Sources for Medieval Christian Liturgy
Gloria in excelsis deo

Vatican XV, 10th-Century Sources






This setting of the Gloria in excelsis is shown here with the Solesmes markings in the Vatican edition of the melody. The melody is extremely constrained. It is little more than an alternation between two recitation pitches: G and a. The G is approached from below by the E and the a from above by b. No other pitches appear until the 'Amen' at the close of the hymn. The piece is almost more heightened speech than melody. It acheives its effect, a certain level of drama and shape, through its elegant manipulation of the recitation pitch. The opening third of the work creates an AABA form highlighting the short interior statements by ending each phrase on E and changing the recitation pitch from a to G.

a Gloria in excelsis deo,
a et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis
G Laudamus te.
G Benedicimus te.
G Adoramus te.
G Glorificamus te.
a Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.

Since such a straightforward piece can be sung by just about anybody (certainly no special musical training would be required), many believe that this melody could never have been intended for a schola cantorum. It seems probable that it was intended for the entire assembly, clergy and laity alike.

We do not, of course, know in just what manner this melody would have been sung at any given time. Singers may very well have ornamented these recitation tones with undulations of the voice as is the case in many Western folk-music traditions and Arab classical music. Compare this melody with a very similar one from the Mozarabic Rite perfomed by Marcel Pérès and the Ensemble Organum on their CD Chant Mozarabe: Cathédrale de Tolède, (Harmonia Mundi, HMC 901519), track 3.


Other Examples of the Gloria in excelsis