Notes on Offertories in Modes 5 & 8 

Tracks 1—8: fifth mode
Tracks 9—31: eighth mode


The melodies of Offertories can be found in the “Vatican Graduale,” Graduale sacrosanctae romanae ecclesiae de tempore et de sanctis SS. D. N. Pii X. pontificis maximi jussu restitutum et editum (Romae: Typis vaticanis 1908); and in the Graduale triplex, seu Graduale romanum Pauli PP.VI cura recognitum & rhythmicis signis a Solesmensibus monachis ornatum neumis Laudunensibus (cod. 239) et Sangallensibus (codicum San Gallensis 359 et Einsidelensis 121) nunc auctum. (Solesmes 1979). 

Offertory verses are edited in Offertoriale triplex, (Solesmes, 1985). 

Liturgical assignments are as in Réné-Jean Hesbert, Antiphonale missarum sextuplex  (Brussels 1935); reference is to the number of the Mass formulary, preceded by “M.” 

The “signs of nuance” can be studied in the facsimiles of the chant books “Laon 239”(“L”), published in Paléographie musicale X (1909); “St. Gall 359” (“C”) in Paléographie musicale IIe série, II (1924); Einsiedeln Cod. 121, (“E,”) ed. Odo Lang (Weinheim 1991) and most conveniently in the Graduale triplex, where the notation from L, C, and E has been entered by hand by Marie-Claire Billecocq and Rupert Fischer. Here, references are given to the Graduale triplex (“GT”). 

The standard work on the Gregorian chant repertory, including relevant bibliography, is by David Hiley, Western Plainchant, A Handbook (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1993). The Offertories are discussed on     pp. 121–130. See also The Early Middle Ages to 1300, in The New Oxford History of Music, Vol.II (new edition, Oxford 1990), ed. R. Crocker and D. Hiley, pp. 143–145, 190–196. 

The Offertories are discussed by Willi Apel in Gregorian Chant (Indiana University Press, 1958), pp. 363–375.

In James McKinnon, The Advent Project. The later seventh-century creation of the Roman Mass Proper(University of California Press 2000), the Offertories are discussed on pp. 298–325.

On various aspects of the Offertories, see the following. 

Ruth Steiner, “Some Questions about the Gregorian Offertories and their Verses,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 19 (1966), pp. 162–181.

Bonifazio Baroffio and Ruth Steiner, “Offertory,” New Grove 1980.

Joseph Dyer, “The Offertory Chant of the Roman Liturgy and its Musical Form,” Studi musicali 11 (1982), pp. 3–30.

Kenneth Levy, Gregorian Chant and the Carolingians (Princeton University Press 1998), pp. 31–81; also “Gregorian Chant and the Romans,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 56 (2003), pp. 5–41.

The nuance notation is discussed in Eugene Cardine, Gregorian Semiology (Solesmes 1982), trans. by R. Fowels from “Sémiologie grégorienne,” Etudes grégoriennes 11 (1970), pp. 1–158. 

Modal finals and terminal descents are discussed by Jean Claire in “Les Répertoires liturgiques latins avant l’octoéchos. L’Office férial Romano-Franc,” Etudes grégoriennes 15 (1975), pp. 5–192. 

See also Richard L. Crocker, Introduction to Gregorian Chant (Yale University Press 2001).

For further resources, see the About the Archive.

Gregorian Chant at the Offertory

 The Antiphonale missarum sextuplex of Réné-Jean Hesbert provides for just over one hundred sets of words to be sung at the Offertory of the Roman Mass. The Archive includes ninety-nine of these, sung from the notated versions transcribed in the Graduale triplex from Laon Bibl. Mun. Cod. 239 (L), and Einsiedeln Stiftsbibl. Cod. 121 (E).

 These ninety-nine are distributed among the eight modes as listed here.

First mode: 14
Second mode: 15
Third mode: 10
Fourth mode: 17
Fifth mode: 8
Sixth mode: 10
Seventh mode: 2
Eighth mode: 23

These appear in the Archive in three groups, as listed here.

Offertories in first, second, and seventh modes
Offertories in fourth, sixth, and third modes
Offertories in fifth mode and eighth modes 

The Sextuplex lists six more Offertories that are not included in the Archive for cause, as listed here. 

