egypt today. The Coptic Evangelical Theological Seminary is established. American Presbyterian missionaries also evangelize in Sudan, where a small Coptic-Sudanese community has taken root after the Turco-Egyptian invasion of Sudan in 1821.

  • 1859-1869

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Suez Canal is built.

Notes

  1. Athanasius Kircher, Lingua Ægyptiaca restituta…. Rome: Apud Ludovicum Grignanum, 1643, pp. 515-516. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Library of Congress. Call number: PJ2033.K5. See English translation by David Shive. Though Kircher never traveled to Egypt, he relied on secondary sources, namely, people who had traveled to the country, Copts, and manuscripts that he encountered in Rome. [return to timeline]
  2. Andrew Watson, The American Mission in Egypt, 1854-1896. 2d ed. Pittsburgh: The United Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1904. Call number: BV3570.W3 1904. [return to timeline]
  3. Description de l’Égypte, ou, Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l’éxpédition de l’armée française, publié par les ordres de Sa Majesté l’empereur Napoléon le Grand. Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1809-1828. 21 vols. Geography and Map Division. Call number: DT46.F8. See Vol. II, pt. 1a, pp. 754-757 for Villoteau’s transcription of Alleluia. [return to timeline]
Next: 1874 to 1922
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1874 to 1922

  • 1874-1893

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    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.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    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.[1] [view translation of chapter]

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Mu'allim Mikha'īl Jirgis al Batanūnī is born on September 14, 1873 in Batānūn, a province of Menoufiya, Egypt.

  • 1881

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    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.[2]

  • 1882

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Egypt is annexed by the British Empire.

  • 1885

    John Bartholomew, Edinburgh. Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, Abyssinia, &c.

  • 1888

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    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.[3] 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.[4] [view translation of preface]

  • 1890

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Though not accurate, S.G. Hatherly attempts to harmonize Blin's transcription in his article, "Coptic Ecclesiastical Music" in The Scottish Review, 1890.[5]

  • 1897

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Clerical College to train Coptic clergy is established in Cairo.

  • 1897

  • 1898

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Ragheb Moftah is born in Al-Faggala, Cairo, Egypt, 1898.

  • 1899

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    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.[6] [view translation of preface]

  • 1903

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    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.[7]

  • 1904-1974

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    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

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    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).[8]

  • 1910

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    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.[9]

    Edward Stanford, 1827-1904. The Nile Valley including Egypt, Nubia, Uganda, Abyssinia, British East Africa and Somali Land. London: Stanford's Geographical Establishment, [1910].

  • 1914

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    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.

  • 1916

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    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.[10] [view translation of preface

  • 1917

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    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

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    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.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    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.[11] 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.[12] Interestingly, this revival started in the Fagalla district, precisely where Ragheb Moftah was growing up.

  • 1920

    General Map of Cairo. [Cairo]: Published by the Survey of Egypt, 1920.

  • 1921

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Eminent German musicologist, Curt Sachs (1881-1959) publishes his study Die Musikinstrumente des alten Ägyptens, 1921.[13]

  • 1922

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    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.

Notes

  1. 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]
  2. 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]
  3. Heather Sharkey, American Evangelicals in Egypt: Missionary Encounters in an Age of Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008, p. 32. [return to timeline]
  4. 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]
  5. S.G. Hatherly, "Coptic Ecclesiastical Music," The Scottish Review 15(April 1890): 315-364. Microfilm 05419, reel 416. [return to timeline]
  6. 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, [1899].  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]
  7. 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 External. [return to timeline]
  8. 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]
  9. 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]
  10. 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]
  11. 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]
  12. 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]
  13. Curt Sachs, Die Musikinstrumente des alten Ægyptens. Berlin: Karl Hurtius, 1921. Call number: ML164.S22. [return to timeline]
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1925 to Present

  • 1925

    Cairo and Environs [Cairo]:
    Published by the Survey of Egypt, 1925.

    Ernest Newlandsmith

  • 1926

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    There are two different accounts as to how Ragheb Moftah met Ernest Newlandsmith, the English composer and violinist, in 1926. Newlandsmith was instrumental in getting the entire liturgy of St. Basil and 25 other major and seasonal hymns notated between 1926 and 1936. The most popular account goes as follows: As Newlandsmith was traveling on a Holy pilgrimage to get to Jerusalem, he stopped in Cairo, and this is where he made the acquaintance of Moftah who introduced him to his project. However, in one interview (with Raymond Stock), Moftah recalls traveling to England to invite the musicologist back with him to Egypt to work on Coptic music.

  • 1927

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Anthropologist Winifred Blackman publishes another ethnography about the Fellahīnor the peasant community of Upper Egypt. Though she discusses many traditions and cultural customs in detail, she mentions very little about Coptic religious music. [1]

    The Fellahin of Upper Egypt
  • 1931

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Moftah and Newlandsmith travel to England to lecture on Coptic liturgical music at Oxford, Cambridge, and other British universities.

