How To Write A Gregorian Chant

How to Write a Song in Gregorian Chant Style

Pope Gregory began his campaign to collect and simplify the pieces of music designated to various Church events and purposes in approximately 600, which, in part, resulted in the standardization of the Gregorian style. The Gregorian style is a type of music that has its roots in the year 600. Gregorian chants are vocal musical compositions for a large number of singers who sing in unison, frequently without the assistance of an instrumentalist. Canned music, according to the Gregorian Association of London (GAL), can be either religious or secular in origin, and the style has had a significant impact on several sectors of popular music.

The three melodic types are syllabic, which uses one note per syllable, neumatic, which uses two or three notes per syllable, and melismatic, which ranges from around six notes per syllable all the way up to 60 notes per syllable in more complicated chants.

Make a decision on whether your chant will be in recitative or free melody style.

Recitative chanting is the repetition of the same set of words throughout the chant, typically with varied notes used during the song, whereas “free melody” singing is the variation of the syllables and the melody used throughout the song.

  • Liturgical chants are reserved for use in public religious ceremonies.
  • Secular chants are chants in which the text is not of a religious character, as opposed to religious chants.
  • Gregorian chants, according to the Gregorian Association, are primarily sung in Latin language.
  • You can choose a short phrase to be repeated throughout the chant, or a long phrase to serve as a component of a free-flowing melody that runs throughout the chant.
  • You should find a series of notes to which you can sing the lyrics of your chant in harmony.

When performing Gregorian chants, it is common for the singer to use a method of repeating tones that repeat with minimal variations throughout the chant. Once you’ve found one that works well with your selected lyrics as well as your chosen melodic kind, try it out with a group of vocalists.


Attempt to listen to as much Gregorian chant as possible in order to have a better understanding of the style.


  • Keep in mind that males normally sing Gregorian chant, therefore compose within the realistic range of a male voice when writing for this style. It is possible that the vocalists will be unable to perform it if this is the case. The following is an example of a typical male price range: From a C in the bass clef to a F or G in the center of the treble clef is the range of the treble clef. For mixed choruses, make sure that the chant is appropriate for both men and women in an acceptable range.

How to Grade: Write a Gregorian Chant – Melodic Structures: Lines, Shapes, and Simple Modes

Keep in mind that males often sing Gregorian chant, so write in a range that is appropriate for a man’s singing style. It is possible that the vocalists will not be able to perform it otherwise. Here is a typical range of prices for men: Starting with a C in the bass clef and progressing up to a F or G in the center of the treble clef is a common progression. For mixed choruses, make sure that the chant is appropriate for both men and women in the group.

Skills You’ll Learn

Music, classical music, jazz, music composition, and music theory are all terms that may be used to describe music.


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The date is May 6, 2020, according to PR. 29th of March, 2020 As a result of the lesson Melodic Structures: Lines, Shapes, and Simple Modes are examples of melodic structures. For the purposes of this lesson, we will begin to establish a vocabulary that will be useful in explaining the technical aspects of musical expression. In order to do this, we shall begin by thoroughly exploring some true, authentic music straight immediately. We will begin by looking at some Gregorian Chant (which, come on, can be stunningly beautiful).

Taught By

  • Chair in Musical Composition endowed by the Roy E. Disney family

Gregorio project website

It was composed by a monk from the monastery of Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux in order to express his vision of the structure of the writing of Gregorian chant, which he believed to be correct. In the beginning, it was focused with the development of an XML standard for the description of Gregorian chant. While Gregorio did attempt to integrate this XML standard at one time, the functionality was so little utilized that it was eventually dropped entirely. Gregorio, on the other hand, continues to employ this structure while evaluating its gabc code, making it valuable for users who want to understand how Gregorio “thinks” about a score.


It was composed by a monk from the monastery of Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux in order to express his view of the structure of the writing of Gregorian chant, which he believed to be unique. In the beginning, it was focused with the development of an XML standard for the representation of Gregorian chant. While Gregorio did attempt to integrate this XML standard at one time, the functionality was so little utilized that it was eventually dropped from the project. In order to analyze its gabc code, Gregorio continues to employ this structure; hence, users who are interested in learning how Gregorio “thinks” about a score may find it interesting.

