Notes on Introits in Modes 8 & 7

Tracks 1–15: introits in eighth mode
Tracts 16–35: introits in seventh mode 


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 Versarium of St. Gall 381 is published in facsimile in Stiftsbibliothek Sankt Gallen Codices 484 & 381,        ed. W. Arlt and S. Rankin (Switzerland: Amadeus 1996). 

Liturgical assignments are as in René-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 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”). 

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’octoechos. L’Office ferial Romano-Franc,” Etudes grégoriennes 15 (1975), pp. 5–192. 

The standard work on the Gregorian chant repertory, including bibliography, is by David Hiley, Western Plainchant, A Handbook (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1993). Introits are discussed on pp. 109–16. 

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. 

The Introits are discussed by Willi Apel in Gregorian Chant (Indiana University Press, 1958), pp. 305–11. 

In James McKinnon, The Advent Project. The later seventh-century creation of the Roman Mass Proper (University of California Press 2000), the Introits are discussed on pp. 198–221.      

On the adaptation of Psalter texts for Gregorian use, see James McKinnon, “Festival, Text, and Melody: Chronological Stages in the Life of a Chant,” in Chant and its Peripheries: Essays in Honour of Terence Bailey,  ed. B. Gillingham & P. Merkley, The Institute of Medieval Music, Ottawa 1998), pp. 1–11.  

For further resources, see the About the Archive.

Introits in the Eighth and Seventh Mode  

The Gregorian Archive includes 145 Introit chants, classed in eight modes as listed here.

in first mode, 28 Introits
in second mode, 19 Introits
in third mode, 24 Introits
in fourth mode, 22 Introits
in fifth mode, 9 Introits
in sixth mode, 12 Introits
in seventh mode, 16 Introits
in eighth mode, 15 Introits

In the Archive these are recorded in five modal groups, as listed here.       

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

Included are all the Introits that are represented in one or more of the six chantbooks in René-Jean Hesbert’s Antiphonale missarum sextuplex. These 145 Introits appear also in the Graduale triplex with collated transcription (by Marie-Claire Lecocq and Rupert Fischer) from one or more of the three chant books used in this way for the Triplex.

“L”: Laon Bibl. Mun MS 239
“C”: St. Gall Stiftsbibl. MS 359
“E”: Einsiedeln MS 121 

Thus the Archive includes all, but only, the Introit melodies that can be dated back to the ninth century on the basis of concordance in the Sextuplex. Since the sources L, C, and E all use the nuance notation consistently, all these ninth-century melodies can be read with the help of this notation. See the Introduction to the Archive for further comments on the use of the notation from L, C, and E.


Introits have a principal section, called in Roman use an Antiphon, and a secondary section, a verse, labeled “PS[alm].” Some early chantbooks provide an additional verse, called “ad repetendum.” Practice from earliest times includes the Gloria Patri, treated as yet another verse. There seem always to have been options in the use and ordering of these elements. 

One setting, or sometimes two, of the Gloria Patri is provided in each modal class, using the appropriate tone with a choice of endings as needed. There is always one Gloria Patri on the second track of each modal class; this has the ending needed for the Antiphon on the first track. If a subsequent Antiphon in the class needs a different ending, it is provided in a second Gloria Patri on the next track. The rest of the Antiphons in this class will use one or the other ending. 

In performance, the Gloria Patri appropriately follows either the Psalm verse, or a repetition of the Antiphon; it is followed by another repetition of the Antiphon. 


As an option of musical performance, any chorus of singers can be divided in two halves, and the two halves can sing in alternation; this is called antiphonal singing. This is most interesting and exciting when the singers are improvising, making ad libitum use of verbal and musical idioms known to them through convention. This practice can be applied to many kinds of composed music: some music (with its words) is composed specifically to be performed in this way; other music (with its words) lends itself to such performance applied as an option. 

The main part of an Introit chant is called an antiphon as the result of a historical development that has been obscured by confusing or missing documentation. In many Introit antiphons, this main part has two roughly equal subsections, which can be sung antiphonally. Some antiphons have three clear subsections, with the third often divided into antecedent and consequent phrases. These can be sung as shown here.

