INTROITUS: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Justus es Domine, et rectum judicium tuum: fac cum servo tuo secundum misericordiam tuam.

“You are righteous, Lord, and your judgment is just, act with mercy toward your servant according to your mercy.” (Ps 119(118):137.124)

Click here to listen to an audio version of the chant.
Sung by Br. Jacob Berns, OSB, of St. John’s Abbey.

Click here to listen to an audio of version 2 of the chant.
Sung by Liborius Lumma, Innsbruck (Austria).

One of the biggest mysteries in Gregorian Chant are the semitones. As the copy shows, even today’s editors do not know whether the third tone used to be an h (si naturale) or a b (si bemolle) when this introit was composed in the 8th century. Do not forget that there are about 150 years between the composition itself and the first manuscripts with a sort of musical notation written on parchment, and about another 150 years before a technique was invented to write well-defined, precise pitches.

Brother Jacob O.S.B., who thankfully prepared some of the audios for the INTROITUS series, and I give you both versions here. To me the version with b (si bemolle) sounds rather humble and reverential, while h (si naturale) makes the word justus more confident and self-assured. Maybe this is just a modern emotional approach, but maybe this is what medieval singers and listeners felt too. And maybe that is why some singers in some places preferred the b over the h or vice versa when they sang this introit and passed it on to the next generation.

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