Sunday, 31 March 2013

Holy Week music - ancient and modern.

Today is Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate Our Lord's Resurrection from the dead  - the greatest Feast-day of the Christian Church; the victory of life over death, good over evil. St Paul tells us that if Christ is not risen from the dead, our faith is all in vain.   

                 Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat

St Mark  XVI  v. 1-7
             'At that time, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, brought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they come to the sepulchre, the sun now being risen. And they said one to another: Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And looking, they saw the stone rolled back; for it was very great.  And entering into the sepulchre,they saw a young man sitting on the right side clothed with a white robe: and they were astonished. Who saith to them: Be not affrighted; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: He is risen, He is not here, behold the place where they laid Him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee; there you shall see Him, as He told you.'                          

A day for great rejoicing, alleluia!     - Alleluia Chorus, from Handel's Messiah, sung by the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge, with the Academy of Ancient Music, conducted by Stephen Cleobury. Truly magnificent!


Here on the small island of  Stronsay in Orkney, we have a small group of singing enthusiasts who meet weekly to enjoy a musical evening under the guidance of our  musical director Michael Lee, who selflessly gives of his time and expertise - a two hour boat trip each way from Kirkwall in all weathers, plus an enforced overnight stay on Stronsay, to guide us through the intricacies of a varied and sometimes challenging musical menu.

As it happens, this includes a very beautiful short work by Peter Tchaikovsky, entitled the 'Crown of Roses', which is particularly relevant to Holy Week. I cannot pretend that our performance bears comparison to the one below, but on a really good night we persuade ourselves that we might be making progress!

'The Crown of Roses'- by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

When Jesus Christ was yet a child
He had a garden small and wild
Wherein he cherished roses fair
And wove them into garlands there.

Now once as summer-time drew nigh
There came a troop of children by.
And seeing roses on the tree
With shouts they plucked them merrily.

"Do you bind roses in your hair?"
They cried in scorn to Jesus there.
The boy said humbly: "Take I pray,
All but the naked thorns away."

Then of the thorns they made a crown,
And with rough fingers pressed it down.
Till on his forehead fair and young,
Red drops of blood, like roses sprung.       -  Sung by Coro ARS XXI in the Assumption of the Virgin Cathedral, Jaen, Spain.

N.B. Interestingly, earlier this week our Holy Father, Pope Francis, formally approved the cause for beatification  of the Bishop of Jaen, martyred in the Spanish Civil War


                    'Assumption of the Virgin' Cathedral, Jaen, Spain.

Finally, a simple but rather beautiful contemporary work, 'Nostra gloria e la croce' composed by Marco Frisina,  and particularly appropriate for Holy Week. 


Non c'è amore più grande
di chi dona la sua vita.
O Croce tu doni la vita
e splendi di gloria immortale.

O Albero della vita
che ti innalzi come un vessillo,
tu guidaci verso la meta,
o segno potente di grazia.

Tu insegni ogni sapienza
e confondi ogni stoltezza;
in te contempliamo l'amore,
da te riceviamo la vita.

                                    Mgr. Marco Frisina

'YouTube' has a wide selection of sacred works composed by Mgr. Marco Frisina, the Director of the Pastoral Worship Centre at the Vatican.


'Under the old law men might have doubted whether God loved them with a tender love; but after having seen Him shed His blood on an infamous gibbet and die for us, how can we doubt His loving us with infinite tenderness and affection?'
(Thoughts from St. Alphonsus - March 31)

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, guide and protect our Holy Father, Pope Francis. 


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