Coptic Orthodox music - Octeochos?

edited January 2010 in Hymns Discussion
I have been having some difficulty for some time now on the liturgical music of the Coptic Orthodox Church.  In the EO Church, there are sets of Eight Tones (sometimes called 'modes') which all hymns are written in.  These Tones are all different, but tones 1 through 4 are related to 5 through 8 respectively (this relationship differs from tradition to tradition in the EO Church, but the principle is the same).  Does the Coptic Church have anything like this, or there a main Tone or Metre for singing?  This is something that was of particular interest when I dropped in on a Coptic Orthodox worship service about a week and a half ago in Red Deer, AB, as I was noticing more then than I had in past that the rythmn of the cymbals changed for certain hymns, and the tune seemd to shift at certain parts of the service.  Does this make any sense? 


  • It depends on what service you dropped in on.  I would like to point out though, that the biggest difference I've noticed b/w the Coptic Church and the other Orthodox churches, both Eastern & Oriental, is that in the Coptic Liturgy, the priest's part is given much more musical variation than the responses of the people outside the altar.  In an EO liturgy, the priest just narrates his part quite quickly and then the people respond with long elaborate responses.  In the Coptic Church, this is reversed; the responses of the people are quick and short while the priest's parts have long, melismatic tunes; although, you probably won't hear those tunes on a regular average Sunday since most priests try to finish their liturgies in a reasonable amount of time.

    The Coptic Church has 7 tunes; but they are not applicable to ALL hymns.  They are:

    Annual/Regular/No particular season
    Great Lent - Weekdays
    Great Lent - Weekends (Sat & Sun)
    Palm Sunday - used on Palm Sunday and Feasts of the Cross
    Pascha Week/Sad or Mourning tune - used in Pascha Week and in funerals

    These tunes are only implemented in Matins/Vespers as well as Vespers & Midnight Praises services.
    As I said they are NOT applicable to all hymns, in particular, the hymns of the Anaphoras (the different liturgies) do not follow these, they have their own system.  What service were you attending and when? 
  • Thank you Archdeacon, that was quite helpful.  I would love to study this a little more and learn these melismatic tunes: any ideas as to where/how I could do this? 

    I was visiting the Red Deer, Alberta, area about a week or week and a half ago--right before your Nativity celebration, and I saw lights on and cars at the Ukrainian Catholic Church.  So I stopped by and as I was outside, I heard cymbals and the familiar sound of Coptic chant.  So I went inside, removed my shoes, and sat in the back of the church and sing a little (as I could, my voice was rather punished from work that night) and pray with the Coptic faithful there.  There was no priest, just some faithful folk with the English and Arabic words to the hymns on a slideshow with several men taking their turns with the cymbals.  It was about maybe 8 or 9pm when I showed up. 
  • Hi Joseph
    Kindly note that all the hymns have been written on musical notes by the Late Ragheb Moftah, He has done this big project with the help of the American University in Cairo. If u r intrested in the musical tones yr best start is to conatct them. I am sorry I do not have their address but there is only one American university in Egypt.
  • Thank you kindly.  I appreciate the direction. 

    This is more for Fr. Peter or anyone else in the British Orthodox Church: is your liturgical music done in the same manner and of the same tones? 
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