  • Words are represented by neumes
  • Syllables are represented by neumatic components
  • Letters are represented by neumatic glyphs.

Here is an example of a neume, which we will go over in further detail later in this document: An illustration of a neume This neume’s initial constituent is referred to as. This element is made up of the glyph, which is followed by the three glyphs, and finally the word and. It is possible that our example of a neume made of 32 notes will surprise you.

It is simply a matter of preference in vocabulary: we refer to aneume as “a collection of notes sung on the same syllable.” For this example of a neume, which may be found in the Antiphonale Monasticum (Solesmes, 2005, vol. I: p. 542-543), we will use the following passage: Score in its entirety

The neumatic elements

In music, the neumatic components are a series of notes that are sung in a linked fashion and that together constitute a specific entity. The terminology used to denote these elements varies from one liturgical book to the next in terms of meaning. The following are the names that are often given to the elements that make up the neume that we used as an example:

Role of the neumatic elements

Using a musical perspective, the neumatic components are a series of notes that are sang together and that together constitute an entity of their own. Although the terminology used to denote these aspects varies from one liturgical book to the next, the basic concepts are the same. The pieces that make up the neume that we used as an example are typically referred to by the following names:

Definition of the neumatic element

We shall return to the idea of neumatic cut, which is still a little hazy in our minds, but for now, we may define theneumatic element as “a set of notes that do not include a neumatic cut.”

The list and the number of neumatic elements

Neumatic elements are found in a number of different forms in modern Gregorian chant scores, which are as follows: When the varying heights (pitches) of the notes and the liquescent forms are not taken into consideration, this list is rather thorough for the elements having only one or two notes in it. Starting with the three-note components, the number of elements increases dramatically, and providing a comprehensive list of all the elements appears to be, if not impossible, at the very least laborious, and not useful for developing a lexical typography for chant.

But, before we get into it, we need to clear up the confusion concerning the gaps that we can come into while following the thread of certain neumatic parts.

Because a typographer is not by definition a musician, a musicologist, or a gregorianist, he need a language that is appropriate for his or her profession.

  • In the contemporary Gregorian chant scores, there are several different sorts of neumatic components that we may find: When the varying heights (pitches) of the notes and the liquescent forms are not taken into consideration, this list is rather complete for the elements that have one or two notes in it. When you start with the three-note elements, the number of elements grows rapidly, and it appears that presenting a complete list of all the elements would be, if not impossible, at the very least monotonous, and would be unhelpful in developing a typeface for chant. Using the notion of a “neumatic glyph,” we’ll be able to create a more compact and readily comprehensive vocabulary for the typographical transcription of the Gregorian chant. To do so, however, we must first address the issue of gaps, which we may come upon while following the thread of some neumatic parts. Indeed, distinguishing between, on the one hand, a gap within a neumatic element and, on the other hand, a neumatic cut between two neumatic components can be difficult at times. In order to be effective in his profession, which by definition excludes all of the traditional musicians, musicologists, and gregorianists, one must develop an idiomatic language that is exclusive to his field. In order to simplify the concept of neumatic cut from a typographical standpoint, we suggest to include all spaces in it, with the exception of those found in the following examples:

As a result, just one neumatic element will be examined for each of the textual forms listed below: However, the following written forms are considered to be two distinct elements:

Difficulties resulting from this choice in establishing a XML standard

Consider the following two examples: If we view thescandicus flexus and theporrectus flexustypographically as one element at times and as two elements at other times, it is very difficult to construct a common XML representation of these two elements. Will the neumatic cut definition we just described be superseded by a more musical one, or will the one we just defined be retained? In many situations, the distinctions are questionable, if not outright challenged, which suggests that this is not the case.

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In some manuscripts, both of these sentences are written in this manner.

after which it was transcribed using the following formats: Illustrations of the salicus in various styles.

It appears that the best strategy is to refrain from naming the various neumatic components. However, doing so at the level of theneumatic glyphs will almost probably be more beneficial in the long run.

The neumatic glyphs

According to what we have mentioned above regarding the large number of existent and imagined neumatic parts and the difficulty in identifying them, we must go back to the initial and smallest units for the typographical construction of a gregorian chant score in order to get the best results. A typographer will attempt to identify the various shapes that he will want in order to create his scores on the spur of the moment, and he will discover four primary genres of shapes that will be juxtaposed next to one another.

