Music for a Quiet Lent: Saturday, April 11 – Holy Saturday

I have a very dear friend who is a theologian and she told me once that the church bells fly away on the night of Good Friday (presumably after the Easter vigil was done), only to return on Easter morning. For this reason, there were no church bells rung, or music played, on Holy Saturday.

I should hasten to add that I do not think that this is a strongly-held theological viewpoint, so much as a local tradition. And, interestingly, the Internet tells me that this is a French tradition and that the church bells fly away to Rome to be blessed, a detail which was not part of my – Protestant! German! – friend’s tale.

Evidently, those flying bells are not concerned with European borders, even if the Protestant bells are eschewing Rome.

In any case, lovely though this tradition is, I don’t plan to observe it on this blog. Holy Saturday is enough of a strange, in between day as it is. Instead, I’m going to share this rather gorgeous anthem by Johann Michael Bach, a distant cousin and father in law of Johann Sebastian.

I really wanted to find an English version of this, because I love the texts so much, but all the recordings are in the original German, so I shall provide a translation.

Choir: I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the last upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy, destroy my body; yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and not another.

Chorale: Christ is my life eternal and death to me is gain. With joy my spirit yielding, I rise with him and reign.

I love the hopeful faith of the main choir lyrics, and the soaring joy of the soprano chorale, which comes in with its celebration of life eternal just when the main choir is getting down with the worms.

With Good Friday past, and Easter morning still ahead, this feels like the perfect text for Holy Saturday, at least for me.

Edited to add: Overnight, Australian time, the Leipzig Thomaskirche livestreamed a strange and unique performance of the Johannespassion with just one tenor soloist singing all the parts and the arias, and speaking the choruses, with international choirs recording many of the chorales. It’s odd, but mesmerising, so I’m linking to it here.

Go to the Music for a Quiet Lent index page.

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