    "Western Music from Egypt: Its Origin in the Coptic Church--Emotional Appeal" is published in The Morning Post declaring that Western music may have its origins in Ancient Egyptian music. [2]

  • 1932

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    The Egyptian government chooses Ragheb Moftah to present Coptic music at the Arab Music Conference of 1932.[3]

  • 1933

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    German musicologist, Hans Hickmann, settles in Egypt and becomes the most prolific writer on Ancient Egyptian instruments of the twentieth century.

    Some of his work specifically addresses Coptic musical instruments.[4]

    Coptic Lute
  • 1936

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    King Farouk II succeeds to the throne after the death of his father, King Fouad I.

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Newlandsmith completes his project with Moftah, leaving him with 16 folios of Coptic music transcribed into Western musical notation.

  • 1939

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    World War II begins.

  • 1940

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Moftah forms the first Coptic Choir, 1940.

  • 1945

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    World War II ends.

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Moftah establishes two centers to teach Coptic chant, one in the Bab el-Hadid district, and the other in Misr al-Qadīma or "Old Cairo," as well as summer camps in Alexandria, 1945.

  • 1946

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Pope Joseph II becomes the 115th Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria.The discovery of the Nag Hammadi Codices--a set of gnostic papyri that shed light on an important and controversial aspect of early Christian thinking in Egypt, and that contain texts for prayers and hymns.

  • 1948

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Arab-Israeli War.

  • 1949

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Soon-to-be president, Gamal Abdel Nasser establishes the Free Officers Movement that later gained enough momentum for the bloodless revolution of 1952 that would put him in power as the second President of independent Egypt.  

    Gamal Abdel Nasser
  • 1952

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Egypt gains full independence. Muhammad Najib reconstitutes Egyptian rule that had been lost since 669 B.C. and becomes the first president of an independent Egypt.

  • 1953

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Arab Republic of Egypt is officially declared.

  • 1954

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    French missionary, René Ménard publishes his influential article, "Une étape de l'art musical Egyptien: La musique copte," that legitimizes Coptic chant as indigenously Egyptian. He is also the first to consider the musical form of the complete Coptic liturgy, 1954.[5]

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Coptic historian and scholar, Dr. Aziz S. Atiya founds the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies at Anba Ruweis Patriarchy in Cairo. Originally conceived as a post-graduate school, it was primarily meant to be a research center.  Of its eight initial sections, only two flourished on their own: the Section of Art under Issac Fanous and the Section of Coptic Music under Ragheb Moftah.

    There, Moftah was responsible for training HICS and Clerical College students in Coptic chants and hymns. Today the HICS is simply known as the Institute of Coptic Studies.

    Moftah with HICS students
  • 1954-1955

    Map of Christian Egypt.
    Société d’Archéologie Copte—Le Caire. Carte de L’Egypte et Couvents. Cairo: Printed in Egypt by Institut Graphique Egyptien, 1954, revised and reprinted 1955.

  • 1956

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Nationalization of the Suez Canal. Brief War of 1956, otherwise known as the Tripartite Invasion of Egypt by France, Britain, and Israel. Gamal Abdel Nasser becomes the second president of Egypt.

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Cantor Mikha'īl Jirgis al Batanūnī "the Great" dies on April 18, 1957.

  • 1958

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Al-Watani is established.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    René Ménard and Hans Hickmann publish their transcription of Coptic music in the largest German Encyclopedia, Bärenreiter and Metzler’s Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 1958. (Vol.7, between pp. 1616-1617).

  • 1959

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Pope Cyril VI, also known as Pope Kyrillos VI, becomes the 116th Patriarch of Alexandria. He is especially noted for rebuilding churches and monasteries throughout Egypt.The Ethiopian Coptic Orthodox Church, long under the hegemony of the Egyptian Orthodox Church, obtains its independence and henceforth appoints its own prelates without direction from Egypt.

  • 1964

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The first Coptic Orthodox Church in North America is registered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Aided by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, John Gillespie begins recording with Ragheb Moftah. He translates the liturgy of St. Basil into English, 1965-1967.

  • 1966

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Hungarian ethnomusicologist, Ilona Borsai spends a winter in Egypt researching Coptic Music, paving the way for Margit Tóth to later join and transcribe music for Ragheb Moftah.