First subsection sung by one half-chorus
Second subsection sung by the other half-chorus
Third subsection sung by full chorus, both halves together 

Sources of the words of Antiphons

The words of Gregorian Introit Antiphons were taken from the Old and New Testaments, with isolated but prominent exceptions. The great majority of Antiphons were taken from the Psalter, the Book of Psalms, said to be of David; here again there are exceptions taken from other books of the Old as well as of the New Testament. 

Words from Books other than the Psalter are used for four of the five Introit Antiphons for the principal feasts, as listed here.                     

             Nativity: Puer natus est nobis. Isaiah 9:6
                        (seventh mode)
            Epiphany: Ecce advenit Dominus. (Said to recall Malachi 3:1;
            and I Chronicles 19:12, but this seems unconvincing;
            the diction seems simply to be current acclamation)
                         (second mode)
            Ascension: Viri Galilei. Acts of the Apostles 1:11
                        (seventh mode)
            Pentecost: Spiritus Domini. Wisdom 1:7
                        (eighth mode).

The fifth feast, Easter, the Sunday of the Resurrection, has an Antiphon drawn from Psalm 138: 18, 5, and 6; in order to make this Old Testament text apply as closely as possible to the Christian Passover, the first word of the verse chosen was changed from “Esurrexi” to “Resurrexi.”

The formularies for Sundays—the dominical layer as opposed to the festal layer—drew their words from the Psalter, the Book of 150 Psalms “of David.” There are four series of Sundays in the yearly cycle, as listed here.

Sundays of Advent to Epiphany
Sundays from Septuagesima through the
      Sixth Sunday of Lent
Sundays of Paschaltide
Sundays after Pentecost

While selections from the Psalter predominate, words from Books other than the Psalter are apt to be used. This is especially apparent in the first three series, which have seasonal themes or programs, for instance in Advent and Paschaltide. And the numerous Psalter texts in Sundays in Lent (in the second series) can be considered to be selected for the sake of the Lenten Passion program. In Sundays after Pentecost (the fourth series), the Introit Antiphons are drawn regularly from the Psalter, but not as part of a program, since these Sundays show no participation in a thematic system. 

Introit Antiphons for saints’ days show a similar division between texts from the Psalter and those from elsewhere in the Bible. Certain most prominent saints enjoy Introit Antiphons with a quasi-narrative character; and for these, words are sometimes found in books other than the Psalter. Usually, however, the Psalter can furnish words whose application to a saint’s day is clear, although not necessarily specific to the saint. Such appropriate but nonspecific texts could also be grouped together in the “Common of Saints,” to be applied to any one of a number of saints as required. One prominent non-Scriptural Introit Antiphon is Gaudeamus omnes, as used for St. Agatha (5 February), eventually for other occasions.

For most Introit Antiphons, then, a selection was made from a Psalm, consisting of two, three, or four clauses but not necessarily including complete Psalm verses nor in numbered order. The selection of texts for Introit Antiphons (as well as for other Proper chants) has been the subject of careful observation and interesting speculation; it is clear that in all cases the selection is thoughtful, not arbitrary or automatic, and that the results of the selection have been carefully crafted. As mentioned, calendric reasons are surely responsible for single items, and also for certain seasonal groups of occasions. More general reasons might be derived from a consideration of the need to cast Psalter diction into forms suited to singing at Mass, especially to the specific ways developed during the seventh and eighth centuries.

In the chantbooks, the Antiphon, the principal section of the Introit, is followed by a verse from a Psalm; this functions as a verse in the musical form. Actually labeled “PS[alm]” in the sources, it is regularly the first verse of the Psalm from which the words of the Antiphon were excerpted. There is a contrast between the Antiphon, with words excerpted specially for the sake of a theme or program, or simply as devout sentiments, and the formal statement of the first verse of the Psalm, which, as the Psalm’s incipit, can refer to the whole Psalm as a source of more verses if these are needed; or as first verse it can call to remembrance the content of the whole Psalm; or it can simply present its own meaning.

