Coptic Orthodox Liturgical Chant & Hymnody
The Ragheb Moftah Collection at the Library of Congress
Special Presentation: Timeline of Coptic Music, 1925-present
|Year||Egyptian History: Major Events||Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research||The Ragheb Moftah Collection|
Cairo and Environs [Cairo]:
Published by the Survey of Egypt, 1925.
|1926||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||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. |
|1931||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. 
|1932||The Egyptian government chooses Ragheb Moftah to present Coptic music at the Arab Music Conference of 1932.|
|1933||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.
|1936||King Farouk II succeeds to the throne after the death of his father, King Fouad I.||Newlandsmith completes his project with Moftah, leaving him with 16 folios of Coptic music transcribed into Western musical notation.|
|1939||World War II begins.|
|1940||Moftah forms the first Coptic Choir, 1940.|
|1945||World War II ends.||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||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.|
|1949||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.|
|1952||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||The Arab Republic of Egypt is officially declared.|
|1954||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.||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.
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||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.||Cantor Mikha'īl Jirgis al Batanūnī "the Great" dies on April 18, 1957.|
|1958||Al-Watani is established.||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||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||The first Coptic Orthodox Church in North America is registered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.||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||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||Six Day War with Israel.||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.|
|1969||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.|
President Nasser dies. He is replaced by Anwar El-Sadat.
|Margit Tóth travels to Egypt for her first research visit.|
|1971||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 graduate student, Salwa El-Shawan completes her master's thesis entitled, An Annotated Bibliography of Coptic Music.||Throughout his term, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III becomes a great advocate of Ragheb Moftah and of his work.|
|1973||Yom Kippur War with Israel.|
|1976||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||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||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.|
|1980||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||President Anwar El-Sadat is assassinated; Hosni Mubarak becomes the next and current president of Egypt.|
|1984||Marian Robertson-Wilson's initial articles on Coptic music begin appearing, mainly in the Bulletin de la Société d'archéologie copte. 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||Nabila Erian completes her doctoral dissertation, "Coptic Music: An Egyptian Tradition," at the University of Maryland, 1986.|
|1991||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.||Ragheb Moftah donates 12 audio reels and 25 cassettes of his collection to the Library of Congress.|
|1992||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.||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||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 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||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||Raymond Stock conducts autobiographical interviews with Ragheb Moftah for the Library of Congress. [ view video]|
|1998||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.
Ragheb Moftah's centennial birthday party. [ view video]
|2001||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||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||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. 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.|
- Winifred Blackman, The Fellahīn of Upper Egypt. London: G.G. Harrap & Company Ltd, 1927. Call number: DT70.B6. [return to timeline]
- "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]
- 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]
- 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 and http://www.jstor.org/stable/850418 . [return to timeline]
- 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]
- 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]
- 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]
- 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]
- 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]
- 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]
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.