This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday (Sunday of the Passion), and the service begins outside in the courtyard. The choir will sing a setting of “Hosanna to the son of David,” (this year by Hutchings) and I’m always amazed at how resonant they sound outdoors. Then the whole congregation will walk around the outside of the church, singing “All glory, laud and honor.” In the 38 years since Carl’s been at LCH, the parade has only been rained on once, and people were limited to walking under the courtyard eaves instead of around the church. A brass quartet is hired to keep the congregation on pitch, but people still get lost as to which verse we’re on! Also the parade gets v-e-r-y long, with the crucifer leading followed by some choir members, then the brass quartet, then the congregation, with the balance of the choir members bringing up the rear. I am usually sitting inside the nave at the organ console when the Palm Sunday procession goes around the church and it’s quite something to hear the first half of the hymn in my right ear sung simultaneously as the last half in my left ear — and not exactly together! That’s because the front of the procession is so far ahead of the back of the procession.
Some of our former LCH choristers live a block away, and last year I remember seeing on her FaceBook page that she could hear the Palm Sunday music from her apartment. I guess it makes quite a show for the neighbors!
When everyone is back in the courtyard, the brass start a grand fanfare on Carl’s setting of “Ride on, ride on in majesty,” and I play an organ improvisation as the congregation enters the nave.
After the Passion reading, which will this year be dramatized by an all-female cast, the mood of the service changes. The choir will be singing Anton Bruckner’s dramatic Christus factus est for the Offertory and McNeil Robinson’s haunting Improperium for the Communion.
The dramatic contrasts in the Palm Sunday music are what make this day so memorable.