By the time we get to the choir anthem at the offertory, we may have nearly forgotten that there is music in this service! When the music does return, it does so in a meaningful way - with the anthem, How Can It Be, by Lloyd Larson (b. 1954). Actually the arranger, rather than composer of this music, Larson has used motives from the Pavane by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) and pared them with lyrics by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). This creates a powerful combination that, I believe, directly addresses the feelings and themes present in the Palm Sunday liturgy. Lyrics are printed in the bulletin.
During Communion, we will sing some beautiful hymns centered around the Communion anthem, The Crucifixion, by Roland E. Martin (b. 1955). As the music begins, you will hear a high, quiet flute playing jagged musical figures - this is meant to imitate birdsong, and it continues throughout the piece. The lyrics come from The Speckled Book (12th century), a collection of Irish homilies. Interestingly, this text was not found as a part of the book but was written in a margin! So, the true author of these beautiful words remains a mystery. Again, the lyrics are printed in Sunday’s bulletin.
After Communion, we strip the altar. During this, it is our tradition to sing verses of Psalm 22, and since I have been here at the cathedral, we have woven the seven last “words” of Christ in with these verses. The whole experience is intended to provide a musical counterpart to the passion gospel. Although we are left in darkness at the end of the service on Sunday, take comfort in the last words sung by the choir.
“My soul shall live for him;
My descendants shall serve him;
They shall be known as the Lord’s forever.
They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn
The saving deeds that he has done.”
Finally, please consider attending our other Holy Week services this year. There will be services in the chapel Monday through Thursday at noon, and Wednesday through Friday, there will be choral services in the afternoon. Tenebrae, on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., is an extended meditation of words and music on the meaning of this week. Maundy Thursday’s Eucharist at 5:30 p.m. will feature choral music, and Good Friday’s liturgy at noon will feature the full choir and promises to be stunningly beautiful. I hope this week will truly be holy for us all.