Introducing Syriac Chants to Children

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INTRODUCING SYRIAC CHANTS TO CHILDREN

Teaching Music in Church School

The Syriac Music Institute (SMI) is pleased to present to you a proposal for a project: “INTRODUCING SYRIAC CHANTS TO CHILDREN.”

Syriac music/chant is one of the oldest existing chant traditions. Chants are composed in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic and the language of Jesus Christ. Since the early days of Syriac Christianity, chants have been an integral part of congregational worship. Along with the Holy Qurbono (the Divine Liturgy) all other liturgical rites are established in chants.

The positive effect these chants have on the life of the Syriac community is undeniable. These chants give religious reference, as well as offering a strong view of the liturgical rite and faith. Additionally, this art form impacts Syriac religious and cultural identity, ideology, symbols, moral values, and the collective cultural memory of Syriac Christians.

Musical authenticity of chants, however, has been shifted from its colorful, melodious and inspirational nature into dissonant singing.

This is due to the following reasons:

  • Majority of the Syriac population lives in the diasporas: Integration with other cultures is inevitable, as authentic traditions will intermix with foreign elements.
  • Lack of musical and liturgical education of Syriac leaders: Clergy, deacons, choir leaders, and Sunday School teachers must be equipped to train their congregation for collective/unified singing.
  • The lack of systematization of the Holy Qurbono and other liturgical rites: Each parish adopts melodically and textually varied chants, confusing and discouraging participation in the Holy Qurbono for younger generations.
  • Inaccurate preservation of chant melodies: The way it was received to us by our church forefathers has been lost over time.
  • Insufficient resources: Translation into English (and other languages in the diasporas) of chants, musical notation and audio recording are inaccessible.

Considering these factors, the ability of the malfone and malfonyotho to teach chants in its true and exact form is crucial — in particular, maintaining cohesive singing during liturgy.

In order to be able to teach Syriac chants to children of any level, it requires basic teaching skills. A choir director, high deacon or priest don’t necessarily have to have studied music or play an instrument; but they do need to have a deep understanding of the 8 modal system functions throughout the liturgical year. Those who lead the choir/congregation in chanting must have a strong musical sense.

Furthermore, given that Syriac chant repertoire is composed in said language, teachers also must have a solid command of the Syriac and English language (or the language of their country of residency). This is key for interpreting and teaching Syriac chants to children.

Some enjoy listening to Syriac chant without understanding. Conversely, the new generation is eager understand the text and meaning of these chants.

In addition, tuneful congregational singing is an impactful component to engaging the parish and getting them involved in the holy Qurbono (the Mass).

 

Therefore, SMI will address these issues by completing the following:

  1. Preparing the ground work for a musical program that will assist our choir leaders, clergy, and the parents to teach Syriac chants to children.
  2. Creating a collection of Syriac chants for kids, covering:
  • Special occasions (e.g. Christmas, Easter, Palm Sunday)
  • Chants for the Holy Qurbono/Divine Liturgy
  • Non-liturgical songs (e.g. Aloho-hab-yulfono, ‘it Suryoyto)
  • Contemporary Christian songs both in Syriac and English (e.g. Praise the Lord, Nshabah L’moryo)
  • Songs about the Sayfo (Genocide of 1915)
  • Songs about the homeland (e.g. Tur’abdin, Beth Nahrin)
  • Christian Faith slogans/chants (I believe in one God)
  • Sunday School slogans (e.g., At Sunday School)

 

  1. Transliteration and translation into English for all chants in this project.
  2. A booklet displaying a brief overview of the Syriac liturgy and music will be created.
  3. Professionally recording audio containing all of the above chants (preferably sung by a children’s choir).
  4. Instructional videos for children, malfone and malfonyotho.

Following through with these objectives, malfone/teachers, head deacons, clergy, choir leaders and now parents will be able to correctly teach Syriac chants to their children.

Thus, those with teaching skills are encouraged to contribute to this project. I would greatly appreciate your input on the outline of this project (see below). Feel free to select a topic you’d like to help SMI cultivate. Tawdi!