For example, consider the following geometric forms: Typefaces including this set of primary shapes or glyphs were plainly required in order for lead characters to be used in typography.

For the same reason, the designers of digital typefaces have gone about their business by replacing the numerous neumatic glyphs with their respective tables of characters.

Definition of the neumatic glyph

Consequently, we may define theneumatic glyphas “a pictorial symbol that expresses a neumatic element, either alone or in combination with others.”

The list and the number of neumatic glyphs

Throughout the first pages of most liturgical books published in the twentieth century, we may discover tables of “neumes.” Unfortunately, these tables are the source of some misunderstanding regarding the distinction between neumatic components and neumatic glyphs. In general, they are not adequate to provide a comprehensive list of all the different types of neumatic components, for a variety of reasons. The fact that they are intended to be read by vocalists rather than typographers means that they go beyond the mere listing of primary glyphs.

  1. It appears to be pretty difficult to make this number correct.
  2. An example of a neumatic element that is exceptionally lengthy For example, the “neumes”punctum, pes, scandicus, and scandicus may all be found in this form of table: punctum, pes, and scandicus.
  3. This type of neumatic element will be easier to put together if you combine somepuncta and some podatuses, which will make it easier to assemble.
  4. It appears to be more feasible to confine ourselves to textual forms that do not include a space.

Then we need to decide on a maximum number of notes to include. Once we have taken into consideration these two constraints, we must search out all of the conceivable textual forms that may be created using the various pitch sequences and all of the variants.

Gregorian Chant, A Beginner’s Guide

The music of the Middle Ages is often classified into two primary categories: secular music and religious music. Anyone who has delved into the complicated world of medieval music has almost certainly come across religious chants, which are also known as Gregorian Chants in some circles. While it may appear that all chants are essentially the same (particularly to those who are unfamiliar with medieval liturgical music), there is a broad range of genres, subjects, and purposes to be found within the genre.

Medieval Church Music

It is nearly hard to comprehend what Gregorian chants are without at least a passing familiarity with the Catholic Church. rather than attempt to describe theology and millennia of religious ceremonies and traditions, I will just clarify some basic terms that will be useful in the future…. Remember that the definitions and descriptions in this section are specific to Western Christianity (Roman Catholicism) and may not have the same meaning in the Eastern Orthodox Church (or vice versa). The Cantate Domino is an illustration for Psalm 97, composed in 1380.

  • The Mass/Holy Eucharist and the Divine Office are the two most important services offered by the Roman Catholic Church.
  • The overall structure of these services remains rather consistent, although the precise content varies based on the time of year and the season.
  • Observances of religious festivals, which are religious celebrations or commemorations of events and/or persons, include Festivities are a time for feasting.
  • The first is referred to as Proper of the Time, Temporale, or Feasts of the Lord in some circles.
  • The second feast cycle is known as theProper of the Saintssorthe Sanctorale, and it is devoted to the lives of specific saints and their sanctified properties.
  • A number of feasts are held on the same day each year.
  • Mass is the most important liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church, and it is held every Sunday.

During the Mass, there are musical and nonmusical portions, some of which are taken from the Proper and others which are taken from the Ordinary.

These eight sets of prayers and services (referred to as “canonical hours”) are performed on a daily basis and are distinct and separate from the celebration of the Mass.

Hymns, psalms, canticles, responsories, and antiphons are some of the musical genres that are employed in the Office/Liturgy of the Hours.

Even though the melodies may alter according on the preferences of the local clergy, the text remain consistent.

There are no changes to these songs and chants because they are permanent aspects of the Mass and do not vary with the seasons.

In the Mass and the Office services, the Proper are the texts, chants, and music that vary from one feast to the next, and they are made up of the Proper.

There are several forms of music in the Proper that are used during Mass, including the introit, the Gradual, the Alleluia, the Offertory, and the Communion Song. Tropes, sequences, and processionals are some of the other types of chants that are utilized for special events.

Are you confused? Keep reading!

