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Preface to the study of the Alleluia*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2008

James W. McKinnon
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


There is a passage in Willi Apel's discussion of the Alleluia of the Mass that nicely epitomises several of the difficulties that music historians have experienced with the genre. Apel found himself faced with a dilemma: on the one hand there was that undeniably late characteristic of the Alleluia, its notorious instability of liturgical assignment; and on the other hand there was literary evidence of the Alleluia's antiquity, its appearance in fourth-century patristic literature as the melismatic jubilus, and Gregory I's late sixth-century letter in which he admitted to extending the use of the Alleluia beyond Paschaltime.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

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1 I distinguish in this study between Alleluia (and Alleluia-psalm) as a genre of the Mass Proper and all other uses of the word by reserving capital ‘A’ to the former.

2 Gregorian Chant (Bloomington, Indiana, 1958), pp. 380–1Google Scholar.

3 For Gerbert, see De Cantu et Musica Sacra (St Blasius, 1774), p. 59Google Scholar; for Wagner, see Introduction to the Gregorian Melodies, transl. Orme, A. and Wyatt, E. G. P. (London, 1901), p. 32Google Scholar.

4 What follows is a summary of McKinnon, J., ‘The Patristic Jubilus and the Alleluia of the Mass’, in Cantus Planus, Papers Read at the Third Meeting, Tihany, Hungary, September 1988 (Budapest, 1990), pp. 6170Google Scholar.

5 In psalmum xxxii, ii, sermo i, 8; translation from McKinnon, J., Music in Early Christian Literature (Cambridge, 1987: hereafter MECL), pp. 156–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 They would do so also in preaching a sermon on some verse from the Psalms; but the patristic sermon on a psalm and the patristic Psalm Commentary are the spoken and written forms of the same genre. (The numbering of the Psalms employed in this study is that of the Greek and Latin tradition.)

7 This observation, originally based on the author's reading, has been verified by the CD-ROM patristic word search ‘Cetedoc’.

8 What follows owes much to the excellent study on the subject by Wiora, W., ‘Jubilare sine verbis’, in In memoriam Jacques Handschin, ed. Anglès, H. and others (Strasbourg, 1962), pp. 3965Google Scholar.

9 Metamorphoses viii, 17.

10 Punica xiv, 475.

11 Ad M. Caesem. iv, 6.

12 See Wiora, ‘Jubilare sine verbis’, p. 43.

13 Tractatus in psalmum lxv, 3; MECL, pp. 124–5.

14 In psalmum xciv, 4; MECL, p. 159.

16 In psalmum xxxii, ii, sermo i, 8: MECL, pp. 156–7Google Scholar.

17 I list 157 in the Appendix to ‘Liturgical Psalmody in the Sermons of St Augustine’, to appear in the Festschrift for Kenneth Levy.

18 Again, this observation has been verified by ‘Cetedoc’.

19 For the Alleluia, see Liber Officialis, 1. iii, 16, 3 (Hanssens, J., ed., Amalarii Episcopi Opera Liturgica Omnia, 3 vols., Studi et Testi, 138–40 (Rome, 19481950), here vol. ii, p. 304)Google Scholar; for the Gradual, , Liber Officialis, 1.iii, 11, 21 (Hanssens, vol. ii, p. 299)Google Scholar; for the ‘neuma’, Liber de Ordine Antiphonarii, 18, 3 (Hanssens, vol. iii, p. 54)Google Scholar.

20 De officiis ecclesiasticis, ii, 19; Patrologia Latina [hereafter PL], ed. Migne, J. P., vol. 177, col. 422Google Scholar.

21 Gregorian Chant, p. 378. Apel follows Wagner in this, as he does in most aspects of the Alleluia's early history; see Wagner, , Introduction to the Gregorian Melodies, pp. 81–2Google Scholar.

22 Evidence that the Roman Alleluia did not evolve from a complete psalm could mean that it was adopted into the liturgy of that city as a mature chant genre at a comparatively late date; but this is a consideration that falls outside the bounds of the present study.

