Kyrie




Mass/Office: Mass

Ordinary/Proper: Ordinary

Text Setting: Neumatic/Melismatic

Form: Often AAA BBB AAA, AAA BBB CCC, or some other repetitive structure to match the repetitions of the text


The Kyrie was originally a litany, in which the same words were repeated many times with slight changes. The text was eventually codified as a threefold "Kyrie eleison" (Lord have mercy), a threefold "Christe eleison" (Christ have mercy), and another threefold "Kyrie eleison," reflecting the Trinity at two levels. Because of the short text, most Kyrie melodies are melismatic, though some simple ones are neumatic.

NAWM 3b is a Kyrie in mode 1. Notice that the form of this Kyrie is AAA BBB CCC'. The very last statement of "Kyrie eleison" is often slightly changed from the preceding ones, as it is here. Often Kyries are performed antiphonally, alternating between two halves of the choir, as in the performance on the recordings. Here the cantor begins the first "Kyrie," choir 1 enters, and then choirs 1 and 2 alternate. On the last "Kyrie," each choir states the first half of the melody, then both halves of the choir sing "eleison" together.

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The fourth edition of NAWM included an example of a Kyrie in mode 8 (NAWM 3b). Notice that the form of this Kyrie is AAA BBB AAA.

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There is a different Kyrie in mode 1 in the second edition of NAWM (3b). The form of this example is AAA BBB AAA'.

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Last updated: 6 September 2010
URL: http://www.music.indiana.edu/som/courses/m401/Kyrie.html
This page was created by Patrick Warfield and is maintained by J. Peter Burkholder
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