Gregorian Chant Mass for Christmas Day: Gloria
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, Volume 1 CD 1 Track 5
To an ear that has been dominated by the Major scale, this chant is not difficult to deal with. A modern lister, unaccustomed to Medieval terminology, might identify the Hypomixolydian mode used here as Mixolydian, which is very close to the Major scale. And, as this tune goes, even without a leading tone it accomplishes a strong V-I cadence several times. The use of repetition and, most significantly, the lack of a reciting tone are features this tune shares with melodies you might find in our children's songs.
The text repeats the same sentiment several times but never in the same words. And, beautifully, the melodies are repeated but transformed as they are set to new words. There are two melodies that seem to play off of each other. One, first heard with the words Et in terra pax hominibus
, skips up from 'G' and steps back down. The other, first heard with the words Gratias agminus tibi
, travels from the high 'C' all the way down to the low 'D.' And, as almost a reconciliation for these two melodies, there is the frequent motion from low 'D' up to 'G.' If you had the bad taste to force these melodies into a spunky common time rhythm, you might have something sounding like an Appalachian folk song.
What I like about this Gloria is the music first heard with the words Et in terra pax hominibus
. The rise and easy descent of this moment is very appealing. The rise is expressed with leaps of thirds, which is simply an attractive motion. Then to be followed by descending steps allows our ear to remember and appreciate the distance easily accomplished by those early leaps.