As a result, the usual Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Bendictus, and Agnus Dei would be included in the ordinary Mass. (Ordinary). It would also be necessary to conduct a feast-specific Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offering, and Communion depending on whatever day of the liturgical calendar it was and which feast cycle it was during (Proper). As part of the Divine Office, specific prayers, canticles, psalms, and hymns would be performed throughout the day, distinct from Mass, as part of the daily routine.

  1. Psalmodic and non-psalmodic religious/liturgical music may be distinguished in the Middle Ages (with traditions extending into the Modern era) and can be divided into two categories: psalmodic and non-psalmodic.
  2. They are as follows: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, Introit, Gradual, Offertory, Communion, Alleluia, Canticle, Antiphon, Responsory, Psalm, or Hymn, Introit, Gradual, Offertory, Communion, Alleluia, Canticle, Antiphon, Responsory, Psalm, or Hymn.
  3. Some forms of chants have been in use from the beginning of Christian chant, while others were introduced into the liturgy over time.
  4. For example, the Kyrie (a prayer from the Ordinary of the Mass) can be performed in a variety of styles.
  5. “Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison,” the choir sings.
  6. Every piece of religious Medieval music that fits under the umbrella term “Gregorian chant” is often referred to as such by the general public.
  7. Remember that the texts themselves have significant religious importance as you learn more about Gregorian chants and how they came to be canonized as you progress through your studies.

Not to mention the fact that there is an enormous range of chants, and that many liturgical melodies of the Middle Ages are not genuinely chants in the traditional sense. As you go more into the realm of Gregorian chant, you’ll come to appreciate how distinctive and lovely they truly are.

Gregorian Chant, a Brief History

In religious rituals, early Christians were already practicing unaccompanied singing and chanting even before Christianity was officially authorized in the 4th century AD. Plainchant and Plainsong are two terms used to describe these chants. As Christianity expanded across the Roman Empire, a number of musical traditions and plainchant repertories arose on their own, independently of one another. Mozarabic (Roman Spain), the Gallicanchants of Gaul (France), Ambrosianchant (Milan, Italy), Beneventan (Italy), Anglo-Saxon and subsequently theSarum (England), Old Roman, and Gregoryian were among the Western traditions that were known to scholars (Rome).

  • Other liturgical variants, such as the Celtic rite in Ireland and the Slavonic rite in Scandinavia, existed in other parts of the world.
  • There is a great deal of controversy about Pope Gregory’s role in the establishment and development of the Gregorian tradition in Rome.
  • Regardless of who originated this liturgical practice, it gained widespread acceptance throughout the empire in a very short period of time.
  • Charlemagne, in particular, was a staunch proponent of the abolition of all non-Roman customs and the replacement of such practices with Roman ceremonies.
  • A papal edict had effectively outlawed the use of Gallican and Slavonic languages by the 9th century.
  • Local customs were eventually displaced by Gregorian calendars, or they had evolved to the point where they could co-exist with Roman rituals, at least to some extent.
  • Ambrosian chant, along with Gregorian chant, is the only kind of chant that has been officially sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

What makes a Gregorian chant a Gregorian chant?

Early Christians used solo singing and chanting in religious ceremonies even before Christianity was officially authorized in the 4th century. Plainchant and Plainsong are terms used to describe these types of chants. As Christianity expanded across the Roman Empire, a diverse range of musical traditions and plainchant repertories arose on their own, independently of one another. Mozarabic (Roman Spain), the Gallicanchants of Gaul (France), Ambrosianchant (Milan, Italy), Beneventan (Italy), Anglo-Saxon and subsequently theSarum (England), Old Roman, and Gregoryian were among the Western traditions that were known to us (Rome).

  • Other liturgical variants, such as the Celtic rite in Ireland and the Slavonic rite in Scandinavia, existed in other parts of the world..
  • Regarding Pope Gregory’s role in the establishment and formation of the Gregorian tradition in Rome, there is a great deal of disagreement.
  • No matter who was responsible for creating this liturgical practice, it gained widespread acceptance across the empire in a very short period of time.
  • Especially influential was Charlemagne, who advocated for the abolition of all non-Roman customs and the adoption of Roman ceremonies in their place.
  • A papal edict in the 9th century outlawed the use of Gallican and Slavonic in all their forms.
  • Local customs were eventually displaced by Gregorian calendars, or they had evolved to the point where they could coexist peacefully with Roman practices, at least to some extent.

