Musicus Online Museum
Qui regis sceptra
A short sequence for the Third Sunday of Advent sung at the cathedral in Rouen (northwest of Paris), based on a melody called “Excita Domine.” Three thirteenth-century sources for this sequence provide valuable information about the unfolding of texted and untexted segments. Very unusually, this melody is notated in full in one Rouen source, with the untexted phrases (marked “a” in the music) copied between the texted phrases. Typically the untexted repeats were not written out in full, but were supplied at the singers’ discretion. Another chant book from Rouen Cathedral states that the text should be sung by the choir on the right, and the melody (without text) by the choir on the left. A thirteenth-century source from Chichester divulges yet more clues to the tradition, noting that Qui regis sceptra “is sung by three priests in silk copes with the choir responding on a [the vowel sound ah’].
Although untexted repeated segments seem to have been added to chants for a variety of reasons, musicologist Lori Kruckenberg suggests that they may have been added to Qui regis sceptra in order to make the melody longer and more symmetrical, in line with the typical form of a sequence.