Worship and Music for Holy Week

outenAs we approach Holy Week, I am reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples in Gethsemane, “Stay here and watch with me.” Holy Week sets aside a time to do that, focusing fully on Jesus’ sacrifice and victory. Through liturgies, sermons, and music we are able to experience and reflect on these events for ourselves.

Holy Week begins with trumpet fanfares announcing, “All glory laud and honor” and the joy of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem is recreated with Orlando Gibbons’ “Hosanna to the Son of David.” As the Gospel is sung, however, we hear the horrifying words “Crucify him” and there is a dramatic change. This year the choir will sing Felix Anerio’s poignant Christus factus est—“Christ became obedient even unto death on the cross.”

On Maundy Thursday, we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist and participate in the washing of feet. Hymns and anthems including “Were you there when they crucified my Lord” and the contemporary composer, Eriks Esenvald’s, O salutaris hostia—“O saving victim opening wide the gate of heaven to us below,” will be sung. (Listen to it on YouTube here.)

This year the Good Friday service of preaching and music, a long held tradition at St. Peter’s, will include multiple preachers, priests, and lay people. “The Reproaches” by John Sanders, an intensely moving musical meditation on the cross, will be sung.

St. Peter’s celebrates Christ’s resurrection beginning with the Easter Vigil. This service reviews salvation history through word and song, celebrates entrance into Christian life through baptism and welcomes us anew into communion. Easter Day at St. Peter’s resounds with brass fanfares bringing us full circle from Palm Sunday through Holy Week into Christ’s resurrection. With “Jesus Christ is risen today” and “He is risen” we set aside our Lenten austerity and sing fully the good news of our salvation. The St. Peter’s Choir will sing the exuberant anthem “Ye choirs of new Jerusalem” accompanied by organ and trumpet to mark this most festive day.

–Ben Outen, Director of Music and Organist