Modernising Hymns

I was speaking with a friend of mine who very much likes the theology of the words in our coptic hymns, but at the same time dislikes the music (she finds it boring).
My friend suggested that our hymns need to have new music composed on it for the new generations who do not find coptic music appealing (particularly in the lands of immigration). As someone who loves coptic music, it upsets me to see that someone is not benefiting from something as beautiful as coptic music, though I understand that everyone has their own personality and benefits from everything differently.
She suggested the new hymns should be created, in the context of mission churches which retain the Orthodoxy but adjust the culture, as like those in the USA, but that the standard churches should retain the traditional music.
Of course, one would much rather change the music of these hymns than the words. Assuming the lengths of the hymns would remain the same but with new music, would there be any reason not to compose new music for these hymns (other than the obvious of losing our coptic heritage)?

On another note, my friend suggested that hymns and services needed to be shorter, for the sake of those who do not benefit from lengthy music. As one person benefits from hearing sermons but not reading books, another might benefit from seeing the icons, but not hearing the music - each has their own way of benefiting from the church.
The best example is Good Friday; although I enjoy the length of the hymns, how can I make my brother/sister in the church sit through several hours of hymns, struggling to find any benefit? What if it is to the point that they decide to leave the service early (or arrive late)?

Thanks very much for your words of wisdom :)


  • Hey Danny I agree with you I love our music and the thing is our music is not meant to to entertain or to stir up emotion its purpose is to worship god and here's an article from return to orthodoxy its talks about how the music of the church and how if u compose different hymns they must be in the same spirit it must be familiar and in continuity with those who sang before us

    These articles should be sufficient to explain to your friend why our music is the the way it is

  • Thanks very much Aba, I should improve my internet search skills, that site seems very interesting.
    Given further thought, I think that hymns education in my church at least is severely lacking. I don't mean, learning the hymns, but learning about the role of hymns in the church. In Sunday school there may be discussion about praise in the bible, but nothing ever about the role of our Coptic hymns in the church. Even regarding the use of instruments, I myself never received a proper reason for this when I was younger.
    Alhan lesson attendance is also low, particularly among girls.
    Perhaps this is just my church.
    But I think such an environment is only a setup for failure, it would never produce a generation of people who can actively benefit from our music. What do you guys think?
  • The Coptic faith is slowly reforming itself and is now one of the more active Eastern Churches. The Coptic Church has been constantly evolving, that is how we managed to survive despite being at the heart of the Islamic world.
  • @danny I agree 10000% about the teaching of hymns being a side act. More people now are memorizing and not learning. Its like knowing the alphabet in English and how to read words but never knowing what the words mean.
    I often have to teach young kids some small responses and I always get yelled at for doing more talking to them than teaching. What I'm talking about is that each response has a spiritual aspect and it's not just music. But this is for every hymn. For example- the mournful TaiShori has short, sharp notes because they're like the "sword" that pierced the heart of St. Mary (the true censer.) That's why during the 6th and 9th hour the Hymns of the Censer are said in the mournful tunes.
    There needs to be more praying of hymns than singing.
  • Your totally right Daniel_kyrillos but where would people even find this out are there any books that talk about the hymns at all
  • @Aba I'm sure there are Arabic books on the topic. Also, maybe some of the Cantors can put out some books in series or collections ("The Hymns of <Holy Week, the Resurrection, KIahk, etc.>) since they know the most about these hymns
  • an american rite will develop, God-willing.

    In Christ,
  • There are more than one aspect to the comment:
    1. A Coptic hymns is a structure that has melody and lyrics.
    2. The language & hymns reflect the zeitgeist of the era & location they belong too
    3. It is difficult to achieve satisfaction of every single person in the church

    There is the traditional wave that favours preservation of Coptic language, hymns, costumes, rituals, architecture, iconography, interior design, and rituals as they represent the identity of the church, and they'd argue that teaching people more about language and hymns, would generate interest, and maintain a homogenous understanding of the legacy of this heritage.

    There is also the renovation wave that favours translation of Coptic language to current local languages, replacing hymns, slowly with more modern hymns. They believe that the role of the church is to deliver people to Christ, and hence engaging with people is an integral part of the church, this would apply to all the aforementioned items. This would also entail that the church should pay attention to the local heritage of each culture, say in the US hymns could be more American etc. and this is an ongoing process of development.

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