Beyond Gregorian chant, Ambrosian is the only type of chant that has been sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church on a formal basis. Both of these words are still in common usage.

Sources and Further Reading

Because I am not a Catholic, I relied on information obtained from the following sources to guarantee that the material was accurate:

  • Breviary Hymns, Fides Quaerens Intellectum, Chantblog, and GIA Publications, Inc. are some of the resources available. Music for the Church
  • National Association of Pastoral Musicians
  • Schola Cantorum Bogotensis
  • Gregorian Chant Resources and History: Music Outfitters
  • Gregorian Chant Resources and History: Encyclopaedia Britannica
  • Mark Everist is a writer who lives in the United Kingdom. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Music is a reference work on medieval music. Randel, Don Michael, et al., eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2011. The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians is a concise reference work on music and musicians. The President and Fellows of Harvard College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 1999. Print
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The main image for this piece is an illuminated manuscript from a 14th-century choir book, which is worth mentioning in its own right. The picture is a carving of St. Lawrence in the letter “C,” which is seen in the letter “C.” The Introit to the Mass for the Feast of St. Lawrence begins with this opening syllable.

Learning Melody Writing from 2000-Year Old Music

You may jump-start your songwriting career by downloading “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting,” a 6-ebook package. Insight into the “ancient DNA” of songwriting, which dates back over two thousand years, is intriguing for songwriters to contemplate. You would be hard pushed to find any similarities between Gregorian Chant and the music made by today’s songwriters if you were to listen to both together. There are, nevertheless, some striking parallels between the features of good melodies from the year 600 and what we consider to be good melody composition now, regardless of the genre in which you create.

Although not really produced by Pope Gregory the Great, they were structured and notated under his direction.

As a songwriter, how might becoming acquainted with Gregorian Chant be beneficial to you today?

You’ll find that the important qualities of chant are exactly the kinds of things you should be keeping in mind as you construct your melodies for pop, rock, country, folk, or virtually any other genre of music.

  1. The majority of the movement is stepwise from one note to the next, with a few jumps here and there. Melodies for chants were produced to be sung with ease, both by “ordinary folk” and by musical academics, and it was vital to keep the melodic design basic in order to achieve this goal. The use of stepwise motion made it easier to sing the melody
  2. Strange melodic jumps were avoided. Leaps of thirds (for example, from C to E) were the most prevalent, followed by leaps of fifths. Leaps greater than a fifth of a mile were regarded to be uncomfortable. Once again, the primary consideration was the ease with which the song could be sung
  3. The rhythm of the words served as the basis for the music’s beat. Chant notation is often written in stemless neumes, which are note heads that have no connection to the actual beat of the piece being performed. This is due to the fact that the music’s rhythm was derived straight from the natural pulse of the speech. Today, we employ notation that specifies rhythm, which allows us to have a clear understanding of what the beat should be. Nonetheless, the poem describes a feeling of pulsating music that is still present today, according to the author. Your words should be sung in such a way that their natural rhythms can be heard
  4. Melodies often had a shape that included a high point. In today’s music, we all know that most songs have a climax moment, and the notion of the climactic high point can be traced all the way back to the ancient Chant tunes.

Besides its melodic features, Chant melodies have other characteristics that are no longer present in contemporary musical creation. For example, music from that era was unaccompanied, unharmonized (i.e., there were no chord progressions employed or implied), and did not employ a time signature in its composition. As a result, there are limits to how much we can learn from these ancient songs. However, if you feel that your tunes are causing you frustration, Consider the following:

  1. Improve your musical knowledge by learning these Gregorian Chant tunes. Produce and sing your own tunes in the style of the Gregorian Chant: silently and with a rhythm that is conveyed solely by the lyrics

As a result of doing so, you might be surprised at how similar your own melodies are to Chant tunes. Furthermore, it may open your eyes to new possibilities for modifying your melodic composition style. And it’s also fascinating to watch what contemporary musicians have done with ancient tunes in order to give them a fresh new sound._

Gregorian chant

Gregorian chant is a type of liturgical music performed in unison or in monophony by the Roman Catholic Church to accompany the readings of the mass and the canonical hours, sometimes known as the divine office. The Gregorian chant is named after St. Gregory I, who was Pope from 590 to 604 and during whose reign it was collected and codified. King Charlemagne of the Franks (768–814) brought Gregorian Chant into his country, which had previously been dominated by another liturgical style, the Gallican chant, which was in general usage.

