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“The Easter Song”

TITLE: "The Easter Song"
AUTHOR: Anne Herring
TUNE: EASTER SONG
COMPOSER: Annie Herring
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3090
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:5-7; Luke 24:5b-7
TOPIC: Angels, Easter, joy, Resurrection, risen Christ

Background

Annie Herring (born Annie Ward, September 22, 1945) was a pioneer of what was called Jesus music in the 1960s, now known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). She was largely self-taught and grew up singing with her family around the piano. She was part of the trio, 2nd Chapter of Acts, which also included her brother Matthew Ward and sister Nelly (Ward) Greisen. Anne did most of the song writing and sang lead and harmony. Singer Pat Boone noticed the group and was instrumental in their receiving an MGM recording contract for two singles in 1972-73. The group survived until 1988, when each member went his or her own way. Annie continued writing, recording, and singing as a solo artist. "The Easter Song" was composed in 1971, first recorded in 1974, and later recorded and released on the album "How the West Was Won" in 1977. In 1998 CCM Magazine named "Easter Song" as the number four Christian song of all time.

"According to Annie, Easter Song came about in the spring, around Easter time. She was sitting in front of the piano, and she said to Jesus, 'You know, Father, I would really like to have a present.' He answered her, 'All right, here's a present.' And He gave her Easter Song."*

Music

"The Easter Song" faithfully tells the story of Jesus' resurrection from the Gospels, especially from Matthew 28:5-7, the events of that Sunday morning, and the great joy that resulted in Jesus' followers. The music is filled with excitement, anticipation and joy. The music is in AABC form: A = ms. 1-9 (repeated); B = 10-26; C = ms. 27-44, dividing the song into three roughly equal sections.

  • Section A: Quarter notes move in rapid repetition with a harmonic pattern of two beats on one chord followed by one beat on another. The shift of meter from 3/4 – 2/4 – 3/4 approaching the cadence allows for an effective and dramatic declamation of the climactic text, "we can be born again" and "Christ is risen from the dead."
  • Section B: The harmony shifts between the minor mediant and relative minor harmonies, ending on the major. Rhythmically this section introduces some longer half and dotted half notes missing from Section A.
  • Section C: While the same quick tempo and excited spirit animates all three sections, section C uses it to underscore a series of longer note value melodic patterns and the climactic conclusion of the entire song.

It has been said that the opening introductory measures of "The Easter Song" are the most recognizable of any introduction in all of contemporary Christian music.

Words

Section A links two great biblical truths: "We can be born again" and "Christ is risen from the dead." Section B provides the Easter morning details: After the earthquake and the angel rolling back the stone, the angel, now sitting atop the stone, tells the Marys, "He is risen. Quickly go and tell his disciples that Jesus Christ is no longer dead." Section C is a great hymn of celebration, "Joy to the world, he is risen! Alleluia!"

There are two other well-known songs that use the "Joy to the world" phrase:

  • The Isaac Watts text of the familiar Christmas carol, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come," composed in 1719.
  • The Three Dog Night rock & roll song, "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog…Joy to the World," first released in 1970.

Annie Herring most certainly knew the Christmas carol; and it is possible, perhaps even probable, that she also knew the Three Dog Night song. But such knowledge is inconsequential. What is important is that she recognized the importance and power of the phrase "Joy to the world" to convey something of tremendous importance and effectively set that phrase to music.

Sources

See more Hymn Studies.

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