Sacred Polyphony

Sacred choral music holds an esteemed role in the Church’s treasury. After chant, it adorns the Sacred Liturgy, particularly when it employs liturgical texts and styles passed down through the centuries.

Polyphony, in the music theory sense, is a composition with two or more independent melodic lines that proceed horizontally to produce an effective implied or literal harmony as well. When the Church mentions sacred polyphony she is most often referring to the religious works of the masters of the Renaissance like Palestrina, Victoria, Tallis, and others, although colloquially the term can be broadened to include other works that include multiple melodic lines.

To aid choirs to build a practical repertoire of sacred polyphony, the CMAA has produced The Parish Book of Motets. The book contains fifty-four motets of varying difficulty in English and Latin specially curated for the average parish choir, which can all be accessed for free on this site. Additional polyphonic resources are available below.


Accessible Choral Works

Mass Ordinary

About the Ordinary

The Ordinary of the Mass are those prayers which do not change. Composers throughout the centuries have gifted us with at least 18 Gregorian settings and thousands of polyphonic settings. Listed below are just a few suggested settings.

Kyrie – Gloria – Credo – Sanctus – Agnus Dei – Ite Missa est

Unison Masses

Parish Book of Chant, Kyriale – all 18 Gregorian settings

Langlais, Missa in Simplicitate

Rheinberger, Missa Puerorum

Viadana, Missa Prima Dominicalis (arr.)

Willan, Missa Maria Magdalena
Willan, Mass of St. Hugh
Willan, Mass of St. Teresa (forthcoming)
Willan, Mass of St. Peter (forthcoming)
(USA©Healy Willan Society)

Yon, Messe Pastorale


Polyphonic Masses

Byrd, Mass a 3, a 4, a 5

Casciolini, Mass in a, Missa Brevis

Croce, Missa Sexti, Tertii, Octavi

Andrea Gabrieli, Missa Brevis a4, Quando leita sperari

Hassler, Missa SecundaTertia, Dixit Maria

Lotti, Missa Brevis

Mozart, Missa Brevis in C (Orgelsolo), Brevis in D

Palestrina, Missa Aeterna Christi Munera, Missa Brevis

Rheinberger, Missa S. Crucis, Brevis Trinitas

Schubert, Mass in G

Tye, Missa Euge Bone

Viadana, Missa L’Hora Passa

Victoria, Missa Brevis, Dominicalis, Salve,
O Quam Gloriosum, Quarti Toni, O Magnum Mysterium


Requiem Masses




(typeset by David Hughes for 2021 Colloquium)

Clemens non Papa


La Rue

Lassus a4, a5

Michael Haydn in c, Sigismundo

Morales a4, a5



Palestrina a5

Victoria a4, a6

Masses for Equal Voices/Children

Allen, Missa Rex Genitor (TTB/SSA)

Casciolini, Missa Sine Nomine (SSA)

Faure, Messe Basse (SSA)
*Hosanna missing from Faure’s Benedictus

Lemme, Mass for 3 Voices (TTB)

Lotti, Mass in a (TTB)

Pękiel, Missa Brevis No. 4 (TTBB)

Rheinberger, Mass in A, Op.126, (SSA), Op.187, (SSA) Op. 172, (TTBB), Op.190 (TTBB)

Viadana, Missa Sine Nomine (TTB)