  1. The passages that are repeated from one mass to the next are included in theOrdinary of the Mass.
  2. The first appearance of the Gloria was in the 7th century.
  3. The Gloria chants that follow are neumatic.
  4. TheSanctus andBenedictus are most likely from the period of the apostles.
  5. Since its introduction into the Latin mass from the Eastern Church in the 7th century, theAgnus Dei has been written mostly in neumatic form.
  6. The Proper of the Mass is a collection of texts that are different for each mass in order to highlight the significance of each feast or season celebrated that day.
  7. During the 9th century, it had taken on its current form: a neumatic refrain followed by a psalm verse in psalm-tone style, followed by the refrain repeated.

As time progressed, it evolved into the following pattern: opening melody (chorus)—psalm verse or verses in a virtuously enriched psalmodic structure (soloist)—opening melody (chorus), which was repeated in whole or in part.

Its structure is similar to that of the Gradual in several ways.

Synagogue music has a strong connection to this cry.

Sacred poems, in their current form, the texts are written in double-line stanzas, with the same accentuation and amount of syllables on both lines for each two lines.

By the 12th century, just the refrain had survived from the original psalm and refrain.

The Offertory is distinguished by the repeating of text.

The song has a neumatic feel to it.

Responses are short texts that precede or follow each psalm and are mostly set in syllabic chant; psalms, with each set to a psalm tone; hymns, which are usually metrical and in strophes or stanzas and set in a neumatic style; and antiphons or refrains, which are short texts that precede or follow each psalm and are mostly set in syllabic The Gradual’s form and style are influenced by the sponsor’s contribution.

Amy Tikkanen has made the most current revisions and updates to this page.

Gregorian Chant Notation

This is a description of the traditional Gregorian Chant notation, with the goal of making it easy for anybody to read and sing the music. Chant is written in neumes, which are notes spoken on a single word that are separated by a space. Gregorian Chant does not have a meter at all, yet it does have a rhythm consisting of groups of two or three notes that is repeated. Vertical lines divide musical phrases and may occasionally provide a break for taking a breath, like in Chant, which is not in a major or minor key, but inmodesto, which means inmodesto (though there are some modes which can sound like a modern scale).

Dois is indicated on the staff by a dot.

Do would occupy the bottom available place in this case.

On the right is a modern-day version of this.

Liquescent Neumes

There are several different ways to demonstrate that a note is in your possession: One way to achieve this is to add a dot (punctum-mora) after the note. In modern music, it’s a little like a dotted note in the middle of a phrase. In order to demonstrate that a note is held, more than one of the same note in a row on the same syllable should be included in the composition. A repurcussive neume is what is referred to as this. In contemporary music, a horizontal line (episema) over a neume indicates that the note should be held or that it should be slowed down a bit likerit.

  • A single accidental that may be employed in Chant notation is the B-flat, which appears to be quite similar to the current B-flat on the piano keyboard.
  • In every other case, it just lasts for a single syllable.
  • If you love this website and would want to contribute a few of dollars to help keep it running, you may do so by sending a check to the following address: The payment is made to That is how to read Gregorian Chant notation, in its entirety!
  • The LPH Resource Center for Catholic Homeschoolers offers elementary-level Latin and music lessons to homeschooling families.
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What is Gregorian Chant – GIA Publications

