It All Makes Sense. Hallelujah!
STANDARD MELISMATIC TUNES
The Je Aucaji tune is specific to the Offering of Incense services on standard/annual days. This melisma encompasses the first two stanzas of the psalm. It is named after the verse of the psalm that it is most commonly attuned on; the psalm for the evening offering of incense on the Feast of The Virgin Mary.
It is important to understand that the evening and morning Offering of Incense services are separate entities from the Liturgy of the Word. It makes sense that they would have a tune for the psalms that is specific to these services during standard days.
You’ll notice that some cantors do not continue the rest of the phrases of the psalm but chant the concluding Alleluia right away. This is evidence indicating that the melismatic phrases were separate from the third and fourth phrases with the intermediate tune and the tawwaf psalm with the recitative tunes.
The Singary Tune
The “Singary” tune is a beautiful melisma that originated from the region known as Singar: a village located west of the Nile delta, near the current Lake Burrulus. It was a popular site of pilgrimage; the Coptic Synaxarium notes that Diocletian persecuted Christians there. There were also many prominent monks living in Singar. The region became a bishopric at some point in the 8th century and it played an important role in the history of Lower (Northern) Egypt. The bishops of this see were present at several documented councils and one of the Coptic Patriarchs was a monk from this place. This is very likely to have played a significant role in the preservation and spread of this tune for the psalm chant.
Singar was destroyed by the rising water levels of Lake Burrulus, sometime during the 16th or 17th centuries. The ruins of the village are located on an island which is now in the midst of the lake. The only surviving remnant of the region is this wonderful melisma.
This melisma was placed on the first two phrases of ALL psalms chanted during the Liturgy of the Word, during both festive and annual days; the only exception being the psalms of the month of Kiahk (Advent).
Please pay attention to the last track in this playlist as you will hear the specific method for the psalm chant ‘yotrah’
The “Summary” Singary
Due to the length of this melisma, two developments occurred. The first was the creation of a summary tune known as the “molakhas” (الملخص).
The following is a video interview with Cantor Tawfik speaking about this tune and stating that it is a lesser singary and is used annually. This isn’t because this tune itself is an annual tune, but because the singary itself was used as the standard tune of the liturgy psalm.
I would also like to bring your attention to Cantor Tawfik’s humility in this video! He is aware that he forgot a small portion of the hymn and asks Fr. Isaiah to correct him.
This tune was used when there was time constraint or if more than one psalm was chanted. A great example of an occasion like this is Palm Sunday, where two separate psalms are chanted and all four gospel accounts are read. In the Coptic liturgical calendar, Palm Sunday is considered the 7th Sunday of Great Lent and was prayed in the annual/standard rite. This is also why the cantors recorded the psalms of the offering of incense in the Je Aucaji tune.
The following is an excerpt from the Order of the Church by Bishop Samuel. This specific excerpt is taken from the manuscript of the Baramous Monastery which dates back to 1515 AD.
The Abbreviated Singary
The second development was another abbreviation of the hymn; currently it’s considered the short singary. In this version, the main portion of the melisma is removed and a connection is made between the first syllable and the words of the first stanza in the psalm. This is much more commonly used than the summary tune, even though it is a more recent development.
Recently, the chant of the psalm with the singary melisma has been limited to the feasts of the Lord and other joyful occasions. The summary tune has been separated and considered an annual chant. This distinction has been somewhat confusing for many and it stems from different regional practices and a lack of understanding in regards to Divine Liturgies (originally celebrated only on Sundays) always being considered a feast for the Resurrection. You’ll notice that in the first two recordings in this playlist, both cantors Fahim and Ibrahim start the abbreviation as if it is the annual psalm.
Once the melismas are finished, the second two phrases (3 & 4) are chanted in the following intermediate tunes depending on the season.