Over the past few days I’ve been extensively interviewed by the local Star-Advertiser on how Lutherans celebrate Holy Week. (Look for the article in this Saturday’s paper.) I guess last year they interviewed the Catholics and this year they decided to do Lutherans. Even though I am merely the organist (and do a few other things besides!) I guess I’ve been around the block a few times — literally! It’s my 34th Holy Week at LCH and I told the interviewer that this year Palm Sunday will contain old and new elements — some things we do every year, and a few new pieces as well. This is the Sunday in which the congregation meets outside in the courtyard and processes around the church into the neighborhood before entering the nave.
In all the years I’ve been here, it has never rained on Palm Sunday! at least, not hard enough to “rain on our parade.” Here’s the weather forecast for Sunday: 81° F. and Sunny. Saved again!
In the last few days, there has been a discussion on the Lutheran Church Musicians’ FaceBook page about Palm Sunday processions and how the congregation does or doesn’t stay together musically. At LCH the procession gets so long and stretched out, but at least we make the attempt. We hire a brass quartet to play “All Glory Laud and Honor” and they are placed strategically in the middle. In spite of being able to be heard from at least two blocks away (I know this, because a former chorister heard us from her apartment last year!) it’s still pretty difficult to stay together.
The first year I did join the procession but got hopelessly lost on which verse we were supposed to sing. In subsequent years I have stayed inside the church and sat at the organ, ready to come in on Carl Crosier’s setting of “Ride on, ride on in majesty.” It is the most unbelievable sound to hear snatches of “All Glory, Laud and Honor” go round about the church. With one ear you can hear one phrase, and with the other ear, other phrases hopelessly mixed up, all sung simultaneously!
The new elements this year will be the singing of four Tenebrae motets by British composer, Paul Crabtree (b. 1960). Two of them will be sung on Palm Sunday, one will be sung Maundy Thursday and another will be sung at the close of the Good Friday service.
Here’s a description of Crabtree’s music from his website: Paul Crabtree’s innovative music explores the worlds of popular culture and highbrow art to find what is eternal in the everyday.
These are the not the first Crabtree pieces we have sung — last fall the choir sang his setting of “My Lord, What a Morning.” These particular pieces, though, are quite different, and the choir has been challenged to learn them. They are part of a larger collection called “Tenebrae Responsories on Songs by Bob Dylan.” Crabtree repeats phrases over and over and uses repetitive motifs to express the texts.
Palm Sunday is the beginning of our Holy Week marathon!