Hello guys, I haven't posted around here for a a long time so you'll forgive what might be seen as a random intrusion.
I'd be astonished if this issue hasn't been discussed before, but I would really appreciate people's input so as to allow myself to make an informed decision:
Sources of Coptic Hymns.
From what I've read and looked at (I'm am not a Mo'allem or an expert), it is almost universally agreed that Mo'allem Mikhail El- Batanouny the Great is the most reliable source; after all, he collected what was left of our hymns under the instruction of Pope Cyril V.
So, logically, it would make the most sense to go straight to the source and learn the hymns there. That should provide the most reliable rendition of the hymn.
And, I have found the collection by the Mo'allem here: http://www.coptichymns.net/modules.php?name=Coptic_Media&op=modload&file=index&p=Coptic Hymns/Cantor Mikhail Girgis El Batanouny Collection/Tape_01
Now, prior to this, I have learnt my hymns from different sources, mainly: HICS, Mo'allem Farag Abdelmessih, Mo'allem Wagdi Bishara.
And many hymns simply from my youth - from growing up in a church and listening to deacons. Hymns that are known commonly to many people e.g. Agios O Theos, Thok Te Ti Gom - for such hymns I have never heard recordings from certain cantors; I simply heard them being said since my youth in the church - I cannot account for the sources of the deacons, but I imagine to a certain extent that the fact that most of these commonly said hymns are said "universally" by all in virtually the same way I will not have to return to the source of Mo'allem Mikhail to relearn.
I have heard many criticisms of HICS and HCOC by various people. The main criticism of the former seems to have regarded the recording of the Liturgy of St. Cyril (the view that the "completed" version which was recorded by Fr. Mettias Nasr [with the tarkeeb or building upon of the tunes taken from the Gregorian Liturgy] should not have been done vs. the view that the completed version is much better than the alternative of simply having unusable fragments). The criticisms I've heard about HCOC are that they are simply re-recording what Mo'allem Mikhail recorded, albeit in a form that is "easier" to learn from.
I do not wish to spark arguments, though. The real crux of the issue with me is this: there will always be fluctuations of differences in Mo'allems taught from the same source. I mean, they will never, ever be 100% identical to the Mo'allem they received the hymn from. Don't get me wrong on this point - you can definitely identify a certain melisma or hazza and know that they were thus passed on from a certain Mo'allem, but we are human beings and not machines. The main elements of a hazza might be present, but slight differences can and will occur, and I imagine these differences will become more and more defined and greater as the number of times the hymn has been passed on increases. Each cantor will make slight changes, unintentionally of course, or may forget, mis-teach etc. And that is why I am incredibly happy that we are all agreed and have Mo'allem Mikhail's recordings as a benchmark. I love the Churches hymns, and I want to preserve them as much as I can. The fact that the we can always refer to the Mo'allem Mikhail's recordings is for me a relief that when learning hymns we can always (as much as possible) learn them without the differences caused by the passage of time.
Having written this, I realise that I don't really have a question as such. I've talked myself into a circle of sorts ;D. My conclusion on the matter is that I'll try as many hymns as I can from the recordings of Mo'allem Mikhail.
What are your opinions on the matter? :)
pray for me