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THERE IS SOMETHING CELESTIAL AND VERY BEAUTIFUL IN COPTIC SONGS: Listen to two Coptic grief songs: ipouro and ti shouri, and judge for yourself

August 21, 2012


We have spoken before about the beauty of Coptic music, and said that Ragheb Moftah (1898–2001), the renowned Coptic musicologist and scholar has saved it by recording it, for eternity.  He spent his life convinced that Coptic music possessed a special quality which was rarely matched: its value did not only spring from the fact that it was rooted in ancient Egyptian music of Pharonic times, but in its spiritual tunes that could touch the deepest recesses of the soul and lift it up to approach its Creator. Western musicologists readily agreed with Moftah, and one can consult the works of Ernest Newlandsmith for confirmation.[1]

But we don’t want you to read what others think of Coptic music – we want you to taste it yourself, and judge for yourself! I reproduce here two Coptic songs, from the grief and sorrow genre. They are sung on the Passion Week: the first is the “ipouro tune” and the second is the “ti shouri tune”.

The ipouro tune


Ipouro is a Coptic word that means “The King”, referring to Christ. It is sung every day of the Passion Week as the concluding grief hymn, just before the absolution and Our Father.

Translated into English, the song goes:

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison (Lord, show mercy)

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.

O King of peace

Grant us Your peace

Bestow upon us Your peace

And forgive us our sins.

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison

Disperse the Church’s enemies

And fortify her

So she wouldn’t be shaken

Forever and ever.

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.

Emanuel our Lord

Is now in our midst

With his Father’s glory

And the Holy Spirit’s.

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.

May He bless us all

And purge our hearts

And heal the illnesses

Of our souls and bodies.

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison

Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.

We worship You, O Christ

With Your good Father

And the Holy Spirit

For You were crucified

And have saved us.

Below I reproduce three versions of it:

1. Ipouro (by Heart of David Group): 4.47 min

2. Ipouro (by David Group): 02.14

3. Ipouro: faster rhythm: audio mp3: 06.29 [second half in Arabic]

The Ti shouri tune


Ti shouri is a Coptic word that means “the Censer”: Coptic censers are used in Coptic Church services, the practice originated in ancient Egypt. In Coptic ecclesiastical symbolism, “the Censer as a whole represents the Virgin St. Mary; the upper dome represents heaven; the lower dome represents the womb of St. Mary; the coal represents the Lord Christ’s Humanity; the fire represents the Lord Christ’s Divinity; the incense on top of the coal is the aroma that we received when He presented Himself as a true Sacrifice, and we smelled Him, as did His Good Father; the three chains represent the Trinity, and are united by one chain in the Middle (the unity of the Trinity)”.[2]

The ti shouri is sung on Good Friday. The Coptic singer thinks of the pain and sorrow that the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, was experiencing as she was looking at her Son and God bearing the sins of the world as He was undergoing the Passion; and he expresses hers, and his pain and sorrow, which are nevertheless mixed with hope of the expectant and eminent salvation, in this very moving tune. It translates into:

The Golden Censer is the Virgin and its aroma is Our Saviour: she gave birth to Him, and He saved us and forgave our sins.

There are two versions of the ti shouri tune:

1. The long ti shouri grief tune: this one is sung by Deacon Basem Murad: 05.13 min

2. The short ti shouri grief tune: 4.18 min

[1] See, e.g., his lecture, The Ancient Music of the Coptic Church, which he delivered at the University Church, Oxford, on May 21, 1913.

[2] The Coptic Church: A Living Image, presentation by St. Mary & Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church, Houston, Texas; Slide 27, p. 28.

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