Coptic Orthodox Liturgical Chant & Hymnody
The Ragheb Moftah Collection at the Library of Congress
In April and May of 1931, Ragheb Moftah and Ernest Newlandsmith traveled to England to give a series of lectures at Oxford, Cambridge and other universities, in which they described their work transcribing Coptic music in Egypt since 1927. Newlandsmith also lectured again in England in the summer of 1932. Working on a houseboat on the Nile provided by Moftah, Newlandsmith patiently transcribed by hand the music sung by the great cantor, Batanūnī. Ultimately, Newlandsmith transcribed sixteen folio volumes of Coptic music, fourteen of which have been digitized and are presented in the Transcription Gallery. The lectures, attended by notable figures such as Einstein, caused a sensation in England and around the world as the news services as far away as Ceylon and Malaysia picked up their story. Moftah collected these newspaper articles from a clipping service – many of which are also in Arabic – photocopies of which are in the Provenance file of the Ragheb Moftah Collection in the Music Division. Some of the clippings were incomplete, or were in poor condition, so scans were sometimes made from microfilm in the Newspaper Reading Room. A few clippings document Newlandsmith’s “New Life Movement,” and one newspaper records his marriage to Maria Romero in 1940.