Benedictus es Deus, M172bis (GT 375 Benedictus sit Deus, melody = Constitues eos, third mode) for the Mass formulary “De Trinitate,” a Carolingian formulary which need not be counted part of the archetype

Memor sit, (M171 Common of Pontiffs); melodies for this formulary, scantily represented in the MSS of the Sextuplex, have been lacking from the tradition, but recently discovered and edited by Andreas Pfisterer

Audi Israel, M0 (Rheinau)

Exaudi orationem, M76 (Rheinau, Blandin)

Ingressus est, M119 (Blandin)

Factus est repente, M106 (Blandin)

(melodies of the last four are not in Graduale triplex)

In the Archive performances, preference is given primarily to the notation from L, secondarily to that from C or E as needed and as available in the Graduale triplex. As mentioned in the About the Archive, when the versions from L, C, or E indicate a melodic detail clearly different from the Vatican version printed in the Graduale triplex, this variant is performed in the Archive. There are certainly other variants in the manuscript tradition that will eventually be taken into account in a new edition of the Mass Propers.

David Hiley called attention to a particular class of variant in connection with Offertory melodies; he showed some of the problems associated with the use of b-flat as a possible sign of transposition of a specific phrase. This is an important possibility, one that may well affect the eventual shape of certain Offertories, as well as other types of Gregorian. But unlike the kind of variant discussed in the Introduction, this kind is not visible in L, C, or E, and cannot be used in the Archive. As the Vatican version is used here as a base text, to be modified to bring it into accord with sources under study (such as L, C, or E), so too with other sources, such as Montpellier H 159. From discussions such as those by Hiley and others, as well as from other factors (some of which will be mentioned here), it might appear that Offertory melodies are in general less stable in the manuscript tradition than Introits or Graduals; or it might be that Offertories have received a kind of research attention not yet bestowed upon other kinds of chant, which may in their turn show similar instability. 

As discussed in the About the Archive, the performances in the Archive try to follow the readings (including the signs of nuance) of the MS Laon 239, as transcribed in the Graduale triplex

Plan and nature of melody

Compared to Introits and Graduals, Offertories appear in the Vatican edition and in the Graduale triplexin the simple form of a single stich set to melody, without complementary stichs such as the Psalm verse at the Introit, or the verse at the Gradual responsory. Still, these Offertories show a wide range of dimensions, melodic style, and character.

Since the later Middle Ages, Offertories have often been classed as antiphonal chant; that is, the stich is called an antiphon, and it assumed that at one time it was used in conjunction with verses sung to a psalm tone, just as is documented for Introits and Communions.

Contra, it has always been known that early sources of the ninth to twelfth century provided a comprehensive series of verses for Offertories; these verses, whose words were selected from Psalms or other sources and written out in some of the MSS of the Sextuplex, were provided with extraordinarily elaborate melodies in the early notated MSS such as L and E. Usually two or three such verses (but sometimes four, or only one) were indicated to be sung for each Offertory. The latter part of the Offertory was indicated to be used as a partial respond after each verse. All of this indicates a responsorial performance, not an antiphonal one. From a close study of various kinds of documents relating to Offertories, Joseph Dyer showed that they were more probably to be considered as responsorial chant. 

In general, Offertories use the same degree of intrasyllabic melodic extension as is found in Introits and in the responds of Graduals; that is, few syllables have only one or two pitches, while most syllables have three or four pitches, or more, up to a dozen. This continual stream of extensions, always varied in number of pitches and in melodic direction, moves in ways characteristic of the whole Gregorian repertory of Mass Propers, using for the most part a similar store of idioms. In Offertories, melismas of a dozen or more pitches are prominent but infrequent. 

There are, however, certain anomalies among Offertory melodies. That most frequently observed involves the repetition of the opening phrase of an Offertory, using the same words and the same or slightly varied melody. Such repetition, very familiar in later European vocal music, is unknown in the rest of the Gregorian repertory. The most prominent examples (Iubilate Deo omnis terra, fifth mode and Iubilate Deo universa, first mode) have long elicited a variety of explanations; there are a few other instances. 

Other anomalies in the musical style of Offertories mainly involve various non-psalmic sources for the words, to be mentioned briefly further on.

Offertory verses

In the early Middle Ages Offertories were sung with verses: each Offertory was provided with two or three verses, with their own individual melodies, many of which were in an extremely elaborate musical          style—more elaborate than the Offertories themselves, or than any other kind of Gregorian chant. Words for these verses were supplied in at least some of the six manuscripts of the Sextuplex, as listed here. 

fix table

MS “Monza”—no Offertories)
MS “Rheinau”—full verbal text for a smaller number of Offertories (feasts, but not all of Lent, and few saints’ days)
        MS “Blandin”—extensive series of Offertories, with verses, often just as cues
MS “Compiègne”—full verbal text of Offertories and of verses
MS “Corbie”—verbal text of Offertories only
MS “Senlis”—cues for Offertories and for verses         

These verses were supplied with melodies in chant books of the tenth to the twelfth centuries; after that time the verses dropped out of use. They were not included in the Vatican edition of 1908, nor in the subsequent editions of the Mass Propers by Solesmes. 

