Introit: Statuit ei
The word “Introit” comes from the Latin introitus, meaning “entrance.” This is the song sung by the choir during the entrance of the celebrant and his ministers at the beginning of the ceremony; it accompanied their first ritual action, the censing of the altar. This Introit is the first Proper chant of the Mass meaning that its text and melody varied according to the feast day.
Statuit ei, whose antiphon text is adapted from the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiasticus 45:30, belongs to the core plainsong repertory of Introit chants in use at Rome by the mid-8th century. This melody is thus over 1200 years old! Then as now, this served to open Masses honoring saints categorized as “confessor bishops,” a category to which St. Donatian belonged. The text offers general praise, but does not name the specific saint whose feast it is.
As is typical of Introit chants, Statuit ei begins with an antiphon whose musical style is neumatic, with groups of two to five notes on most of the text’s syllables. Like all Introits, the antiphon of Statuit ei opens with a short solo intonatio to set the pitch and tempo, after which the choir joins in. This antiphon is followed by one verse of a psalm (here Psalm 131:1), sung in simple syllabic style to a psalm tone, after which the Doxology (the Gloria patri) is sung. The antiphon is repeated at the conclusion of the Introit.
Statuit ei is in Mode 1, also called the Dorian mode, with the final on D and a reciting tone of A. This melody explores an ambitus of a ninth above the final, and has the curious tendency, typical of many Introit melodies, to dwell on the pitch C.
This Introit is sung according to the version preserved in the Sint-Donaas Gradual, a 15th-century manuscript of chants for the Mass made for the church of Sint-Donaas in Bruges. Click below to see the original manuscript.
To learn more about Introit chants, see:
McKinnon, James W. “Introit (i).” Grove Music Online. 8 Jul. 2018. www.grovemusiconline.com Hiley, David. Western Plainchant: a Handbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1993. See in particular pp. 108-16.