Sunday, January 7, 7540

Gregory I (540-604) - Chant / Mass / Mode

Saint Gregory I the Great or Pope Saint Gregory I (c. 540 – March 12, 604) was pope from September 3, 590 until his death.

He is also known as Gregory the Dialogist (Gregorios Dialogos) in Eastern Orthodoxy because of the Dialogues he wrote. For this reason, English translations of Orthodox texts will sometimes list him as "Gregory Dialogus." He was the first of the Popes from a monastic background. Gregory is a Doctor of the Church and one of the four great Latin Fathers of the Church (the others being Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome). Of all popes, Gregory I had the most influence on the early medieval church.

Immediately after his death, Gregory was canonized by popular acclaim.

He is seen as a patron of England.

The exact date of St. Gregory's birth is uncertain, but is usually estimated to be around the year 540. He was born into a wealthy noble Roman family, in a period, however, when the city of Rome was facing a serious decline in population, wealth, and influence. His family seems to have been devout. Gregory's great-great-grandfather had been Pope Felix III. Gregory's father, Gordianus, worked for the Roman Church and his father's three sisters were nuns. Gregory's mother Silvia herself is a saint. While his father lived, Gregory took part in Roman political life and at one point was Prefect of the City. However, on his father's death, he converted his family home, located on a hill just opposite the Circus Maximus, into a monastery dedicated to the apostle Saint Andrew. Gregory himself entered as a monk.

Eventually, Pope Pelagius II ordained him a deacon and solicited his help in trying to heal the schism of the Three Chapters in northern Italy. In 579, Pelagius II chose Gregory as his apocrisiarius or ambassador to the imperial court in Constantinople.

In Constantinople, Gregory first gained attention by starting a controversy with Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople, who had published a treatise on the corporeality of the imminent General Resurrection, in which bodies would be incorporeal, to which Gregory contrasted the corporeality of the risen Christ. The heat of argument drew the Roman emperor in as judge. Eutychius' treatise was condemned, and it suffered the normal fate of all heterodox texts, of being publicly burnt. On his return to Rome, Gregory served as secretary to Pelagius II, and was elected Pope to succeed him.

This was a positive light shed upon Pope or "Papa Gregory" as he was then called, after his favor was acknowledged in the eye of the emperor. Accounted between 590 and 604, Gregory I first introduced the edict of celibacy. This is now widely believed amongst historians to have had an ulterior motive, this being, to prevent property and material wealth of the Papacy from passing from church to possible wives, families or mistresses of the clergymen.

When he became Pope in 590, among his first acts were writing a series of letters disavowing any ambition to the throne of Peter and praising the contemplative life of the monks. At that time the Holy See had not exerted effective leadership in the West since the pontificate of Gelasius I. The episcopacy in Gaul was drawn from the great territorial families, and identified with them: the parochial horizon of Gregory's contemporary, Gregory of Tours, may be considered typical; in Visigothic Spain the bishops had little contact with Rome; in Italy the papacy was beset by the violent Lombard dukes and the rivalry of the Jews in the Exarchate of Ravenna and in the south. The scholarship and culture of Celtic Christianity had developed utterly unconnected with Rome, and it was from Ireland that Britain and Germany were likely to become Christianized, or so it seemed.

In line with his predecessors such as Dionysius, Damasus, and St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory asserted the primacy of the office of the Bishop of Rome. Although he did not employ the term "Pope," he summed up the responsibilities of the papacy in his official appellation, as "servant of the servants of God."

As Benedict of Nursia had justified the absolute authority of the abbot over the souls in his charge, so Gregory expressed the hieratic principle that he was responsible directly to God for his ministry.

St. Gregory's pontificate saw the development of the notion of private penance as parallel to the institution of public penance. He explicitly taught a doctrine of Purgatory where a soul destined to undergo purification after death because of certain sins, could begin its purification in this earthly life, through good works, obedience and Christian conduct, making the travails to come lighter and shorter.

St. Gregory's relations with the Emperor in the East were a cautious diplomatic stand-off. He concentrated his energies in the West, where many of his letters are concerned with the management of papal estates. His relations with the Merovingian kings, encapsulated in his deferential correspondence with Childebert II, laid the foundations for the papal alliance with the Franks that would transform the Germanic kingship into an agency for the Christianization of the heart of Europe -- consequences that remained in the future.

More immediately, Gregory undertook the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, where inaction might have encouraged the Celtic missionaries already active in the north of Britain. Sending Augustine of Canterbury to convert the Kingdom of Kent was prepared by the marriage of the king to a Merovingian princess who had brought her chaplains with her. By the time of Gregory's death, the conversion of the king and the Kentish nobles and the establishment of a Christian toehold at Canterbury were established.

St. Gregory's chief acts as Pope include his long letter issued in the matter of the schism of the Three Chapters of the bishops of Venetia and Istria. He is also known in the East as a tireless worker for communication and understanding between East and West. He is also credited with increasing the power of the papacy.

In letters, St. Gregory remarks that he moved the Pater Noster (Our Father) to immediately after the Roman Canon and immediately before the Fraction. This position is still maintained today in the Roman Liturgy. The pre-Gregorian position is evident in the Ambrosian Rite. Gregory added material to the Hanc Igitur of the Roman Canon and established the nine Kyries (a vestigial remnant of the litany which was originally at that place) at the beginning of Mass. He also reduced the role of deacons in the Roman Liturgy.

Sacramentaries directly influenced by Gregorian reforms are referred to as Sacrementaria Gregoriana. With the appearance of these sacramentaries, the Western liturgy begins to show a characteristic that distinguishes it from Eastern liturgical traditions. In contrast to the mostly invariable Eastern liturgical texts, Roman and other Western liturgies since this era have a number of prayers that change to reflect the feast or liturgical season; These variations are visible in the collects and prefaces as well as in the Roman Canon itself.

A system of writing down reminders of chant melodies was probably devised by monks around 800 to aid in unifying the church service throughout the Frankish empire. Charlemagne brought cantors from the Papal chapel in Rome to instruct his clerics in the “authentic” liturgy. A program of propaganda spread the idea that the chant used in Rome came directly from Gregory the Great, who had died two centuries earlier and was universally venerated. Pictures were made to depict the dove of the Holy Spirit perched on Gregory's shoulder, singing God's authentic form of chant into his ear. This gave rise to calling the music "Gregorian chant."

Gregory is the only Pope between the fifth and the eleventh centuries whose correspondence and writings have survived enough to form a comprehensive corpus. "His character strikes us as an ambiguous and enigmatic one," Norman F. Cantor observed. "On the one hand he was an able and determined administrator, a skilled and clever diplomat, a leader of the greatest sophistication and vision; but on the other hand, he appears in his writings as a superstitious and credulous monk, hostile to learning, crudely limited as a theologian, and excessively devoted to saints, miracles, and relics."

