Aramaic Project

No. 180 to 171 - Interviews and Performances - Video List

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Aramaic Project Number Description Duration Date and place of Recording Video

Syriac Melodies of Raza. 1986 edition, with staff notation

Solemn Raza of the Syro Malabar Church. Thaksa-1986. Includes staff notation of melodies. Dr. Mathew Vellanickal prepared the notation. Keywords: Vellanickal, Mathew. Thaksa of Raza in Malayalam. Syro Malabar Liturgy. Christian music, India

Note: The 1986-edition (Malayalam) of the Thaksa of the solemn Raza of the Syro Malabar Church included staff notation of the chant melodies. Rev. Dr. Mathew Vellanickal prepared the notation. The translators of the Syriac texts into Malayalam kept a clear goal of singing the song text to existing Syriac melodies. The melodies gave a sense of continuity of the liturgical tradition. Besides, the Syriac melodies were relatively simple, and the entire congregation could sing them with great ease. Moreover, people were already familiar with these melodies from the Syriac era, although they did not sing the Syriac text (only the clergy had Syriac literacy). Soon after the promulgation of the Thaksa, the Department of Liturgical Music of the Archdiocese of Changanacherry published a recording of the chants for the benefit of the church choirs. Berney Karimpil, a collector of Christian devotional songs, had this recording in a cassette. He gladly sent us a digital copy that we are publishing in this video. This video could be useful for historians of liturgical music of the Syro Malabar Church as well as for music historians. We have not been able to gather the names of the singers, the date and place of recording, etc. If any of the viewers have access to that information, please share them with us.

Joseph J. Palackal, CMI

New York

27 March 2020.


"Lessons:" secular music in sacred space during the Syriac era

Instrumental music during solemn Qurbana in Syriac in the Syro Malabar Church.

Note: This video contains a collection of incidental music that used to be part of the solemn celebration of Syriac Qurbana. The respective instrumentalists performed these melodies as an introduction before the starting of Qurbana, during Communion, or wherever there were a few silent moments to fill in. The musicians referred to these melodies as “Lessons,” and the act of performing the melodies as “lissan kottuka” (Malayalam for playing to “Listen” or playing the lesson). It used to be an occasion to showcase the musicianship of the performer. The musicians used to consider the melodies to be their private property. They would teach them only to selected disciples. Often, performers received recognition based on the number and variety of melodies they knew and the expertise with which they performed them. The melodies were adaptations of practice lessons from the western music tradition, or even South Indian classical music compositions. In other words, the melodies were strictly secular and had no stylistic affinity to the sacred Syriac music repertoire. They were the result of the meeting of many cultures. Thus, this was an area where the sacred and the secular realms met inside the church during the liturgy. People did not seem to resist the permeability of those boundaries. Instead, we have reasons to believe that these performances received appreciation and acknowledgment from the worshippers. Each melody has a history of its own. For that reason, these incidental melodies deserve the attention of musicologists. We have been able to collect only a small number of melodies. Yet, they can be useful for cultural historians for an extensive amount of researches on the movement of music and the formation of cultural sensitivities.

Joseph J. Palackal, CMI
New York
25 March 2020


31 July,2018



Jose George and Diana Paul from Michigan, USA, arranged the Sacraments of Initiation for their two children in the East-Syriac tradition.

Keywords: Jose George. Sacraments of initiation, East Syriac tradition , Syro Malabar Church

Note: Jose George and Diana Paul, a young couple from the Syro Malabar community in Michigan, USA, wanted to initiate their two children into the Christian faith, in the East-Syriac tradition of the Syro Malabar Church. The Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Syro Malabar Church traditionally administered all the three sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation) together even for children. Jose George and Diana Paul waited for the opportune time and accomplished their goal during their visit to Kerala in January 2020. The ceremony included the celebration of Qurbana, which included also a few Syriac chants. After the event, Jose George visited our office in Kochi, and Kuriachan Palackal used the occasion to engage in a conversation. Jose George shared his thoughts about why and how he wanted to accomplish this. the conversation ended with comments on the usefulness of the Aramaic Project for the young generation of Syro Malabar Catholics, who want to reconnect with their roots and experience their identity. We are grateful to Jose George and Diana Paul for sharing this video and granting permission to post it on our channel. It serves as a model for others who want to follow the same path.

