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Coptic Orthodox Church
Cymbals during thok te ti gom?
How "correct" is this practice? Keep in mind this is the twelfth hour of great Friday when there is a sense of joy in the church and the colors are switched back to red.
This year, my church played them very quietly and without the triangle (tirianto), although the rule, to my knowledge, is that there are no cymbals during Holy Week.
Yeah that's what I always thought. How come some churches play cymbals during fai etafenf on covenant Thursday and Good Friday?
The Coptic church does not use instruments to motivate people musically but rather for keeping the rhythm and no other reason. On this premise there is nothing wrong with playing the cymbals with hymns that (a) have a set rhythm and (b) require a rhythm to be set so that people can chant together.
I personally do not agree with playing the cymbals during Thok te tigom during the 12th hour of Good Friday as to me you are therefore using these instruments to create joy and music and therefore my argument would be what actually differentiates the hymn from any other day or hour - clearly the answer is nothing. There are some that also play the cymbals with Golgotha as a continuation of the theme of joy.
It was the opinion of certain cantors that the cymbals are a sign of joy and therefore not to be used during lent weekdays for example. That was their opinion and they are entitled to it. However you do play the cymbals on Thursday and Friday of the Holy Week and even with the verses of the cymbals during funerals so there is no such thing as a complete ban on cymbals during certain services or seasons.
If midnight tasbeha is prayed during Lenten weekdays are cymbals played.
Theologically speaking, if cymbals are a sign of joy, they should be played during Holy Week. Thok te tigom is a biblical expression found in Revelation that speaks of Christ's divinity and humanity, as well as salvific acts. It is not associated with sadness in the Bible. In my opinion, it was added to Pascha to remind us that Pascha is NOT about sadness or grief but about joy and power. We dress the Church in black, not as a sign of mourning as people do to themselves attending funerals, but we dress the Church in black ceremonially to symbolize the death of the Savior. It has nothing to do with sadness or our own personal feelings.
Now that being said, however, we know that musically certain tunes are designed to elicit feelings (this goes back to ancient Greece all the way to Christian and Islamic musical theorists). In reality, all though it may elicit feelings of sadness, this music was designed for repentance. And wherever there are tunes that elicit sadness, they are ALWAYS immediately followed by tunes that elicit happiness. For example, Pascha Evnouti nai nan (at least as I see from the congregation's reaction) elicits joy. This comes right after the litanies Kyrie eleyson that elicits repentance. There are so many examples. The bottom line is Pascha is about repentance and salvation, reconciliation with God and fulfillment of the prophecies, and not sadness.
The question that remains, which I don't see any evidence other than personal opinion, is whether cymbals and instruments are designed or viewed as a sign of joy or not. Musical instruments are also designed to elicit feelings, but our Church has always maintained that lifeless musical instruments cannot replace or take priority over the living vocal instrument of man. Thus, I tend to believe cymbals were only designed for minor guidance of tempo and rhythm as Drew said but people do not see it this way. The general population believes instruments are signs of joy, which is not supported theologically or historically. Personally I think, this paradigm (that musical instruments elicit joy) is more likely another example of Protestant infiltration into the Coptic mindset. Thankfully, it has not gained any serious momentum otherwise we would have drums, pianos and trumpets in liturgical services.
edited April 2017
I have grown to see the cymbals to be in some ways antithetical to the idea that we keep tempo, and in some ways, it has also been used in a loud and hyped manner. If cymbals must be used, it should be very very very lightly. If people can keep tempo by a head chanter with a microphone, I see no point with the instruments anymore. Furthermore, while Thine is the Power is joyous, and helps us see the partaking of divine grace through the Cross, I feel hyping the hymn with our vocals alone also tends to lose the modesty of our liturgical chanting tradition as well.
"If people can keep tempo by a head chanter with a microphone"
Now that made me laugh. People have completely lost the power of listening to each other, especially musically. Microphones don't keep tempo. Microphones only promote competition and more lack of listening (and consequently more lack of theological understanding). I visited one church during Good Friday service where multiple people were using multiple microphones in both hands to be louder and "correct the tune". Even when I told them multiple microphones do not increase the volume in an audio system (only increasing the settings on the amplifier does), it landed on deaf ears (pun intended) and they continued the microphone olympics.
While I would love to believe this event was an aberration of one church, I am finding more and more churches playing the microphone olympics. Just look at any Coptic "choral" audition. Every singer has to have a microphone, even in group singing. It is looking more and more like Protestant worship with more instruments getting their own microphones too.
Now take a look at any psalmody Youtube video from any Coptic monastery. No microphones.
No head cantor either. (That's part of the problem too.)
Literally dozens of monks praising very difficult hymns in unison.
I have not experienced this at all in my parish. Sorry to hear about that.
