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Release Date: 4th April 2019
The solemn seasons of Lent, Holy Week and Easter preserve some of the earliest liturgical texts still in current use. They rehearse the deepest and most fundamental Christian memories and theology and span an enormous range of human emotions. Through participation in the whole sequence of services during Holy Week, the Christian shares in Christ’s own journey, from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the empty tomb on Easter morning.
The procession with palms is accompanied by the reading or singing of the Passion Narrative, in which the whole story of the week is anticipated. Maundy Thursday (from mandatum, command, because it was on the occasion of washing his disciples’ feet that Christ gave us the new commandment to love one another as he has loved us) contains a rich complex of themes: humble Christian service expressed through the washing of the feet, the institution of the Eucharist in the Last Supper, the perfection of Christ’s loving obedience through the agony of Gethsemane.
After keeping vigil (Could you not watch with me one hour?) Maundy Thursday passes into Good Friday with the veneration of the Cross and the Three Hours’ Devotion. The church remains stripped of all decoration. It continues bare and empty through the following day, which is a day without a liturgy: there can be no adequate way of recalling the being dead of the Son of God, other than silence and desolation.
From earliest times Christians have gathered through the night of Easter to recall the story of God’s saving work, from creation through to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, the Easter Liturgy is not merely a presentation of God’s work. It is meant to be a real experience of new life for the worshipper, a passing from darkness to light which offers hope to all the faithful.
The Easter Vigil marks the end of the emptiness of Holy Saturday, and leads into the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Christian baptism is a participation in the death and resurrection of Christ and the Easter Vigil was from early Christian times a preferred occasion for baptism. It is fittingly a time when those who are already Christians may repeat with renewed commitment the promises of their own baptism, and strengthen their sense of incorporation into the royal and priestly ministry of the whole people of God.
And finally, the great Easter Eucharist in which all the resources of the church – music, flowers, bells, colours – are used to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. The Easter Gospel is proclaimed with all the joy and splendour that the church can find.
– Reverend Canon Dr Paul Smith Canon Liturgist, Guildford Cathedral
The journey on the road to desolation at the foot of the Cross, which begins with the reading of the Passion gospel on Palm Sunday, and concludes with the miraculous joy of the Resurrection on Easter Day, is as much the tale of the Christian faith as it is of Holy Week.
The drama begins with the pulsing chords of Johann Sebastian Bach’s chorale prelude Erbarm’ dich mein, o Herre Gott (BWV 721). Originally conceived as a way of introducing the chorale (a paraphrase of Psalm 51 concerned with penitence and converting) to a Thuringian congregation, Bach foreshadows the emotional trajectory of the chorale in this prelude, working through dissonance before finally achieving a cadence in F# major, never deviating from the unique texture of repeated quavers, the heart’s cry in response to the body’s sin.
William Byrd’s music echoes Bach’s cry of the heart in the iconic two part motet Ne irascaris Domine – Civitas sancti tui. Byrd’s double-life as a recusant Catholic, coming perilously close to the challenges of not converting to the slowly-coalescing faith of the Church of England, whose Supreme Governor was Queen Elizabeth I, is at the heart of all his composition, and nowhere more so than here.
Published in the Cantiones Sacrae of 1589 (which were dedicated to leading recusant and favourite of Elizabeth I, the Earl of Worcester), the verses of Isaiah speak as much to the Christian journey as they do to religious desolation and desecration of England in the sixteenth century. Byrd’s counterpoint and harmonic nuance mark this motet out as one of the high points of the ars perfecta, whose burning search for perfection and beauty seared throughout Renaissance Europe. In addition to creating a forward-moving narrative, Byrd’s harmonic gestures create opportunities for dialogue between the two parts, most notably ‘Ecce’ (part I) being answered by ‘Sion deserta facta est.’ With an appreciation of Byrd’s recusancy, it is hard to conceive of Sion as anything other than a metaphor for England.
Seemingly as a consequence of these penitential verses of the prophecy of Isaiah appears Cecilia McDowall’s The Lord is Good, a setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah and the prophet Hosea. Commissioned in 2012 by the Oxford-based choir Sospiri, McDowall’s composition employs two soprano soloists as well as full choir, the soloists lamenting, often wordlessly, above the Lamentations of Jeremiah which are sung by the chorus, the homophony of the latter making the quasi-canonic writing for the soloists all the more pathetic.
Other interests include languages (her BA is in French and German), travel, reading and fitness. She is a Knight of the Grand Order of Vitéz and a Knight of the Order of St. Ladislau (Hungary).
Katherine is married to Patrick Williams, and they have a daughter (Guildford Cathedral girl chorister) Hannah.
|1||04:17||Erbarm’ dich mein, O Herre Gott | J.S.Bach|
|2||09:46||Ne irascaris Domine | Civitas sancti tui | William Byrd|
|3||05:43||The Lord is good | Cecilia McDowell|
|4||07:46||Anthems at the Mandatum | Nicholas White|
|5||02:29||Ubi Caritas | Maurice Duruflé|
|6||07:09||Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst | Rudolf Mauersberger|
|7||03:40||O vos omnes | Pablo Casals|
|8||02:03||Ye that pasen by | Benjamin Britten|
|9||05:26||A song of wisdom | Charles Stanford|
|10||04:03||O for a closer walk with God | Vharles Stanford|
|11||03:03||Easter Anthems | Brian Runnett|
|12||06:15||Christ Rising | William Byrd|
|13||03:30||Ecce vicit Leo | Peter Philips|
|14||05:19||Fête (Op. 51)|