Lent 2013 Day 21: Digging for the roots

I’m happy to say that today I made a new friend: Dr. Alexander Lingas. For a couple of hours we talk about our common passion, Byzantine Chant.

One of the topics we discussed was the history of Arabic byzantine chants. All sorts of questions came up: When were the first Arabic manuscripts written? Where are they?  When were the first Byzantine Chants with Arabic words typeset?

After I dropped Dr. Lingas at the bus station to catch his ride back to Jerusalem I went home and started looking through my shelves of byzantine chant books to find that the oldest typeset book I had was the vespers service in 8 tones printed in 1941 by the St. Paul press in Harissa, Lebanon. I also checked some of the books I have and what I could figure out is written Arabic chants didn’t exist before 1900 although chanters learned from the Greek and chanted in Arabic based on the Greek chants. Protopsaltis Mitri El Murr seems to be the first person who wrote them down and published them. I have all seven books which were publish by his son Elias El Murr and they are truly a treasure.

1941 vespers book cover sample page 1941 vespers book

If anyone knows more about this topic, please feel free to comment below and tell us more! I leave you with the first antiphone of Holy Friday 12 bible service composed by Mitri El Murr and performed by SEM:

 

Antiphon text: 

THE RULERS OF THE PEOPLE HAVE ASSEMBLED AGAINST THE LORD AND HIS CHRIST.

A LAWLESS CHARGE IS HURLED AGAINST ME.LORD, O LORD, FORSAKE ME NOT.

LET US OFFER OUR PURE SENSES TO CHRIST.AS HIS FRIENDS LET US SACRIFICE OUR LIVES FOR HIS SAKE.LET US NOT BE WEIGHED DOWN BY EARTHLY CARES LIKE JUDAS, BUT LET US CRY IN THE HIDDEN CHAMBERS OF OUR HEART: OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, DELIVER US FROM EVIL.

AS A VIRGIN YOU GAVE BIRTH WITHOUT KNOWING WEDLOCK AND REMAINED A VIRGIN, O UNWEDDED MOTHER.O MARY THEOTOKOS, PRAY UNTO CHRIST OUR GOD TO SAVE US.

— Jack Rabah

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