Musical forms


The Propers are the pieces whose text varies according to circumstances. The principal pieces of the Propers are

real audioIntroit
The Introit accompanies the entrance procession of the celebrant and his ministers, and helps the faithful ito enter into the particular mystery being celebrated: it "sets the tone" of the day, feast or occasion.
oggvorbisThe Gradual
The Gradual is one of the reading responses.
Chant of the gradual by the schola
It is constructed from a form of psalmody with refrain. Originally, the congregation responded with a simple formula to a soloist who sang the verses of the psalm one by one. But in the fifth to sixth centuries, a musical enrichment led to curtailing of the literary texts.

oggvorbisThe Alleluia
"Praise the Lord" is the literal translation of this Hebrew word. At Mass, it was originally a chant reserved for Easter Day alone. From there its use was extended to Eastertide, then to Sundays of the year, weekly celebrations of the Resurrection.
oggvorbisThe offertory
This is not just a "functional" chant but more of an accompaniment to the ceremonies, a sumptuous "musical offering" of sorts.
oggvorbisThe communion
The purpose of this chant is to accompany the procession of those distributing communion. Also, it frequently seeks to create a synthesis between the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist.


Entrance chant by the schola

Other than the Proper chants, whose texts vary according to circumstances, the celebration of the Mass includes chants of texts that are fixed, independent of the day or feast.
oggvorbisThe Kyrie
Kyrie eleison is a Greek formula by which the faithful "acclaim their Lord and implore his mercy." Today this chant is placed at the beginning of the Mass, as part of the penitential rite, preparing the faithful for the celebration.
oggvorbisThe Gloria
This hymn of Eastern origin may date from as early as the second century.
In the Roman liturgy the Gloria originally came into use for the midnight Mass of Christmas only. Later it was steadily extended to the great feasts of the year and,finally, to Sundays.
oggvorbisThe Sanctus
At the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer the Sanctus is introduced by the great recitation of the Preface. The Sanctus is the "hymn of the Seraphim", heard in the Temple of Jerusalem by the prophet Isaiah. It invites the Church on earth to join in the liturgy of heaven.
oggvorbisThe Agnus Dei
This is the chant which accompanies the breaking of the Bread which has just been consecrated, a necessary breaking which preceeds its distribution at the communion of the faithful. The time between the fraction of bread and communion is used by the congregation to "greet with homage and humble supplication the One who has been made present under the appearance of bread."


This great daily prayer of the Church consecrates the whole of human time by divine praise. Seven times a day, and again once every night, the Christian community gathers together to celebrate this liturgy by and large composed of psalms.

oggvorbisThe Antiphons
The chanting of a psalm is framed by a brief piece called an antiphon. Sung for its own sake, it introduces and concludes the psalm. Like the propers at Mass, proper antiphons of the offices change with the feast or day and give each of the psalms they accompany a particular reading.
oggvorbisThe Responses
These are chants which occur between readings from the Bible and from writings of the Church Fathers during the Night Office (Vigils). On great feasts, they follow the reading at first vespers. They are meditative chants, contemplative musical commentaries of the sacred text.
oggvorbisThe hymnsThe most popular pieces of the office are undoubtedly the hymns. Their importance in the Western liturgy was recalled by Vatican II. The hymn sets the tone and helps the faithful enter into the liturgical season or the particular mystery being celebrated. Often it is a simple and melodious composition.


At first hearing, Gregorian chant might seem monotonous. Undoubtedly it disconcerts our modern ears, accustomed to more contrasted music, but often less profound. In reality the Gregorian repertory is a complex world which unites several centuries of musical history. It is in fact a world of astonishing variety which mysteriously approximates almost delirious enthusiasm as well as the most delicate interior realities. It is a paradoxical world where music blooms amid silence.

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