A scathing attack on Arabic, English, and perhaps other languages (5)

edited October 2010 in Hymns Discussion
Now, start this one, this is about [coptic];wk te ]jom[/coptic]:
First off, please note the arrangement of the words, and how they are sung. If we take the slow way (usually at the end - the eleventh time we say it before Arabic and/or English):

[coptic]:w[/coptic]▲↑[coptic]k t[/coptic]▼[coptic]e ][/coptic]↓[coptic]j[/coptic]▲↑[coptic]om n[/coptic]▼[coptic]em p[/coptic]↓[coptic]i`[/coptic]▲↑[coptic]wou n[/coptic]▼[coptic]em p[/coptic]↔[coptic]i[/coptic]↔[coptic]`cm[/coptic]↑[coptic]ou n[/coptic]▼[coptic]em p[/coptic]↓[coptic]i`[/coptic]↑[coptic]am[/coptic]↑[coptic]ahi sa[/coptic]↑ [coptic]`[/coptic]↑-[coptic]en[/coptic]↑=[coptic]eh `a[/coptic]↑=[coptic]m[/coptic]↑=[coptic][email protected] [/coptic] ↑=[coptic]Emm[/coptic]↑=[coptic]an[/coptic]↑=[coptic]ou[/coptic]↑=[coptic]yl p[/coptic]↑[coptic]enn[/coptic]↑[coptic]ou[/coptic]▼[coptic]] p[/coptic]▼[coptic]en[/coptic]↓[coptic]our[/coptic]↓[coptic]o[/coptic].
[coptic]:w[/coptic]▲↑[coptic]k t[/coptic]▼[coptic]e ][/coptic]↓[coptic]j[/coptic]▲↑[coptic]om n[/coptic]▼[coptic]em p[/coptic]↓[coptic]i`[/coptic]▲↑[coptic]wou n[/coptic]▼[coptic]em p[/coptic]↔[coptic]i[/coptic]↔[coptic]`cm[/coptic]↑[coptic]ou n[/coptic]▼[coptic]em p[/coptic]↓[coptic]i`[/coptic]↑[coptic]am[/coptic]↑[coptic]ahi sa[/coptic]↑ [coptic]`[/coptic]↑-[coptic]en[/coptic]↑=[coptic]eh `a[/coptic]↑=[coptic]m[/coptic]↑=[coptic][email protected] P[/coptic]▲[coptic]a[[/coptic]↑▼[coptic]oic I[/coptic]▲▼[coptic]yc[/coptic]▲▼[coptic]ouc P[/coptic]↔[coptic]i`,r[/coptic]↔[coptic]ict[/coptic]▲▼[coptic][email protected] pa[/coptic]↑[coptic]C[/coptic]▼[coptic]wt[/coptic]↑[coptic]yr `[/coptic]▼[coptic]n[/coptic]↑[coptic]`ag[/coptic]▼[coptic]a;[/coptic]▲▼[coptic][email protected] t[/coptic]▲▼[coptic]aj[/coptic]▲↑[coptic]om n[/coptic]▼[coptic]em p[/coptic]▲[coptic]a[/coptic]↑-[coptic]`cm[/coptic]↑=[coptic]ou p[/coptic]▼[coptic]e[/coptic] ▲[coptic]P[[/coptic]↑[coptic][email protected] [/coptic] ▼[coptic]afs[/coptic]↑[coptic]wp[/coptic]↑[coptic]i n[/coptic]↑-[coptic]y[/coptic]↑=[coptic]i[/coptic] ▼[coptic]efc[/coptic]↑[coptic]wt[/coptic]↑[coptic]yr[/coptic]↑-[coptic]i[/coptic]↑=[coptic]`a [/coptic] ▼[coptic]ef[/coptic]↓[coptic]ou[/coptic]↓[coptic]ab[/coptic]
[coptic]:w[/coptic]▲↑[coptic]k t[/coptic]▼[coptic]e ][/coptic]↓[coptic]j[/coptic]▲↑[coptic]om n[/coptic]▼[coptic]em p[/coptic]↓[coptic]i`[/coptic]▲↑[coptic]wou n[/coptic]▼[coptic]em p[/coptic]↔[coptic]i[/coptic]↔[coptic]`cm[/coptic]↑[coptic]ou n[/coptic]▼[coptic]em p[/coptic]↓[coptic]i`[/coptic]↑[coptic]am[/coptic]↑[coptic]ahi sa[/coptic]↑ [coptic]`[/coptic]↑-[coptic]en[/coptic]↑▼[coptic]eh  `a[/coptic]▼~[coptic]m[/coptic]↔[coptic]yn[/coptic][coptic]@[/coptic]
When you compare that to:
لك القوة والمجد والبركة والعزة إلى الآبد آمين. عمانوئيل إلهنا وملكنا
لك القوة والمجد والبركة والعزة إلى الآبد آمين ياربى يسوع المسيح مخلصى الصالح قوتى وتسبحتى هو الرب وقد صار لى خلاصاً مقدساً
لك القوة والمجد والبركة والعزة إلى الآبد آمين
you will notice that a big chunk of the time is spent on vowels/syllables like "ā ă ą" which corrupts the sound (making it more or less annual rather than edribian mournful).
When you compare it to:

