Glossary

Come across a term in the world of cathedral music and want to know what it means? It might be in our glossary.

If it's not there, send us the term by email to glossary@cathedralmusictrust.org.uk and we'll look into adding it to the list.

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AdventThe season in the Christian church that occurs just before Christmas, traditionally a time of waiting and preparing for the coming of Jesus.
Agnus DeiMeaning ‘Lamb of God’, this is a specific prayer used in the service of Eucharist and normally set to music in cathedrals.
AnglicanChurch of England, although the ‘Anglican Communion’ is the protestant church throughout the world. The Church of Ireland is a part of the Anglican Communion, for example.
AnthemA musical composition setting words very often from the bible by composers throughout the ages and used at Matins, Eucharist and Choral Evensong. It is always a choral piece and can be for any number of parts, though the most usual number is four. There is a wide variety in terms of length and language used. Anthems can be accompanied or unaccompanied by the organ (or other instruments).
AntiphonA short sentence sung before or after a psalm or canticle. There are particular ones for special seasons, e.g. Christmas and Easter.
BaptismAlso known as ‘christening’, the wetting of the head of the person being christened by a priest to symbolise the person’s entry into the Christian church and the start of their journey of faith. It can be carried out at any age and most frequently takes place in childhood.
BenedictusTraditionally, a song sung by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, in thanksgiving. It is part of the service of Eucharist and occasionally Matins which in cathedrals is very often set to music, although it can also be omitted from the service.
CanticlesThese are sung at Matins (Te Deum, Jubilate, Benedicite), Eucharist (Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei) and Evensong (Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis).
CatholicIn the UK, the two main Christian religions are Catholicism and Anglicanism. The latter diverged from the former at the time of Henry VIII, who then became head of the Anglican church while the Pope remained head of the Catholic church.
Choral EvensongA quiet, reflective service, very often with no sermon but with two bible readings and usually at least one psalm, sung by the choir.
CollectsSpecial prayers for every week and season, said daily.
CommunionThe blessed sacrament (bread and wine which has been blessed by the priest who is presiding over the service) which is distributed to other priests and to members of the congregation.
ComplineA night prayer of monastic origin.
CongregationThe 'audience' or participants in a church or cathedral service, not the priests or choir.
CurateAny priest who has ‘cure’ of souls in a particular place, normally a parish; a junior priest.
DoxologyA short piece in praise to God, often added to the end of canticles, psalms and hymns.
EpiphanyOne of the three principal festival days of the Christian church (the others being Christmas and Easter). In Western churches the day is observed on 6 January.
FontA font carries holy water to be used for baptisms. Every church will have one, and many are sizeable and elaborate constructions.
Gloria(Gloria in excelsis Deo, or Glory to God in the highest). It is sung to a wide variety of melodies (estimated at over 200) and is a principal part of the service of Eucharist, except during Lent and sometimes Advent, when it is not used.
HomophonyIn music, homophony is a texture in which the main melody is sung by one part of a choir while the other parts (generally but by no means always three) support the melody by harmonising it. It is in direct contrast to polyphony.