Sermons (forty on the Gospels are recognized as authentic, twenty-two on Ezekiel, two on the Song of Songs)

Dialogues, a collection of often fanciful narratives including a popular life of Saint Benedict
Commentary on Job, frequently known even in English-language histories by its Latin title, Magna Moralia

The Rule for Pastors, in which he contrasted the role of bishops as pastors of their flock with their position as nobles of the church: the definitive statement of the nature of the episcopal office

Some 850 letters have survived from his Papal Register of letters, which serves as an invaluable primary source

[Francesco Zurbaran (1598-1664) - Gregory I]

In art Gregory is usually shown in full pontifical robes with the tiara and double cross, despite his actual habit of dress. Earlier depictions are more likely to show a monastic tonsure and plainer dress. Orthodox icons traditionally show St. Gregory vested as a bishop, holding a Gospel Book and blessing with his right hand. It is recorded that he permitted his depiction with a square halo, then used for the living.

[Carlo Saraceni (1579-1620) - Gregory I)

A dove is his attribute, from the well-known story recorded by his friend Peter the Deacon, who tells that when the pope was dictating his homilies on Ezechiel a curtain was drawn between his secretary and himself. As, however, the pope remained silent for long periods at a time, the servant made a hole in the curtain and, looking through, beheld a dove seated upon Gregory's head with its beak between his lips. When the dove withdrew its beak the pope spoke and the secretary took down his words; but when he became silent the servant again applied his eye to the hole and saw the dove had replaced its beak between his lips.

In portraits, usually the dove is shown whispering in Gregory's ear for a clearer composition.

Gregory was famous for his charity works. He had a hospital built next to his house on the Caelian Hill to host poor people for dinner, at his expense. He also built a monastery and several oratories on the site. Today, the namesake church of San Gregorio al Celio (largely rebuilt from the original edifices during the 17th-18th centuries) remembers his work. One of the three oratories annexed, the oratory of St. Silvia, is said to lie over the tomb of Gregory's mother.

"Non Angli, sed Angeli" ("They are not Angles, but Angels"), said by Gregory when he first encountered blue-eyed, blond-haired English boys at a slave market, sparking his dispatching of St. Augustine of Canterbury to England to convert the English, according to Bede.
Gregory himself wanted to go to England as a missionary. However, one day while praying about this and reading Sacred Scripture a locust landed upon his text. He shouted out locusta, Latin for locust, but reflecting on it he saw it as a sign from Heaven since the similar sounding loco sta means "stay in place." (i.e. in Rome)

When Augustine asked whether to use Roman or Gallican customs in the mass in England, Gregory said, in effect, whatever advances the Faith, for "...things are not to be loved for the sake of a place, but places are to be loved for the sake of their good things." (Bede, Ecclesiastical History, i 27 III, ed McClure, Collins, Oxford 1994).

In Britain, appreciation for Gregory remained strong even after his death, with him being called Gregorius noster ("our Gregory") by the British. It was in Britain, at a monastery in Whitby, that the first full length life of Gregory was written, in c.713. Appreciation of Gregory in Rome and Italy itself, however, came later, with his successor Sabinian (a secular cleric rather than a monk) rejecting his charitable moves towards the poor of Rome. In contrast to Britain, the first early vita of Gregory written in Italy was produced by John the Deacon in the 9th century.

Gregorian chant is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic liturgical chant of Western Christianity that accompanied the celebration of Mass and other ritual services. This vast repertory of chants is the oldest music known as it is the first repertory to have been adequately notated in the 10th century. In general, the chants were learnt by the viva voce method, that is by following the given example orally, which took many years of experience in the Schola Cantorum. Gregorian chant originated in Monastic life, in which singing the "Divine Service" nine times a day at the proper hours was upheld according to the Rule of St. Benedict. Singing psalms made up a large part of the life in a monastic community, while a smaller group and soloists sang the chants. In its long history Gregorian Chant has been subjected to many gradual changes and some reforms.


Gregorian chant was organized, codified, and notated mainly in the Frankish lands of western and central Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, with later additions and redactions, but the texts and many of the melodies have antecedents going back several centuries earlier.

Although popular belief credits Pope Gregory the Great with having personally invented Gregorian chant, scholars now believe that the chant bearing his name arose from a later Carolingian synthesis of Roman and Gallican chant and that at that time the attribution to Gregory I was a "marketing ruse" to invest it with a pedigree of Holy Inspiration in efforts to create one liturgic protocol that would be practised throughout the entire Empire. One Empire, one Church, one Chant -- imposing Unity was a central issue in Carolingian days.

During the following centuries the Chant tradition was still at the heart of Church music, where it gave rise to various extensions in the sense that new performance practices had won their way in in which new music on new texts was introduced or the existing chants were extended by setting them as Organum. Even the polyphonic music that arose from the venerable old chants in the Organa by Leonin and Perotin in Paris (1160-1240) ended in monophonic chant and in later traditions new composition styles were practised in juxtaposition (or co-habitation) with monophonic chant.

Gregorian chants are organized into eight modes. Typical melodic features include characteristic incipits and cadences, the use of reciting tones around which the other notes of the melody revolve, and a vocabulary of musical motifs woven together through a process called centonization to create families of related chants.

Although the modern major and minor scales are related to the church modes, the modern eight-tone scale is based on different harmonic principles and is organized differently from the scales of the church modes, which are based on six-note patterns called hexachords. The main notes in a hexachord are the dominant and the final. Depending on where the final falls in the sequence of the hexachord, the mode is characterized as either authentic or plagal. Modes with the same final share certain characteristics, and it is easy to modulate back and forth between them, hence the eight modes fall into four larger groupings based on their finals.

Gregorian chants are notated in a graphic notation which uses a repertoire of specific signs called neumes, that captured a basic musical gesture (see musical notation). As books represented a large capital, the early chantbooks were notated with abbreviations in the text wherever possible with the neumes written over the text. In later stadia one or more lines were added, and during the 11th century this obvious need to capture also the intervals had evolved into the square notation, from which eventually modern five-line staff developed during the 16th century.

Gregorian chant was the central and dominating musical tradition throughout Europe and as such is at the root of musical developments that were to issue from it, as the rise of polyphony in the eleventh century.

Gregorian chant was traditionally sung by choirs of men and boys in churches, or by women and men of religious orders in their chapels. It is the music of the Roman Rite, performed in the Mass and the monastic Office. Although Gregorian chant supplanted or marginalized the other indigenous plainchant traditions of the Christian West to become the official music of the Christian liturgy, Ambrosian chant still continues in use in Milan, and there are musicologists exploring both that and the Mozarabic chant of Christian Spain. Although Gregorian chant is no longer obligatory, the Roman Catholic Church still officially considers it the music most suitable for worship.

During the 20th century, Gregorian chant underwent a musicological and popular resurgence.

Unaccompanied singing has been part of the Christian liturgy since the earliest days of the Church. Until the mid-1990's, it was widely accepted that the psalmody of ancient Jewish worship significantly influenced and contributed to early Christian ritual and chant. This view is no longer generally accepted by scholars, due to analysis that shows that most early Christian hymns did not have Psalms for texts, and that the Psalms were not sung in synagogues for centuries after the Destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70.