Some of the six chantbooks in the Sextuplex (in particular Senlis and Corbie) regularly supply a “versus ad repetendum,” an additional verse, usually from the same Psalm, to be used in connection with another repetition of the Antiphon (a similar ad repetendurn verse appears at the Communion Antiphon in these same sources).

Although not regularly mentioned in the chantbooks, the Gloria Patri appears in the earliest documented practice (Ordo romanus I). Typical format in that practice would be as follows.

            verse = “PS[alm]”
            Antiphon (repeated)
            Gloria Patri
            Antiphon (repeated)
            verse ad repetendum
            Antiphon (repeated)

Musical style and plan

Antiphon and Psalm verse are clearly differentiated in musical style: at the highest level, the plan of the Introit as a whole is a function of the alternation between the melody of the Antiphon and the melodic formula of the Psalm tone.

Introit antiphons consistently use intrasyllabic melodic extension of up to ten pitches, sometimes more, although rarely the melismatic extensions characteristic of Graduals. Not every syllable is so extended: many syllables have only one, two, or three pitches, but these are intermingled with longer groups so that strictly syllabic passages are equally rare. Thus, even though Introit antiphons show considerable variety throughout the repertory of 145 items, the style in general is elaborate: the words are presented in what can only be described as a relatively decorated manner; the decoration uses a continually inflected melodic idiom.

In their degree of decoration the Introit Antiphons are different from antiphons of the Office, even from the most elaborate Office antiphons, the Gospel Canticle antiphons (for instance those for the Magnificat). This difference is so great and so consistent as to be categorical. The style of Introit Antiphons rather resembles that of Responsories of the Night Office; and, as is well known, certain pieces have been used both as Responsories and as Introit or Communion Antiphons. The “group style” of these categories can be understood as that most characteristic of the Gregorian repertory. 

The Psalm verse at the Introit (including the Gloria Patri and the ad repetendum) is sung to a melodic formula drawn from a set of eight tones used specially for this purpose. These tones make use of groups of two, three, or four pitches, so that in the case of a short verse the melody is almost continually inflected, with relatively little reciting note. Even so, and notwithstanding the persistent variety in melodic inflection characteristic of all Gregorian chant, there is the clear difference between the decorated antiphon and the more concise Psalm verse, which in context makes the clear effect of a formal statement—a quotation—as an episode in the plan of the whole. 

The stylistic problem presented by Introit Antiphons is that it is very difficult to understand them to function as “refrains” in the traditional sense, relative to the Psalm verse: they are much too long and elaborate. In addition to using a much higher grade of intrasyllabic extension, Introit Antiphons can be three or four times longer than even a long Psalm verse, and each antiphon typically presents three or four distinct phrases. 

Perhaps the most striking musical feature of Introit Antiphons is their consistent clarity of phrase shape. Although this shape is consistently aligned with the syntax of the words (the ends of musical phrases occur at the major syntactic articulations), still the decorated quality of the melody prevails over the syntactic effect of the words, so that the melody bears the burden of making the phrasing effective. On the other hand, the absence of the melismatic style of the Graduals tends to make Introit Antiphons more rhetorical, less musical, in effect—but these are subtle differences. 

As has been regularly noticed, Introit Antiphons often include three phrases (and such melodic phrasing was surely a factor in the selection and re-arrangement of Psalter stichs). Typically the first two phrases have more or less the same length, while the third phrase, somewhat longer, shows antecedent and consequent phrasing. The midpoint of such a third phrase often shows a “penultimate drop,” a descent to a lower pitch at this last phrasing before the ending. A plan of cadence pitches is always evident, as is continual attention to melodic analogs of diction. In this connection the signs of nuance, especially differences in duration, play an important role. 

None of the modal classes of Introit Antiphons seems to show the use of a model melody, unless we count the few cases in which a melody has been used by contrafacture for another set of words. In each modal class, none the less, there are families of melodies that give the impression of being very similar. Sometimes this similarity can be traced to shared idioms, which are not, however, as easy to identify as idioms in the Graduals.