  • 1967

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Six Day War with Israel.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    O.H.E. Khs-Burmester, Professor of the Coptic Seminary and the Librarian of the Society for the Coptic Archeology publishes The Egyptian or Coptic Church: A Detailed Description of her Liturgical Services and the Rites and Ceremonies Observed in the Administration of her Sacraments, organizing Coptic chant in the proper order and contexts in which they are sung, 1967.[6]

  • 1969

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Marian Robertson (later, Marian Robertson-Wilson) spends a year in Egypt as an American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) fellow, perfecting her Arabic, studying Coptic with a professor from HICS, residing with a Coptic family in Giza, attending Coptic services, and participating in many Sunday School activities.The appearance of the Virgin Mary in a great light above a small Coptic church in the Zaytun quarter of Cairo from April through to October inspires many non-liturgical folk songs called taratīl and tarānīm.

  • 1970

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    President Nasser dies. He is replaced by Anwar El-Sadat.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Margit Tóth travels to Egypt for her first research visit.

    Anwar El-Sadat
  • 1971

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Egypt officially becomes the Arab Republic of Egypt. Pope Cyril VI dies, and Pope Shenouda III becomes the 117th and current Patriarch of the Coptic Church of Alexandria.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Coptic graduate student, Salwa El-Shawan completes her master's thesis entitled, An Annotated Bibliography of Coptic Music.

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Throughout his term, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III becomes a great advocate of Ragheb Moftah and of his work.

  • 1973

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Yom Kippur War with Israel.

  • 1976

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Sponsored by the Egyptian Antiquities Organization and UNESCO, the First International Congress on Coptology is held in Cairo and the International Association for Coptic Studies is established.

  • 1977

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Dr. Aziz S. Atiya organizes and sets in motion the Coptic Encyclopedia project, an international venture that recruits scholars from the United States, Europe, Russia, and the Near East.

  • 1978

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    John Gillespie's article, "Coptic Chant: A Survey of Past Research and a Projection for the Future" is published in the First International Congress on Coptology publication: The Future of Coptic Studies.[7]

  • 1980

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Marian Robertson-Wilson presents the first paper on Coptic music to be given in the United States at an American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) convention sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley. The paper was both well received and garnered interest for the topic.

  • 1981

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    President Anwar El-Sadat is assassinated; Hosni Mubarak becomes the next and current president of Egypt.

  • 1984

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Marian Robertson-Wilson's initial articles on Coptic music begin appearing, mainly in the Bulletin de la Société d'archéologie copte.[8] Marian Robertson-Wilson returns to Egypt to meet and confer with Ragheb Moftah, who gives her numerous recordings of liturgical music and grants an interview.

  • 1986

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    Nabila Erian completes her doctoral dissertation, "Coptic Music: An Egyptian Tradition," at the University of Maryland, 1986.

  • 1991

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    With Dr. Aziz S. Atiya as its editor-in-chief, The Coptic Encyclopedia is published by Macmillan Company, giving it world-wide distribution. Volume six contains the most extensive articles on Coptic music yet to appear in a general reference work, with Marian Robertson-Wilson as music editor.

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Ragheb Moftah donates 12 audio reels and 25 cassettes of his collection to the Library of Congress.

  • 1992

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    The Atiya Foundation for Coptic Studies is established by the Atiya family, headed by Lola Atiya, at the University of Utah, for the purpose of granting awards to qualified scholars doing Coptic research. The last award was given in 2005; the Foundation has now broadened its goals.

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Ragheb Moftah donates 31 reel-to-reel tapes and 32 cassettes to the Library of Congress. Dr. Marian Robertson-Wilson begins to organize these items.

  • 1992-1997

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Marian Robertson-Wilson, as a consultant to the Music Division of the Library of Congress, identifies all the pieces of the Ragheb Moftah Collection, using twenty-five cassette tapes dubbed off from the original paper reels. By 1997, she writes the Guide to the Ragheb Moftah Collection of Coptic Chant Recordings, to be used in conjunction with the cassette tapes. Due to the damaged condition of the paper reels, however, these hymns were not dubbed in their proper liturgical sequence.

  • 1995

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    The Librarian of Congress, Dr. James Billington, holds a reception in the honor of Ragheb Moftah at the American University in Cairo. Ragheb Moftah signs agreements with the Librarian of Congress to preserve his collection.

  • 1996

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Ragheb Moftah donates 14 folios of Ernest Newlandsmith's transcriptions of the liturgy of St. Basil and 25 major seasonal hymns sung by the Copts throughout the year.