However, early Christian rites did incorporate elements of Jewish worship that survived in later chant tradition. Canonical hours have their roots in Jewish prayer hours. "Amen" and "alleluia" come from Hebrew, and the threefold "sanctus" derives from the threefold "kadosh" of the Kedusha.

The New Testament mentions singing hymns during the Last Supper: "When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives" Matthew 26.30. Other ancient witnesses such as Pope Clement I, Tertullian, St. Athanasius, and Egeria confirm the practice, although in poetic or obscure ways that shed little light on how music sounded during this period.

The 3rd-century Greek "Oxyrhynchus hymn" survived with musical notation, but the connection between this hymn and the plainchant tradition is uncertain.

Musical elements that would later be used in the Roman Rite began to appear in the 3rd century. The Apostolic Tradition, attributed to the theologian Hippolytus, attests the singing of Hallel psalms with Alleluia as the refrain in early Christian agape feasts.

Chants of the Office, sung during the canonical hours, have their roots in the early 4th century, when desert monks following St. Anthony introduced the practice of continuous psalmody, singing the complete cycle of 150 psalms each week. Around 375, antiphonal psalmody became popular in the Christian East; in 386, St. Ambrose introduced this practice to the West.

Scholars are still debating how plainchant developed during the 5th through the 9th centuries, as information from this period is scarce. Around 410, St. Augustine described the responsorial singing of a Gradual psalm at Mass. At c. 520, Benedict of Nursia established what is called the rule of St. Benedict, in which the protocol of the Divine Office for monastic use was laid down.

Around 678, Roman chant was taught at York.

Distinctive regional traditions of Western plainchant arose during this period, notably in the British Isles (Celtic chant), Spain (Mozarabic), Gaul (Gallican), and Italy (Old Roman, Ambrosian and Beneventan). These traditions may have evolved from a hypothetical year-round repertory of 5th-century plainchant after the western Roman Empire collapsed.

The Gregorian repertory was systematized for use in the Roman Rite. According to James McKinnon, the core liturgy of the Roman Mass was compiled over a brief period in the late 7th century. Other scholars, including Andreas Pfisterer and Peter Jeffery, have argued for an earlier origin for the oldest layers of the repertory.

Scholars debate whether the essentials of the melodies originated in Rome, before the 7th century, or in France, in the 8th and early 9th centuries. Traditionalists point to evidence supporting an important role for Pope Gregory the Great between 590 and 604.

Scholarly consensus, supported by Willi Apel and Robert Snow, asserts instead that Gregorian chant developed around 750 from a synthesis of Roman and Gallican chant commissioned by Carolingian rulers in France. During a visit to Gaul in 752–753, Pope Stephen II had celebrated Mass using Roman chant. According to Charlemagne, his father Pepin abolished the local Gallican rites in favor of the Roman use, in order to strengthen ties with Rome.

In 785–786, at Charlemagne's request, Pope Hadrian I sent a papal sacramentary with Roman chants to the Carolingian court. This Roman chant was subsequently modified, influenced by local styles and Gallican chant, and later adapted into the system of eight modes. This Frankish-Roman Carolingian chant, augmented with new chants to complete the liturgical year, became known as "Gregorian." Originally the chant was probably so named to honor the contemporary Pope Gregory II, but later lore attributed the authorship of chant to his more famous predecessor Gregory the Great. Gregory was portrayed dictating plainchant inspired by a dove representing the Holy Spirit, giving Gregorian chant the stamp of holy authority. Gregory's authorship is popularly accepted as fact to this day.

Gregorian chant appeared in a remarkably uniform state across Europe within a short time. Charlemagne, once elevated to Holy Roman Emperor, aggressively spread Gregorian chant throughout his empire to consolidate religious and secular power, requiring the clergy to use the new repertory on pain of death.

From English and German sources, Gregorian chant spread north to Scandinavia, Iceland and Finland.

In 885, Pope Stephen V banned the Slavonic liturgy, leading to the ascendancy of Gregorian chant in Eastern Catholic lands including Poland, Moravia, Slovakia, and Austria.

The other plainchant repertories of the Christian West faced severe competition from the new Gregorian chant. Charlemagne continued his father's policy of favoring the Roman Rite over the local Gallican traditions. By the 9th century the Gallican rite and chant had effectively been eliminated, although not without local resistance.

The Gregorian chant of the Sarum Rite displaced Celtic chant. Gregorian coexisted with Beneventan chant for over a century before Beneventan chant was abolished by papal decree (1058).

Mozarabic chant survived the influx of the Visigoths and Moors, but not the Roman-backed prelates newly installed in Spain during the Reconquista. Restricted to a handful of dedicated chapels, modern Mozarabic chant is highly Gregorianized and bears no musical resemblance to its original form. Ambrosian chant alone survived to the present day, preserved in Milan due to the musical reputation and ecclesiastical authority of St. Ambrose.

Gregorian chant eventually replaced the local chant tradition of Rome itself, which is now known as Old Roman chant. In the 10th century, virtually no musical manuscripts were being notated in Italy. Instead, Roman Popes imported Gregorian chant from the German Holy Roman Emperors during the 10th and 11th centuries. For example, the Credo was added to the Roman Rite at the behest of the German emperor Henry II in 1014.

Reinforced by the legend of Pope Gregory, Gregorian chant was taken to be the authentic, original chant of Rome, a misconception that continues to this day. By the 12th and 13th centuries, Gregorian chant had supplanted or marginalized all the other Western plainchant traditions.

Later sources of these other chant traditions show an increasing Gregorian influence, such as occasional efforts to categorize their chants into the Gregorian modes. Similarly, the Gregorian repertory incorporated elements of these lost plainchant traditions, which can be identified by careful stylistic and historical analysis. For example, the Improperia of Good Friday are believed to be a remnant of the Gallican repertory.

The first extant sources with musical notation were written around 930 (Graduale Laon). Before this, plainchant had been transmitted orally. Most scholars of Gregorian chant agree that the development of music notation assisted the dissemination of chant across Europe. The earlier notated manuscripts are primarily from Regensburg in Germany, St. Gall in Switzerland, Laon and St. Martial in France.

Gregorian chant has in its long history been subjected to a series of redactions to bring it up to changing contemporary tastes and practice. The more recent redaction undertaken in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Pierre, Solesmes, has turned into a huge undertaking to restore the allegedly corrupted chant to a hypothetical "original" state. Early Gregorian chant was revised to conform to the theoretical structure of the modes. In 1562–63, the Council of Trent banned most sequences. Guidette's Directorium chori, published in 1582, and the Editio medicea, published in 1614, drastically revised what was perceived as corrupt and flawed "barbarism" by making the chants conform to contemporary aesthetic standards.

In 1811, the French musicologist Alexandre-Étienne Choron, as part of a conservative backlash following the liberal Catholic orders' inefficacy during the French Revolution, called for returning to the "purer" Gregorian chant of Rome over French corruptions.

