Music for Lent and Easter
Over the centuries Lent and Easter have inspired composers to write some of their most enduring works. Though the Cathedral Choirs are unable to sing in person this year, we do hope this list of some of our favorite music will add beauty and meaning to your observance of this holy time.
Anne Shepherd, soprano
Crucifixus, Antonio Lotti (1667-1740)
This piece increasingly builds in tension, heard in the layering of dissonant voices, as Christ's agony increases. As death approaches, one can imagine Christ crying out to his Father, then releasing this life as he breathes his last.
Richard Schafer, bass
Ubi Caritas, Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986)
I have loved this piece for many years. The haunting chant of the introduction that turns into the serenity of the ending always gets to me. And it’s a joy to sing.
John Proffitt, bass
Christus factus est, Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
This is not only a masterpiece from Bruckner, originating during the period of composition of his Eighth Symphony, but it stands as one of the great a cappella choral compositions in the entire repertoire: symphonically dramatic with its dynamic range of ppp to fff, yet breathtakingly mystic and inward-looking, all in the space of about six minutes.
Ann Miller, soprano
Hymn 439, “What Wondrous Love”
The words remind of us Christ’s priceless gift to us. He gave his life that we might live.
David Miller, tenor
Os Justi Meditabitur, Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)
I love the Septura Brass recording.
Catherine Whitney, alto
Miserere ("Have mercy on me, O God") Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652)
A setting of Psalm 51, this was composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for the exclusive use of the Sistine Chapel during the Tenebrae services of Holy Week. The soprano line expresses a cry for mercy so deep and so hauntingly beautiful that, once heard, it cannot be forgotten. This exquisite piece is perfect for the Triduum.
Joe Heusi, bass
Tenebrae factae sunt (“Darkness fell”), Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
This setting from Four Penitential Motets is an incredible challenge for any choir and one of my favorites.
Madeleine Hussy, soprano
Never Weather Beaten Sail, Richard Shephard (b. 1948)
This piece is contemplative and full of the kind of longing we feel during Lent, wanting to "die unto self" as we prepare for Easter.
Hal Watson, bass
Lord, For Thy Tender Mercy’s Sake, Richard Farrant (c. 1525-1580)
This is for me the absolutely perfect piece for the first Sunday in Lent, as the lyrics capture perfectly the theme of the season.
Claudia Watson, alto
Hymn 458, “My Song is Love Unknown”
This hymn brings me to tears every time I sing it. I always thought that it takes the listener from the highs of Palm Sunday to the depths of the Passion in a few beautiful, heartbreaking stanzas. Then I am in awe of the gift we received through Christ's life, death and resurrection.
Lindsey Overstreet, soprano
In Monte Oliveti, Marc Antonio Ingegneri (c. 1540–1592)
One of my favorite services since I started singing in the Episcopal church has been Tenebrae, which is usually held on Wednesday of Holy Week, so I thought I'd submit one of my favorites from that service. This is actually a recording from the choir I sang with in Boston. It's not the best recording ever, but it made me happy to see some familiar faces.
Nancy Ellis, alto
Let this mind be in you, Lee Hoiby (1926-2011)
I was a bit ambivalent about this piece for some time. Then around ten years ago we sang it on Palm Sunday and I “got it” and was greatly moved. The final moments are breathtaking after all the solemnity of the Liturgy of the day. The composer did have a marvelous text to work with.
Charlotte Jones, alto
Hear My Prayer, O Lord, Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
This is definitely my favorite piece for this season. It captures the sorrowful feelings of Holy Week and prepares us for the joy of Easter morning.
Marilyn Dyess, soprano
O Nata Lux (O Light born of Light), Morten Lauridsen (1943)
I think some of the most hauntingly beautiful choral music ever written is by Morton Lauridsen.
It seems appropriate for Lent to me since Lent is a time of darkness and the Light of Jesus Christ comes to us on Easter Day.
Cliff Rudsill, bass
Alleluia, Randall Thompson (1899-1984)
This is personally meaningful to me because it was my audition piece for Bill Barnard at Christ Church Cathedral and because of its connection to Tanglewood (written for the first Music Center opening exercises and performed every year since 1940 except once during WW ll and last summer because of the pandemic).