(from Gr., ‘sounding across’).
1 A versicle or phrase sung by one choir in reply to another.
2 In the RC Church the antiphon is intoned or sung during the recitation of Divine Office, before and after the psalm or canticle, which is itself responsively sung by the singers divided into two bodies. The antiphon may serve to reinforce the meaning of the psalm, or to introduce a Christian application of the orig. Jewish text. The plainsong tune of the antiphon, though not the same as the ‘tone’ of the psalm, is in keeping with it as to mode, etc.
3 Many antiphons now exist without psalms and are sometimes sung to comp. settings, rather than to the orig. plainsong, hence the Eng. word ‘anthem’, derived from ‘antiphona’. Several composers have given the title Antiphon to a comp., e.g. Vaughan Williams in 5 Mystical Songs.