In the late 19th century, early liturgical and musical manuscripts were unearthed and edited. Earlier, Dom Prosper Gueranger revived the monastic tradition in Solesmes. Re-establishing the Divine Office was among his priorities, but no proper chantbooks existed. Many monks were sent out to libraries throughout Europe to find relevant Chant manuscripts. In 1871, however, the old Medicea edition was reprinted (Pustet, Regensburg) which Pope Pius IX declared the only official version. In their firm belief that they were on the right way, Solesmes increased its efforts. In 1889, after decades of research, the monks of Solesmes released the first book in a planned series, the Paléographie Musicale. The incentive of its publication was to demonstrate the corruption of the 'Medicea' by presenting photographed notations originating from a great variety of manuscripts of one single chant, which Solesmes called forth as witnesses to assert their own reforms. The monks of Solesmes brought in their heaviest artillery in this battle, as indeed the academically sound 'Paleo' was intended to be a war-tank, meant to abolish once and for all the corrupted Pustet edition. On the evidence of congruence throughout various manuscripts (which were duely published in facsimile editions with ample editorial introductions) Solesmes was able to work out a practical reconstruction. This reconstructed chant was academically praised, but rejected by Rome until 1903, when Pope Leo XIII died. His successor, Pope Pius X, promptly accepted the Solesmes chant — now compiled as the Liber usualis — as authoritative. In 1904, the Vatican edition of the Solesmes chant was commissioned. Serious academic debates arose, primarily owing to stylistic liberties taken by the Solesmes editors to impose their controversial interpretation of rhythm. The Solesmes editions insert phrasing marks and note-lengthening episema and mora marks not found in the original sources. Conversely, they omit significative letters found in the original sources, which give instructions for rhythm and articulation such as speeding up or slowing down. These editorial practices has placed the historical authenticity of the Solesmes interpretation in doubt.[21] Ever since the restoration of Chant was taken up in Solesmes, there have been lengthy discussions of exactly what course was to be taken. Some favored a strict academic rigour and wanted to postpone publications, while others concentrated on practical matters and wanted to supplant the corrupted tradition as soon as possible. Roughly a century later, this breach between a strict musicological approach and the interest of the Church which is in keeping one central tradition for the congregation without too much confusing changes made to the repertory. Thus the established performance tradition since the onset of the restoration is at odds with musicological evidence.

In his motu proprio Tra le sollicitudine, Pius X mandated the use of Gregorian chant, encouraging the faithful to sing the Ordinary of the Mass, although he reserved the singing of the Propers for males. While this custom is maintained in traditionalist Catholic communities, the Catholic Church no longer persists with this ban. Vatican II officially allowed worshipers to substitute other music, particularly modern music in the vernacular, in place of Gregorian chant, although it did reaffirm that Gregorian chant was still the official music of the Catholic Church, and the music most suitable for worship.

Gregorian chant is of course vocal music. The text, the phrases, words and eventually the syllables, can be sung in various ways. The most straightforward is recitation on the same tone, which is called "syllabic" as each syllable is sung to a single tone. Likewise, simple chants are often syllabic throughout with only a few instances where two or more notes are sung on one syllable. "Neumatic" chants are more embellished and ligatures, a connected group of notes, written as a single compound neume, abound in the text. Melismatic chants are the most ornate chants in which elaborate melodies are sung on long sustained vowels as in the Alleluia, ranging from five or six notes per syllable to over sixty in the more prolix melismas

Gregorian chants fall into two broad categories of melody: recitatives and free melodies.

The simplest kind of melody is the liturgical recitative. Recitative melodies are dominated by a single pitch, called the reciting tone. Other pitches appear in melodic formulae for incipits, partial cadences, and full cadences. These chants are primarily syllabic. For example, the Collect for Easter consists of 127 syllables sung to 131 pitches, with 108 of these pitches being the reciting note A and the other 23 pitches flexing down to G.

Psalmodic chants, which intone psalms, include both recitatives and free melodies. Psalmodic chants include direct psalmody , antiphonal chants, and responsorial chants.

In direct psalmody, psalm verses are sung without refrains to simple, formulaic tones. Most psalmodic chants are antiphonal and responsorial, sung to free melodies of varying complexity.

Antiphonal chants such as the Introit, and Communion originally referred to chants in which two choirs sang in alternation, one choir singing verses of a psalm, the other singing a refrain called an antiphon. Over time, the verses were reduced in number, usually to just one psalm verse and the Doxology, or even omitted entirely. Antiphonal chants reflect their ancient origins as elaborate recitatives through the reciting tones in their melodies. Ordinary chants, such as the Kyrie and Gloria, are not considered antiphonal chants, although they are often performed in antiphonal style.

Responsorial chants such as the Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, and the Office Responsories originally consisted of a refrain called a respond sung by a choir, alternating with psalm verses sung by a soloist. Responsorial chants are often composed of an amalgamation of various stock musical phrases, pieced together in a practice called centonization. Tracts are melismatic settings of psalm verses and use frequent recurring cadences and they are strongly centonized.

Gregorian chant evolved to fulfill various functions in the Roman Catholic liturgy. Broadly speaking, liturgical recitatives are used for texts intoned by deacons or priests. Antiphonal chants accompany liturgical actions: the entrance of the officiant, the collection of offerings, and the distribution of sanctified bread and wine. Responsorial chants expand on readings and lessons.

The non-psalmodic chants, including the Ordinary of the Mass, sequences, and hymns, were originally intended for congregational singing.

The structure of their texts largely defines their musical style. In sequences, the same melodic phrase is repeated in each couplet. The strophic texts of hymns use the same syllabic melody for each stanza.


Early plainchant, like much of Western music, is believed to have been distinguished by the use of the diatonic scale. Modal theory, which postdates the composition of the core chant repertory, arises from a synthesis of two very different traditions: the speculative tradition of numerical ratios and species inherited from ancient Greece and a second tradition rooted in the practical art of cantus. The earliest writings that deal with both theory and practice include the Enchiriadis group of treatises, which circulated in the late ninth century and possibly have their roots in an earlier, oral tradition. In contrast to the ancient Greek system of tetrachords (a collection of four continuous notes) that descend by two tones and a semitone, the Enchiriadis writings base their tone-system on a tetrachord that corresponds to the four finals of chant, D, E, F, and G. The disjunct tetrachords in the Enchiriadis system have been the subject of much speculation, because they do not correspond to the diatonic framework that became the standard Medieval scale (for example, there is a high f#, a note not recognized by later Medieval writers). A diatonic scale with a chromatically alterable b/b-flat was first described by Hucbald, who adopted the tetrachord of the finals (D, E, F, G) and constructed the rest of the system following the model of the Greek Greater and Lesser Perfect Systems. These were the first steps in forging a theoretical tradition that corresponded to chant.

Gregorian chant was categorized into eight modes, influenced by the eightfold division of Byzantine chants called the oktoechos.

