I am arranging some hymns for brass quintet for Easter Day, but other items just keep piling up on my piano! It’s like there’s a great magnet sunk deep under the strings somewhere, so that everything in the house that requires a surface comes to rest here eventually.
Holy Week happens every year, but every year I am astonished at how much musical preparation is required to pull off this epic liturgical event at St. Mary Magdalene. There are 11 musical services between Palm Sunday and Easter Day involving scores of selfless volunteer musicians and an incredible list of music: Weelkes, Palestrina, Victoria, Howells, Willan, Martin, Byrd, Allegri and two world premieres all figure in the mix. We will sing Tenebrae on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, which includes our own subdued version of the Allgeri Miserere and Willan’s own Tenebrae responses alongside many psalms chanted in the darkened church. If you stay around long enough on Maundy Thursday you could encounter something we call “secret music” but I can’t tell you anything about that since it is a secret. Good Friday liturgy at noon also has a wonderful bit of Willan – his Reproaches written in 1912 before he came to Canada. These were not sung at SMM until we revived them 3 years ago and recorded them on our Willan CD. The Vigil is the highlight of Holy Week for me, with the lighting of the new fire and the singing of the Exultet, ringing of bells, baptisms and the return of the Gloria. But long before that happens brass parts need to be written out, Passion roles rehearsed, vestments laundered, lamentations practiced, candles trimmed and organs tuned – everything to prepare for the grand finale of Easter morning.
There’s nothing quite like this experience, especially the great feeling of accomplishment when it’s all finally over. Maybe we’ll see you there?