Sometimes melodies follow a similar plan in terms of melodic curve, tonal locus, and cadence points, and this may be sufficient to make their melodic detail seem similar. And most of the Antiphons within any given modal class seem to share a melodic flavor, even if this cannot be identified in specific melodic movement.

Distribution in modal classes

While the distribution of Introits is different from that of Graduals, on the one hand, or Antiphons of the Office, on the other, it seems hard to find any great significance in it, other than the preferences of the singers responsible for fixing these melodies in the repertory one by one.

More significant, or at least more reflective of the process of creating the melodies, may be the distribution within each modal class to festal, dominical, ferial, or saints’ occasions. But several factors are at work here, balanced off in ways that are often hard to perceive. For instance, eighth-mode Introit Antiphons appear here as a relatively small group (especially in comparison to Office Antiphons, where in some sectors  eighth-mode melodies predominate). Yet a larger proportion of eighth-mode Introit Antiphons are assigned to festal and dominical occasions than in any of the other modes; by comparison, of the twenty-four Antiphons in third mode none is for a feast, and only three for Sundays. This kind of distribution will be shown more specifically in the comments on each modal class, along with the constitution of the pitch set.

While in general the performances in the Archive follow the readings of Laon 239 in the Graduale triplex, some Introits are provided only in St. Gall readings, and from Einsiedeln 121. Since Laon 239 rarely provides notation for the Psalm verses, the St. Gall version has to be used instead; but I have taken the reading from the unique Versarium in the splendid facsimile of St. Gall 381 (edited by Arlt and Rankin), since it seems better and more complete. The St. Gall readings for the Psalm verses occasionally place Antiphons in modal classes different from those indicated in the Vatican edition.

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).

Antiphons in eighth mode

The pitch set for Introit Antiphons in eighth mode extends from C a fifth below the G final to e a sixth above the final; the f above appears only rarely, as if in seventh mode. Both b natural and b flat appear, each in its own context.

 The central locus is G a b-natural c, with a strong and clear reference pitch on c. The d above appears regularly, but as upper auxiliary to this reference pitch—a principal point of difference with seventh mode, in which d is as much a reference pitch as is c. There is another locus D E F G a; and another, F G b-flat, often suggested by the figure F a c. Finally there is a subset C D F G a, overlapping the loci but used idiomatically. While motion through the loci may be fluid, their identities are well defined by fourths and fifths. The eighth Psalm tone for these antiphons confirms the central locus, G a b c.

 There is one festal antiphon in this modal class (for Pentecost), and seven for Sundays, these being among the most prominent dominical occasions, including several in the Advent–Epiphany cycle. With only two Antiphons for ferias and four for saints' days, the class is heavily weighted towards festal-dominical application. And if, observing that some of the saints' days' antiphons can be classed also in seventh mode, we consider the seventh and eighth modes together as tetrardus, we can see that this joint class contributes antiphons to three of the five principal feasts, and to twenty Sundays, hence is the largest such group of antiphons. 

Antiphons in seventh mode

The pitch set for Introit Antiphons in the seventh mode extends from D a fourth below the final G up at least to f a seventh above the final, sometimes to g, rarely to a.. The central locus is G a b c d, the boundaries G and d sometimes emphasized by a prominent leap of a fifth. The d is obviously a reference pitch, but sometimes so is the c; typically, the function of a reference pitch is filled by d earlier in the Antiphon, c in the latter part.

Motion in the upper register is sometimes sufficiently persistent to define a locus d-e-f ; this upper register is clearly used as a brilliant upwards extension. A figure F a c, on the other hand, seems in this mode seems to be not a locus but merely a melodic movement that contrasts with the final G. The pitches below F are little used.

There are in seventh mode two festal antiphons (Christmas and Ascension). All five of the festal Introit Antiphons (they are in modes two, four, seven, and eight) show a simplicity of style strikingly at odds with the common notion of greater elaboration for higher feasts; in the case of the antiphons in seventh mode, the simplicity of both suggests that it is not accidental. This modal class has about as many antiphons for Sundays and for saints' days as the eighth class, with a few more for ferias. As mentioned, taking seventh and eighth mode together as tetrardus shows it to be a principal source for festal and dominical antiphons.