Each mode is distinguished by its final, dominant, and ambitus. The final is the ending note, which is usually an important note in the overall structure of the melody. The dominant is a secondary pitch that usually serves as a reciting tone in the melody. Ambitus refers to the range of pitches used in the melody. Melodies whose final is in the middle of the ambitus, or which have only a limited ambitus, are categorized as plagal, while melodies whose final is in the lower end of the ambitus and have a range of over five or six notes are categorized as authentic. Although corresponding plagal and authentic modes have the same final, they have different dominants.

The existent pseudo-Greek names of the modes, rarely used in medieval times, derive from a misunderstanding of the Ancient Greek modes; the prefix "Hypo-" (under, Gr.) indicates a plagal mode, where the melody moves below the final. In contemporary Latin manuscripts the modes are simply called Protus authentus /plagalis, Deuterus, Tritus and Tetrardus: the 1st mode, authentic or plagal, the 2nd mode etc. In the Roman Chantbooks the modes are indicated by Roman numerals.

Modes 1 and 2 are the authentic and plagal modes ending on D, sometimes called Dorian and Hypodorian.

Modes 3 and 4 are the authentic and plagal modes ending on E, sometimes called Phrygian and Hypophrygian.

Modes 5 and 6 are the authentic and plagal modes ending on F, sometimes called Lydian and Hypolydian.

Modes 7 and 8 are the authentic and plagal modes ending on G, sometimes called Mixolydian and Hypomixolydian.

Although the modes with melodies ending on A, B, and C are sometimes referred to as Aeolian, Locrian, and Ionian, these are not considered distinct modes and are treated as transpositions of whichever mode uses the same set of hexachords. The actual pitch of the Gregorian chant is not fixed, so the piece can be sung in whichever range is most comfortable.

Certain classes of Gregorian chant have a separate musical formula for each mode, allowing one section of the chant to transition smoothly into the next section, such as the psalm tones between antiphons and psalm verses.

Not every Gregorian chant fits neatly into Guido's hexachords or into the system of eight modes. For example, there are chants -- especially from German sources -- whose neumes suggest a warbling of pitches between the notes E and F, outside the hexachord system.

Early Gregorian chant, like Ambrosian and Old Roman chant, whose melodies are most closely related to Gregorian, did not use the modal system.

The great need for a system of organizing chants lies in the need to link antiphons with standard tones, as in for example, the psalmody at the Office. Using Psalm Tone i with an antiphon in Mode 1 makes for a smooth transition between the end of the antiphon and the intonation of the tone, and the ending of the tone can then be chosen to provide a smooth transition back to the antiphon. As the modal system gained acceptance, Gregorian chants were edited to conform to the modes, especially during 12th-century Cistercian reforms. Finals were altered, melodic ranges reduced, melismas trimmed, B-flats eliminated, and repeated words removed. Despite these attempts to impose modal consistency, some chants -- notably Communions -- defy simple modal assignment. For example, in four medieval manuscripts, the Communion Circuibo was transcribed using a different mode in each.

Several features besides modality contribute to the musical idiom of Gregorian chant, giving it a distinctive musical flavor. Melodic motion is primarily stepwise. Skips of a third are common, and larger skips far more common than in other plainchant repertories such as Ambrosian chant or Beneventan chant. Gregorian melodies are more likely to traverse a seventh than a full octave, so that melodies rarely travel from D up to the D an octave higher, but often travel from D to the C a seventh higher, using such patterns as D-F-G-A-C.

Gregorian melodies often explore chains of pitches, such as F-A-C, around which the other notes of the chant gravitate.

Within each mode, certain incipits and cadences are preferred, which the modal theory alone does not explain. Chants often display complex internal structures that combine and repeat musical subphrases. This occurs notably in the Offertories; in chants with shorter, repeating texts such as the Kyrie and Agnus Dei; and in longer chants with clear textual divisions such as the Great Responsories, the Gloria, and the Credo.

Chants sometimes fall into melodically related groups. The musical phrases centonized to create Graduals and Tracts follow a musical "grammar" of sorts. Certain phrases are used only at the beginnings of chants, or only at the end, or only in certain combinations, creating musical families of chants such as the Iustus ut palma family of Graduals.

Several Introits in mode 3, including Loquetur Dominus above, exhibit melodic similarities. Mode III (E authentic) chants have C as a dominant, so C is the expected reciting tone. These mode III Introits, however, use both G and C as reciting tones, and often begin with a decorated leap from G to C to establish this tonality.

The earliest notated sources of Gregorian chant (written ca. 850) used symbols called neumes (Greek "sign of the hand") to indicate tone-movements and relative duration within each syllable. A sort of musical stenography that seems to focus on gestures and tone-movements but not the specific pitches of individual notes, nor the relative starting pitches of each neume. Given the fact that Chant was learned in an oral tradition in which the texts and melodies were sung from memory, this was obviously not necessary. The neumatic manuscripts display great sophistication and precision in notation and a whealth of graphic signs to indicate the musical gesture and proper pronunciation of the text. Scholars postulate that this practice may have been derived from cheironomic hand-gestures, the ekphonetic notation of Byzantine chant, punctuation marks, or diacritical accents.

Later adaptations and innovations included the use of a dry-scratched line or an inked line or two lines, marked C or F showing the relative pitches between neumes. Consistent relative heightening first developed in the Aquitaine region, particularly at St. Martial de Limoges, in the first half of the eleventh century. Many German-speaking areas, however, continued to use unpitched neumes into the twelfth century. Additional symbols developed, such as the custos, placed at the end of a system to show the next pitch. Other symbols indicated changes in articulation, duration, or tempo, such as a letter "t" to indicate a tenuto. Another form of early notation used a system of letters corresponding to different pitches, much as Shaker music is notated.

By the 13th century, the neumes of Gregorian chant were usually written in square notation on a four-line staff with a clef, as in the Graduale Aboense pictured above. In square notation, small groups of ascending notes on a syllable are shown as stacked squares, read from bottom to top, while descending notes are written with diamonds read from left to right. When a syllable has a large number of notes, a series of smaller such groups of neumes are written in succession, read from left to right. The oriscus, quilisma, and liquescent neumes indicate special vocal treatments, that have been largely neglected due to uncertainty as to how to sing them. Since the 1970's, with the influential insights of Dom. E. Cardine, ornamental neumes have received more attention from both researchers and performers.

B-flat is indicated by a "b-mollum" (Latin "soft"), a rounded undercaste 'b' placed to the left of the entire neume in which the note occurs, as shown in the "Kyrie" to the right. When necessary, a "b-durum" (Latin "hard"), written squarely, indicates B-natural and serves to cancel the b-mollum. This system of square notation is standard in modern chantbooks.

Chant was traditionally reserved for men, as it was originally sung by the all-male clergy during the Mass and the prayers of the Office. Outside the larger cities, the number of available clergy dropped, and lay men started singing these parts. In convents, women were permitted to sing the Mass and Office as a function of their consecrated life, but the choir was still considered an official liturgical duty reserved to clergy, so lay women were not allowed to sing in the Schola cantorum or other choirs.