Joseph J. Palackal, C MI
New York
23 March 2020

Interview of Jose George by Kuriachan J. Palackal recorded at CMSI office, Kochi on 22 Jan, 2020

Baptism recorded at St. Kuriakose Knanaya Catholic Church, Ernakulam on 3 Jan, 2020


"Witawangunnen" Funeral services for priests. Fr. Sankoorikkal

Fr. Sebastian Sankoorikkal sings the famous chant, "witawangunnen," from the funeral for priests in the Syro Malabar Church. This is Fr. Abel's Malayalam version of the Syriac chant," Etha Pus Lek Baslama" (Farewell O Church, peace to you). Fr. Sankoorikkal is the best exponent of this chant. He has touched many hearts by singing this chant at the funerals of many priests.

Keywords: Sankoorikkal, witawangunnen, funeral chants


  • Fr. Sankoorikkal sings :Witawangunnen
  • Fr. Abel, CMI sings "Witawangunnen." Aramaic Project -11.9.
  • Fr. George Plathottam sings "Witwangunnen." Aramaic Project-140N.
  • Fr. George Plathottam sings "Etha Pus Lek."Aramaic Project-81.
  • Fr. Cyril Thayil sings "Etha Pus Lek Baslma." Aramaic Project-85
  • A comparative study of the text and melody of Etha Pus Lek and Witawangunnen." Joseph J. Palackal. "The Survival Story of Syriac Chants among the St. Thomas Christians in South India." In Music and World Christianities. Oxford University Press (2016). Link


4:02 Locations as per the Aramaic Project Videos listed in Resources

Melody of "Rahem Alai Alaha," Penitential Psalm 51. Fr. Sankoorikkal

Fr. Sebastian Sankoorikkal sings the Syriac version of the penitential Psalm 51, "Rahem Alai Alaha." Lord, have mercy on me, to the more familiar tune of another Syriac chant, "Etha Pus Lek." Keywords: Sebastian Sankoorikkal. Penitential Psalm in Syriac. Psalm 51 in Syriac.


This recording is a precious gift from a veteran singer of Syriac chants, Fr. Sebastian Sankoorikkal. This is the only example of the melody of this particular Psalm text. We have several examples of the melody with the text of the famous chant from the funeral services for priests in the Syro Malabar Church, Etha Pus Lek (Farewell, O Church). Fr. Sankoorikall talked about how he learned this chant while he was a young boy (we have incorporated that conversation in the video. (See Aramaic Project-25 ). The Sacristan of his local parish used to sing this chant during the funeral procession from the church to the Cemetary. The text is also a part of the reconciliation rites in the Syro Malabar Qurbana in Syriac. It is not clear if the text was sung to a less solemn tune during Qurbana in Syriac, before 1962. Fr. Sankoorikkal added this chant when he made a studio recording of selected songs from the solemn Syriac Qurbana (see Aramaic Project-175). We are immensely grateful to Fr. Sankoorikkal for this unique gift.


  • Fr. Sankoorikkal sings :Aramaic Project-177
  • Fr. Abel, CMI sings "Witawangunnen." Aramaic Project -11.9.
  • Fr. George Plathottam sings "Witwangunnen." Aramaic Project-140N.
  • Fr. George Plathottam sings "Etha Pus Lek."Aramaic Project-81.
  • Fr. Cyril Thayil sings "Etha Pus Lek Baslma." Aramaic Project-85
  • A comparative study of the text and melody of Etha Pus Lek and Witawangunnen." Joseph J. Palackal. "The Survival Story of Syriac Chants among the St. Thomas Christians in South India." In Music and World Christianities. Oxford University Press (2016). Link
Joseph J. Palackal, CMI
New York
23 March 2020

6:01 Locations of Resources Listed Aramaic Project Videos

Fr. Sebastian Sankoorikkal. Solemn Qurbana in Syriac (pre-1962 version)

Studio recording of Solemn Qurbana in Syriac. Pre-1962 version. Fr. Sebastian Sankoorikkal.

