Holy Week Music
Holy Week is one of the times of year that Cathedral musicians look forward to most – some of the most beautiful choral music was written in response to the passion story, and for the services that commemorate it.
At the beginning of the week, we will sing a series of movements from Bob Chilcott’s St John Passion. These are beautiful works with wonderful ancient texts, all meditations on the passion. One, Miserere, my Maker, is a particular favourite of mine:
Miserere, my Maker,
O have mercy on me, wretch, strangely distressed,
Cast down with sin oppressed,
Mightily vexed to the soul’s bitter anguish,
E’en to the death I languish.
Yet let it please Thee
To hear my ceaseless crying:
Miserere, miserere, I am dying.
During the foot-washing on Maundy Thursday, we always sing a setting of Ubi caritas (that being the ‘proper’ text for that point in the service), and we’ve usually sung Duruflé’s setting, but some of the choristers suggested an alternative version by Ola Gjeilo, which we use this year.
Gjeilo is a Norwegian composer who lives in the USA, and whose choral music is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world.
Whereas Duruflé’s setting uses the plainsong melody associated with the text, Gjeilo’s version uses a chant-like tune by the composer.
On Good Friday we sing the piece which is the highlight of the week for many of the choir – John Sanders’ Reproaches. Sanders was for some time the organist of Gloucester Cathedral, and his music is designed for a large acoustic (like ours!).
Plainsong-like recitations alternate with wonderfully thick choral textures, full of suspensions and crunchy chords that really emphasise the meaning of the text.
These are just some highlights – I hope you will enjoy all of the music that we will use to help us all observe Lent this year.
- David Stevens, Master of the Choristers