Thine is the power, the glory, the blessing, and the majesty, forever Amen. Emmanuel our God and our King
Thine is the power, the glory, the blessing, and the majesty, forever Amen. O my Lord Jesus Christ my good Savior The Lord is my strength, my praise, and has become my holy salvation
Thine is the power, the glory, the blessing, and the majesty, forever Amen
You will find that a big chunk of time is spent on vowels/syllables like "ī į ē ĕ" which makes it on the other hand rather joyful.
[coptic]oujai qen `P[C[/coptic]


  • Hey! Ophadece!
    OK.. i understood your point, and yes there is a problem when translating hymns and not translating the melody with it - agreed.. but don't use my name as an excuse to raise this topic.

    I'm all for praying with understanding. You know this. I just think its a shame that whilst we've been singing hymns that have been translated in English, we have not been enjoying their full effect due to the poor way in which the words do not suit the melody of the original language.

  • Surely the answer is to modify the tunes in English so that the words in English suit the tune and vice-versa.

    I think the situation in the UK is rather different to that in the US and Canada. In both places there will always be a need and great value in Egyptian Christians singing some of the hymns in Coptic, according to the Coptic tunes.

    But if our vision is for many tens of thousands of British people to become Orthodox then account must be taken of the ancient British and Orthodox heritage of these islands. We are peoples who have been Christian for almost 2,000 years. A few miles from the house where I am typing this there is an ancient Roman villa which had one wing converted into a Church during the Roman period. About 30 feet away the English built a Church out of the old Roman mausoleum. British Christians have been worshipping there for 1700 years. And these first Christians were entirely Orthodox in their faith and practice.

    If I go to Canterbury I can sit at the place where one of my patrons, St Theodore of Tarsus, is buried. He came to England from Syria in the later 7th century as Archbishop of Canterbury.

    If I go to St Alban's I can see the shrine of St Alban which has continuously been a place of veneration since the 300's AD.  Indeed my own little Church is blessed to have some relics of St Alban.

    We are an ancient Christian country. It is even said that our Lord Himself visited these islands with St Joseph of Arimathea. It is considered that St Aristobulos, one of the Seventy, is the first bishop of the Britons. We know that British bishops attended some of the major Church councils held in Western Europe in the 4th century.

    So for British Christians, including those seeking to become Orthodox, there is a strong awareness of our own ancient Christian heritage. Our language has been hallowed as a language of prayer and worship. Many of the ancient Orthodox hymns of the West are set to tunes which are 1400 years old.

    Therefore, whatever the understandable and reasonable practice of Egyptian Christians, it is necessary to remember that in Britain the majority of those people seeking to understand and experience Orthodoxy for themselves will want and need it to be in their own language. I hope that I am a serious and committed Christian, but I did not become a Greek or Russian Orthodox because of the issue of language. I am very sure that I am not alone.

    This does not diminish the necessity to preserve the ancient Coptic hymnology, but it is a mistaken belief that the translation of a hymn loses its meaning. Quite clearly it does not. The hymn 'O Only Begotten' is not originally a Coptic hymn, it was written in Greek by St Severus, likewise, 'Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal' was not originally in Coptic but in Greek. If these Greek hymns can be translated into Coptic they can also be translated into English.

    We also see that all of the local Orthodox Churches use different tunes, therefore we cannot say that only one tune may be associated with one text.

