The Use of York 2.0

The York Feast of Cecilia

A performance edition of the proper chants from the Feast of Saint Cecilia, according to the Use of York.

The York Feast of Saint Cecilia


The Use of York was an adapted form of the traditional Roman Rite. It was ultimately supplanted by the Sarum Rite.

The material within represents select portions of the music for the Divine Office. The music has been edited and prepared in a manner to suit both study and performance. In addition to the musical material, the reader will find critical discussion comparing the music of the Use of York to that of other liturgical traditions.

Musical Sources:

Hughes, Andrew. 2000. Lambeth Palace Sion College MS. L1: the Noted Breviary of York (Olim Sion College ms Arc. L.40.2/L.1). Ottawa, Canada: Institute of Mediaeval Music. — WorldCat

Manuscript details: Lambeth Palace Library, Sion L40.2/L.1

Contact: Brandon Wild,


The York Tonale presents for each mode:

  • A melody demonstrating the character of the mode
  • The neuma ending
  • The various terminations
  • The psalm tone formula applied to ps. 8:2, and the first verses of the Magnificat and the Benedictus

Comparing Neumae, features a discussion of the discrepancies found between the York and Sarum neuma.

Comparing Neumae

The discussion below compares the neumae of the York and Sarum traditions. (York source; Sarum source, p36.)

The melodies are separated into Groups A, B, and C, with each subsequent group possessing more variation than the last. Notes equal to both traditions are shown in black. Red is representative of York deviations, while blue is representative of Sarum.

Group A consists of modes I, II, and VIII. These melodies are identical within both traditions.

Group B neumae show minor discrepancies, each phrase varying by one to two notes. Mode III, for example, shows how at the red bracket the York melody continues its descent towards F, while Sarum has a slight deviation upwards to A before continuing to the same F. The lack of a bracket on the penultimate note of Mode IV shows that there is a difference in pitch, but there is no additional note added to either melody.

Group C, consisting only of mode VII, represents the most drastic variation between the neumae of York and Sarum. The arrows indicate the separate trajectories each melody follows from the note A. The notes have been aligned to show how, despite the great variation in the middle of the phrase, both melodies possess a strong inclination toward the note C (indicated by the slur and virga markings). Additionally, it can be seen that both melodies end with the same four notes.


A Venitare was the collection of melodies necessary for chanting psalm 95 (Vulgate), “Venite exultemus Domino”, as required for the Invitatory portion of the Matins service.

The York Venitare consisted of 14 unique tones. These are listed below according to their associated mode (uppercase roman numeral) and variation number (lowercase roman numeral).

Note: At the present moment, it is unknown to which mode the 14th tone belongs, hence the Mode X.x label.

  1. Mode II
  2. Mode III
  3. Mode IV.i
  4. Mode IV.ii
  5. Mode IV.iii
  6. Mode IV.iv
  7. Mode IV.v
  8. Mode V
  9. Mode VI.i
  10. Mode VI.ii
  11. Mode VI.iii
  12. Mode VII.i
  13. Mode VII.ii
  14. Mode X.x

A tone might be assigned to one or more Invitatory antiphons throughout the liturgical year. Below is the antiphon for the first Sunday of Advent, as found in GB-AR York Antiphonal.

At “Venite” (highlighted) the required tone is cued, which could then be checked against the various tones found in the Venitare. In this specific case the required tone is IV.i.

November 28, 2017