In 1935 Karl Ott made an edition of the repertory of Offertories with verses, using the early sources Laon 239, St. Gall 339, Einsiedelen 121, Montpellier H 159 and a twelfth- century source from Trier, Codex Bohn (Stadtbibl. 2254). Ott’s edition followed the Vatican edition closely in format and in the melodic versions of the Offertories, using the same type faces and editing procedures for the verses. This encouraged the idea of a repertory uniform in musical style, but at the same time showed the startling increase in length and melodic elaboration in many of the verses, relative to the Offertory melodies themselves. 

In 1985 Ott’s Offertoriale was supplied by Rupert Fischer with hand-copied transcriptions from Laon 239 and Einsiedeln 121, in the same format as used in the Graduale triplex of 1979. Fischer reports the extensive erasure that was imposed on Laon; and Fischer’s transcription, taken together with the critical notes from Ott’s original edition, shows the several kinds of difficulty in establishing a text for musical performance. These difficulties prevent the inclusion of the verses in the Archive at the present time; perhaps by the time the Communion antiphons, Tracts, and Alleluias are recorded for the Archive there will be an opportunity to record these verses too, assuming (and hoping) for progress in establishing a musical text for performance. 

There is, however, a more important issue concerning the position of the Offertory verses in the stylistic spectrum of Gregorian chant. Their position in the archetype (as represented by the Sextuplex) is as secure as that of the Tracts or the Alleluia verses. But it seems clear that their position in the repertory has to be qualified not only by their tendency toward great length and musical elaboration, but also by their artistic quality. While the melodies of the verses show a thorough acquaintance with the style of the Offertories, also of the Introits and Graduals, as well as great skill in using the idioms characteristic of these chants, these verses frequently show a less refined musical judgment in the use of repetition and development of these idioms. Certain cases of extravagant repetition of a short phrase for rhetorical effect have long been known, and wondered at. Such extravagance could be understood as an over-extension of the style by the next generation of singers; as such, the verses might be better treated as a supplement to the Archive. At any rate, they have been so treated in the publication of official chant books of the twentieth century.

Sources of words

As with Introits and Graduals, the words of most Offertories are taken from the Book of Psalms. But recent research, especially by McKinnon and Levy, has increasingly called attention to what was always obvious, yet not sufficiently remarked, that the words were selected from the Psalter not in cursu or any systematic way, but rather according to a particular sentiment that needed to be expressed. The need, of course, was liturgical, not personal; still, the selection was individual, and ad hoc. And while discussion of each melody can be referred to its words, individually as well as all together, still the selection of each set of words can also be referred to the needs of phrasing and syntax—needs of general importance in sets of words destined to be sung. 

The words of these psalmic Offertories tend to be laid out in a way similar to that normal for Introits; that is, there may be three clauses, the third longer with a subdivision. When such a plan is associated, as it usually is, with characteristic Gregorian phrases of melody in moderate intrasyllabic extension, it results in the most usual style of Gregorian expression as found in Introit antiphons, and also in the responds of many Graduals. 

While the majority of Offertories are psalmic, some are not, but instead have words taken from elsewhere in the Old or New Testament. This happens, of course, with Introits and Graduals too, especially in the prominent cases of chants assigned to the five feasts. The non-psalmic Offertories, however, have attracted more attention, for two reasons. First, the non-psalmic Offertory texts have a striking rhetorical character, and some are long. Several of these texts were selected from the Old Testament as exemplary orationes by figures such as Moses, Daniel, Job, Esther, David. Second, some of these same chants turn out to have interesting concordances in the repertories of Spanish and Milanese chant. Working with a list of eighteen non-psalmic Offertories, Kenneth Levy explored various kinds of concordances with Spanish and Milanese sources, significantly expanding the context in which such chants should be considered—a context other than “Roman,” and increasingly suggestive of “Gallican.” Commenting on Levy’s concordances, David Hiley observed that the melodies with strong non-Roman connections did not seem significantly different in style from those traditionally considered to be Roman. That observation can lead in a quite non-traditional direction, a possibility Levy pursued in a later article.

In the case of four Offertories on Levy’s list, however, there does seem to be a stylistic difference,  resulting in the identification of at least some of these four as Gallican, meaning, in practical terms, northern, perhaps Frankish.

 Angelus (=Posuisti), eighth mode
Ave Maria, eighth mode
Stetit angelus (=Viri Galilei), first mode
Elegerunt, eighth mode

The last listed, Elegerunt apostoli, for Stephen (26 December) has a very marginal representation in the Sextuplex (only in Senlis, and not for its proper occasion); these might be grounds for excluding it from the archetype, or at any rate for emphasizing its northern provenance. It is included in the Archive because of its great musical interest, and because such a good piece could hardly be omitted.

