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Halleluiah


Halleluiah or praise to the Lord which repeats frequently in the Psalms, brought into the West from Jerusalem by Damasus the pope of Rome (+384). Halleluiah sings in all masses in the Syriac Orthodox Church as well as in almost all prayers and ceremonies. Halleluiah presents today in its different original forms without any modifications since St. Jacob of Edessa (+708) put the current rules of prayers of the Syriac Church. Halleluiah has to be sang before the reading bible during the mass or any other ceremonies like wedding and baptism as well as funeral.


Among the different forms of Halleluiah there is a special form of Halleluiah which is intended for the prayer of Saturday afternoon. This Halleluiah is created for a solo-singer who sings it in a freeform (adlibitum). Therefore this Halleluiah requires higher acquaintance in the oriental song’s technique. Click here to listen.

In the Syriac orthodox mass, Halleluiah is the last hymn of the first part of the mass, which is called the mass of the non-baptized. Thereafter the Bible reads and follows by the sermon. Now a day we have only one form for this Halleluiah for the mass service. It sings very similar in all the Syriac Orthodox churches with the very small and acceptable modifications depending on the way of singing, the geographic area and school of melodies in different churches.

In the roman mass-order Halleluiah is the third song. Already from the beginning Halleluiah has a typical melismatic character. The last vocal of the word Halleluiah is almost designed as a long terminal melism and called for “Jubilus” (melodious parts for example Halelui-a-a-a-a-a-a)

While choir singing with its simple syllable’s presentations sustained to be the fully adequate representative of tradition during long time, the solo song with its predilection to the flourish melismatism, went against the traditions and became an element of development.

The solo singers enjoyed the difficult decorations of the melodies and forgot the holiness of the liturgical music when they tried to reconstruct it. The solo song became more and more an important element of church music, which limited the choir song for the benefit of special-educated singer.

The solo song too ended up in a dilemma while deciding to make accentuation on words or on melody, or else to perform the songs in a flaunting form with an artistic reading or with a melodic form of expression.

In the Syriac Orthodox Church the solo song dominated long and limited the developing of the choir song. The quartertones, which were preserved in their original form, barred the polyphonies and harmonically many-parts singings and created a dissonance for the many-parts music. The Halleluiah song presented continuously free and non rhythmic. Because of the non-sufficient methods of note writing that may cover such type of music and singing, we don’t have any preserved musical note script that shows the origin of this form of Halleluiah singing. Therefore we rely on the melodies that have been transferred from generation to generation during a long time.

By: Elias Zazi and Issa Habil


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