Music for HOLY WEEK and EASTER SUNDAY
Holy Week and Easter Sunday
also known as Holy Week, contains some of the most dramatic music from the pens of great comp
The final week of Lent, closes, with the focus being on the suffering, Passion, and crucifixion of Christ. Our Palm Sunday worship starts with the great triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, as Jesus is proclaimed King of Israel by the gathered crowds at Jerusalem, the same crowd whose cries of “Hosanna!” will all too soon turn to “Crucify!”. Our liturgy thus begins with the great processional hymn “All Glory, Laud and Honor”, with a text written by the 9th-century priest Theodulph of Orleans. These words were later sung as a Palm Sunday processional in such diverse locations as Hereford, England, and Tours and Rouen in France, being sung first at the town’s gates and later at the entrances to the churches themselves. In our liturgy, this mood of triumph changes after the Passion gospel is read, and a more sober and introspective tone takes over for the remainder of the service, which is reflected in the hymns and music. The final hymn of the day, “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded”, is an observation of, and prayer to, Christ on the cross. The text comes from the hand of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and the German translation of his original Latin became the ultimate expression of Holy Week in the Lutheran churches of the Reformation. The English translation in our Hymnal 1940 was made by Robert Bridges, poet laureate of England in the early 20th-century. Lastly, the organ postlude for Palm Sunday is quiet and introspective, as befits the conclusion of a service that ushers us into Holy Week; Bach’s great prelude on the Passiontide chorale “O Man, bewail thy great sin” will be heard this year.
Maundy Thursday’s hymns reflect both the Epistle’s focus on the institution of Christ’s body and blood as the Holy Eucharist, and the Gospel’s continuing Passion narrative. The great plainsong hymn Pange lingua is sung as a fitting conclusion to the liturgy, with words that comment on the final meal shared by Jesus with the disciples before going into the garden of Gethsemane to begin his final agony.
Our celebration of Easter Day is appropriately filled with great music, including hymns both beautiful and familiar. “Jesus Christ is Ris’n Today”, “He is Risen” and “At the Lamb’s High Feast” are among the great hymns for the day, with texts from Latin originals translated by Miles Coverdale and John Mason Neale, among others. Careful observers will note that the composer of the well known “Come Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain” is none other than Sir Arthur Sullivan, of “Gilbert and Sullivan” fame! Sullivan composed some of the best Victorian hymn tunes, and was actually a bit frustrated that he was known principally as the composer of the Savoy operas, and not for his more serious undertakings. How many of us know that the music for arguably the most famous Victorian hymn was actually written by Sullivan? The tune is St. Gertrude, and the hymn we all know is “Onward, Christian Soldiers”!
Texts and music from the great heritage of church history all combine to assist us in delving deeply into this, the richest and most profound time in our liturgical year, as celebrated at Trinity Anglican Church.
February Music 2023
Music at Trinity, September 2022
September is a month of beginnings: Fall arrives, the weather changes (slowly, it seems),
football season is launched, and schools and colleges have already begun. The church year at
this time also contains a number of holy days that serve as markers as it moves to its conclusion
in late November. The secular world often refers to the pre-Christmas period as “the holiday
season”, but perhaps its true title should be “the Holy-day season”! Liturgically, this is a very
rich time in the church calendar, and it starts in September.
The new month is ushered in at Trinity Anglican Church with a service of Evensong, to be
held on Friday 9 September at 5:00PM. Originally a conflation of the monastic evening rituals
into one service, Evensong eventually became the most characteristic form of worship in the
Church of England, and was the most well-attended, be it on Sunday or weekday. Hearing a
fully choral Evensong in one of the great cathedrals or collegiate chapels in England, with their
superb choirs and repertoire, is truly an unforgettable experience. Our own celebration at Trinity
will be more intimate, with hymns and canticles taken from the 1940 Hymnal and full
participation of the congregation.
The many Sundays after Trinity continue from their start in June, and by September we have
reached beyond the halfway point. After the many holy days of September and October, we reach the two commemorations that serve to unofficially divide the four months between September and December, namely the feast of All Saints and commemoration of All Souls, on 31 October and 1 November respectively. Perhaps we need to keep in mind, when in the midst of Halloween preparations, that the name of the day is a contraction of All Hallow’s Eve, or the eve of All Saints! This great and exuberant feast celebrating the many historical saints of the church is contrasted with the solemn (not somber; there is a difference!) observance of the commemoration of All Souls, or all faithful departed, held on the following day. Such a dramatic contrast provides great focus as the procession towards Thanksgiving and Christmas resumes.
November is a month of great richness in our liturgical calendar. The celebrations of All Saints Day, Thanksgiving Day, and the Sunday before Advent, all serve as a fitting conclusion to the church year, as well as lending variety and focus to our worship. That, however, is a subject that will be discussed in a future music column. In the meantime, please do plan on coming to Trinity Anglican Church on Friday 9 September at 5:00 PM for Evensong, followed by snacks and fellowship.
Steven McDonald, music director
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