Notes on Alleluias in Modes 1 & 3

Tracks 19: Alleluias in mode 1
Tracks 1015: Alleluias in mode 3


The melodies of Introits 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).

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 serie, II (1924); and most conveniently in the Graduale triplex, where the notation from L and C (and also “E,” Einsiedeln Cod. 121) has been entered by hand by Marie-Claire Billecocq and Rupert Fischer. Here, references are given to the Graduale triplex (“GT”).

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

The very extensive post-archetypal repertory of Mass Proper Alleluias is published by Karlheinz Schlager as Alleluia-Melodien I, bis 1100, and Alleluia-Melodien II, ab 1100, Monumenta monodica medii aevi 7 (1968) and        8 (1987).

The standard work on the Gregorian chant repertory, including relevant bibliography, is by David Hiley, Western Plainchant, A Handbook (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1993).

The Alleluias are discussed on pp. 130–139. 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. 214–222.

The Alleluias are discussed by Willi Apel in Gregorian Chant (Indiana University Press, 1958), pp. 375–92.

In James McKinnon, The Advent Project. The later seventh-century creation of the Roman Mass Proper (University of California Press 2000), the Alleluias are discussed on pp. 249–279.

The nuance notation is discussed in Eugene Cardine, Gregorian Semiology (Solesmes 1982), trans. by R. Fowels from “Serniologie 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'octoechos.  L'Office ferial 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.

Alleluia with Verses for the Mass 

The acclamation “Alleluia” is sung in many different ways in a variety of liturgical contexts. As a Proper chant of the Roman Mass, it is sung with its own special melismatic extension, traditionally called “iubilus,” followed by a verse, usually in words drawn from the Psalter; the verse may include its own melisma, and may end with a repetition of the iubilus. Each individual Alleluia plus verse is assigned to a liturgical occasion.

The Sextuplex provides for an even one hundred Alleluias with verses for Mass formularies. Of these, sixty-eight can be found in the Graduale triplex; for sixty-three, the Triplex includes notation (including nuance) from the chant books Laon MS 239 (L), St. Gall MS 359 (C), or Einsiedeln MS 121 (E). These sixty-three are recorded in the Archive.

Of the sixty-eight whose words are included in the Triplex, 4 lack the nuance notation (GT= Graduale triplex).

Cantate Domino: GT 330 (=Qui timent, GT 352)
Confitebuntur caeli: GT 478
Crastina die: GT 39 (=Benedictus es GT 375)
Regnavit Dominus: GT 242

Of these, Cantate Domino uses the seventh-mode melody of Qui timent, included in the Archive. Confitebuntur caeli and Regnavit Dominus lack the notations from L, C, or E. Crastina die uses the eighth-mode melody of Benedictus es, for which the Triplex provides the notation from St. Gall 359. Benedictus es, however, has been omitted from the Archive, perhaps arbitrarily; I have viewed it as a Carolingian addition to the archetype, to be compared to but not included with the archetypal Alleluias.

Dom Hesbert’s index to the Sextuplex lists with extreme care the details of how each item of chant actually appears in each source, or how its presence might possibly be implied by the configuration of the source; and this index should be consulted for precise information. The Archive, however, refers to the Sextuplex only to establish a given item in liturgical practice circa AD 850 (rather than to establish the precise role in that practice). Hence, while a reference to the Sextuplex (as an M-number) will be given for every Alleluia sung in the Archive, for an Alleluia that appears in two or three sources but only once in each and with a different assignment, that Alleluia will be given only one reference, usually to the most characteristic assignment. And for Alleluias that appear only in the three different summary lists at the ends of B, C, and K, the reference will be to M199, the number under which these lists appear in the Sextuplex.

Working from Dom Hesbert’s analytic index of the Sextuplex , which shows the distribution of each item among the six sources, I find that less than twenty-five Alleluias of the hundred listed appear either in five of the sources, or in all six. Many of the other seventy-five Alleluias appear in only one source, for instance Rheinau (R) or Corbie (K); a number appear only in the pair of sources Senlis (S) and Compiègne (C); some appear only in the list “De circulo anni” at the end of C. The practice of singing Alleluia with verse at Mass, then, used a pool of less than twenty-five items that were widely shared, plus many more each of which was sung in only a few places, or even only one place; or were used in several places assigned in each place to a different occasion, as to individual saints’ days. In this respect the Alleluia repertory differs sharply from the other repertories of Mass Propers in the relatively low proportion of the repertory that is widely shared.

The use of model melodies, whereby a single melody is provided with several alternate sets of words for use on several different occasions, is greater in the Alleluia repertory than in the other Propers. Multiple setting of a model melody is to be distinguished from shared use of idiom (“formula”). Among the Graduals, only those in second mode show a comparable use of a model melody, while those in fifth mode, for instance, show instead a heavy use of shared idiom.

In the Alleluia repertory, there are three model melodies, one in second mode, one in fourth mode, one in eighth mode. Settings of these three model melodies account for twice as many items than idiosyncratic melodies in those modes, and for almost half of the repertory. The melodies of the word “Alleluia” (including the iubilus) have a certain similarity in the three models, especially compared to the variety among the idiosyncratic melodies. The verse melodies in the three models, however, differ greatly among themselves: “Ostende” is remarkably long and discursive; “Dies sanctificatus” is compact and repetitive; “Excita” seems closer to the norm compared to idiosyncratic verses. And only “Excita” shows the rounding of the verse with the melody of the iubilus. This rounding is the first of three important stylistic features that have been identified in the Alleluia; the second is the expansion of the Alleluia incipit and iubilus to make the verse melody; the third is the presence (or absence) in the verse of a single long melisma, not related to the Alleluia incipit or iubilus.

