Music for a Quiet Lent: Sunday, March 29

Today is the 5th Sunday in Lent. The Anglican Lectionary is calling this one Passion Sunday, but the Revised Common Lectionary doesn’t have Passion Sunday until next Sunday, and I’m inclined to go with that.

Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11, and John 11:1-45

OK, we have some exciting themes to choose from today. The Old Testament Reading is the valley of dry bones. Would any well-behaved Music Director dare the obvious choice for today? Look, these are dark and scary times, and I think a little light relief never did anyone any harm. Also, I’m not a Music Director, well-behaved or otherwise, so I’m allowed to be a bit silly. There are, undoubtedly more sensible settings of this reading, but I’ve always adored the percussion in this version. The video is a little disturbing, though.

Psalm 130 is Out of the deep have I called to you, O Lord, and there are so many gorgeous, gorgeous anthems for this one that I can’t possibly pick just one, so let’s review some of them.

Thomas Morley has a truly gorgeous verse anthem, which I have sung and love dearly, so that’s obviously my top choice for this one. One of the nice things about verse anthems is that one can have all the delight of polyphony while still having a fighting chance of being able to understand the lyrics. Also, I just love the word painting with that very deep note at the start of the piece. (My alto vanity says that this is better with an alto or true countertenor soloist, but this is still very fine.)

Thomas Tallis has a surprisingly cheery take on the text. I’m not sure I’m in agreement with the mood, but it’s a lovely piece, and any choir worth its salt would have fun with it.

If you want to go more modern, I never thought I’d say this, but this setting of the text by John Rutter is actually pretty great – very dramatic and exciting.

The Gospel reading is the raising of Lazarus. (If you are noticing a resurrection theme running through today’s readings, you would be on the money, I think.) I found the sheet music for an obscure and fascinating oratorio by Johann Christoph Frederic Bach called Die Aufweckerung Lazarus (The raising of Lazarus), but sadly, there only seems to be one recording of it and it isn’t on YouTube. And it’s out of print, too! Alas! I’m very sad about this, because it looks really fun. (My favourite bit is when Mary has been weeping and mourning, and Martha says, look, don’t you think Jesus can wake him up, and will, if he sees you crying like that? I mean, you washed his feet with your tears and dried them with your hair. The heavy implication is ‘I think he probably likes you, or at least owes you one, just ask him to raise Lazarus from the dead already.’ I am very fond of Martha.)

Anyway. No point teasing you with an oratorio that you can’t have. Instead, let’s go with every English-speaking congregation’s favourite oratorio. Because I think ‘The Trumpet Shall Sound’ is right on point for today’s resurrection theme, and I rather like this rendition of it – Philippe Sly has a lovely fluidity in the coloratura bits, and a gorgeous tone on the low bass notes. And that’s some very fine trumpet playing – I’m not sure who the trumpeter is, but he’s lovely.

Hymns to sing along to

There’s a lovely church hymn based on Psalm 130 – Out of the Deep I Call, by William Daman. It’s very beautiful, but doesn’t seem to be much recorded. This is a piano accompaniment – you will need to do your own singing for this one.

I’ve sort of ignored the New Testament reading, which is about life in the Spirit. But there are some lovely Holy Spirit hymns in the hymnal. Come Down, O Love Divine, is a very good one.

This last one isn’t really on theme, but it’s one of my favourites, and I think it’s a really good one for these anxious times we are living with.

I hope everyone is well this Sunday.

Go to the Music for a Quiet Lent index page.

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