Distribution in modal classes

The distribution of Offertories among the eight modes is uneven, as with all kinds of Gregorian chant, but perhaps less so than in other kinds. Also as with other kinds, the profile of distribution is specific to the category. Modes 8, 4, 2, and 1 have from twenty-two down to fourteen items each; modes 6, 3, and 5 have ten down to eight items each; mode 7 has only two items.

More interesting than this gross distribution is the assignment within each mode to festal, dominical, ferial occasions, and to saints’ days, especially when these assignments within each mode are compared to each other. Most striking is the assignment of fourth mode Offertories to three of the five feasts (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost). On the other hand no Offertory from eighth mode is assigned to a feast, but four are assigned to prominent Sundays.

Most of the modal groups contribute substantially to the dominical-ferial layer, especially in items that do double duty for Lenten ferias and Sundays after Pentecost. The assignments from first and second modes to saints’ days include items that serve for a number of different saints. Sixth mode, while providing for four saints’ days, has only one dominical assignment, two minimal and problematic items for Lenten ferias, and two other substantial but problematic melodies. The details of these comparisons have to be pursued within each modal class.

Throughout the Notes, I use the medieval chant scale of pitch letters:
            A B C D E F G a b c [“middle C”] d e f g
Hence, the four finals of the modes are
            D (modes 1, 2), E (3, 4), F (5, 6) G (7, 8).

Offertories in fifth mode 

With only eight items, the fifth-mode Offertories are next-to-least in number; only the seventh mode has fewer (two). Even so, there is one festal fifth-mode Offertory, and six are used for dominical occasions along with ferial occasions. Only one fifth-mode Offertory is used for but a single ferial occasion, and none are for saints’ days. 

All of the six dominicals have an assignment to a Sunday after Pentecost, although this cannot be considered a primary assignment since in most cases it is combined with an assignment to another Sunday or to a Lenten feria. Sanctificavit Moyses altare, assigned only to Sunday 18 after Pentecost, is one of the orationes and shows connections to Milanese and Mozarabic repertories. Sicut in holocausto uses words from Daniel 3:40 that make a similar reference to the altar, a reference lacking in most other Offertories.

The pitch set for fifth-mode Offertories extends from F up to e, with infrequent use of C, D, E below. The central locus is F G a b (flat or natural) c, framed by F, a, c with a strong reference pitch c. The F final is frequently used for internal cadences, often in connection with b-flat; these cadences come as closes to melodic phrases that range freely throughout the pitch set. 

More frequently, internal cadences are placed on a, usually after dwelling on c in association with b-natural. Only seldom do these Offertories show a tendency—more easily observed in some other kinds of fifth-mode pieces—to use internal cadences on G in connection with a locus G a b c (see, for instance, Reges terrae). The modal final F, coming after such a firm internal cadence on G, could be read as an instance of Dom Claire’s terminal descent, comparable to similar descents used at the ends of certain pieces (of various kinds) in first and third modes. 

Within this well-defined and articulated pitch set, these fifth-mode Offertories seem to move with less reliance than other modal groups on a family of idioms. 

Iubilate Deo omnis terra, like Iubilate Deo universa terra in first mode, repeats its opening phrase in the curious manner found only in Offertories. 

Offertories in eighth mode 

With twenty-three items, more than any other modal class, the eighth mode shows in Offertories the kind of prominence found in antiphons of the Office but hardly anywhere among the other Mass Propers. These Offertories are distributed broadly among dominical and ferial layers, and in the sanctorale. The lack of a festal assignment is compensated by an assignment to the Second Mass of the Nativity. There are four important dominical occasions, then four more in which an assignment to a Sunday after Pentecost alternates with a Lenten feria; and these ferias, along with another four, reflect a systematic application of eighth-mode Offertories to Lent. 

The six Offertories assigned to the sanctorale include Ave Maria and Elegerunt Apostoli, usually considered Gallican. Three Offertories (including two orationes) show connections with the Milanese repertory, and two show a repetition of the opening phrase. So this modal class includes a broad representation of different facets of chant for the Offertory.

The pitch set for eighth-mode Offertories extends from D (rarely C) up an octave to d (infrequently e, for special purpose f). On one hand there appears to be a clear central locus G a b c with a strong reference pitch c, and a secondary locus D E F G lying below. On the other hand the melody can move fluidly throughout the whole set, and in particular F is regularly included in the upper locus as if it formed a frame F, a, c. There is frequent use of b-flat, usually in its own specific context. All tonal resources of this set are used in the very long, impressive Precatus est Moyses, a virtual scena.

Most of these Offertories, even Precatus est Moyses, seem to draw on a broad, loosely defined family of idioms. But the three items usually considered Gallican—Angelus Domini (with its contrafactum Posuisti), Ave Maria, and Elegerunt Apostoli—can only be described as each having its own melody.