A Hebrew word derived from hallelû (imperative of hillel, to praise) and Jah (abbreviated form of Jahvè : God) and frequently used as a means to praise God in Jewish and Christian liturgies. It is found in the following forms: (i) as a responsory, (ii) as an acclamation added to or inserted in a liturgical text, and (iii) as an antiphon. In the Roman Catholic Eucharist, it is sung before the Gospel at all times, except in the season of Lent, when its joyful character excludes its use. During the Easter season, the Alleluia is often added to the antiphons, acclamations and responses in the Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations.
History before Musical Notation. From the beginning of the Christian liturgy there seemed no need to translate this Hebrew word of joy. The present spelling is taken from the Septuagint form 'Αλλελούια. Many patristic texts show that the primitive Church preserved the melismatic character of the Alleluia as found among the Jews. "Nam sicut in melodia hoc compositum nomen [Alleluia] diversos tonos recipit, ita et multiplies causas ad vim suae praedicationis assumit" (Cassiodorus, PalLat 70.811). Jubilatio, melodiae tropi, and even toni are terms used to express the musical vocalizations characteristic of the execution of the Alleluia. Other texts indicate the early use of the word as an acclamation. (See Rv 19.1–7.) "Diligentiones in orando subjungere in orationibus Alleluia solent" (Tertullian, PalLat 1.1304). Later, Cassian and St. Benedict indicate the frequent addition of the word to Psalm verses in the recitation of the Office. Amalarius, writing about 840, is the first to describe the substitution of the word Alleluia for the texts of standard antiphons. "Antiphonae aliquae sunt post responsorios collectae, quarum sonus redactus est in sola Alleluia sibi invicem conjuncta" (Studi e testi 140: 108).
Two problems have been much discussed by scholars: the role of St. Gregory in specifying the times when the Alleluia could be used and the origin of the verse of the Mass Alleluia. The theory generally accepted is that the Alleluia became a part of the Mass by order of Pope Damasus (368–84) at the request of St. Jerome and in imitation of the Church of Jerusalem. Later it was restricted to Easter, but in the 5th century extended to the whole Easter season. St. Gregory, in turn, extended its use to the entire year with the exception of the penitential season. (For the controversy, see Froger and Wellesz in the bibliography.) The oldest references to the Alleluia do not mention the verses, but they are always present in the MS tradition. From the evidence available it is impossible to establish the exact date when the Alleluia as a responsory assumed the form it now has.
History of the Alleluia in Gregorian Chant. In the earliest chant MSS only the Alleluias for Masses on principal feasts were written in the body of the MS; the others were placed in a special fascicle at the end. The selection of the Alleluia for the Sundays and most of the feasts was left to the cantor. For this reason, the first attempts to assign a specific Alleluia for each Mass were not uniform and resulted in various medieval traditions, important for determining the scriptorium from which a MS comes.
The responsorial Alleluia of the classical Roman Rite of the Mass was sung as follows: Alleluia (intoned by soloist), alleluia with jubilus (sung by choir), verse (sung by soloist with the choir joining in at the end), alleluia with jubilus (sung by the choir). In the Middle Ages the Alleluia was not repeated after the verse on ferial days, and on special feasts two verses were sometimes sung as in the Byzantine tradition. The musical structure of the Alleluia and its verses showed great variety. The Alleluia melody may be simple or contain several melodic repetitions, especially in the melisma or jubilus, while the melody of the verse may be new or derived from the Alleluia melody. Frequently the end of the verse repeated the jubilus only, sometimes it repeated the entire melody of the Alleluia plus jubilus, while other verses showed no melodic relationship to the Alleluia and jubilus but had a different melody (such as Venite exultemus, Te decet, and Paratum cor ). The frequent statement that the form of the Alleluia was a simple A-B-A is textually correct but musically erroneous. The protus and tetrardus modes were most frequent; the tritus—as in Byzantine chant— was rare. The responsory Alleluia was used only at Mass in the Roman rite, although Amalarius mentioned (op. cit. 105) three Alleluia responses he had found but had not copied into his own antiphonary.
The addition of two or three Alleluias to the texts of the Mass and Office was common in Gregorian chant. Musically they were distinct from the responsory Alleluia in that they were more simple; if they had a melisma it was generally found on the syllable "le" and not the last syllable. Some of these are thought to be of Gallican origin. The substitution of the word Alleluia for the texts of antiphons was most common in the Roman rite as the example shows.
In the Old Roman repertory the number of Alleluias in the Mass was indeed much smaller, only 13 melodies being found for the Alleluia that precedes the verse. When the Alleluia was repeated after the verse, a new and longer jubilus was found on larger feasts, but one that was generally related musically to the first jubilus in that it was enlarged by melodic repetitions and ornaments. The jubilus melisma was not found at the end of the verse except for the Alleluia Beatus vir. The interesting Alleluias for Vespers of Paschal week had two or three verses and highly developed melismas.
History of the Alleluia in Mozarabic Chant. The Alleluia of the Mozarabic Mass was sung after the Gospel, not before. More than one verse was not found, and frequently the jubilus was also found at the end of the verse. The Alleluia jubilus when repeated after the verse may be new (as in Vincenti dabo and In die resurrectionis ) or a development of the first. The Mozarabic repertory of Mass Alleluias was richer than the Old Roman and Ambrosian. The addition of Alleluias to the Sono (verse sung at beginning of Vespers) and Sacrificium (Offertory) showed long and varied melismas on the syllable "le." The substitution of the text Alleluia for standard antiphons, however, was not found.
History of the Alleluia in Ambrosian Chant. The Ambrosian Mass Alleluias ignored the tritus modes and, like the Old Roman, were few in number. Each one, however, had three different melismas or jubiluses. The first had no name, but the second was called melodiae primae and the third melodiae secundae, the latter being quite developed. A special melisma called the francigena was sometimes added to make a fourth. The ritual for singing all of this was complicated and cannot be totally unraveled. The same type of responsorial Alleluia was found also in the Ambrosian Office, especially at Vespers. The other phenomena, i.e., additional Alleluias and substitution for standard texts, were also found in the Ambrosian chant.
The "Longissimae Melodiae." As early as the 9th century there developed in the Gregorian chant a body of elaborate Alleluia melodies, not confused with the liturgical Alleluias but written as a separate collection; they were given strange and suggestive names—Frigdola, Graeca, Hypodiaconissa, Organa, Nostra tuba, Romana, etc. They were called "longissimae melodiae" by Notker and certainly were related to the phenomenon of the longer melismas of the Old Roman, Mozarabic, and Ambrosian liturgical Alleluias. These "longissimae melodiae" are important for the history of the sequence into which they evolved into.
Bibliography: j. glibotic, "De cantu Alleluia in patribus saeculo VII antiquioribus," Ephemerides liturgicae (Rome 1887–) 50 (1936) 101–23. j. froger, "L'Alleluia dans l'usage romain et la réforme de St. Grégoire," ibid. 62 (1948) 6–48. e. wellesz, "Gregory the Great's Letter on the Alleluia," Annales musicologiques 2 (1954) 1–26. b. stÄblein, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949–) 1:331–50. l. brou, "L'Alleluia dans la liturgie mozarabe," Annuario musical 6 (1951) 3–90. f. gennrich, Grundiss einer Formenlehre des mittelalterlichen Liedes (Halle 1932) 107–18. d. hiley, Western Plainchant (Oxford 1993) 130–39, 500–05.
[r. g. weakland/eds.]