    I hope that in my own lifetime some of the Coptic tunes will be written into a more English musical style so that there can be a connection between the Coptic and English heritage and culture, but a recognition that they are different. The fact that there are some converts who are very happy to learn Arabic and Coptic and sing Coptic tunes does not mean that all or most potential converts are so willing. I deal very regularly with those who are unable to cope with not having the liturgy in their own language and who either do not convert or fall away. Very few could be considered lazy or back-sliders.

    So I hope that more Egyptians will be committed to preserving the fullness of the Coptic Orthodox musical tradition so that there is a greater degree of relaxation about also seeking to share the Orthodox Faith entirely in the English of our United Kingdom. Most British people will not want to become Copts. They will want to become Orthodox and be part of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate while also remaining British, just as the Church of Ethiopia did not become Egyptian but was able to be true to its own culture and language. If we want to see tens of thousands of British converts then we will need to work out how to both preserve the Coptic linguistic culture and hymnology, while also becoming a natural home for British people who speak and worship only in English.

    Britain used to be an Orthodox country. Many wish it to be Orthodox again. But this requires a recognition of the ancient Orthodox heritage of the British Isles, and the importance of our own English language.

    I did not want to follow along with someone else's worship, so I did not become Greek or Russian. I want to worship God in my own language and in the language of the millions in my country who do not know God at all. This December my Church will be handing out leaflets about the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the street. We will be especially concerned for the poor, the lonely, the bereaved, the broken and despairing. When they come to worship with us I do not see how it would be possible, for most of such people, to offer them a service of prayer which they could not understand and could not make their own, however beautiful the tunes.

    (In a majority Egyptian Church where few understand English the reverse might well be true).

    Clearly the Church in Egypt made the transition from the Aramaic of the early Church in Jerusalem, to the Greek of the Alexandrian Church, to the Coptic of the later Alexandrian Church. The Church can also make the transition, where appropriate, to a liturgy in English, French, Dutch, Spanish etc etc. The early liturgy in Egypt was not in Coptic but the Church changed the language to suit the needs of the people. It will do the same, and if there is no need in some places to change the language, or if there is value in reverting to Coptic, then they Church will do so.

    But most people in the future who become Orthodox in the UK will need and want to worship in English. This is not laziness, this is the Apostolic practice. Otherwise why are Egyptians not worshipping in Aramaic or Greek?

    Father Peter
  • Sorry Zoxsasi I edited the post above.
    Dear Father Peter,
    The very point I am talking about is that you mentioned;[coptic] agioc o :eoc [/coptic]is not a Coptic hymn, and yet it was not translated, so that it doesn't lose its meaning (musically as well as verbally). [coptic]Omonogenyc [/coptic]the same.
    Now I will keep saying this, and you may keep disagreeing, but we do have the British Orthodox church. We do have the French Orthodox Church. We do have the Indian Orthodox church. These churches help in propagating the Orthodox faith through their corresponding languages. Why is it that the Coptic Orthodox church need to change? I don't see a reason. I see condescending and giving in to peoples' views and ideas loses the church so much.
    There is also some need for unison. Even though it may be just poetic or metaphorical in this day and age, but if the Britons sing one Coptic-translated hymn in English in four or five different ways, Americans sing it in another forty or fifty, Canadians in another two or three, then where is the unison of the church?
    I hope as you said in a previous post regarding to this very point, that we agree to disagree on this one...
    [coptic]oujai qen `P[C[/coptic]
  • Ophadece, I guess that if you spoke to a lot of British people in general, not in regard to this particular issue, they would say that you have chosen to come and live here in Britain therefore you should be willing to become British to a reasonable extent. And if you become British Christians to some extent then you have a responsibility above almost everything else to evangelise the British people you have come to live among.

    I know that if I went to live in Finland, as I nearly did, I would expect to worship in Finnish and be involved in evangelism in Finnish among the people of Finland. I would believe that God had brought me to Finland to serve the Finnish people in the ministry of the Gospel. Indeed I spent a great deal of time learning Finnish so that I could speak it to the Finnish people I met when I travelled there, as I often did.

    The British Orthodox Church is very small. Our presence surely does not take away the responsibility for evangelism which lies upon all Orthodox people from all the different backgrounds who are in the UK. What are we here for if not to share the Gospel? How can we share the Gospel if not in a language those with whom we are sharing it can understand.

    There is no reason why there should not be one English tune, translating the hymns does not require fifty or sixty tunes. But music, like language, is an essential and central aspect of a culture and in the end God wills thousands upon thousands and millions upon millions of British people to become Orthodox, and this will only happen if they can become Orthodox in our ancient British culture with the use of British languages and the Western tradition of music.