The use of model melodies has been taken as the basis for far-reaching ideas about the generation and development of the Gregorian repertory as well as of other, very different, repertories of music. Here I want only to notice two aspects of the way model melodies are used in the Alleluia repertory as reported in the archetype. First, setting a model melody to new words (especially when drawn from Scripture, usually from the Psalter for Alleluia verses) can certainly be said to be a function of cantorial activity, of singing. It is doubtful that it can be done well without musical ability. Nevertheless, that ability is not one of singing or composing a new and different melody. And while we need to take note, in appreciating a given melody, that it may have several alternate sets of words, appreciation is based primarily on the melody as it is sung with only one of those sets.

The second aspect concerns the presumption of historical development of the repertory; specifically, Did the repertory begin with model melodies, then proceed later to idiosyncratic ones? That presumption (which is not for discussion here) might well turn out to be true of the Alleluia repertory as found in the archetype; but its truth would have to be demonstrated by induction from traces left in the documentary record, not by deduction from a principle. Various documentary records show that the re-use of model melodies (along with the parallel phenomenon of recombination of shorter or longer idioms) can occur just as well at the end of (or in the middle of) a stylistic development. Model melodies from the archetype can be set with new words in the twelfth century, or in the twentieth—and, if done with skill, are undetectable as later artifacts.

Re-use of model melodies is not well correlated with breadth of distribution in all six sources of the Sextuplex. Of the twenty-three Alleluias with the widest distribution (in five or six sources), fourteen are idiosyncratic. It is true that out of seven Alleluias for the five feasts (Nativity, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost), five (or six, if we count Spiritus Domini, which is archetypal for Pentecost), use model melodies. One Alleluia, however, does not. Any attempt to draw firm conclusions by presuming relationships among the ideas of model melodies, calendric prominence or antiquity, and breadth of usage must pause in contemplating Alleluia Pascha nostrum, for here the most idiosyncratic item of the most idiosyncratic group (seventh-mode Alleluias, which use no model melody) has the broadest possible distribution (all six sources) and is assigned to Easter, the prime celebration.

Alleluias in first mode

Of the sixty-three archetypal Alleluias provided with nuance notation in the Triplex, nine are in first mode. None is for one of the five feasts (Nativity, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost); four are dominical; five are for saints’ days.

The words used in the verses of the nine first-mode Alleluias are predominantly from the Psalter, with none from a Gospel, and only one from the Old Testament; one, a Paschal acclamation, is non-Scriptural.

None of the nine melodies has a substantial representation in the Sextuplex. Most appear in the omnibus list de circulo anni at the end of C (Compiègne), some only there.

There is no model melody in this group. Each melody, considered by itself and as a whole, is idiosyncratic: they do not share much specific with Introits, Graduals, or Offertories. And while the nine melodies as a group share certain idioms among themselves, more striking is a similarity of tone that is not expressed in similarity of idiom.

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).


The pitch set, stable throughout the nine first-mode melodies, extends from C below the final D to e a tenth above. The b-flat is used instead of b-natural frequently, in some cases regularly, or avoided by a skip from a c. The d above is infrequent, and even the c is prominent only in certain pieces, for melodic activity throughout the nine is concentrated in the central locus D E F G a. The melodies are so active, however, that they seem to have greater breadth than the concentration on this central locus might suggest. And this locus seems firmly anchored on the D final, with less emphasis on the subset C D E F (with focus on F) than in some other kinds of first-mode melody. On the other hand, the subset C E G interstitial to D F A seems often very prominent, especially in penultimate position.

All of the nine melodies show substantial rounding in the closing melisma of the verse, which repeats (and anticipates) the melisma on alleluia. Some of the nine also show a verse melisma, whose idioms may or may not echo other melismatic compositions in first mode.Alleluias in third mode

Of the sixty-three archetypal Alleluias provided with nuance notation in the Triplex, only six are in third mode. Of these, three are to the same melody, hence could be considered to be three different sets of words using one model melody; or (what amounts to the same thing) two are contrafacts of the third; but which was the original is not certain. 

Only one of the six third-mode melodies (Iubilate Deo) has a broad representation in the Sextuplex, for the First Sunday after Epiphany. Another (Veni Domine) is for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, which acquired its own formulary only at the time the archetype was being formed. A third Alleluia, Adducentur, being used for Virgins, has assignments to five different occasions, but in each case by only one or two sources. The remaining three Alleluias have similarly scanty representation in the Sextuplex. Of the six Alleluia verses, five have words from the Psalter. Veni Domine uses a non-Scriptural text drawn from the rich complex associated with the Advent project.

The four distinct, idiosyncratic melodies (one being used for three items) use the same pitch set, characteristic for the third mode. It extends (with one exception) from C up an octave to c with occasional d above. The central locus is G a b c, with c a strong upper reference pitch, and G commonly used for cadences. The E final is an instance of Dom Claire’s terminal descent, as customary in third mode, but perhaps in these Alleluias it seems to have a little more finality.

The model melody provides exceptions to some of this, most obviously in its penultimate descent (in the verse) to A a fourth below the E final. At its close the verse moves downward out of a strongly stated locus D F a (bracketing by implication the locus G E) by skip to the low A, then concludes the verse with an idiomatic cadence on D as if to a final; then, by a smooth connection the repeat of the Alleluia returns to the third-mode locus. This is not an extension of the pitch set, but rather an open ending for the verse (as found often in Offertories), using a melisma in first mode as found in certain Graduals. Hence, the model melody does not show rounding of the verse with the alleluia melisma; the model melody does, however, also feature a substantial verse melisma with characteristic internal repetition. The other three third-mode melodies use rounding of the verse with the alleluia melisma, but no other substantial verse melisma.