We are fortunate to have yet another set of songs from the pre-1962 version of the Solemn Syriac Qurbana in the voice of a celebrated singer. Fr. Sebastian Sankoorikkal, a multi-faceted music personality, decided to make a studio recording of selected songs from the Syriac Qurbana with the accompaniment of modern electronic musical instruments. The reason for the selection of non-traditional musical instruments was to make these songs more appealing to the younger generation of Syro Malabar Catholics, who are tuned to modern musical sonorities. Fr. Sankoorikkal wanted to pass on the legacy of a great musical tradition that he mastered during his younger days to the future generations that may not have the privilege of practicing such kind of music. Fr. Sankoorikkal begins the Qurbana with a solemn iteration of the minor doxology (1:13) with Halleluia. This is one of the peculiarities of the pre-1962 Qurbana. We heard another example of staring Qurbana with the minor doxology in Aramaic Project-172 Fr. Paul Kodamullil (See video and liner notes in Aramaic Project-172). Both priests, however, sing different texts and follow different performance practices. Fr. Sankoorikkal sings out the simple text with the choir responding in a call-response style. In contrast, we hear a subdued recitation of the minor doxology with the Trisagion in a low voice in the Qurbana of Fr. Kodamullil. (See the note on the minor doxology in Resources for Researchers, call no. 008-105 ). It is a clear indication that priests had considerable freedom in the choice of text and performance practice. There are several other adaptations of Latin texts in Syriac translation that went out of vogue in the revised missal of 1962. The Lord’s Prayer does not follow “Thesbohtha l’alaha” (Glory to God). Instead, the choir continues with the Syriac translation of the Latin Gloria in Excelsis Deo. See Video. The various recordings of the pre-1962 versions of Qurbana that we have posted on this channel might be an excellent resource for scholars to study the history of Syro Malabar Qurbana. In 2014, we had an opportunity to record an interview with Fr. Sankoorikkal (see Aramaic Project 25). That recording is an additional resource. If you liked this video, please support us to continue this project. To make a donation, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Joseph J. Palackal, CMI
New York
17 March 2020

Keywords: Fr. Sebastian Sankoorikkal, Syriac Qurbana, Witawangunnen.

43:09 pre-1962

Why should we preserve the Syriac language? Fr John Vianney, CMI

Fr. John Vianney, who was ordained in 1964, grew up in the Syriac tradition. He continues to cherish the memories of the Syriac Era. In February 2020 we got an opportunity for conversation when we met at Huntington, New York. I was curious to know what he thought about preserving the Syriac language. Fr. Vianney thinks it important to preserve this language. Our forefathers listened to the voice of God through the Syriac language. Therefore, we should take steps to preserve that language for posterity. In 2018, when Fr. Vianney got an opportunity to celebrate the Sunday Qurbana at St. Jude Syro Malabar Church in Northern Virginia , he started with Puqdankon. The choir knew how to sing the response. See

Joseph J. Palackal, CMI
New York
10 March 2020


Campus of the Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, New York.

12 February, 2020


"Bar Maryam" as Christmas carol, in Melbourne, Australia. 2019

Note: This is a document of a unique performance that expands the geographical and semantic history of the famous Syriac chant, "Bar Maryam" (Son of Mary). The St. Alphonsa Cathedral Parish choir in Melbourne, Australia took a bold decision to sing this chant at a public Christmas carol celebration. The City of Whittlesea organized the event and invited the Cathedral choir to be a participant. By singing Bar Maryam as a Christmas carol, the choir added a new performance context to this chant. They also added a new focus on Mary as the mother of the Son of God. The song assumes both Christological and Marian significance at the same time. The choir and the Syro Malabar Diocese in Australia deserve praise for adding the sound of the ancient Aramaic language to the linguistic soundscape of Australia. The geographical extent of this East Syriac chant has now reached a faraway continent. On a corrective, the pronunciation of the last phrase in the refrain should be “YELDAS Maryam,” (instead of YELDES Maryam). We are grateful to Justin Mathew for documenting this historic moment, and to Abin Koovaplackal for sharing this video for publication on our channel.