Before reviewing the main Gregorian chant books and resources, perhaps it is good to state what Gregorian chant is.Gregorian chant is the church’s own music, born in the church’s liturgy. Its texts are almost entirely scriptural, coming for the most part from the Psalter. For centuries it was sung as pure melody, in unison, and without accompaniment, and this is still the best way to sing chant if possible. It was composed entirely in Latin; and because its melodies are so closely tied to Latin accents and word meanings, it is best to sing it in Latin. (Among possible exceptions are chant hymns, since the melodies are formulaic and are not intrinsically tied to the Latin text.) Gregorian chant is in free rhythm, without meter or time signature.Because the liturgy was sung almost entirely in Gregorian chant in the Middle Ages (with polyphony saved for special occasions), every type of liturgical text has been set in chant: readings, prayers, dialogs, Mass propers, Mass ordinaries, office hymns, office psalms and antiphons, responsories, and versicles. Although Pope St. Gregory the Great (590–604) certainly did not play a role in the creation or compilation of our chant melodies, popular legend led the church to name Gregorian chant after this great leader.Many other types and styles of music are similar to Gregorian chant or inspired by it, but one should distinguish them from Gregorian chant. Taizé chants, for example, are generally in Latin, similar to Gregorian chant antiphons. But the musical style is quite different: metered and with choral harmonies and/or instrumental accompaniments.Many psalm tones have been written since the Second Vatican Council. They are much like Gregorian chant psalm tones with their free rhythm and their repeatable melodic formulas. By Gregorian psalm tones, however, we mean a set of particular melodies, one for each of the Gregorian modes, always in the form of two measures. The Gregorian psalm tones are well suited to the Latin language, but do not work very well with English accents, unless one takes freedom in adapting them. For English psalm verses, it is probably wiser to use psalm tones written for the English language. Back to Gregorian Chant Resources
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The Book of Gregorian Chant

Liturgical music and Latin texts make up the bulk of the book’s content. It is the chants from the Ordinary of the Mass that comprise the majority of the manuscript, including arrangements of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Ite Missa Est, Deo gratias, and Benedicamus Domino texts. In this collection, you’ll find a variety of chants from various Proper settings, such as those from the Asperges Mass, the Requiem Mass, the Mass for a Church’s Dedication, the Mass for the Purification of Mary (Candlemas), and others.

  • Francisci, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lady Day), Maundy Thursday, and Palm Sunday, among other occasions.
  • The UMKC Library Catalog contains a comprehensive listing of the manuscript’s contents, which can be found here.
  • Six scribes appear to have contributed to the book, according to an examination of the notation features..
  • In addition to the initial notation, other scribes “fixed” the work of prior scribes, which was done in a variety of ways.
  • The process of comparing the original with the new version of various chants, and then comparing those two versions with other medieval sources, was critical in determining the publication date of the book.
  • This, together with the fact that the number of staff lines varied from four to six lines per staff in the manuscript, indicates that at least a portion of the book was written before the standard staff for chant notation were established.
  • Alumnus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music James Adair purchased the manuscript in 1968 while visiting Seville, Spain.

Adair has determined that a stamp in purple ink that occurs on three folios (folios 26r, 93r, and 98r) is an official identifying mark from the Spanish government.

Adair presented the book to the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory Library in 1973, which later became a component of the Miller Nichols Library.

Janet K.


Every chant in the UMKC text has been recorded in contemporary notation, which is the most significant outcome of her endeavor.


A lecture-recital based on chosen chants from the UMKC text was delivered on April 16, 2000, at the RLDS Temple in Independence, Mo.

Kraybill was the guest speaker for the event.

After the chants, Dr.



Kraybill, who graciously provided a recording of it.

They are the Kyrie and Alleluia from the Mass for the Dedication of a Church, as well as the Antiphon from the Palm Sunday celebration.

Kraybill’s transcriptions of them, are also available on this website for viewing and listening.

Kraybill has contributed digitized photographs from the book for use in this web exhibit, in addition to the written text.

The experience and research of Ms.

Moses Ong, Special Collections volunteer and former student assistant, who gave extremely beneficial technical support. We would like to express our gratitude to Rob Ray, our previous Special Collections Librarian, for his leadership and assistance during this endeavor.


An acclamation that is sung immediately after the Introit in the Latin Mass is known as the Kyrie. Lord, have mercy on us,’ says the fundamental text, which is in Greek, which is composed of the phrases ‘Kyrie, eleison’ (three times), ‘Christe, eleison’ (three times), and ‘Kyrie, eleison’ (three times): ‘Lord, have mercy on us,’ says the text. Please, Christ, have mercy on me. ‘Lord, take compassion on me.’ After becoming popularized as part of pagan civic and religious events throughout the Roman Empire, the phrase ‘kyrie eleison’ continued to be employed in Christian rites, eventually becoming a staple of many Christian liturgies beginning in the 6th century and continuing today.

