Music for Holy Week

Holy Week is almost upon us! May God use that week to help you reflect on His great love for you, shown in the sacrifice of His Son to earn your salvation. Listen to the pieces below as part of your daily devotions during Holy Week, and encourage your members to use them in the same way. You can also use these pieces if you are still making last-minute additions to your worship music.

Sunday of the Passion (Palm Sunday)

“Prepare the Royal Highway” (LSB 343) from Three Preludes on Swedish Hymns by Christopher M. Wicks

Christopher Wicks’s prelude for “Prepare the Royal Highway” transports listeners to a royal parade. The majestic, lively mood is one of crowds lining the streets and cheering for their King as He enters Jerusalem! In Lutheran Service Book, this hymn is listed in the Advent section, but the theme of preparing the way of the Lord applies to Palm Sunday as well. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus to come—and Jesus came to die on the cross to forgive us and rise again to give us eternal life.

Monday in Holy Week

“O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig” from Reformation Suite for Brass Quartet and Organ by Benjamin M. Culli
Brass Quartet and Organ

The Hymn of the Day for Monday in Holy Week is “Lamb of God, Pure and Holy” (LSB 434). Benjamin Culli’s arrangement of the hymn’s tune is sensitive and gripping. Listeners are reminded of the calm surety with which Jesus headed toward the cross, but also of His pain in knowing what was awaiting Him there. While the hymn opens and closes the piece, the middle features an arrangement of J. S. Bach’s Neumeister setting of the tune.

Tuesday in Holy Week

“On My Heart Imprint Your Image” (LSB 422) from Hymn Prelude Library: Lutheran Service Book, Vol. 3 (DE) edited by Kevin Hildebrand

The text for “On My Heart Imprint Your Image” could be a prayer. In these words, we ask God to help us center our lives around Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and not around the cares and materials of this world. What a great reminder as we prepare for Good Friday and Easter Day! The hymn text reads as follows:

On my heart imprint Your image,
Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation!

Wednesday in Holy Week

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (LSB 426) by Peter Niedmann
2-Part Mixed Voices and Piano

Peter Niedmann’s poignant arrangement of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is accessibly written for two-part mixed voices. The piece moves gently, building to a round and full sound in the final stanza. LSB has two tunes for this hymn: HAMBURG and ROCKINGHAM OLD. Niedmann’s setting uses ROCKINGHAM OLD. This hymn is the appointed one for Wednesday in Holy Week, but the piece can also be used on Good Friday.

Holy Thursday

The Lamb” (LSB 547) by Sandra Eithun
3–6 Octave Handbells, Optional Handchimes, Optional Solo or Unison Voices

As listeners hear “The Lamb,” they will be reminded that Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb whose blood bought our redemption. This is an excellent musical theme for a Holy Thursday service, when we celebrate Jesus’ institution of Holy Communion and receive His very body and blood. Sandra Eithun’s piece features lyrical lines that are enhanced by handchimes and create a lovely, flowing pattern as the backdrop for the touching melody. Each stanza increases in emotion and intensity to match the text.

Good Friday

The Cross of Christ Gives Light and Life” by Benjamin M. Culli
SATB and Organ

As we remember the disciples’ despair on that first Good Friday, the text of “The Cross of Christ Gives Light and Life” comforts us with Easter hope: Jesus defeating death and rising again! This piece includes unison, two-part, three-part, and easy four-part writing, all supported by a simple and gentle accompaniment. It is warm and lovely, rich and varied, yet still easily learned. It also features a new text. Here is stanza four:

Upon the cross You bore the weight
Of sin and death, of shame and hate.
You take our grief and deepest fear;
Your cross gives hope and healing here.

Holy Saturday

Entrust Your Days and Burdens” (LSB 754) by Stephen R. Johnson

Children’s Choir (Unison or Two-Part) and Piano

After the pain and horror of the cross on Good Friday, “Entrust Your Days and Burdens” reminds listeners that God will never abandon them. And He always keeps His promises—He even raised Jesus from the dead after three days just like He said He would! This arrangement features unison voices and stylish piano accompaniment. The optional descant adds an extra layer for more advanced children’s choirs.

For more Holy Week music, listen to our playlist.

Listen to Holy Week Playlist

Picture of Mark Knickelbein
Written by

Mark Knickelbein

Mark Knickelbein is editor of music/worship at Concordia Publishing House and an active composer and church musician. His compositional focus is on choral, piano, and organ church music. He has a Bachelor of Science in education from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, MN, and a Master of Arts in music from Concordia University Chicago. He previously served Trinity Lutheran in Kaukauna, WI, as principal, teacher, organist, and choir director.

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