The Copts have one of the oldest surviving languages on earth, directly descended from the ancient Egyptian tongue. These Christian hymns are the closest link we have to the religious music of their ancestors.
‘Coptic Liturgies’ as sung by the Ensemble David is an excellent recording of ancient Christian chant and liturgy from Egypt. Having recently attended an actual Coptic Orthodox liturgy. Most of the chanting is done in Coptic, the pre-Arab language of ancient Egypt written in the Greek alphabet. Several Greek Hymns were incorporated into the Coptic liturgy such as the well-known "Kyrie elision" prayer ("Lord have mercy"). The liturgy also makes extensive use of Arabic as well. It is sung to a simple rhythm and accompanied by two types of musical instruments: cymbals and a triangle. There is some speculation that knowledge of ancient Egyptian funeral rites had a later influence on how the early Church set up its liturgical celebrations. There could be similarities between mummification rituals and devotion to Christ who died and rose bodily from the grave. In all, this CD provides a great sampling of a chant that has both similarities and yet remains distinct from other Christian chants such as the Gregorian and Byzantine.