The service begins with a prelude played by Enen Yu, our guest violinist. The Meditation from Thais, by Jules Massenet (1841-1912) is a beautiful work of the Romantic period. Massenet was a talented Parisian composer who excelled at writing operas and, for a time, became one of the leading figures in French music. The Meditation is actually an interlude for violin and orchestra from the opera Thais, but has since transcended its original function and is now used as a stand-alone piece for many events. Although not originally a specifically sacred piece, the sheer beauty of its melody and accompaniment makes for a fitting prelude to our service.
The hymns during the service reflect the identity of the church (Christ is made the sure foundation), the love of God (Love divine, all loves excelling), Christ as the Good Shepherd, (Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless), our Christian unity (One Bread, One Body), the Resurrection and the Sacrament of Baptism (We know that Christ is raised and dies no more), and our choir anthem invokes the Holy Spirit (Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove). Instead of simply singing these hymns passively, really focus on the profound meaning of the texts. Too often, I find myself simply “going through the motions” when it comes to hymns I’ve sung for years, and when that happens, I try to remind myself of what is really happening. These hymns have meaningful texts that stand as poetry on their own. They challenge us in our mission just as they comfort us on our journey. During Communion, Katherine Powell will sing Sheep May Safely Graze by J. S. Bach. I’ve written extensively about this piece in The Messenger for this month. If you haven’t read it, I commend it to you as there are some interesting facts about this piece!
Finally, our postlude is a setting of the Lutheran hymn, Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands (Christ lag in Todesbanden). This Easter hymn tells of the triumph of Christ’s breaking of death’s power and of the purifying power of grace. This setting, by Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), has a sparkling texture for the hands alone in the beginning that builds up to the thunderous entrance of the hymn tune in the pedals. Even without being familiar with this tune, one gets a sense of the majesty and power of Easter, and even though Pachelbel is best known for his Canon in D, he has a multi-faceted music nature that you will hear on Sunday. Come celebrate with us!