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INTRODUCING SYRIAC CHANTS TO CHILDREN

Project Outline

INTRODUCTION

The objective is to highlight the chanting in the Syriac Liturgical Rite, establish a music program to teach children (and eventually create unified congregational singing for the future), and train voices for accuracy when chanting in all 8 modal (maqam) systems. Finally, the program aims to spread the love of Syriac chants to children and the leaders who will teach the younger generation.

CHAPTER 1

HISTORICAL & LITURGICAL OVERVIEW OF SYRIAC CHANT TRADITION

   I.      SYRIAC MUSIC & CHANTS

  • Overview of chant history
  • Characteristics of Syriac music
  • Syriac liturgical books
  • The art of practice
  • The transmission of chant throughout centuries
  • The relationship between text & music

II.      SYRIAC MUSIC VS. CURRENT POPULAR/MODERN MUSIC

  • Distinctions between Syriac and contemporary Western music culture
  • Why emphasis should be put on Syriac music first

III. SYRIAC CHANT TRADITIONS

·       A brief overview of Syriac chant traditions (e.g. the tradition of Mardin, Iraq, Aleppo/Syria, etc.)

·       Selecting standard chants from all Syriac chant traditions

·       Chants in Syriac and English

CHAPTER 2

 

TEACHING CONCEPTS

  1. BASIC SKILLS NEEDED TO TEACH SYRIAC MUSIC
  • Dividing students into groups based on age

For example:

  1. Preschool to 6 years old (Non-Readers)
  2. 2nd Grade to 12 years old (Readers)
  3. High School and College students (Advanced)
  • Dividing students into two groups (Right and Left Gudé-lecterns)

For example:

  1. Gudo A: Male students to the RIGHT side of the church
  2. Gudo B: Female students to the LEFT of the church

 

  1. PREPARATION AND CLASS TIME
  • Preparing song repertoire
  • Accompaniment of a musical instrument
  • Teaching basic components of singing (e.g. pitch and rhythm)
  • Teaching Syriac modes, tmone qinotho (maqam)
  1. HOME TEACHING
  • Eventually, how to teach this concept to family members so they utilize these skills outside of a church setting

 WHAT TO TEACH

  • Mass chants and responses (e.g., Rahem ‘layn, ‘am ruho dilokh)
  • Chants for major feasts (e.g., Christmas, Resurrection, etc.)
  • Non-liturgical chant (e.g., Aloho Hab yulfono,

 

  • CONCLUSION
  • Church schools are essential to introducing Syriac chants to children
  • Syriac chants vary from other music traditions (Western)
  • Laying the foundation for a Syriac music teaching concept to guide choir leaders, teachers and children

 

CHAPTER 3

MUSIC

Selected musical pieces (for all musical levels):

  • All hymns from the Holy Qurbono
  • Liturgical (e.g. Halel w Zamar, Toyson Wothyon, etc.)
  • Non-liturgical use (e.g. Aloho Habyulfono, ‘it Suryoyto)
  • Contemporary Christian Songs (e.g. Nshabah Lmoryo w nezmar/Praise to the Lord together singing halleluiah)
  • Chants about the Sayfo (Genocide in 1915) and homeland (e.g. Tur’abdin, Beth nahrin)
  • Christian Faith slogans/chants (e.g., I believe in God the Father)
  • Sunday School slogans (e.g., At Sunday School)

All songs will be in:

  • English translation
  • Syriac text with Latin translation
  • A bar code for audio and video files (or audio CD)
  • Every teaching concept in the project will be demonstrated through a YouTube video
  • Basic videos of the practice

THE PROJECT IS PROJECTED TO BE MADE AVAILABLE IN FIVE DIFFERENT LANGUAGES:

  • ARAMAIC
  • ENGLISH
  • TURKISH
  •  ARABIC
  • GERMAN
  • DUTCH
  • SWEDISH

 

Sponsors, please contact us for Project Cost Estimate and Sponsorship Form.