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AP 60 to 51

Sambah lesan plays on alto saxophone.

By Johny P. David

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AP 56a -Sambah lesan plays on alto saxophone.
Call Number

AP 56A

Part Number Part I - Syro Malabar Church
Title Sambah lesan plays on alto saxophone.
Duration 2:35
Place of Recording Johny P. David's residence
Date of Recording 26 July 2016
Youtube URL
Video Segment (s)



Johny P. David plays “Śambah leśān” on alto saxophone.
Recorded at Johny P. David's residence 26 July 2016

Note: Johny P. David adds a new dimension to the Aramaic Project by articulating his favorite Syriac melodies with the rich and luscious sonority of his alto saxophone. In this video Johny plays “Śambah leśān” (Sing My Tongue), The Syriac translation of the Latin chant "Pange Lingua" by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Liberated from the semantic and syntactic strictures of the Syriac text, the melody takes a life of its own and soars high on the wings of the dexterous fingers of Johny. This is new; Johny is a trail blazer. Syriac melodies are inextricably intertwined with liturgical texts and are seldom performed independently for enjoyment. As in the case of South Indian classical compositions, Syriac melodies are tagged by the initial words of the chant texts. By performing it outside the liturgical context, Johny gives the melody a new identity. At the same time, Johny’s decision to do the recording inside a church is commendable. The acoustic ambiance of the church adds another layer of warmth and a velvety coloring to the already smooth sound, making it all the more pleasing to the ears.

This melody has an interesting history; The Syriac translation of the Latin text might have been in existence since the sixteenth century, before the Synod of Diamper in 1599. Johny recalls that this particular melody was composed by someone in Kerala in 1953 for the celebration of the Blessing of the Blessed Sacrament on the occasion of the visit of Cardinal Eugene Tisserant (1884-1972). This visit was not an ordinary one. The Cardinal, who then was the secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, came from Rome with a special gift for the St. Thomas Christians: a relic of St. Thomas the Apostle. The relic was enshrined at a solemn ceremony at the Mar Thoma Shrine at Kodungalloor, where the Apostle is believed to have landed and established the first Christian community in South Asia. This particular melody was sung there for the first time as part of that grand celebration.

Johny plays the melody from memory, the way he learned it from Fr. Abilius, C. M. I. (1916-2000). A notated version (staff notation) was with Fr. Abilius, but was lost. In spite of its uniqueness, the melody did not become popular. As it stands, Johny’s memory base is the singular source for the melody, and we may never hear this melody it in a human voice. In any case, we are immensely grateful to Johny P. David for sharing this precious piece of music and the special memories associated with it....... Joseph J. Palackal

Related Videos

  • AP 5f - K. O. Chacko Koythadathil, sings "Śambah leśān" which is sung during the Eucharistic procession on Holy Thursday.
  • AP 6f - Dr. Jacob Vellian and team sing "Śambah leśān" From Pange Lingua by St.Thomas Aquinas.
  • AP 51a - "Śambah leśān" Syriac translation of Tantum Ergo by Thomas Aquinas.
  • AP 56b - Johny P. David plays “Śambah leśān” with instrumental accompaniment.
  • AP 241(231) - Syriac East meets Latin West Part 1: Sambah Lesan & Kollan Dasne

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