Festival Favorite: Kyrie eleison

Kryie eleison is a Modern setting of a Gregorian chant. Frequently changing measure lengths are calculated to simulate the rhythmic freedom of the chant. It is a grade 3 string orchestra title on the UIL PML. 

The Kyrie eleison, a part of the Catholic mass liturgy and that of other churches, has been set to music from the earliest days of the Church to the present. Originally it appeared in Plainsong (Gregorian Chant), a style with no time signature, no harmony, no accompaniment, and using only diatonic scale structures called modes. We conceive of them as being sung by monks in dimly-lit cathedrals. These were adapted from earlier territorial liturgies (Syrian, Egyptian, Persian, etc) and, until somewhat recent years, remained the standard in the Roman Catholic Church. Those who composed chants employed eight different modes to convey joy, sorrow, hope, triumph. St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (4th century) and Pope Gregory (6th century) are credited with having organized earlier chants and developed them for their use in the Church.

About Kyrie eleison

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Plainsong used no time signatures and was sung more or less in the manner of a speaking voice. With apologies to purists, this setting does employ frequently changing time signatures, with the thought that it may help modern performers. It is important, however, that the easy rhythmic style of the chant be retained by focusing on phrases and by liberal use of rubato. Listeners should not be aware of any “beat”. The style is highly contrapuntal requiring careful attention to matching diverse rhythms so as to effect a seamless, smooth performance. Mezzo-forte is the loudest dynamic but much dynamic variety is written in and will certainly make for a more musical performance.

About Lloyd Conley

Lloyd Conley spent most of his life in his home state of Michigan, exceptions being three years served with the 440th AAF Band during WWII and a one-year stint as editor for Kendor Music Publishers (1963/64). Post-secondary education includes a Bachelor of Music degree from Central Michigan University (1949) and Master of Music from Michigan State University (1950).

Most of Mr. Conley’s practical arranging know-how came through working with good writers during the AAF Band experience. He taught instrumental music in Michigan for 30 years, retiring in 1979. There was also a short time with a road band (1949), professional dance band arranging in the ’50s, some ventures as a clinician and guest conductor, and activity as a published educational music writer since 1958. He wrote close to 600 publications for orchestra, band, vocal, ensembles and solos. His hobbies were golf and wood carving.

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