23 The alleluia-psalms are (in the Greek and Latin numbering) 104−6, 110−18, 134−5 and 145−50.

24 Epistle 77: MECL, p. 142.

25 Apostolic Tradition, 25; MECL, p. 47.

26 De institutis coenobiorum, ii, 11; MECL, p. 148.

27 In psalmum cxiii, 1; Corpus Christianorum Series Latina [hereafter CCL], 41 (Turnhout, 1956), p. 1635Google Scholar.

28 The Armenian Lectionary is edited by Renoux, A., Le Codex Arménien Jérusalem 121, 2 vols., Patrologia Orientalis, 35/1 and 36/2 (Turnhout, 1969 and 1971)Google Scholar.

29 Ibid., vol. ii, p. 217.

30 The subject is admirably surveyed by the eminent liturgical historian Martimort, A.-G., ‘Origine et signification de l'alléluia de la Messe romaine’, in Kyriakon: Festschrift Johannes Quasten, ed. Granfield, P. and Jungmann, J. (Münster in Westfalia, 1970), vol. ii, pp. 811–34, here pp. 817–22Google Scholar.

31 Ibid., pp. 819–20.

32 See Thodberg, C., Der byzantinische Alleluiarionzyklus, Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae, Subsidia, 8 (Copenhagen, 1966), pp. 40–1Google Scholar.

33 See Martimort, ‘Origine et signification’, p. 820.

34 See McKinnon, J., ‘Desert Monasticism and the Later Fourth-Century Psalmodic Movement’, Music and Letters, 75 (1994), pp. 505–21, here pp. 512–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

35 Renoux dates the content of the Armenian Lectionary to between 417 and 439; see Le Codex Arménien, vol. i, pp. 166–72Google Scholar.

36 For Hippo and Carthage, see Zwinggi, A., ‘Der Wortgottesdienst bei Augustinus’, Liturgisches Jahrbuch, 20 (1970), pp. 92113, 129–40, 250–3Google Scholar. For Milan, see Willis, G., St Augustine's Lectionary, Alcuin Club Collections, 44 (London, 1962)Google Scholar; and Leeb, H., Die Psalmodie bei Ambrosius (Vienna, 1967), esp. pp. 80–4Google Scholar.

37 McKinnon, J., ‘The Fourth-Century Origins of the Gradual’, Early Music History, 7 (1987), pp. 91106CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

38 In ‘Liturgical Psalmody in the Sermons of St Augustine’ I arrive at the following count of refrain verses: eight ‘certain’, an additional ten ‘probable’ and sixty-five ‘possible’.

39 Sermo CCCXLII, De utilitate agendae poenitentiae ii, 1; MECL, p. 162.

40 Sermo CLXV, De verbis Apostoli, Eph. III, 13–18; MECL, p. 161.

41 See Zwinggi, ‘Der Wortgottesdienst bei Augustinus’, p. 95.

42 See p. 219 and note 27.

43 Ennaratio in psalmum CX, 1; MECL, p. 159.

44 Bailey, Terrence had already pointed out this possibility (which I missed in ‘The Fourth-Century Origins of the Gradual’) in The Ambrosian Cantus (Ottawa, 1987), pp. 34–6Google Scholar. More recently the young French scholar Phillipe Bernard, noting this lapse on my part, remarked justly that ‘McKinnon nous semble oublier totalement le trait’ (‘Les Alléluia mélismatiques dans le chant romain: Recherches sur la genèse de l'alléluia de la Messe romaine’, Rivista Internazionale di Musica Sacra, 12 (1991), p. 346, n. 11)Google Scholar. I am genuinely grateful to him for causing me to be more alert in this respect, but I cannot accept the view, which he shares with a number of other French chant scholars, that the Tract 'a précédé le graduel, comme la psalmodie sans refrain a précédé la psalmodie responsoriale' (ibid.). This, however, is an issue to be explored at another time and place.

45 Note, for example, the passage quoted above from Augustine's Sermon 342.

46 Sermo XX.2; CCL 104, p. 837.

47 The order in which Caesarius mentions them is no cause for concern; he does so by way of making a particular theological point having to do with a promise made in the psalm and fulfilled in the later writings.

