Are we doing Melisma all wrong?



  • edited June 2016
    Dear Rem,

    Your whole post I agree with, but there is one minor point of clarification I think need to be addressed.  You write for instance "If the general population does not want to join in the offering, it doesn't make the offering (or the way of doing the offering) wrong or bad."  This small part I have to disagree.  Let us for example think of the Institution Narrative.  It is necessary, liturgically and theologically, for all the congregation, especially the ones who will partake of the Eucharist, to chant "Amen" and "We believe that this is true" and "We believe, we confess, and we glorify" and "Amen! Amen! Amen! Your death o Lord..."  It is not enough that a presbyter calls upon the Holy Spirit.  It must be accompanied by the confirmation of the people.  Just these simple parts, if the people are not actively participating, either the Eucharistic celebration becomes invalid or the people who do not participate should not even be there, let alone partake of the Eucharist.  It is just as bad as a congregation not having a sincere "kiss of peace", still begrudging one another, bring the Eucharist not into a blessing, but into condemnation of their souls.

    The liturgy is not just the work of the presbyter and the choir, but the work of the whole Body of Christ.  It is not merely "preferable" that they chant in the liturgy, but necessary.  I fear we become a bit nonchalant at the people not participating in the chanting (and sometimes, it's because of a quiet congregation that "dressed up children" goof around and not open their mouths).  If a melisma was meant only to be chanted by a particular person, then the choir should be silent (and children remain with their parents).  Otherwise, we need to teach people to be part of the melismatic tunes and understand its spirituality.

    I admit I have made a provocative statement about "throwing away melisma".  I know, and I did so for a reason.  Not because I want to get rid of it, nor I advocate doing so, but because we need to take teaching the hymns seriously and have the WHOLE congregation chanting them.  We are not here to have a good show, but to worship, and frankly, every time melisma happens, there's a vast silence behind the choir that should always make us uneasy from a theological perspective.  The other solution I find is that people can meditate and pray silently on what is said, but then we could change the rules of melisma and only allow one or a very few group to chant it.  I don't know, but what I do know is that ideally there should be no "choir".  There should be no "Psaltos".  Everyone must chant.  The walls need to shake from people's praise to the Lord because they need to realize they are in His divine and eternal presence.

    The only reason why I mention children is because their minds are sponges.  I don't think anything I said in that issue contradicts your statements concerning different standards for different groups.  The important thing is when I was a child, I learned melisma, and loved it, and then as I grew, I sought to understand its spirituality.  That's a whole lot more difficult for an adult person to do; as the person gradually ages, one could lose appreciation for melisma, especially the really long ones.  I would like to see the front row on the female side filled with melisma professional little girls that could put many male choirs to shame.  And the best way to do so is to get them as young as possible.  For older folks, different standards are necessary, but by then, it would seem they have now culturally accepted that they are "busy doing other stuff" that melisma is merely for those who wear white and maybe stoles.

    Anyway, that's my rant, but other than that, I do appreciate your opposition to Bishoy Awad's view.  That was the main point of this discussion since I did not study a music degree or know music notations to understand "music theory".
  • Ekhrestos anesty,
    Dear @minasoliman,
    How will the congregation learn to pray through singing the melismata, and how long will that take? I hope you are not suggesting that we stop singing meghalo or sad tune dishoria, or indeed baketronos until the congregation master them! Perhaps not master them but only get used to them. Or perhaps not everyone to get used to them but to appreciate them. Or perhaps not everyone will be keen because they don't have the skills or the experience of singing the hymns. So for me the way to teach the congregation is by singing all hymns each and every liturgy, until people learn. Oh, I may be living in cuckoo land.
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • That's why I stressed teaching children
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    I'm not sure if you could appreciate my argument. Teaching the children is only one tenth of the answer..
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • edited June 2016
    My issue is this. People's minds wander when they don't know the hymns, especially the children. It may be one tenth the battle, but it will bring us ten times more nuisance in the liturgy, because wandering minds of children lead to goofing off.

    I don't want to get rid of these hymns. But the state of melisma in the church is at a crossroads. We need to do more. Hymns are not just for a group of male choirs that practice every Wednesday evening. The people must join, so they need guidance. We have one good chantor (actually he's a subdeacon) who takes advantage of the overhead projector and puts the hazzat there, and he uses the mouse pointer to help the people follow along. That minimizes the wandering minds. And this is just what my parish did. I'm not in a position to say what every parish should do since every parish has its unique situations.

    There is a translation available also for the hymns we chant. We can write contemplations on the hymn, what it means when we stay on this vowel and why we chant this vowel in that way, and give it to people to read and meditate. There is a spiritual reason for every melisma no?

    If we are not active in doing this, but only turn the melisma into an exclusive club of dressed up men, we are sowing the seeds for them to be forgotten. Start with all the kids AT LEAST that we may build a generation that could appreciate them. When they grow up, we can gradually teach them the spirituality. For the adults, we can start with helping them appreciate the spirituality and the meaning of the melisma in itself and if they desire, they'll learn.
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    I'm afraid I have to leave the main argument and comment on the practice many churches are now resorting to. Dear @minasoliman we are not being active using those projectors to show translations, hazzat, contemplations or any such educational tools.. We are making people passive, more and more passive each day. These projectors are the worst things that happened to the Coptic church. I even wonder if any other church uses them but I won't be surprised.
    Back to the topic I believe being active means singing long hymns with melisma each and every liturgy and the people must do take part, but it should come from their own decisions and thoughts.
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • I'm not saying this to support projectors. They do have a lot of negatives. But they also have their benefits.

    Alao, Good Friday melisma only happens once a year. Should we do those weekly as well? ;)
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    I have already mentioned Good Friday hymns above.
    Oujai khan ebshois
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