That is often the case in my church. On Good Friday in particular there are people who try to shut out others because they believe that they are saying the hymn correctly and everyone else is wrong. This causes confusion which is why we mess up sometimes, but it is not because we don't know the hymns, it is because of certain people hogging up the microphone and shutting everyone else out
I think that problem is in most parishes these days...Specially with smaller churches that are starting up. You have one or two deacons that are good, so they are mostly leading, probably with every good intention. But then those two deacons are given more attention and "exalted" then others either from the priest or other leaders in the church. Now, most of the time, having good talent attracts others to learn and become like them. So then when you get a third or fourth deacon, or a group of deacons that are full of energy and knowledge to participate with those two original deacons, they are now too full of themselves to be open and accepting to the new talent...this doesn't happen all the time of course, but i am atleast seeing it a near-by church that is very "closed" (for a the lack of a better word) to outside influence. So, the deacons there are KIDS, in mind and actually in age too...lol. none of them are welcoming to any older deacons from outside the church.
Two things that happened in our church holy week that are worth mentioning:
+ Pek ethronos was beautiful on good friday:
+ Psalm 151, three deacons start chanting it, and finish the whole intro, and realize at the end that the mic was off...what you are listening to is what the altar mic picked up:
edited April 2017
We tend to try to teach no one has "a right to the mic" so to speak. If you are given it, take it. If not, stay with the crowd. We tend to accept the leadership and sharing roles more than infighting, even if we have capable chanters that don't lead. If the crowd sounds good, we do distance the mic a little for a more choral feeling, which is the ideal of course.
What needs to happen is to teach chanters to learn the hymns for themselves, not to run after the mic. If the leader did a mistake, let it go.
Sorry for the length, I'm responding to a lot of different threads
I know what you mean with the whole "mic Olympics" thing- at one point my church had 4 mics for a chorus of 6 deacons and it was a mess. Of course, there is the issue that some mics are more or less sensitive than others- there is one wireless mic we use that requires you to nearly kiss it for it to pick anything up, and another that you can hold at arms length and you'd still be very loud. If you have decent stage mics on stands, you should be able to have 1 mic for every 2-4 deacons, depending on their voices and how far the mics are. However, if you watch the videos from the Cathedral, M. Ibrahim has a mic for himself and sometimes one or two other deacons, because they will say parts by themselves. If you have 1 deacon saying a verse or hymn by himself, he should be able to use his own mic, but not when the whole chorus is behind him.
A solution to the issue of deacons knowing two forms of a hymn: the major church in our area (which is extremely well-established with deacons and has been around since 2003ish) has a system to make sure there is no commotion between deacons: some time before the feast/fast/event, the deacons and one of the priests all meet together for a day and review the order of events, make sure everyone says the hymns the same way, distribute long hymns, decide what will/won't be said, and so on. In an effort to unify the surrounding other churches, they invite delegations from them to review, so if a deacon from church A goes to church B for the feast or anything else, they'll be on the same page. For example: I went to the Palm Sunday meeting last year, and deacons from another church were preparing to do the General Funeral in the annual tune. I remember there being a large discussion over the Synod's back-and-forth decisions (for anyone not aware, the current stance is that it's prayed in the mournful tune.)
I 100% know the problem you're talking about and have been on both ends of it. When I moved from the larger church to the new, smaller one I currently attend about 2 years ago, there were no deacons. I have been blessed with a talent for reading Coptic, so abouna asked me to lead the chorus. However, I knew nothing. Thankfully, the larger church asked a knowledgeable deacon to come and help us get on our feet. Soon, the priest's sons came from California and took over the chorus. At first, they shut me and the other deacons who wanted to learn out. But, when Kiahk came and they needed help, they started teaching me and a few of my friends some basic things. Now, I am thankful to say God has allowed me to be on par with those young men. One day, I went to the larger church for a Saturday liturgy for a bishop. The adult deacons leading had never met me before- it'd been over a year since I'd last been to that church for liturgy- and assumed that, because I was young, I didn't know much (to be fair, a lot of kids my age don't know much.) I felt really diminished and embarrassed. Just before Ni-Savev, one of the servants told the chorus leader I knew the whole hymn well, as he'd heard me sing it for mahregan earlier that year. So they brought me up front, and I kept pace with them the entire way through. After the liturgy, they apologized for ostracizing me. When I went back to my smaller church the next day, I realized I was doing exactly what was done to me to some other deacons, and felt terrible.
Summary: the deacons need to be aware that guests and younger deacons can be an extreme blessing, and you cannot bar them because they do not know anything.
From what I've been instructed and taught, like you said, no one should try and take the mic from someone else. Mic's can pick up a lot of sound, and more than one person can share a mic. The leader (person closest to the mic) should not be overpowering anyone, but he needs to be mindful and aware that he is setting the tempo (with the help of cymbals and triangle) and pitch. The following deacons need to know the hymn as well. If the leader needs to take a breath, cough, step away for a moment, the chorus should be able to continue independently. Also, if he makes a mistake, he should be able to notice that the rest of the deacons are not with him and realize he may be wrong.