One of the most moving and solemn services of the entire year happens on Good Friday and begins with a silent procession continued from the end of the Maundy Thursday liturgy. It is the one service for which the choir wears only cassocks, no cottas. Nearly the entire service is sung, and all a cappella at that — there is no sermon and no communion. The only parts which are spoken are the prayers and the lessons. In essence, the choir becomes the “organ” for this service, and sings the hymns both in unison and in four-part harmony.
Peter Hallock’s “Turn us again, o Lord of hosts,” opened the service, beginning with men’s chant and one low handbell. Next came Hallock’s Psalm 22, accompanied only by handbells. In fact, you can hear a recording of this psalm we videotaped last summer. Other than bells, the only “musical instrument” heard all evening was a pitchpipe.
The heart of the service is the singing of the solemn chants of the St. John Passion, with interpolations by Tomás Luis de Victoria (c.1505–1585). Allen Bauchle was the narrator, Keane Ishii sang the words of Jesus, and Ian Capps sang all the other parts of people in the synagogue: Pilate, Peter, and one maid. The choir sang all the dramatic crowd scenes, commenting on the action. What was amazing that the singers did not lose the pitch even though the piece lasts nearly half an hour.
The other major choral piece was The Reproaches by Victoria, with the main choir down on the floor singing in alternation with a quartet (Rachel Lentz, Jerelyn Watanabe, Allen Bauchle and David Del Rocco) who sang from inside the closet in the loft with the door barely cracked open. This very somber anthem is sung as the Taizé icon cross is placed on the floor of the altar, adorned with burning candles. It is a time for meditation and reflection, austerity and silence. We did not record our performance, but if you would like to hear the music, you can click here.
We again departed in silence.