    We may disagree on this because we are not in a position to impose anything, and in any case do, I believe, agree to a great extent though we have different aims. I think I understand your position and respect it. But it would help to know that you also understood my aim.

    Perhaps I will learn some Coptic hymns if you will come and help me do some evangelism? We have quite a big mission planned for next July and will be renting a stand at our County Show so that we can meet up to 70,000 people over the weekend. We will hopefully have an exhibition of icons, and will be playing music continually, so I would value your opinions and advice when we come to make a selection of music. If there is very high quality hymns in English, as well as some in Coptic, then that would be great.

    Father Peter
  • Dear Father Peter,
    My posts surely gave you a very fake idea on who I am. Am I really anything of what you alluded to? Not very sure, but in all honesty I would love down to the core of my heart to be able to help, and to suggest some English hymns (although my knowledge of such is near negligible), and good quality Coptic hymns of course.
    Now I am so happy that you did mention this point, that I am not even sure or can remember if I made that premise before, but I will follow it here: now you told me choosing to come to Britain means that I will be expected to become British to a certain extent, which in psychology they call it acculturation. That is very true. I will take this argument a little step further. I went to the British Embassy in Cairo to get a VISA issued. What was the language they used? Even Egyptians working with the immigration officers there? What? Oh, yes, English... not only English but British English. I once wanted to go back to Egypt on KLM (and another time on Alitalia) only to find the stewardess speaking to me in Dutch (and Italian), but I had to apologise for not understanding and asked them to speak to me in English. Now this is the Coptic church... what are expected to sing? What language are we expected to speak? Evangelising is another matter. Even though we say all the hymns (which never happens by the way, only an exaggeration) in Coptic in the Sunday Liturgy, the talk is in English and Arabic. In every single Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain. There is no shortage of such. Why do the Coptic hymns have to suffer when they are beautiful and simple?
    [coptic]oujai qen `P[C[/coptic]
  • Ophadece,

    Again, let me stress I am not in a position to wave a wand so my opinions are of very, very limited value.

    I would want to say that you are now part of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the British Isles, which means that you have some different responsibilities to when you were part of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt. The Bible does not know anything about 'flavours' of Church in the same place. It only knows the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of the whole world, and the Church in a particular place.  So I believe that you are now part of the same local community as the British Orthodox Church, the Armenian Church here in the UK, the Syrian Church here in the UK, the Ethiopian Church here in the UK, the Eritrean Church here in the UK and the Indian Church here in the UK. We are all part of a community of Orthodox people in THIS place. That doesn't mean the eradication of our particular cultures, but it does mean that we have a responsibility HERE and TOGETHER which transcends our own cultures.

    I would want to say that first of all we are Orthodox then we are British and Coptic. There will be no such thing as the Coptic Orthodox Church or the British Orthodox Church or the Syrian Orthodox Church etc etc in the world to come. Indeed there is no reference to the Coptic Orthodox Church in any of the Fathers of the Church because it did not exist. It was the Orthodox Church of Alexandria, which is a place and not a culture. This is why there were early Popes of Alexandria who were Syrians and not Egyptians, and why most of the early Fathers did not speak Coptic. This is why there were Armenian and Syrian communities in Egypt until quite late.

    The Fathers didn't speak English either of course!

    Languages are only a transitory expression of a culture, and even now I could find lots of threads insisting that the Coptic spoken today is not being spoken properly at all. That does not mean that they do not have value, but they are essentially only a means of transmitting culture and when they cease to do that they fall out of use or change.

    I really do not have anything to say against the use of Coptic hymns in congregations which are from Egypt, but if God gave the hymn writers the grace to write the hymns and compose the tunes why should he not give the same grace so that the hymns might be translated into English?

    I understand entirely that you do find all of the Coptic hymns beautiful. That is entirely natural and reasonable. But that is not my experience. And I want to be Orthodox. So what is to happen? Surely history shows us that just as the many Greek hymns which used to be sung in the Coptic Church have been translated into Coptic, (and the early Egyptian liturgy was certainly in Greek) so those same hymns can be translated into any language. This does not mean that you have to stop singing them in Coptic, but you must not assume that your own culturally conditioned response is the same as that of most English people. There may well be some English people who are attracted to a great extent by the otherness of Coptic culture, but this is not how mass evangelism takes place. Many of those Westerners are in any case the wives or husbands of Copts. We need to feel the burden of the multitudes who do not know Christ or the Orthodox Church.

