copticchantsToday is Christmas day according to the calendar in use by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Recordings of the traditional hymnody of the Coptic Church can be quite hard to come by outside of academic settings. The first such recordings to be made widely available in the West were made by famous Coptologist Aziz S. Atiya in the Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo and released under the title Coptic Music in 1960 on the Folkways label. Since that recording is still available on CD-r directly from the Smithsonian Folkways website, here is a different recording that appeared on a 7”EP sometime in the 1960s. It was released by Philips in the Netherlands as volume 27 of their “Song and Sound the World Around” series of world music EPs. I’ve never seen any other volumes, but the back of the sleeve advertises volumes from Turkey, Iran, Bengal, and India. The excerpt of the liturgy featured here was recorded by famous Bengali ethnomusicologist Deben Bhattacharya, who also featured segments of the Coptic liturgy on his great Religions of the Middle East compilation LP on the Argo label.

Sunday Mass (Philips, circa 1960s)