The Late Dr. Ragheb Moftah's 100th Anniversary
by El Keraza Magazine
The Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates its foremost Coptic hymns scholar.
The celebration was prepared under the care of HH Pope Shenouda and was attended by a great number of metropolitans and bishops: Their Graces Abba Gregorius, Bishoy, Agathon, Timotheos, Sarabamon, Ruweis, Marcos, Boutros, Abraam, Picenty, Joannes and Samuel. It was also attended by professors and students at the Institute of Coptic Studies some of them are priests and servants in different churches. The Hungarian musicologist Margerit Toth who transcribed the tiny melismata adding it to the original version transcribed by Ernest Newlandsmith was there too. A delegate of the President of the AUC (American Unievrsity in Cairo) was there too with some professors. Some relatives to Dr Moftah and hundreds of people attended the celebration.
The Chorus of the Institute of Coptic Studies and the Theological Seminary, directed by archcantor Ibrahim Ayiad was there. It performed wonderful hymns in this happy occasion. Hymns were performed between the words throughout the celebration.
Preparation for the Anniversary
Pope Shenouda had formed a committee to prepare for this anniversary. Supervised by HG Abba Samuel, the committee included Prof Dr Nabil Sobhy, Dr Isaac Fanous and some professors of the Institute. On this occasion, the committee published a booklet titled: "My memories with Coptic Hymns" from the words of Dr Moftah. He wrote there about his memories of those who worked with him both Copts and foreigners and the great achievement they did.
Words and Gifts
The Pope entered the hall in beautiful hymns at 18:00 o'clock. He commenced the anniversary by Our Lord's prayer followed by Thanksgiving. This was followed by many hymns and words. HG Bishop Samuel, head of the Architecture Departement at ICS spoke, then Dr Isaac Fanous, Head of the Art Departement, and finally, HH talked and distributed gifts.
Pope Shenouda III Speaks
The Pope opened his talk by congratulating Dr Ragheb Moftah on reaching his 100th anniversary and congratulated the Coptic hymns for the efforts of this great man who consecrated his life to serve it.
About age, the Pope said that "many Copts reached their 90s of age or a bit more like Drs Aziz Suriel Atteya, Dr Shafik Abdel-Malek, Dr Bahor Labib or Saba Bacha Habashy but you exceeded them all.. The Lord granted you this age to accomplish this mission that you are doing"
The Pope talked then about Coptic Music and its importance. And how the Lord's name was praised in music since early ages in the nature, tabernacle and temple. He mentionned Biblical personalities who were known in music like David, Asaf and others. He also mentioned the various music instruments that are mentioned in the Psalms.
He explained how Dr Moftah believes that the human's Larynx is the best music instrument ever. That's why the hymns he recorded were (a cappela) in pure human voices. The cymbal and triangle are used nowadays for the sake of keeping the rythm of the singing of the deacons and congregation. It is wrong when they are played too loud and exceed the singing volume.
The Pope said that some (virtuoso) cantors were changing the melody when adding some embelishments for traditional hymns [nb for 2000 years now, cantors were the sole mean of keeping and transmitting old melodies] till Dr Moftah adjusted it, united it, transcribed, recorded and published it.
He talked about Dr Moftah consecrating himself for the past 70 years to keep the ancient Coptic hymns from being lost among the many variations the cantors were making. He talked about how Dr Moftah kept looking for the best and most accurate voices till he found Cantor Mikhail Guirguis El-Batanony before contacting foreign musicologists to transcribe hymns.
In London, he met with Dr Ernst Newlandsmith at the Royal Music Academy to transcribe Coptic hymns. On 1928 the work began, Cantor Mikhail was singing the hymn and Dr Newlandsmith transcribing it. They transcribed 16 volumes in 7 years covering all church seasons hymns.
He met then with other musicologists: The German archeologists Dr Hans Hickmann. The Hungarian musicologists Ilona Borsay and Margerit Toth and the musicologist John Gillespy. Some of whom spent some years in Egypt to serve, analyse and lecture about Coptic Music.
Another important point was the formation of the chorus and the recording of the hymns in ensemble voice. There is a big difference between when a hymn is performed by a single person or in ensemble of 20 or 30 deacons performing together in harmony as if they were one person. That's what Dr Moftah did with the help of the Choir of the Theological Seminary and the choir of the Institute of Coptic Studies. Those choirs were the pillar of the Music Departement at ICS.
The Pope said that Dr Moftah was very accurate and precise in that and concerned about keeping the hymns safe. He used to re-record a piece when only one note was wrong.
We thank the Lord who granted him a musical ear and very good memory that he still keeps. Dr Moftah could record St Basil's Liturgy and many church offices like the Holy Week, The Palms Sunday, the Vespers, hymns of feasts and Lent and others..
He is now publishing St Gregory Liturgy, then St Cyril Liturgy with the help of Cantor Tewfik at Virgin Mary (Moharak) Monastery from whom Fr Metthias Nasr learned. We ask the Lord to help him accomplish this task and give him more age.
The Coptic expression "She enrompi" (100 years) does not suit Dr Moftah now, we should change it to "Shomt She enrompi" (300 years). Or what was said about the Prophet Moses "Moses was 120 years old when he died, his eye didn't tire nor his freshness disappear" (Deut 34:7).
A big practical achievement was done by the American University in Cairo by publishing the music of St Basil's Liturgy along with the text in Coptic, Arabic and English."
At this moment, the Pope thanked the AUC and presented Dr Moftah and the Director of the AUC, Dr Margerit Toth, HG Bishop Gregorius and some professors with some copies. He also promised to send copies to the Theological Seminary and ICS Libraries.
HH Pope Shenouda decorated Dr Moftah with a valuable cross and presented him with another cross having a cavity for blessed oil, two candles and a big size Bible. HH presnted him with an icon that Dr Isaac Fanous painted specially for him.
In this occasion, the Pope distributed souvenirs to the metropolitans, bishops, professors and chorus seminarians. Many photos were taken in this occasion and the Pope prayed the blessing and concluded the ceremony.
The translation of this article was accomplished by the CHURCHNEWS electronic publication, which translated Arabic copies of El Keraza, the church's official magazine, before a native English version was published.
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