Gregorian chant represents the continuing musical tradition of the Catholic Church. In legend, at least, the regularisation of Christian chant has been attributed to the sixth century Pope St. Gregory the Great. Gregorian chant is, in fact, the form of plainchant that largely but not entirely replaced local forms of chant during the Middle Ages. Manuscript sources are preserved from the 10th and 11th centuries, but these are clearly part of an earlier tradition. The term Gregorian chant is generally acceptable, in popular usage, to describe the official chant of the Church. This chant has musical value and interest in itself. Its historical musical importance is immeasurable, since much of the liturgical music of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance was based on melodies drawn from this body of music. In later years, particularly in the nineteenth century, the connotations of elements of the chant continued as part of the common fund of music to which composers might refer, notably in the chant for the Dies irae (Day of Wrath) from the Requiem Mass, the opening notes of which provided a thematic allusion for Liszt's Totentanz and an id�e fixe for Rachmaninov.
Gregorian chant is monodic, modal and in free rhythm. It has a single melodic line, without harmonic or polyphonic elements; it came, at least, to make use of the eight church modes, scales represented by the white notes of the modern keyboard and starting on D (Dorian mode), E (Phrygian mode), F (Lydian mode) and G (Mixolydian mode), the names drawn from the different ancient Greek modes; the rhythm of the chant follows that of the words. It is possible to classify types of chant very simply as syllabic, neumatic and melismatic. Syllabic chant takes one note to a syllable, represented generally in the musical settings of the Psalms. Neumatic chant may use groups of from two to four notes to a syllable, as often in the hymns of Gregorian chant, and melismatic chant indicates the use of a large group of notes for one syllable, as found in the florid music for the Alleluias of the liturgy.
The liturgy of the Catholic church centres on the Mass. The Ordinary of the Mass, the elements that remain constant throughout the year, includes Kyrie(Lord have mercy), Gloria (Glory be to God in the highest), Credo (I believe), Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy) and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). The chants of the Proper of the Mass are those that differ from day to day, according to the season or the saint or event to be celebrated. The Proper consists of introit, gradual, alleluia, tract, offertory and communion, to which may be added sequence and possible tropes, these last representing additions to the liturgy, musical, verbal or both, many of which were removed in the changes that took place as a result of the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century.
The introit is to be sung, started by one or more cantors according to the day, as the priest approaches the altar at Mass. Adorate Deum (Worship God, all you angels: Sion has heard and is glad) is the introit for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany. Da pacem (Grant peace, O Lord, to those that worship you) is the introit for Mass of the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. Dominus illuminatio mea (The Lord is my light and my salvation) is the introit for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost and Laetetur cor (Let the heart of those that seek the Lord rejoice) is the introit for Mass on the Friday after the Fourth Sunday in Quadragesima (the last Friday before Passion Sunday).
The gradual and the alleluia come after the chanting of the Epistle, bridging the gap between it and the chanting of the Gospel. Dirigatur (Let my prayer go up as incense) is the gradual for Mass on the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, elaborately melismatic in form. Domine, Dominus noster (O Lord, Our Lord, how wonderful is your name) is the gradual for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost and lacta cogitatum tuum (Casty our thoughts on the Lord) is for the Sunday within the Octave of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Laetatus sum (I was glad when they said to me) is the melismatic introit for Mass on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
The highly melismatic alleluia verse Adorabo (I shall worship in your holy temple) is part of the Mass for the Dedication of Church and the De profundis (Out of the depths) is from the Mass for the Twenty- hird Sunday of Pentecost. Deus judex justus (God, just judge) follows the gradual lacta cogitatum tuum on the Sunday within the Octave of the Sacred Heart and Laudate Deum (Praise God) is the alleluia verse for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany.
The offertory follows the singing of the Credo, preceding the offering of bread and wine. De profundis (Out of the depths) is the offertory of the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, its text slightly different from the alleluia verse on the same day. Domine convertere (Turn, O Lord) is the neumatic offertory for Mass on the Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi, while Jubilate Deo (Rejoice in God) is the offertory of the Mass of the Second Sunday after the Epiphany. Justitiae Domini (The true justice of the Lord) is to be sung as the offertory on the Third Sunday of Lent.
The communion verses are chanted at the communion in the later part of the Mass Circuibo (I shall go about and sacrifice) is the communion verse for Mass on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost and Dominus dicit: Implete hydrias (The Lord says: fill the water-jars), a reference to the Marriage Feast at Cana, the Gospel for the day, is for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany. Dominus firmamentum meum (The Lord is my strength) is the communion verse for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost and Qui manducat (He who eats my flesh) for the Ninth Sunday. Gustate etvidete(Taste and see how gracious is the Lord) is sung on the Eighth Sunday of the same season.
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