Music and the Coptic Church

Ann-Marie Derias • 29 January 2020

Ann-Marie Derias  |  29 January 2020

Ann-Marie Derias is a first-year, pre-med student at the University of Florida. She is studying Psychology and plans to obtain a certificate in Music and Medicine.

As I walk through the church doors each Sunday, I am immediately greeted with the beautiful voices of the priest, deacons, and congregation singing in unison. The way in which the tunes of the chants are a mutual understanding throughout the congregation has always struck me as one of the most unique aspects of the Coptic church. It led me to consider the importance of music in our spiritual lives, and our use of the alhan and taraneem.

It is truly fascinating how our musical praises have been carried on throughout all these generations. All of our hymns and chants had been passed down solely through oral repetition, until the 20th century where they were captured on recordings. The characteristic cymbals and triangles help to keep the pace of our tunes, with the cymbals also “expressing the eager soul enamored by Christ.” Not only does our chanting provide individuals a way to remain actively engaged in worship during church, it also gives us the chance to be united in our worship. A feeling of serenity encompasses the entire church—it’s like magic the way that the music guides us.

As a musician myself, I often compose my own music on the piano outside of the Coptic church. However, the spiritual music of our church will always hold a special place in my life above the rest. I have fond memories of my mom singing Coptic hymns to me when I couldn’t fall asleep, of my sisters and I joining in on melodies before taking communion, and most of all, praising God with my church. I believe that music serves as the medium that bridges the gap between Heaven and Earth. Our musical praises instill a momentary sense of Heaven in our hearts. We celebrate our lives musically—and aim to one day live in the eternal praising of God.