Joseph J. Palackal, CMI
New York
8 March 2020


City of Whittelesea grounds, South Morang, Melbourne

13 December, 2019



Fr Paul Kodamullil. Solemn Syriac Qurbana. Pre-1962 version


We are indeed fortunate to have this recording of Solemn Qurbana by Fr. Paul Kodamullil (d. 2019). This is one of the very few recordings available of the pre-1962 version of the solemn Qurbana. Fr. Kodamullil was a celebrated singer, who was gifted with a powerful and resonant voice. His vocal style is reminiscent of the pre-amplification era when singers had to reach out to large audiences without the aid of a microphone or acoustic amphitheaters. During his active years, Fr. Kodamullil used to be sought after to be the celebrant at solemn sung mass during parish festivals. This recording was originally published on a pre-recorded cassette. The digital transfer has adversely affected the speed of performance and, consequently, the quality of voice. We can hear Fr. Kodamullil's live voice in Aramaic Project-3. The short introduction In this recording gives us a glimpse of Fr. Kodamullil's speaking voice. [From the note on Aramaic Project-3 Fr. Kodamullil was a living link to a unique period of time (the 1950s) and place (St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary at Mangalapuzha, Aluva) in the history of the Syriac chants in India. During this period, we see an unusual convergence of great and diverse musical talents and heightened musical activity at St. Joseph’s Seminary; Fr. Mathew Vadakel, an excellent singer and composer of Syriac chants, served as a professor. In this video, we hear the solemn melody of the Resurrection Hymn in Syriac, “Lāku mārā,” (To You O Lord) that Fr. Vadakel composed. Fr. Aurelius, OCD, a Carmelite from Spain and an expert in Western art music, was the music director and organist. The Seminary owned a huge pipe organ, probably the only one of its kind in India. Fr. Vadakel and Fr. Aurelius collaborated in publishing the musical notation (staff notation) of the solemn high mass in Syriac in 1954: kērala kaldāya suriyāni rīthile thirukkarma gīthangal (Liturgical songs of the Chaldeo-Syrian Rite of Kerala). The text layout is in the Malayalam script. The first part of the book contains a lesson plan in Malayalam to learn staff notation and western art music in general. The book was published by S. H. League, the publishing wing of the Seminary. Fr. Kodamullil was lucky to have had such great mentors. As choirmaster of the Seminary for seven years, he also had opportunities to interact closely with Fr. Vadakel and Fr. Aurelius in making decisions on the musical choices for the liturgical celebrations and the performances of the official Syriac Choir at the Seminary. A group photo from 1958 that is in the cherished possession of Fr. Kodamullil is the source for the images of Fr. Vadakel and Fr. Aurelius shown on this video. One can only imagine the sonic heaven created by the solemn Syriac melodies in the voices of such gifted singers to the accompaniment of the majestic sound of the pipe organ. That could not have happened anywhere else in the world. We are grateful to Babu Puthumana for sharing this recording with us and granting permission to post it on our channel.

Joseph J. Palackal, CMI
New York
3 March 2020
54:35 Pre-1962 version

Nuptial Qubana and crowning ceremony of Dixon & Nivya

  • Part I. Ramsa at the home of the groom
  • Part II. Chantham charthal. Beautification of the groom. Madhuram wekkal
  • Part III. Nuptial qurbana and crowning. Reviving traditions of the St. Thomas Christians in India.

Special thanks to Denny Karamkunnel for sharing this video and granting permission to post it on our channel

53:27 Lourde Matha Forane Church,Vadakkancherry
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