How to sing the Requiem chant according to the Solesmes tradition – Pt 2: The Gradual

Requiem Aeternam, the Gradual from the Missa pro defunctoris is typically unlike other Mode II chants. Mode II Graduals tend to have a different character to their Mode II counterparts with a wider ambitus and their own unique musical vocabulary. Here the structural notes are LA and DO and these should be kept heavy throughout the piece. The other ornamental notes should be sung with a lighter touch.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine;
In memoria æterna erit justus,
ab auditione mala non timebit.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
He shall be justified in everlasting memory,
and shall not fear evil reports.

Requiem aetérnam

Don’t rush the first notes of Requiem. The first three notes that form the Req of Requiem must be sung with equal length. Allow time for the choir to come in together on aeternum – you can break between Requiem and aeternum to ensure clarity of sound. As you sing the porrectus on ter of aeternum lean on the final TI before you move on to the next all important structural note DO. As you near the end of that aeternam neumatic group, put in a caesura before the final three notes, again as a device to emphasis the important structural note LA.

dona eis Domine:

When you reach the top notes, as with the introit Requiem Aeternam do not be afraid to linger on these notes. The top note of  the Salicus  on the do of dona is a perfect example. Remember the note before, despite having a vertical episema under it is not for sitting on, it is a ‘John the Baptist note. On the ne of Domine accent the double DO virgas not forgetting that the following note with the vertical episema is another of those important structural notes. The note after the quilisma is important (DO) and then on treat the final torculus as though it has a horizontal episema over it.

et lux perpétua

It is important to give lux its full syllabic value. Do not rush over it. Again towards the end of the neumatic group accent the two DO virgas

lúceat eis

Don’t be afraid to finish the syllables. Make a small emphatic break after luceat to ensure that the t is well inunicated The podatus on eis with a horizonal episema can be lengthened on both neumes. The same rule applies with this quilismatic group as with the previous quilismatic group, remembering to lengthen the top note of the Salicus before sliding gently into the next group of neumes over the quarter bar line. On the final quilismatic group before the double bar line again lengthen the penultimate note, the DO.

Follow the same principles for the verse. When you reach non timébit  lengthen both neumes on the podatus with the horizonal episema on é before adding another caesura before starting bit. On the final group acknowledge the final DO notes. Accent the double DO at the end of the first salicus and then into the podatus and lengthen the final DO after the quilisma.

2 thoughts on “How to sing the Requiem chant according to the Solesmes tradition – Pt 2: The Gradual

  1. Patricius says:

    Thank you for both of these very interesting posts on the Requiem chants. The recording of the Introit sounded much as I remember singing it about forty years ago- give or take one or two peculiarities of pronunciation.

    I note that the Introit psalm tone for Te decet hymnus deus is as I recall. There is a slightly different one in the Solesmes “Gregorian Missal”- I wonder. Can you account for the variation?

    • Clare says:

      The newer Graduale which the Gregorian Misssal is from uses a different Mode VI tone for the psalm verse to the pre 1970 Graduale. It also only uses verse 2 of Psalm 64 (unless you repeat the antiphon and then sing more verses) rather than verses 2 and 3 found pre 1970.


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