48 viii.3; PL, vol. 71, col. 451.

49 Expositio 9; Ratcliff, C., ed., Expositio Antiquae Liturgiae Gallicanae (London, 1971), p. 6Google Scholar.

50 Duchesne, L., ed., Le Liber Pontificalis, vol. i (Paris, 1886), p. 89Google Scholar.

51 ‘The Introduction of Psalmody into the Roman Mass by Pope Celestine I (422−432)’, Archiv für Liturgiewissenschaft, 26 (1984), pp. 147–65Google Scholar.

52 Ibid., p. 161.

53 See Blanchard, P., ‘La correspondance apocryphe du pape S. Damase et de S. Jérome sur le psautier et le chant de l' “alléluia”’, Ephemerides Liturgicae, 63 (1949), pp. 376–88Google Scholar.

54 See ‘The Introduction of Psalmody’, pp. 158–9.

55 PL, vol. 13, col. 440.

56 See ‘The Emergence of Gregorian Chant in the Carolingian Era’, in McKinnon, J., ed., Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Man and Music, S. Sadie, general ed. (London, 1990), p. 101CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

57 ‘The Introduction of Psalmody’, pp. 158–9.

58 PL, vol. 30, col. 295.

59 Regula Benedicti 15; de Vogüé, A., ed., La Règle de Saint Ben{ac}oit, vol. 11 (Paris, 1972), pp. 524–6Google Scholar.

60 See Pascher, J., ‘Der Psalter für Laudes und Vesper im alten römischen Stundengebet’, Münchener Theologische Zeitschrift, 8 (1957), pp. 255–67Google Scholar.

61 PL, vol. 30, col. 295. That the phrase ‘in the church’ (‘in ecclesia autem’) refers to the Mass as opposed to the Office is not in dispute; it is clear from the pattern of question and response in the text.

62 PL, vol. 59, col. 406.

63 Among the various studies of early medieval Italy, I have found particularly helpful Krautheimer, R., Rome: Profile of a City, 312–1308 (Princeton, 1980)Google Scholar; Llewellyn, P., Rome in the Dark Ages (London, 1970)Google Scholar; Noble, T., The Republic of St Peter: The Birth of the Papal State, 680–825 (Philadelphia, 1984)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Wickham, C., Early Medieval Italy: Central Power and Local Society 400–1000 (London, 1981)Google Scholar.

64 The population figures are from Krautheimer, , Rome: Profile of a City, p. 65Google Scholar.

65 Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, x, 1; PL, vol. 71, col. 529.

66 Registrum Epistularum, ed. Ewald, P. and Hartmann, L., Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epistolarum, vol. i (Berlin, 1891), p. 363Google Scholar.

67 Ibid., vol. ii (Berlin, 1899), p. 59.

68 See Blanchard, ‘La correspondance apocryphe’, p. 387; and Martimort, ‘Origine et signification’, pp. 826–9. Wellesz, Egon, in ‘Gregory the Great's Letter on the Alleluia’, Annales Musicologiques, 2 (1954), pp. 726, here pp. 1018Google Scholar, argues at length for the omission of ‘non’.

69 ‘Origine et signification’, p. 828. See also Hiley, David, Western Plainsong: A Handbook (Oxford, 1993), pp. 502 and 504Google Scholar, where he expresses a view similar to that of Martimort.

70 See Llewellyn, P., ‘The Roman Church in the Seventh Century: The Legacy of Gregory I’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 25 (1974), pp. 363–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

71 See Quasten, J., ‘Oriental Influence in the Gallican Liturgy’, Traditio, 1 (1943), pp. 5578CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

72 ‘Aux origines de l'alléluia’, Orbis Musicae, 9 (19861987), pp. 1759Google Scholar. In speaking of ‘origins’, however, one must distinguish between the manner in which the melodic substance of the Alleluia developed and the way in which the genre was adopted into the Roman Mass.

73 Hesbert, R.-J., Antiphonalium Missarum Sextuplex (Brussels, 1935: hereafter simply Sextuplex)Google Scholar. Much of what follows in the text is a summary of a paper read at the sixth meeing of Cantus Planus, Sopron, Hungary, September 1995.

