Our parish has been busy preparing for the Coptic pope’s visit, and as our city is the first that His Holiness will be visiting in the U.S.A., I thought it useful to provide a resource guide to other churches who are looking for assistance in their preparations.
Our chanters, readers, subdeacon and deacon (I’ll call them all “deacons” even though the term is misused), have been tasked with chanting for two hours while the pope is personally handing a gift to every single person at church.
Below are the hymns we have been preparing, and you’ll also find links to text and audio resources to assist you.
Note that we inquired of H.G. Bishop Youssef on a number of matters and below you’ll find the results of many of those questions. One important note is that, while the diocese bishop SHOULD be mentioned after His Holiness in hymns which include mention of the pope and bishops, His Grace was adamant about not including him (with the exception of the hymn Ee Aghabi) (trust me, I pressed very hard on this but couldn’t resist His Grace’s preference, even after consulting with our priest who also felt compelled to abide by His Grace’s wishes). UPDATE (10/8/15): the morning of the pope’s visit I got word from our priest that we must say the bishop’s name per a directive from the pope by means of his secretary. Hopefully Bishop Youssef understands 🙂
Moreover, you’ll find below resources from the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies (HICS)—His Grace is particularly fond of them over all other sources. Also, note that since we are not holding vespers or Divine Liturgy, the following hymns do not include some of those things which would be otherwise applicable for those services.
- Evlogeemenos (chanting to conclude upon reaching the Chorus section) (HICS Audio & Text) (Ibrahim Ayad) (English Audio)
- Ekezmaroot (Ibrahim Ayad Audio & Text) (English Audio)
- Hiten Nievki (can’t find the audio for this anywhere) (Text only) (English Audio)
I specifically asked H.G. Bishop Youssef regarding what exit hymn, if chanted at all, should be chanted.
These can be chanted whether there is a liturgical service or not. If there is no liturgy, H.G. Bishop Youssef preferred that Piepnevma as well as Tovh Hina not be chanted.
Note that His Grace Bishop Youssef specifically approved us singing the increasingly popular hymn Kalos, chanted in the more recent tune based on the old royal Egyptian anthem by Cantor Mikhail (as explained by Deacon Albair Mikhail, founder of the Heritage of the Coptic Orthodox Church (HCOC) Choir, explains here). Also, here is Ibrahim Ayad explaining some things about it as well.
- Ee Aghabee (HICS Audio & Text)
- Note: It is okay by H.G. Bishop Youssef to say his name in this hymn. If other bishops are also present, also say (before Mare Pi Ekliros) “Nem Neniotee Enepiskopos, Nietkineman”)
- To Makario (HICS Audio & Text)
- This used to be known more commonly as “Shenouti” because it was chanted for Pope Shenouda, and the first word of the hymn is the name of the current pope, followed by “To Makario.” If other bishops are present, also say (before Mare Pi Ekliros) “Nem Neniotee Enepiskopos, Nietkineman”)
- Ti Meet Esnotee (Cantor Gad Lewis Audio & Text) (Ibrahim Ayad and Choir – Video)
- Note: for some reason this hymn text is often at variance with what is typically chanted. “Eceshupi” refrain is “Efeshupi.” If other bishops are present, the words are “Nem Pefkeeshfeer enleetorghos enapostolikos” followed by the appropriate ending. In our case, no metropolitans are expected, but several bishops, so we are saying “Nem neniotee enepiskopos, nietkineman.” Also, the last of the twelve virtues mentioned ends in “TeeNekratia” rather than as it appears to sound based on its spelling.
- Sha Nee Rompi (Coptic Reader Text)
- Piehmot Ghar – Great Tune (Ibrahim Ayad)
- Kalos (Coptic Reader Text)
HOW WE ORGANIZED OURSELVES
In organizing the deacons for the pope’s visit, we set out a rule: do not dress unless specifically invited. Then, in consultation with the priest, about 20 deacons were selected to participate, based on the following criteria:
We set up three meetings of a few hours each where the deacons would come together having already learned the hymns on their own and then harmonize together during the meetings. We split the hymns among those three sessions.
Then, based on the above criteria, seating was pre-arranged.
We didn’t want the youth to feel left out, as they are our future, so we set up weekly classes for the middle and high school kids to learn the entrance hymns. If we had more time we could have also taught them the other hymns. These classes were open to boys and girls. All who participate in the classes are afforded special assigned seating in the front pews of the congregation section. The boys are able to participate in the procession and then exit to those pews reserved for them on the left, while the girls would already be standing and chanting the hymns from their pre-assigned seats opposite them.
We have also had to think about what we would do while people are piling into the church and filling the pews. There are lots of ideas. For example, maybe a sermon or talk about the Coptic papacy, vespers praises, glorification hymns, a Christian movie, etc. The idea is not to make the church turn into a place for socializing instead of a house of prayer and/or spiritual reflection.
May God be with the pope and grant him safe travel, as well as all those gathering to be with him.