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Holy Friday/Good Friday — Music Notes

April 14, 2017 (Year A) | Holy Week: Through Death to Life Worship Series
by Rev. Jackson Henry

Order of Worship Preaching Hymns Music  Planning Formation Groups Resources

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

This hymn occupies some serious real estate in The United Methodist Hymnal (301), particularly because it is on the page opposite from “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” which is sung in almost every United Methodist church on Easter morning. Fanny Crosby has penned one of the most well-known works in any hymnic repertoire with this poem, which places the singer at the foot of the cross, considering the crucifixion and its expression of God’s love for humanity and each of us. One of the best ways to experience this hymn in worship is to sing it a cappella. The simple harmony and the musical movement toward the climax in the second measure of the refrain make it a congregational favorite. It is easy, however, when singing without instrumental accompaniment, for the tempo to drag and become problematic. Make sure your choir is well rehearsed in maintaining the rhythm--not just in your choir room, but in the sanctuary as well! The acoustics learned in one room rarely translate to another. Read History of Hymns: "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross" »

Go to Dark Gethsemane

This classic passion hymn transports the singer to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed before his arrest, as recounted in Matthew 26. This chorale setting is beautiful, but it also adds a certain amount of discomfort that you may not be aware of. Regardless of where in the range the tune ends a phrase, the next phrase always begins on the original Eb. This may not sound very significant, but the return to Eb is so relentless that by the end of singing the melody on four stanzas of this hymn, you will have sung that one note 48 times! In most tunes, beginning notes of phrases will either be close to the end of the previous phrase, or there will at least be some variety in the location within the voice. Only after singing the REDHEAD 76 tune will it become apparent that this compositional approach is atypical. In the case of this service, however, you will note the use of the hymn interspersed between readings, so the relentlessness may not be felt in quite the same way. The favored accompaniment with this hymn is organ. Read History of Hymns: "Go to Dark Gethsemane" »

To Mock Your Reign, O Dearest Lord

Fred Pratt Green has crafted a hymn full of imagery that centers upon the objects given to Jesus as he was ridiculed as a king: a crown of thorns, a purple cloak, and a sceptered reed. Make note, however, that this hymn draws upon multiple gospels and, therefore, creates its own standard of how the story was told. None of the Scriptures referenced in this hymn (Matthew 27:27-31, Mark 15:16-20, John 19:1-5) contains all of these items exactly as described by the hymn writer, but the Scriptures do help us create an image of what Jesus’ time with Pilate and the Roman soldiers might have been like. There are a variety of ways to accompany KINGSFOLD--with organ, piano, guitar, or other instrumental ensemble (as in Rory Cooney’s “Canticle of the Turning” from GIA Publications, Inc., giamusic.com). Be sure, however, to focus on the percussiveness of the consonants. Fred Pratt Green gives the congregation words to sing in ways not many other writers have been able to duplicate. Read History of Hymns: "To Mock Your Reign, O Dearest Lord" »

Ah, Holy Jesus

One of my favorite settings of HERZLIEBSTER JESU is an organ work by composer Helmut Walcha that resembles a march to the gallows. It achieves a level of darkness, minimalism, and sorrow not reached by many other settings. Another beautiful setting for choir arranged by Hal Hopson can be found through GIA Publications, G-5791. However, the traditional setting by Johann Crüger in The United Methodist Hymnal offers a haunting, sorrowful look at the crucifixion as well. The hymn text by Johann Heermann offers a set of questions in stanzas 1 and 2 that interrogates Jesus in the same way one would expect at a trial. In answering these questions in stanzas 3-5, we find that we are truly the ones on trial. For the purposes of this service, we recommend singing stanzas 1 and 2 to coincide with Jesus’ experience with Pilate and the frantic crowd. If using the traditional setting from the hymnal, the ideal accompaniment is organ. Leading with an a cappella choir is also appropriate.

Were You There

Time is shifted in the singing of this African American spiritual, in which the singer asks in stanza 5, “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?” Though it is not possible for us to have physically been present, this spiritual uses anamnesis to bring the past into our present day. Many congregations are familiar with this spiritual and can sing it fervently. However, it is also a wonderful spiritual for a soloist. How it is presented in different settings may vary from community to community. Be sure to take your time, not singing too quickly. A slightly rubato (played and sung freely) approach to the music is encouraged, with an absence of firm beats within the music. The ideal accompaniment is either organ or piano. Read History of Hymns: "Were You There" »

 

Categories: Year A, Good Friday - April 14, 2017