(This information comes from the New Grove II Dictionary of Music and Musicians Online.) The audio element cannot be played because your browser does not support it.

Kraybill’s performance of the Kyrie eleison is available on CD.


This Proper chant is performed after the Gradual during the Fore-Mass on liturgical days connected with penitence and fasting (most notably during Lent), and on liturgical occasions associated with sadness (such as the Requiem Mass), when it may be substituted by the Tract. During Paschal Time, which begins with Low Sunday and ends with High Sunday, the Gradual is skipped and two Alleluias are sung instead. After singing the word “alleluia” and closing with a prolonged melismatic flourish (the Jubilus), the Alleluia will be followed by a somewhat ornate verse, followed by another repetition of the phrase “alleluia.” The Alleluia will be done in a responsorial way.

Although there is no evidence of such participation by the chorus in the early sources, it is possible that the chorus sang at least the final iteration of the Alleluia at some point.



This form of liturgical chant was common to the Gregorian and other Western chant repertoires and was connected mostly with antiphonal psalmody, although it was also used in other contexts. When a Psalm or canticle is being sang, it is customary for the refrain to be composed in basic syllabic manner, and it is usually only a few measures in length. There were, on the other hand, several sorts of Antiphons that were not related with psalmody at all. In the processional Antiphons, which were first preserved in graduals and later in separate books and sung at processions on such occassions as the Feast of the Purification (Candlemas), the Greater Litanies, and Palm Sunday, there were verses after the fasion of responsories that were sometimes included in a processional.

It is still used in processionals at modern services, which is a testament to its longevity.

The UMKC text has just a few chants from the Office. This one, from the Office of “Terce,” would have been at the church at 9 a.m. for worship. This information is derived from the New Harvard Dictionary of Music.


According to an examination of the peculiarities of the notation, it appears that six scribes worked on the UMKC’s Book of Gregorian Chant. ‘Scribe 1’ is responsible for the majority of the manuscript’s work, which includes the biggest illumination in the text, a capital “P,” which occurs on folio 82r and takes up more than half of the page (left). In addition to the initial notation, other scribes “fixed” the work of prior scribes, which was done in a variety of ways. On the right is a page from the manuscript (folio 8r), which was written by another scribe and features an illumination of the letter “P,” but this illumination is much different from the previous one.

Kraybill, “the illuminations distinguish and enhance the beauty of this book, as is true of many medieval instances.” Many various colors of pen were used to produce these text decorations, including black, red, teal blue, dark blue, green and orange.

As a result, a wide variety of techniques were employed, yielding results that ranged from extremely ornate and colorful decorations that filled the margins from top to bottom with beautiful filigree to very crude, “colored-in” letters that appeared to be a clumsy attempt by an unskilled hand to imitate the beauty of the former.

Folio 8r has the final section of the Asperges Antiphon with Psalm, as well as the first section of an unnamed Credo, among other things (which also begins with an illuminated “P”).

Although we have three Latin Creeds (the ‘Apostles’, the ‘Nicene, and the ‘Athanasian’), the history of the texts is complicated; nonetheless, the one used at Mass is the one often referred to as the ‘Nicene.’ Early in the 6th century, the Credo was introduced into the eucharistic liturgy in the eastern church in the form known as the ‘Nicene’ (or ‘Nicea-Constantinople’) version (so named because it summarizes the doctrines agreed upon at the Councils of Nicea, 325, and Constantinople, 381), and soon after that, it was introduced into the Visigothic rite by the Council of Toledo (589).

In both cases, it was instituted in the wake of theological disputes, with the goal of defining the conviction that all those who participate in the Eucharist should hold in common.

Baptismal usage of the Credo (or Symbolum, as it was known in this capacity) persisted throughout the Middle Ages, and it is thought to have been responsible for the maintenance of a Greek text in Latin manuscripts depicting customs in northern France and Germany during this period.

(Image courtesy of the New Grove II Dictionary of Music and Musicians on the Internet.)

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