Chant was normally sung in unison.

We do not know much about the particular performance practices used for Gregorian chant in the Middle Ages. On occasion, the clergy was urged to have their singers perform with more restraint and piety. This suggests that virtuosic performances occurred, contrary to the modern stereotype of Gregorian chant as slow-moving mood music. This tension between musicality and piety goes far back; Gregory the Great himself criticized the practice of promoting clerics based on their charming singing rather than their preaching.

However, Odo of Cluny, a renowned monastic reformer, praised the intellectual and musical virtuosity to be found in chant:

For in these [Offertories and Communions] there are the most varied kinds of ascent, descent, repeat..., delight for the cognoscenti, difficulty for the beginners, and an admirable organization... that widely differs from other chants; they are not so much made according to the rules of music... but rather evince the authority and validity... of music.”

True antiphonal performance by two alternating choruses still occurs, as in certain German monasteries. However, antiphonal chants are generally performed in responsorial style by a solo cantor alternating with a chorus. This practice appears to have begun in the Middle Ages.

Another medieval innovation had the solo cantor sing the opening words of responsorial chants, with the full chorus finishing the end of the opening phrase. This innovation allowed the soloist to fix the pitch of the chant for the chorus and to cue the choral entrance.

Because of the obviously evasive quality of medieval notation as the silent remains of a living tradition, displaced a thousand years out of its cultural context, rhythm in Gregorian chant has always been a hotbed of debate among scholars. From the very beginning there was a fundamental difference in point of view on rhythm. To complicate matters further, a host of ornamental neumes are used in the earliest manuscripts that pose many difficulties on the rhythmic plane. Certain neumes such as the pressus, pes quassus, strophic neumes indicate repeated notes, which may indicate lengthening by repercussion, in some cases with added ornaments. By the 13th century, with the widespread use of square notation, most chant was sung with an approximately equal duration allotted to each note, although Jerome of Moravia cites exceptions in which certain notes, such as the final notes of a chant, are lengthened.

While the standard repertory of Gregorian Chant was partly being supplanted with new forms of polyphony, the earlier melo-rhythmic refinements of monophonic chant seem to fall into disuse. Later redactions such as the Editio medicaea of 1614 rewrote chant so that melismas, with their melodic accent, fell on accented syllables.

This aesthetic held sway until the re-examination of chant in the late 19th century by such scholars as Wagner, Pothier, and Mocquereau, who fell into two camps.

One school of thought, including Wagner, Jammers, and Lipphardt, advocated imposing rhythmic meters on chants, although they disagreed on how that should be done. An opposing interpretation, represented by Pothier and Mocquereau, supported a free rhythm of equal note values, although some notes are lengthened for textual emphasis or musical effect. The modern Solesmes editions of Gregorian chant follow this interpretation. Mocquereau divided melodies into two- and three-note phrases, each beginning with an ictus, akin to a beat, notated in chantbooks as a small vertical mark. These basic melodic units combined into larger phrases through a complex system expressed by cheironomic hand-gestures.

This approach prevailed during the 20th Century, propagated by Justine Ward's program of music education for children, until Vatican II diminished the liturgical role of chant and new scholarship "essentially discredited" Mocquereau's rhythmic theories.

Common modern practice favors performing Gregorian chant with no beat or regular metric accent, largely for aesthetic reasons.

The text determines the accent while the melodic contour determines the phrasing. The note lengthenings recommended by the Solesmes school remain influential, though not prescriptive.

Dom Eugene Cardine (1905-1988), monk from Solesmes, published his Semiologie Gregorienne in 1970 in which he clearly explains the musical significance of the neumes of the early chant manuscripts. Cardine shows the great diversity of neumes and graphic variations of the basic shape of a particular neume, which can not be expressed in the square notation. This variety in notation must have served a practical purpose and therefore a musical significance.

Nine years later, the Graduale Triplex was published, in which the Roman Gradual, containing all the chants for Mass in a Year's cycle, appeared with the neumes of the two most important manuscripts copied under and over the 4-line staff of the square notation. The Graduale Triplex made widely accessible the original notation of Sankt Gallen and Laon (compiled after 930 AD) in a single chantbook and was a huge step forward. Dom Cardine had many students who have each in their own way continued their semiological studies, some of whom also started experimenting in applying the newly understood principles in performance practice. The studies of Cardine and his students (Godehard Joppich, Luigi Augustoni, Marie-Noël Colette, Rupert Fischer, Marie-Claire Billecocq to name a few) have clearly demonstrated that rhythm in Gregorian chant as notated in the 10th century rhythmic manuscripts (notably Skt. Gallen and Laon) manifest such rhythmic diversity and melodic/rhythmic ornamentations for which there is hardly a living performance tradition in the Western world. Contemporary groups that endeavour to sing according to the manuscript traditions have evolved after 1975. Some practising researchers favour a closer look at non Western (liturgical) traditions, in such cultures where the tradition of modal monophony was never abandoned.

Another group with different views are the mensuralists or the proportionalists, who maintain that rhythm has to be interpreted porportionately, where shorts are exactly half the longs. This view is advocated by John Blackley and his Schola Antiqua New York.


Gregorian chant is sung in the Office during the canonical hours and in the liturgy of the Mass.

Texts known as accentus are intoned by bishops, priests, and deacons, mostly on a single reciting tone with simple melodic formulae at certain places in each sentence. More complex chants are sung by trained soloists and choirs. The most complete collection of chants is the Liber usualis, which contains the chants for the Tridentine Mass and the most commonly used Office chants. Outside of monasteries, the more compact Graduale Romanum is commonly utilized.

The Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Tract, Sequence, Offertory, and Communion chants are part of the Proper of the Mass. "Proprium Missae" in Latin refers to the chants of the Mass that have their proper individual texts for each Sunday throughout the annual cycle, as opposed to 'Ordinarium Missae' which have fixed texts (but various melodies) (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei).

Introits cover the procession of the officiants. Introits are antiphonal chants, typically consisting of an antiphon, a psalm verse, a repeat of the antiphon, an intonation of the Gloria Patri Doxology, and a final repeat of the antiphon. Reciting tones often dominate their melodic structures.

Graduals are responsorial chants that follow the reading of the Epistle. Graduals usually result from centonization; stock musical phrases are assembled like a patchwork to create the full melody of the chant, creating families of musically related melodies. Graduals are accompanied by a elaborate Verse, so that it actually consists in two different parts, A B. Often the first part is sung again, creating a 'rondeau' A B A. At least the verse, if not the complete gradual, is for the solo cantor and are in elaborate, ornate style with long, wide-ranged melisma's.

