Gregorian Intonations in the Mass

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Joined: 01 Dec 2010 04:03
Location: North Vancouver BC, Canada

Gregorian Intonations in the Mass

Post by D-fished »

We all know about the use of Gregorian intonations for the "Gloria in excelsis Deo" and "Credo in unum Deum" portions of the Mass, but can anyone point me to any documentation about how these intonations are to be implemented? I've looked in vain in music history books, Catholic dictionaries and ceremonials etc. to find anything about the origins of the practice and whether any proscriptions apply concerning which intonations are used when and how.

I have compiled a complete set of intonations ordered by mode from the Liber Usualis and a couple of things have struck me. Many of the intonations are associated with specific uses (feasts, double feasts, Marian feasts, etc.) but what do you do if you have a polyphonic mass setting in Mode VII, but the prescribed Gloria for the feast is in Mode II? I have also seen many editions and heard many performances where say, a Credo intonation in Mode III is used and the mode-final e is used as a leading tone to set up a "Patrem omnipotentem" in F major. Is such mismatching of mode/key acceptable? (I have my own thoughts on the matter, but I'd like to hear what others say first.)

I would appreciate hearing back from anyone who can either tell me what the accepted usage of the Church is in this matter, or can tell me where to look. Once I'm confidant I understand the subject properly I plan to publish my intonation compilation at CPDL for the use of choir directors. I plan to include guidelines to help in matching intonations to the key/mode of the mass as well as in identifying the mode of modal works (which is a surprisingly complicated subject, occasioning much disagreement among theorists, some of whom argued that "mode" couldn't be applied to polyphony at all).
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Re: Gregorian Intonations in the Mass

Post by uptoncp »

Origins - the easy bit! In a purely chanted service, every item is intoned by somebody, it's an easy way of making sure everybody sings the same piece in the same "key"! The Gloria and Credo, being regarded as particularly important texts in the mass, are intoned by the celebrant, and this practice stuck when polyphonic compositions began to be used.

As to the choice of chant, the LU itself says (in the edition I've got) "This Ordinary is not meant to be a matter of hard and fast rule." In earlier use there is a considerable variation, for example, the Gloria given in the LU in Mass III, for Solemn Feasts, is assigned in Sarum books as one of three which may be used on ordinary Sundays, or on lesser feasts and days within octaves. Composers, presumably, matched their settings to intonations which were appropriate, according to the use of the place they were writing for, to the occasion they were writing for. In many if not most cases, both these details will be unknown and unknowable, I would be very wary of taking the LU assignations as anything more than very loose guidelines.

Incidentally, Sarum only has one setting of the Credo, the LU's I; I think (citation required) this was universally the case in pre-reformation England and widespread elsewhere, which will make the choice simpler in many cases!
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