Gregorian Chant Mass for Christmas Day: Credo
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, Volume 1 CD 1 Track 9
A chant can achieve narrative through its melodic contour. This chant, after a short introduction, avoids narrative by repeating the same phrase until its conclusion. The attraction to this repetitive chant is that in each repetition the music has new words and, consequently, new rhythms. And that this simple repetition provides us with a means of meditation.
Each of these phrases is a beautiful melodic arch. This, I think, is want some of the best tunes do; they go up and then they come back down. The arch used here has a snappy half-step at the top which creates a sense of gravity or, perhaps, vertigo. The up and down of the melodic line is not unlike the back and forth sometimes seen in prayer.
What I like most about this Credo
is the single leap of a fifth that appears in the word saeculi
right before the concluding Amen
. This leap is stunning in its contrast with what we have so far heard but does not break the spell of the piece. It beautifully breaks the repetition in a way to gently reinforce the end of the Creed.