Maronite Music

Presuming that the use of the pipe organ is a Latinization of the tradition of Maronite music, are the instruments that are traditionally used during the Maronite Qurbono, or is the singing traditionally unaccompanied?

Hi Phillip,

Traditionally, very few instruments were used. Those that were included the sistrum, the mraweh (fans), something akin to a triangle (the name escapes me), etc. In any case, the purpose was essentially to keep time rather than provide “music” as such. Quite similar, actually, to the Syriac, Coptic, and even East Syriac customs.

It did not include flutes or recorders, violins, ouds, electronic keyboards, etc. Those are recent additions, having made their appearance in the post-conciliar years. FWIW, personally I don’t generally care for them, mainly because of they way they’re usually played. (FWIW, I’ve heard the Melkites also make at least occasional use of Arab-style instruments, at least in Lebanon.)

Although clearly a latinization of very long standing, one must also note that the harmonium, and far more rarely seen pipe organ, were (and are) commonly used. In general, they simply provide accompaniment to the vocal, but on occasion they are over-played, in the Western manner.

As well, one must note that guitars and such things are also seen. Their use, of course, is anything but “traditional” and amounts to nothing more than a neo-latinization.

Thanks, Malphono,

I’m somewhat familiar with the customs of instruments in the Coptic tradition, which, as you said, are primarily for keeping time.

The reason I asked the question was because I was listening to sound samples of a CD of Maronite music that included the “ney,” a flute believed to be of Egyptian origin, but which is very common throughout the Middle East. As a traditional/folk flute player this interests me a great deal.

For what it’s worth, I’m not a fan of the use of pianos, keyboards, guitars, et al. in a Liturgical context within any tradition, Latin or otherwise. Although it’s fairly common knowledge that I’m a supporter of the Charismatic Renewal, I’m not a fan of certain aberrations that are associated with the Renewal. Guitars and such are all well and good outside of the Mass - at a “Prayer Meeting” or non-Liturgical event - but I simply find them distracting during Mass at best. But that’s just a side note. :smiley:

So I take it that the ney would not traditionally be used to accompany the chanting during the Qurbono.


The nye, when played well (which, when speaking liturgically, isn’t very often) can be lovely, but it most definitely is not traditional. It affords a melody rather than a rhythm, and therein lies the difference. (And whether the nye is Egyptian (or Assyrian, or, as the Turks would claim, Turkish in origin is up for grabs. My money is on the Assyrian but I digress ;))

Thanks, Malphono. I’ve enjoyed what few recording I’ve heard of the nye. Since it’s not a traditional liturgical instrument, I will rethink whether or not I want to even attempt to learn it. :stuck_out_tongue: But it is lovely and I do enjoy hearing it.

Whether it belongs in church or not notwithstanding, the nye, when played well, can be hauntingly beautiful. If you feel so disposed, by all means, give it a go. While it may not be proper for liturgy, you’ll get a lot of support at the next hafla. :wink: :stuck_out_tongue:

The majority of Maronite music in liturgical usage is these days is just awful. I’m sorry…I’ve tried to like it on some level, but I think I’ve just bought my last Pr. Hage LP last week. Enough already with that guy. Yeeeech. Has no one else arranged Maronite liturgical music in the past 50 years?

Though what do I know; my favorite liturgical recording (other than the 95% Syriac liturgy by the OAM on Youtube) is with violin…but at least it’s violin ONLY, and generally pretty sparse, not the “loud, clanging triangle and shockingly obnoxious, intrusive organ” variety found on most other recordings. There’s also Ghada Shbeir’s unaccompanied Syriac album, “Passion: Chants Syriaques”, which I quite enjoy, though apparently it is based on hymns that aren’t being used anymore except in Maronite monasteries, so that’s sad.

Anyway, learn to play the cymbal! Then, uh…convert to Coptic Orthodoxy, since your church doesn’t use them… :stuck_out_tongue:

So I’ve gathered. It’s too bad. There has been such great work among those who use the music of the Greek Byzantine tradition to translate the texts into beautiful metered English, maintaining the original melodies where necessary, and composing new melodies that are completely Byzantine in their orthographical forms. It’s a shame that the Maronites in the U.S. haven’t been able to do the same. Heck, it’s a shame that the Latins in the U.S. haven’t been able to do the same, save for a very small handful of hymns.

As far as converting goes, it just won’t happen. My wife would never hear of it. Plus, as much as I love the Coptics, the Byzantine tradition in general, and the Melkites specifically are my home. :smiley:

The state of “Maronite music” these days (and not only in the US or even the Anglophone diaspora) goes well beyond appalling into the realm of the REVOLTING. :mad: The garbage I hear regularly (both in person and via broadcast from Lebanon) does nothing but impel me to order a gin and tonic. And raise the gorge in my throat. :mad: :mad: (And there are those who insist that there’s no such thing as neo-latinization … yeah, right…)

I completely understand. I have the same reaction when I go to any of the Roman parishes around me. It’s a shame too. The traditional corpus of hymns is so beautiful. There’s no reason that they can’t be more adequately translated and set to proper music.

