Recently, I came across a comment on social media asking why Christians never tire of seeing images of the crucified Christ and why a composer would write music about such a thing. Perhaps we do tire of it at times, but we are drawn to it nonetheless. This tragic beauty, even on Good Friday, is not totally dark-we know Easter awaits us.
Holy Week and Easter are quite early this year. Starting with Palm Sunday on March 20 (when we will be joined by Enen Yu, Gosia Leska, and Guo-Sheng Huang) and ending with the Sunday of the Resurrection, this high point of the liturgical year is filled with beauty of all types. Our music during this time is probably more varied and diverse than at any other point during the year, and you will hear music by many different composers in multiple genres across varied time periods. It really is too much to cover here, but I will attempt to write a "Cliff's Notes" version.
Palm Sunday opens with the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, but it turns, at the reading of the Passion Gospel, into a service resembling Good Friday, and here at this Cathedral, Maundy Thursday as well. Artistically, this service has everything and is a joy to orchestrate. The choir anthem will be the closing chorus from Bach's St. Matthew Passion, and it is a glorious work that serves as a tragic epitaph and a lullaby all at once-truly one of Bach's greatest moments. During Communion, treble soloist, Aaron Adams, will offer a rendition of Lloyd-Webber's Pie Jesu. Finally, during the stripping of the altar at the end of the service, the choir and instrumentalists will present my revision of last year's setting of Psalm 22, a setting that combines the seven last words of Christ with the psalm text.
New this year is our Tenebrae service on Wednesday of Holy Week, March 23, featuring François Couperin's gorgeous setting from the Lamentations of Jeremiah and rounded out with a bit of Renaissance music, Anerio's Christus factus est. I encourage you to experience this beautiful service held at 5:30 p.m. in the chancel.
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are both simple services, but they are rich in symbolism and meaning. Maundy Thursday features our Chamber Choir singing Stainer's God So Loved the World and Matthew's O Sacrum Convivium. The latter is a piece we sang at last year's Sewanee Church Music Conference, and I am pleased to be able to offer it to you. The Good Friday service will feature the full Cathedral Choir offering Lotti's Crucifixus. This piece, along with Allegri's Miserere, is one of the brightest lights in the Italian choral repertoire, and is sure to enhance our worship as we remember Christ's sacrifice that day.
Finally, we come to the joy of Easter Sunday! Everything from the organ music to the anthem, hymns, and solo pieces will be tuned for praise of our risen Messiah. The choir will present William Mathias' Alleluia! Christ is Risen at the offertory, and in the fanfare-like blasts from the organ, the soaring soprano descants, the modulating choral parts, and quite a large organ solo, you will absolutely know it is Easter day. During Communion, Katie Powell will sing I know that my redeemer liveth from Messiah by Handel, and we will close with a vivacious postlude from Widor's second organ symphony. Please come join us for our Holy Week services!
We have several events before Holy Week, and they all promise to be lovely. March 9 features Bella Voce women's chorus on our Lenten Music at Noon series, and March 16 features a concert by violinist Gosia Leska and me at the piano. March 17 at 6:30 p.m., we are hosting the 45-member Birmingham Southern College Concert Choir for a concert featuring beautiful choral music from different countries and eras. Please come and support these artists as part of your Lenten journey. Our Music Ministry hopes to see you quite often in the coming weeks.