The Alleluia is known for the jubilus, an extended joyful melisma on the last vowel of "Alleluia." The Alleluia is also in two parts, the alleluia proper and the psalmverse, by which the Alleluia is identified (Alleluia V. Pascha nostrum) . The last melism of the verse is the same as the jubilus attached to the Alleluia. Alleluias are not sung during penitential times, such as Lent. Instead, a Tract is chanted, usually with texts from the Psalms. Tracts, like Graduals, are highly centonized.

Sequences are sung poems based on couplets. Although many sequences are not part of the liturgy and thus not part of the Gregorian repertory proper, Gregorian sequences include such well-known chants as Victimae paschali laudes and Veni Sancte Spiritus. According to Notker Balbulus, an early sequence writer, their origins lie in the addition of words to the long melismas of the jubilus of Alleluia chants.

Offertories are sung during the giving of offerings. Offertories once had highly prolix melodies in their verses, but the use of verses in Gregorian Offertories disappeared around the 12th century. These verses however, are among the most ornate and elaborated in the whole chant repertoir. Offertories are in form closest to Responsories, which are likewise accompanied by at least one Verse and the opening sections of both Off. and Resp. are partly repeated after the verse(s). This last section is therefore called the 'repetenda' and is in performance the last melodic line of the chant.

Communions are sung during the distribution of the Eucharist. In presentation the Communio is similar to the Introitus, an antiphon with psalmverse. Communion melodies are often tonally ambiguous and do not fit into a single musical mode which has led to the same communio being classed in different modes in different manuscripts or editions.

The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei use the same text in every service of the Mass. Because they follow the regular invariable "order" of the Mass, these chants are called "Ordinary."

The Kyrie consists of a threefold repetition of "Kyrie eleison" ("Lord, have mercy"), a threefold repetition of "Christe eleison" ("Christ have mercy"), followed by another threefold repetition of "Kyrie eleison." In older chants, "Kyrie eleison imas" ("Lord, have mercy on us") can be found. The Kyrie is distinguished by its use of the Greek language instead of Latin. Because of the textual repetition, various musical repeat structures occur in these chants.

The Gloria recites the Greater Doxology,

and the Credo intones the Nicene Creed. Because of the length of these texts, these chants often break into musical subsections corresponding with textual breaks. Because the Credo was the last Ordinary chant to be added to the Mass, there are relatively few Credo melodies in the Gregorian corpus.

The Sanctus and the

Agnus Dei, like the Kyrie, also contain repeated texts, which their musical structures often exploit.

Technically, the Ite missa est and the Benedicamus Domino, which conclude the Mass, belong to the Ordinary. They have their own Gregorian melodies, but because they are short and simple, and have rarely been the subject of later musical composition, they are often omitted in discussion.


Gregorian chant is sung in the canonical hours of the monastic Office, primarily in antiphons used to sing the Psalms, in the Great Responsories of Matins, and the Short Responsories of the Lesser Hours and Compline. The psalm antiphons of the Office tend to be short and simple, especially compared to the complex Great Responsories

At the close of the Office, one of four Marian antiphons is sung. These songs, Alma Redemptoris Mater (see top of article), Ave Regina caelorum, Regina caeli laetare, and Salve, Regina, are relatively late chants, dating to the 11th century, and considerably more complex than most Office antiphons. Apel has described these four songs as "among the most beautiful creations of the late Middle Ages."

Gregorian chant had a significant impact on the development of Medieval and Renaissance music. Modern staff notation developed directly from Gregorian neumes. The square notation that had been devised for plainchant was borrowed and adapted for other kinds of music. Certain groupings of neumes were used to indicate repeating rhythms called rhythmic modes. Rounded noteheads increasingly replaced the older squares and lozenges in the 15th and 16th centuries, although chantbooks conservatively maintained the square notation. By the 16th century, the fifth line added to the musical staff had become standard. The bass clef and the flat, natural, and sharp accidentals derived directly from Gregorian notation.

Gregorian melodies provided musical material and served as models for tropes and liturgical dramas. Vernacular hymns such as "Christ ist erstanden" and "Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist" adapted original Gregorian melodies to translated texts. Secular tunes such as the popular Renaissance "In Nomine" were based on Gregorian melodies. Beginning with the improvised harmonizations of Gregorian chant known as organum, Gregorian chants became a driving force in medieval and Renaissance polyphony. Often, a Gregorian chant (sometimes in modified form) would be used as a cantus firmus, so that the consecutive notes of the chant determined the harmonic progression. The Marian antiphons, especially Alma Redemptoris Mater, were frequently arranged by Renaissance composers. The use of chant as a cantus firmus was the predominant practice until the Baroque period, when the stronger harmonic progressions made possible by an independent bass line became standard.

The Catholic Church later allowed polyphonic arrangements to replace the Gregorian chant of the Ordinary of the Mass. This is why the Mass as a compositional form, as set by composers like Palestrina or Mozart, features a Kyrie but not an Introit. The Propers may also be replaced by choral settings on certain solemn occasions. Among the composers who most frequently wrote polyphonic settings of the Propers were William Byrd and Tomás Luis de Victoria. These polyphonic arrangements usually incorporate elements of the original chant.

The renewed interest in early music in the late 19th century left its mark on 20th-century music. Gregorian influences in classical music include the choral setting of four chants in "Quatre motets sur des thèmes Grégoriens" by Maurice Duruflé, the carols of Peter Maxwell Davies, and the choral work of Arvo Pärt.

Gregorian chant as plainchant experienced a popular resurgence during the New Age music and world music movements of the 1980's and 90's. The iconic album was Chant, recorded by the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, which was marketed as music to inspire timeless calm and serenity.


Gregorian Chant



Introit for Easter

[Gregorian four-line neumatic notation]

(initially, D Minor -- an altered D Dorian [mode 1])

(Version as found on a Machaut Mass recording)

[20th-century puncta notation]

(Version as found on a Palestrina Pope Marcellus Mass recording)

Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy)

Kyrie IV (Cunctipotens) (D Dorian [Phrases 1 and 2 - Mode 1])

The first phrase and second phraes (Kyrie and Christe) of Kyrie IV are in D Dorian, the solfege of the former is.

Sol Sol Fa Sol Te La Sol Fa Sol.
Sol Fa Me Do Re
Re Fa Sol Do Re Fa Me Re Me Do Do

Kyrie XI


Kyrie is the vocative case of the Greek word κύριος (kyrios - lord) and means O Lord; it is the common name of an important prayer of Christian liturgy, also called Kyrie eleison which is Greek for Lord, have mercy.

Anyone attending a church service in the Eastern churches (whether they be Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox or Eastern Catholic), will find the phrase Kyrie eleison or its equivalents in other languages to be the most oft-repeated phrase.

The various litanies, popular in Orthodox Christianity, generally have Lord, have mercy as their response, either singly or triply. Some petitions in these litanies will have twelve or even forty repetitions of the phrase as a response.

The phrase is the origin of the Jesus Prayer, beloved of Eastern Christians belonging to the Byzantine rite, and increasingly popular amongst Western Christians today.