    I was walking down the main street in the town where my Church is placed. I saw a great many very poor people, many ignorant and dirty people, even young women walking down the street in tears bearing some hidden burden that was too much for them. These people need to hear and understand the words of the hymns, it is not enough to be moved by music, and most would not find the Coptic music immediately engaging, it is too different for most British people's ears.

    These people need the substance of the Coptic Orthodox Faith but in their own language and culture.

    Let me say again Ophadece, I have no problem with a congregation of mostly Egyptians using lots of Coptic hymns, especially if folk understand what they are singing. But while there are 3,000 or so Copts in the UK there are 60,000,000 British people, many of whom still want to call themselves Christian but know so little of Christ and nothing at all of Orthodoxy.

    These people need the substance of the Coptic Orthodox Faith but in their own language and culture.

    This does not require your congregation to sing one Coptic hymn less. Indeed it is only those like you who know and love the Coptic hymns and music thoroughly who can work with others to produce accurate English translations of the hymns.

    God bless your love of your Coptic church culture.

    Father Peter
  • I fail to understand what is wrong with just adopting Catholic hymns as a solution of this.

    Not every hymn they have is heretical.

    Why does that bother you Ophadece? The catholic hymns are written with the Occidental Scales and they are quite nice to listen to.

  • Dear Zoxsasi,
    Are you sure you are not someone else in disguise? You remind me of someone who was on this forum before in your style of debating... that is a joke by the way... as I assume you told a joke earlier.
    Dear Father Peter,
    I completely understand your point of view. I understand where you are coming from and your experience, and I just want to say we are too far past that stage of rectifying the English, or Arabic for that matter to musically mean what the Coptic does. Anyway I will refrain from posting other threads of the same implication.
    [coptic]oujai qen `P[C[/coptic]
  • Ophadece,

    I'm just posing the question: what is wrong (in your mind) with us adopting Catholic songs? I had a chat with Anba Angaelos about this... he uses them a lot in prayer meetings.

    I'm not suggesting this as the ultimate solution. I would say that we ought to learn Coptic and know the hymns and their meanings. Its not that hard. There are some doxologies that are said so fast in Coptic that I may have problems with.

    What to you Ophadece IS the solution??? What would make you happy??

    Believe me, singing catholic songs wouldnt make me happy - personally. I just think its the less of 2 evils.
  • Dear Zoxsasi,
    I disagree. I may presume that Anba Angelos meant singing Catholic sings in things like prayer meetings, and youth meetings, which is something I am against also, but to adopt it in the church. I don't think so.
    [coptic]oujai qen `P[C[/coptic]
  • [quote author=ophadece link=topic=9910.msg121379#msg121379 date=1288121509]
    Dear Zoxsasi,
    I disagree. I may presume that Anba Angelos meant singing Catholic sings in things like prayer meetings, and youth meetings, which is something I am against also, but to adopt it in the church. I don't think so.
    [coptic]oujai qen `P[C[/coptic]

    I agree with you also. I never meant to sing catholic songs as the answer to this. I just wanted to know what you personally had against it.

    What sayedna doesnt realise Ophadece is that he isn't singing catholic songs - he sings protestant songs in the retreats and the prayer meetings. The youth associate these songs with the protestant churches they go to. They end up making the conclusion that if we sing these songs in our Church, then what is wrong with singing them in their Church?

    Before you know it, we've encouraged our kids to go to the protestant churches.

    So what to you is the answer??

  • That is probably mirroring what used to happen in Egypt (or maybe still is). My answer: stick to Coptic hymns and teach people to love them and understand them. Difficult yes, but who said church going and serving would be easy?
    God bless us all and have mercy on us
    [coptic]oujai qen `P[C[/coptic]
  • [quote author=ophadece link=topic=9910.msg121381#msg121381 date=1288122618]
    That is probably mirroring what used to happen in Egypt (or maybe still is). My answer: stick to Coptic hymns and teach people to love them and understand them. Difficult yes, but who said church going and serving would be easy?
    God bless us all and have mercy on us
    [coptic]oujai qen `P[C[/coptic]

    But in terms of making our hymns - our own melodies for the language of the country where we live - what do u think of that??
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