Palm/Passion Sunday

Holy Week 2017 — Through Death to Life Series Overview

Palm/Passion Sunday, Year A

Palm/Passion Sunday recapitulates the beginning and the end of Christ’s final week in Jerusalem. We move from a triumphal procession and its stirring of hope as our entrance rite to hearing of a very different kind of procession, a forced march with a crucifix, to conclude it.


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King of Kings

This short, cyclical canon is a wonderful addition to the congregational singing repertoire and a prime example of lively music in the klezmer style. The tune of this short text is a Hebrew folk song, but its bouncy rhythm and wailing character allow this work to give life to singing in worship. For the purposes of worship this week, we encourage you to begin slowly and allow it to gradually speed up as the procession begins and energy increases. Since it would begin outside (or at least in another location in the church building), I would recommend accompaniment with portable instruments such as a tambourine or hand drum, and a melodic instrument such as a recorder or clarinet. You will find that the clarinet, especially played one octave higher, will add to the Eastern European flair of the klezmer style. If you choose to sing in canon, be sure to have choir members and/or melodic instruments supporting both parts 1 and 2. Also be sure to engage any dancers--whether children, youth, or adults — within your congregation to lead the procession! Their energy will help participants respond positively to this ritual action.

All Glory, Laud, and Honor

The very tune of this hymn is a regal pairing with the text by Theodulph of Orleans as translated by John Mason Neale. Because it is one of the most used hymns on Palm Sunday across many Christian traditions, there are also plenty of resources available for a variety of musical settings. See websites of the following publishers to learn more about what might be available for handbells, instrumental music, and/or adult, youth, and children’s choirs:

Other websites also feature settings of this hymn, too, so do your homework! Find an arrangement that can work for your setting. If singing without multiple instruments, organ makes the best accompaniment to keep the character bold. Find a two-octave handbell setting of ST. THEODULPH here (keep in mind that this is not a suitable key for congregational singing. It is intended for handbells only). View and download vocal descant for this hymn »

Read History of Hymns: "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" »

He Has Made Me Glad

This hymn of praise includes texts from Psalm 100 and 118, the latter of which is recommended as a part of today’s lectionary Scriptures. Be aware, though, that as the title indicates, masculine language is contained throughout. In order for the character of this congregational song to find fullness, the tempo must be kept lively and no slower than quarter note = 112. Any combination of instruments--from organ/piano to full band and any ensemble in between--can support the singing. If you are in the search for another setting of Psalm 118:24 and are used to singing “This Is the Day,” “He Has Made Me Glad” can serve as a substitute.


Jim Strathdee has created this simple, call-and-response song that contains the language of Palm Sunday and commitments to welcome and follow Christ. The tune is very gentle and lilting, but the first stanza of “Hosannas” can be sung with more fervor if desired. Melodically, it slightly resembles the well-known song, “Frère Jacques,” and it is equally as easy to sing. Accompany with piano or organ, but if you know the Strathdees, you will also know that guitar and a possible solo wind instrument in this folk style is also welcomed.

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Singing plainchant in The United Methodist Church has not traditionally been a popular form of congregational singing, but using plainchant melodies can bring a great deal of creativity to the worship service. I have sung this with congregations and all ages of choirs, and it is always a favorite. However, there is a little bit of skill required in leading it. Looking at the setting of it in The United Methodist Hymnal, it would be very easy to play and sing it rigidly. I advocate singing it in unison with a D or D/A pedalpoint from the organ or piano. Add in a random ring from handbells using D, F#, A, and B; or if your organ has a zimbelstern, feel free to use it as a part of the accompaniment. If instrumental accompaniment is used, include only a pedalpoint and the melody with no additional harmony. Sing each phrase freely, and take enough time to get a good breath at the end of each measure. Alternate the singing between women and men, or alternating sides of the sanctuary seating. Using plainchant in creative ways can add a spark to your worship services that chorale-style hymn settings simply cannot do. If desired, view and download another setting using a traditional Polish tune.