The Greek phrase "kyrie eleison" has also been regularly and extensively used in Coptic (Egyptian) Christian churches since the early centuries of Christianity, where in liturgy both Coptic and Greek languages are used. Please note that Coptic and Greek languages share many alphabetic letters, words, and phrases.

The Kyrie prayer, offered during the Roman Catholic Mass and in some other denominations (such as Lutheran and many in the Anglican Communion), led by the priest or celebrant, and repeated by the congregation. It is conjectured by scholars, including Jungmann, that the Kyrie in the Roman Mass is a vestigial remnant of a litany at the beginning of the mass, much like that of the Eastern Churches. Though today usually recited in the vernacular, the traditional form of the Kyrie in Western Christianity is a transliteration of the Greek prayer into Latin, and is used in this form in Latin-language Masses.

Kyrie eleison;
Christe eleison;
Kyrie eleison.

"Lord have mercy;
Christ have mercy;
Lord have mercy."

Traditionally, each line was sung three times. The three lines being sung thrice is an allusion to the Trinity.

This prayer occurs early in the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass, directly following the Penitential Rite. However, since an alternate form C of the Penitential Rite of the Mass of Paul VI incorporates the Kyrie text, no additional Kyrie is recited when this form is used. The Penitential Rite and Kyrie are omitted when the Rite of Sprinkling is celebrated, according to this modern use.

The Kyrie is the first sung prayer in the Ordinary of the pre–1969 Tridentine Mass, and is a mandatory part of any musical setting of the Mass. Kyrie movements often have an ternary (ABA) musical structure that reflects the symmetrical structure of the text.

Since 1549 Anglicans have normally sung or said the Kyrie in English. In the 1552 Book of Common Prayer the Kyrie was inserted into a recitation of the Ten Commandments. Modern revisions of the Prayer Book have restored the option of using the Kyrie without the Commandments.

The Kyrie was a very popular text for which to compose chants. Of 226 catalogued Gregorian chant melodies, 30 appear in the Liber Usualis. In what are presumed to be the oldest versions, the same melody is repeated for the first eight iterations, and a variation used on the final line (that is, formally, aaa aaa aaa'). These repeats are notated by the Roman numerals "iij" (for three times) or "ij" (for twice). The Kyrie for the Requiem Mass in the Liber Usualis has this form. Later Kyries have more elaborate patterns, such as aaa bbb aaa', aaa bbb ccc', or aba cdc efe'. Note that the final line is nearly always modified somewhat. In forms both with and without literal repeats, most Kyries in the Liber Usualis have a closing phrase used in nearly all of the lines of the text. This in fact parallels the text, as each line ends with the same word "eleison."

Because of the brevity of the text, Kyries were often very melismatic. This encouraged later composers to make tropes out of them, either by adding words to the melisma (as how a sequence is often considered), or extending the melisma. In fact, because of the late date of most Kyries, it is not always clear whether a particular Kyrie melody or the apparently troped text came first; it could just as easily be the case that a syllabic song was converted into a melisma for a Kyrie verse. In some cases, verses interpolate Latin text between each "Kyrie" (or "Christe") and "eleison."

As the first item in settings of the mass ordinary and the second in the requiem mass (the only mass proper set regularly over the centuries), numerous composers have included kyries in their masses, including Guillaume de Machaut, Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Ockeghem, Josquin des Pres, Palestrina, Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Hector Berlioz, Giuseppe Verdi, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Mark Alburger, Erling Wold, and Lisa Scola Prosek.

The prayer is also referenced in Tom Lehrer's song, The Vatican Rag.

The band Mr. Mister wrote "Kyrie" in late 1985 invoking kyrie eleison.

Historically, there have been various variant forms and pronunciations of the phrase kyrie eleison in use. While the proper Greek pronunciation has 'ky-ri-e e-le-i-son', with seven syllables, it is common to hear 'ky-ri-e e-lei-son' with six syllables, as well as 'ky-rie e-lei-son' with five, when the phrase is sung in churches that do not normally use Greek.

Text underlay in Medieval and Renaissance music attests that the existence of "ky-ri-e-lei-son" with five syllables was the most common pronunciation up till perhaps the mid 1500's.

Mediaeval poetry sometimes has 'kirieleis', an even more drastic four syllable form, used as a convenient rhyme with various words in macaronic poems and songs.

Gloria (Glory)



Psalm 146 with Antiphon (E Phrygian)

Hec Dies (aspects of F Lydian)


Alleluia - Alleluia: Angelus Domini (G Mixolydian)

Alleluia: Vidimus Stellam


Credo ([Nicene] Creed)


Offertorium - Assumpta est Maria


Sanctus (Holy)

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)


Requiem Mass

Responsorial - Libera me

The Requiem (from Latin requiem, accusative case of requies, rest) or Requiem Mass (informally, a funeral Mass), also known formally (in Latin) as the Missa pro defunctis or Missa defunctorum, is a liturgical service of the Roman Catholic Church, Anglo-Catholic Anglicans, as well as certain Lutheran Churches in the United States. The common theme of requiems is prayer for the salvation of the soul(s) of the departed, and it is used both at services immediately preceding a burial, and on occasions of more general remembrance.

"Requiem" is also the title of various musical compositions used in such liturgical services or as concert pieces as settings of the portions of that Mass which have been traditionally sung in the Roman Catholic liturgy.

While the prayers in the regular Mass as the Introit and Gradual change according to the Calendar of Saints, the text for the requiem Mass is particularly fixed. Originally such funeral musical compositions were meant to be performed in liturgical service, with monophonic chant.

This use of the word requiem comes from the opening words of the Introit: Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.)



Deus in Adjutorium (D Major)

Vespers is the evening prayer service in the Roman Catholic, Eastern (Byzantine) Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, liturgies of the canonical hours. The word comes from the Greek εσπερινός and the Latin vesper, meaning "evening." The term is also in limited use in some Protestant (especially Lutheran and Seventh-day Adventist) denominations to describe evening services, and in some Anglican circles is used unofficially to refer to Evening Prayer.

Vespers opens with the singing or chanting of the words:

Deus, in adiutorium meum intende. Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. Alleluia.

(O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen. Alleluia.)

("Alleluia" is omitted during Lent.)


Plainchant or Plainsong with its single unaccompanied vocal melody is one of the principle examples of monophony. Sung by multiple voices in unison (i.e. the same pitch and rhythm), this music is still considered monophonic.

The eight traditional Church Modes

Solfege for:

C Ionian (Major) - Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do

D Dorian - Do Re Me Fa Sol La Te Do

E Phrygian - Do Ra Me Fa Sol Le Te Do

F Lydian - Do Re Mi Fi Sol La Ti Do

G Mixoloydian - Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Te Do

A Aeolian (Minor) - Do Re Me Fa Sol Le Te Do

B Locrian - Do Ra Me Fa Se Le Te Do

D Minor Scale as two measures of 4/4 in quarter notes (with an orphan repeat sign)

[7570 - Muhammad / 7540 - Gregorian Chant / 7538 Buddhism in Japan]