Agreed. This is also an issue facing the Coptic church in the lands of immigration, but there are some very beautiful renditions out there in English, particularly from the midnight praises. Even some paraliturgical hymns have been translated into English, to good effect. I’m hopeful for the future of the Coptic Orthodox Church in this country, liturgy-wise. I’m sure it would be different if we had instruments to contend with, but as far as I know that has not ever been a part of the church’s tradition, and the few Copts I’ve talked about this with who are considerably younger than me seemed just as against the inclusion of any kind of melody-making instrument in the liturgy as your average Athonite would be, so I think we’re in good hands as far as that aspect of liturgical life is concerned.

As far as converting goes, it just won’t happen. My wife would never hear of it. Plus, as much as I love the Coptics, the Byzantine tradition in general, and the Melkites specifically are my home. :smiley:

Fear not; I really just wanted to share that cymbal tutorial. :smiley:

Just a quick question:
Is this what traditional byzantine chant is:
(The background music)

How does traditional Maronite music compare to Syriac Orthodox music?

PS: Latin music: Most of the best Roman rite Hymns are Anglican (Kingsfold, St. Anne) or German (Grosser Gott), IMHO.

:thumbsup: I really do love the Copts. To me, next to the Byzantine tradition, they seem to be the most “evangelical” as far as translating their traditions so as to evangelize in the diaspora.

The cymbal tutorial is great. I’m going to have to start practicing.

On a side note, a fellow Melkite parishioner of mine is also very involved in the local Coptic Orthodox parish. I should ask him if they admit he and his wife to Communion. :stuck_out_tongue:

That is indeed a great example of Byzantine music. I believe it was sung by the monks of Simonopetra Monastery on Mt. Athos. :thumbsup:

I’ll let others speak to the tradition of Maronite music vs. Syriac Orthodox. I can only speculate, but my thought would be that it would potentially be quite different, barring a few similarities. I would imagine, however, that to a Western ear they would sound quite similar until one gets used to it.

The best Latin music is contained in the books published by Solesmes Monastery in France. They produce the books containing the official Gregorian chants for each part of the Mass and each season of the liturgical year. Sadly they have not been rendered into any form of English (elegant, serviceable, or otherwise), nor has there been an attempt, to my knowledge, to adapt Gregorian chant to the English language. This attempt at adaptation is one of the great strengths of both the Byzantines and the Coptics in the diaspora (I’ve even heard Byzantine chant in Spanish!!!).

Yeah, I would say that qualifies as Byzantine chant (though I’d defer to any actual Byzantine who might want to put a finer point on it, as it is not my thing). The difference between Byzantine, Maronite, and Syriac Orthodox music is very striking – or at least it should be (I seem to remember several discussions going on here about “Byzantinising” tendencies among some Maronites, in some sort of weird attempt to regain a vague and surely well-meaning but misguided general “Easternenss”, forgetting or pushing aside the fact that Maronites are Syriacs, or if you’d prefer Orientals, not Byzantines).

Maronite chant can be considered a type or particular grouping within wider Syriac chant that is common to all the Syriac churches, as there is a commonality of the modes and texts (not surprising, given how many saints and hymn writers are shared in common). It’s particular development, I would guess, has to do at least in part with its geographic location and its long history of interaction with Western (e.g., Mediterranean, not “Western Syriac” Orthodox :)) Christianity that was not the case until much later in other places where Syriac chant predominated, say, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and India.

Hear it and decide for yourself:

Syriac chant lessons with the Malankara (Indian) Syriac Orthodox

A Syriac hymn of St. Ephrem according to Syriac Maronite usage (I would not say that this is necessarily traditional, but that’s part of the problem of the Maronites: They’ve lost a firm grip on what their traditional liturgical chant must’ve been like, you could argue starting as far back as the adoption of primarily vernacular liturgies. The earliest Maronite liturgical texts that I’ve seen that were primarily vernacular/Arabic were from the 16th century, though Arabic had begun to be adopted before that time if the history of Garshuni documents produced by Maronites is anything to go by…)

Part of the Syriac Orthodox liturgy celebrated by Archbishop of Jerusalem, Mor Sewerios Malki Mourad

PS: Latin music: Most of the best Roman rite Hymns are Anglican (Kingsfold, St. Anne) or German (Grosser Gott), IMHO.

Sounds like someone hasn’t heard Ensemble Organum! Though I don’t think they’re confessionally-minded, as they are headed by a Frenchman and yet feature a Byzantine (Greek Orthodox) chanter prominently on many of their recordings.:slight_smile:

What is the song called?


Sounds like Ambrosian Chant!

Funnily enough, Ensemble Organum did a whole album of Ambrosian Chant a few years ago. I guess that’s part of why I like them so much…they cover all the variations of ancient Roman chant. It may be my faux-Latinoness coming out, but their recording of Mozarabic Chant (Spanish medieval chant) is one of my favorite recordings of liturgical chant ever.

Byzantine + Syriac + Latin is what I heard…
I liked it.:shrug:

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