  • 1996-1997

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Raymond Stock conducts autobiographical interviews with Ragheb Moftah for the Library of Congress. [view video]

  • 1998

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Famous Egyptian musicologist, Dr. Adel Kamil, interviews Ragheb Moftah for a short biographical film produced by Youssef Sidhom, editor-in-chief of Al-Watani newspaper in Egypt. [view video] The American University in Cairo Press finally publishes The Coptic Orthodox Liturgy of St. Basil with Complete Musical Transcription, compiled by Ragheb Moftah, with transcriptions by Margit Tóth, and texts edited by Martha Roy, in 1998.[9]

    Ragheb Moftah's centennial birthday party. [view video]

  • 2001

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Ragheb Moftah dies on June 16, 2001. The Coptic Patriarch himself, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, conducts his funeral in St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt. [view video]

  • 2002

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Ragheb Moftah's safeguard and niece, Laurence Moftah, interviews Margit Tóth and Martha Roy about their work with Moftah in Cairo on March 13, 2002. [view video]

  • 2005

    The Ragheb Moftah Collection

    Marian Robertson-Wilson, with the aid of recording engineer Kenny Hodges, organizes the pieces of the twenty-five cassette tapes into proper order, dubs them off onto twenty-one CD records, and writes The Revised Guide to the Ragheb Moftah Collection of Coptic Chant Recordings, to be used in conjunction with the twenty-one CDs.[10] Marian Robertson-Wilson also writes the Guide to the Recording of the Saint Basil Liturgy as Sung in its Entirety by al-Mu'allim Sādiq 'Attallah , to be used in conjunction with four CD records dubbed off from tape recordings provided by Laurence Moftah, all of which are meant to be used as a teaching-tool for deacons learning this liturgy.

Notes

  1. Winifred Blackman, The Fellahīn of Upper Egypt. London: G.G. Harrap & Company Ltd, 1927. Call number: DT70.B6. [return to timeline]
  2. "Western Music from Egypt: Its Origin in the Coptic Church—Emotional Appeal." The Morning Post, London, 22 April 1931, p. 4. Newspaper and Periodicals Division, LM133. Microfilm 2363. [return to timeline]
  3. Fiktur Saḥḥaab, Mu’tamar al-Musiqá al-’Arabiyah al-Awwal: al-Qahirah, 1932. [Beirut]: al-Sharikah al-‘Alamiyah lil-Kitab, 1997. African and Middle Eastern Reading Room. Call number: ML348.S24 1997 Arab. [return to timeline]
  4. His work is described in a memorial biography, “Hans R.H.Hickmann, 1908-1968.” Ethnomusicology 13, no. 2(May 1969): 316-319, which includes a supplemental bibliography of Hickmann’s publications which completes the bibliography published in Ethnomusicology 9, no. 1(January 1965): 45-53. Call number: ML1.E77. These texts are also available by subscription via JSTOR at http://www.jstor.org/stable/850155 External and http://www.jstor.org/stable/850418 External. [return to timeline]
  5. René Ménard, "Une étape de l’art musical Egyptien: La musique copte. Recherches actuelles." Revue de Musicologie 36(July 1954): 21-38. Call number: ML5.R32. [return to timeline]
  6. O.H.E. Khs-Burmester, The Egyptian or Coptic Church: A Detailed Description of Her Liturgical Services and the Rites and Ceremonies Observed in the Administration of her Sacraments. Cairo: French Institute of Oriental Archeology, 1967. Call number: BX137.K47 1967. [return to timeline]
  7. John Gillespie, "Coptic Chant: A Survey of Past Research and a Projection for the Future." The Future of Coptic Studies. R. McL. Wilson, ed. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978, pp. 227-245. Call number: PJ2019.F87 1978. [return to timeline]
  8. For a selected bibliography of her articles and those of other scholars, please see "Music §Bibliography," in The Coptic Encyclopedia, vol. 6, pp. 1744-1747. [return to timeline]
  9. Ragheb Moftah, ed.  The Coptic Orthodox Liturgy of St. Basil with Complete Musical Transcription. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1998. Call number: M2160.4.C. [return to timeline]
  10. Roberston-Wilson, Marian.  Revised Guide to the Ragheb Moftah Collection of Coptic Chant Recordings. 2 vols.  Washington, DC: Library of Congress,2005. Call number: RecSound ML31.M58 v.1; RecSound ML31.M58 v. 2. [return to timeline]

Bibliography

Al-Sayyid Marsot, Afaf Lutfi.  A Short History of Modern Egypt.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Atiya, Aziz. S. "Part I: Alexandrine Christianity, The Copts and Their Church." In History of Eastern Christianity.Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968, pp. 12-166. First published in London: Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1967.

Atiya, Aziz S, editor-in-chief. The Coptic Encyclopedia. 8 vols. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991. See especially vol. 6, "Music, Coptic," by Marian Robertson-Wilson et al., pp. 1715-1747.

Gillespie, John.  “Coptic Chant: A Survey of Past Research and a Projection for the Future.” The Future of Coptic Studies. R. McL. Wilson, ed. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978, pp. 227-245. 

Ramzy, Carolyn. “Taratīl: Songs of Praise and the Musical Discourse of Nostalgia among Coptic Immigrants in Toronto, Canada." Master’s Thesis: Florida State University, 2007.

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