So I hope you had a Happy Easter this spring, if that celebration happens to be applicable to you. This spring, I have to tellya: our church’s choir director, professional singers, and clergy outdid themselves. What an amazing performance on Easter Eve and then again on Easter morning.
The Easter Eve service is always more or less the same — a strange, wonderful, and dramatic series of traditions that involves lighting an elaborate candle with the flame from a blessed bonfire, a procession and lengthy chanting in the dark, lighting of parishioner’s candles, a Litany of the Saints (also in the dark, with the choir marching around by candlelight), recitation of a sermon by St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407), a communion — oh, and by the way, a couple of baptisms. All of this conducted by clergy decked out in gold-embroidered crimson robes.
The effect of the Easter Eve service was just jaw-dropping. At one point I could not refrain from saying aloud, “What an astonishing religion!” My friend who sits next to me (we’re still in the choir loft at this point) is herself an ordained minister. She also looked astonished. She looked at me wide-eyed and said, “I’ve been with the church for a long time, and I’ve never seen anything as amazing as this.”
On Good Friday, after the Stations of the Cross, we sang Paul Mealor’s Stabat Mater, a pretty amazing piece of music. Yesterday — Easter — we sang Rutter’s Gloria, even more amazing and, to my mind, very challenging. Our director recruited a group of brass players (!) to accompany the full choir — that would be the professional chamber choir plus us of the sing-along set, and he also arranged a string section to accompany the chamber choir, which sang at the early service.
The Chamber Choir sang Pawel Lukaszewski’s Responsoria Tenebrae, an astonishingly complex work, a kind of choral tapestry.
All in all, it was an awe-inspiring accomplishment on the part of our choir director and clergy.
If you love classical music and vocal performance of ecclesiastical music and you’re in the Phoenix area, you need to visit All Saints Episcopal Church during its music season, which runs from fall through spring. Don’t miss it!
6300 North Central Avenue
Just south of Maryland on Central