Read History of Hymns: "Of the Father's Love Begotten" »

Lead Me to the Cross

Using this song from Hillsong Music Publishing creates an ideal pivot point in this service as the movement turns from palms to passion. Even though this song can be used congregationally, it is also appropriate in this style to have it sung as a solo or piece with band and praise team. Accompaniment can vary from solo piano or guitar to full band. Regardless, do not double the melody with the instrumental accompaniment. Allow the voice to stand alone, with other vocalists on melody and harmony. A trend in many live performance and concert venues today is for the audience/congregation to join in a repetitive vocal ostinato during the bridge. It would be possible for the congregation to sing the “to your heart” line and for the soloist to ornament the melody above that line. Even if this is a solo work, put in the time to find ways to engage the congregation past mere listening.

What Wondrous Love

This familiar American folk tune and shape-note melody can be presented in a variety of ways, from a chorale-like setting in The United Methodist Hymnal, to a darker, more minimalist approach with singing akin to the plainchant before (D/A pedalpoint and unison melody). If this is the way you plan to sing this hymn, begin with a solo voice for a stark quality that sits in paradox to the “wondrous love” of the hymn itself. Since this is a largely pentatonic melody, it is also possible to sing in canon, with two or three parts entering one measure apart. Accompany with piano, organ, guitar, or string and wind instruments, or sing a cappella. This hymn, as is the case with many shape-note compositions, is quite versatile. Read History of Hymns: "What Wondrous Love" »

Beneath the Cross

Written by nineteenth-century Scottish hymn writer, Elizabeth Clephane, this hymn offers comfort at the cross of Jesus and continues the move toward the passion narrative. Jesus is seen as the “mighty rock within a weary land,” “a home within the wilderness,” and “a rest upon the way.” Singing this during Holy Communion creates a space for grace and offers a gaze toward the crucifixion. Accompany with organ or piano. However, for those churches with bands, you may be surprised how many in your congregation know this hymn. Because the tune centers on a few primary chords, it is easy to accompany this with a simple lead sheet. View and download a simple 2-octave setting of this hymn arranged by Dean McIntyre. Read History of Hymns "Beneath the Cross" »

Come Save

We cannot ignore the irony of the chants of “Hosanna” at the beginning of this service. Singing this hymn at the end of this service allows us to revisit those chants and more deeply understand what would eventually happen when Jesus was crucified. The tune is very singable, but it might involve some teaching--maybe in previous weeks or other venues within the church. The verses themselves are fairly repetitive, but it might be ideal to welcome the congregation to sing only on the chorus if it is unfamiliar. Accompany with piano, guitar, or full band. The ideal key is D minor.

The Wonderful Cross

One of the reasons “The Wonderful Cross” is so popular is because of its inclusion of a long-favorite hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Similar in style to “Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone,” Chris Tomlin and others have continued the tradition of using a familiar hymn and adding a chorus. This hymn in particular is very simple because it only contains the original stanzas of the hymn and the new chorus, with no bridge or additional material. It can be accompanied by a variety of instruments from piano/organ to full band, and the ideal key is D. Make sure not to double the melody in the chorus with the instrumental accompaniment. The syncopation found in that section can easily become bogged down and clumsy when that occurs. For more commentary from a Wesleyan perspective, be sure to visit the CCLI Top 100 project and search for this song.

Salvation Story

I have created this new hymn as a way to trace the path of the salvation narrative through Scripture. It is a simple song that was composed on the planning retreat for the Holy Week resources and contains two choruses, one for use on Palm Sunday and one for Easter Sunday. From creation to exile, from death to life, this short song moves toward a chorus of Hosannas and Alleluias. Accompaniment can be as simple as a solo guitar or piano, or as complex as a full band. Ideal key can range from D to E, depending on the singing range of your congregation. The score is presented in E. View and download Salvation Story »

In This Series...

Passion/Palm Sunday — Planning Notes Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday — Planning Notes Holy Friday/Good Friday — Planning Notes Easter Sunday — Planning Notes Easter Sunrise — Planning Notes


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In This Series...

Passion/Palm Sunday — Planning Notes Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday — Planning Notes Holy Friday/Good Friday — Planning Notes Easter Sunday — Planning Notes Easter Sunrise — Planning Notes