74 More fully, the manuscripts are: Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS lat. 5319, early twelfth century; Rome, Archivio S. Pietro, MS F22, thirteenth century; and Geneva, Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, MS 74, AD 1071.

75 Needless to say, when referring here to ‘the repertory of the eighth-century Roman Mass Proper’, I take into account the strong possibility of later melodic adjustments.

76 They are quoted in numerous publications, among the earliest of which is Netzer, H., L'introduction de la Messe romaine en France sous les Carolingiens (Paris, 1910)Google Scholar.

77 The two will appear, translated in full into English for the first time, in the forthcoming revision of Strunk, O., Source Readings in Music History (New York, 1950)Google Scholar.

78 See Sextuplex, pp. 86–7; the rubric, which appears with slight variations in the different manuscripts, is given here in the version of the Compiègne gradual.

79 See Sextuplex, p. 180.

80 The Offertories of these two Sundays, Jubilate deo omnis terra and Jubilate deo universa terra, are similarly switched, but not the Graduals and Communions.

81 The letter appears, with an English translation, in Levy, K., ‘Abbot Helisachar's Antiphoner’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 48 (1995), pp. 171–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

82 ‘Sed quamquam in gradali cantu … minime discordare possent, in noctornali tamen … paucissimi in unum concordare reperti sunt’ (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epist. Merv. i, p. 529).

83 The two Roman Office antiphoners, both dating from the twelfth century, are British Library, MS Add 29,988, and Rome, Archivio S. Pietro, MS B79. There is only one Frankish example, an unnotated antiphoner that appears in the same later ninthcentury manuscript as the Compiègne gradual of the Sextuplex and is edited in Hesbert's, DomCorpus Antiphonalium Officii, vol. i (Rome, 1963)Google Scholar. Two of the earliest Gregorian antiphoners, dating from the turn of the eleventh century, are conveniently available in facsimile: the so-called Hartker Codex in Paléographie Musicale, 2nd series, vol. i, and the Antiphoner, Quedlinburg, Das Quedlinburger Antiphonar, ed. Möller, H., 3 vols. (Tutzing, 1990)Google Scholar.

84 For the third Sunday of Advent, Bodmer 74 has two Gregorian Alleluias, Ecce iam venil and Rex noster adveniet, along with a prosa and sequence rather than Excita; for the feast of John the Evangelist, it has Beatus vir rather than Hie est discipulus. (Table 3 does not take into account those instances where Bodmer 74 adds a Gregorian Alleluia to the regular Roman assignment.)

85 On the latter, see Amalarius, , Liber Officialis, i, 41 (Hanssens, vol. ii, p. 193)Google Scholar.

86 Bodmer 74's frequent addition of Gregorian Alleluias and sequences to the regular Roman assignments is not indicated in Table 4, nor is that manuscript's consistent substitution of Latin for Greek Alleluias.

87 The sanctoral cycle is not amenable to the same sort of analysis because of the possible intervention of coincidence – that is, the independent assignment of the same obviously appropriate Alleluia like, for example, Sancti tui to both the Roman and the Frankish festival for a certain pair of saints. There is, in any event, very little similarity of assignment between Rome and Francia, whether by coincidence or design. Examples of genuine continuity might be found for only a handful of important saints, perhaps St Laurence's Beatus vir and St Andrew's Nimis honorati.

88 Ostende appears in the Blandin and Compiègne lists and Excita in the Compiègne list; see Sextuplex, pp. 198–9.

89 See The Sarum Gradual and the Gregorian Antiphonale Missarum (London, 1895), p. xGoogle Scholar.

90 ‘Vesperstil’ in the influential coinage of Thodberg, , Der byzantinische Alleluiarionzvklus, p. 172Google Scholar.

91 An adequate investigation of this factor requires a full-length study in itself; such a study might very well reveal much about the relationship between Roman and Frankish chant.

92 Thodberg, of course, espouses an Eastern origin for the Roman Alleluia but places the time of its adoption at an earlier period than the views expressed in the present study would suggest; see Die byzantinische Alleluiarionzyklus, p. 194.

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