Sounds of Holy Week from St. Thomas

The Saint Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York City is renowned for its music, but here are a few non-musical highlights from Holy Week:

From Tenebrae: The Strepitus

Tenebrae is the Latin word for “darkness” or “shadows,” and refers to the ancient monastic practice of keeping vigil with song and prayer during the last three nights of Holy Week.  One of the features of this service is the gradual extinguishing of candles, so that the church becomes darker as Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross becomes nearer.  Shortly after the final candle extinguished, loud noise called the “strepitus” is made; this noise recalls the earthquake and the rending of the Temple veil at the moment of Jesus’ death.

This “loud noise” can be as simple as dropping a heavy book or slamming a door (or, for that matter, a piano lid).  As often as not it falls to the music person to generate the strepitus; if it is to be done well, it can tap one’s deepest creative reserves.  In my years as a music director my various strepiti have involved bass drums, gongs, clappers, hammers, two-by-fours, cymbals, handbells, and even an autoharp (don’t ask).  So I was especially interested to hear what they do at St. Thomas—I think that you’ll agree that it’s quite dramatic.

Listen to it here.

From Maundy Thursday: The Stripping of the Altar

From the explanation of the liturgy on the church’s website:  “Then, after the altar has been left naked, the Rector emerges, and, by pouring from two cruets, he creates small puddles of water and wine in places on the surface of the altar that represent the wounds of Christ. He then scrubs the altar using a bundle of dried palms from Palm Sunday, a link to the triumphant arrival in Jerusalem that in days became tragedy. When he is finished loudly scrubbing, he tosses the bundle of palms aside, and the choir immediately stops singing, and all the lights are suddenly out, and the church is left in darkness as choristers run through the church, scattering themselves in frightened flight. The bare altar is left alone and abandoned.”

Listen to it here.

You can listen to these services in their entirety as well as all of the sung Holy Week and Easter services by visiting the St. Thomas webcast archive here

Music from Palm Sunday

April 1, 2012 – 11:00

Please click on the links below to hear music from this service; download the service leaflet here.

Palm Sunday is the gate of Holy Week, and it is unlike any other Sunday of the year.  The service begins in an attitude of exaltation as we recall Jesus’s triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem.  Very quickly, however, the mood changes as we turn our focus to Jesus’ passion and death.

At Trinity, we begin the service by gathering outside under the bell tower.  The processional Gospel is read and the palms are blessed.  The choir is lined up on eiether side of the main hallway, and they chant Psalm 118:19-29 (the ‘Processional Psalm’ below) as the congregation walk between them on thier way into the church.  A Collect is said, and then all  join in singing “All glory, laud, and honor” as the altar party and choir process into the church.

To view the text and rubrics of the Palm liturgy, click here.

Processional Psalm:
Psalm 118:19-29

Processional Hymn:
154, All glory, laud and honor (Valet will ich dir geben)

Hymn 158, Ah, holy Jesus (Herzliebster Jesu)

final stanza: organ accompaniment by Donald Busarow (1934-2011)

Conte: Hosanna

Hymn 474, When I survey the wondrous cross (Rockingham)

See more pictures from Palm Sunday at the Trinity Shutterfly site here.

Music from Holy Week and Easter

Please click on the links below to hear music from the various services.

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
April 17

Almighty and everliving God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be make partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Hymn 158: Ah, holy Jesus (Herzliebster Jesu)

Leighton: Solus ad victimam

Brahms: Herzliebster Jesu (Hymn 158)

Maundy Thursday
April 21

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal, the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end.

Doug Merritt and Logan Donevant, violins;
Sarah Daniels, viola; Tamat Ben-Pazi, cello;
Don Michner, bass

Albinoni: Adagio

Psalm 71
Plainsing, Tone ii (Lisa Jennings, Cantor)

Hymn 315: Thou, who at thy first Eucharist didst pray (Song 1)

Clausen: Set me as a seal

Hymn 171: Go to dark Gethsemane

Good Friday
April 22

Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. John

A reading of the Passion with stanzas of Hymn 168, O sacred head, sore wounded, interpolated into the reading

Stainer: God so loved the world

DuBois: ‘Christ we do all adore thee’ from The Seven Last Words

Easter Day
April 24

O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Chris Ackerman and Bull Canty, trumpets;
Steve Skillman, horn; Marlon McDonald, trombone;
Charles Jennings, tuba

Hymn 207: Jesus Christ is risen today (Easter Hymn)

Mathias: Gloria in excelsis

Psalm 118
Anglican Chant by George Thalben-Ball (1896-1987)

Hymn 210: The day of Resurrection (Ellecombe)

Shephard: The Easter Song of Praise

Gallus: In resurrectione tua, Christe

In thy resurrection, O Christ,
let heaven and earth rejoice.
The Lord is risen from the tomb,
who hung on the tree for us.
The disciples rejoiced to see the Lord.

Hymn 208: The strife is o’er, the battle done (Victory)

Friedell: Draw us in the Spirit’s tether

Handel: ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ from Messiah
Lisa Jennings, soprano

Hymn: Thine is the glory
arr. Robert A. Hobby

Bach: Chorale from Cantata 129