Holy Week, that crowning week of the Church Year taking us through the Passion of our Lord to His glorious resurrection, has passed and with it some of the most beautiful and wonderful music many of us hear in church during the year. I invite you to take a moment to reflect on that music and to revel in your recollection.
The organ swelled, the choir’s descant soared above the hymn melody, the brass declared the glory of the Lord, the congregation thundered to the heavens. By the time our two-and-a-quarter-hour Palm Sunday service concluded, I was ready for a hearty meal and a three-hour nap. But I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way. The concluding stanza of our final Distribution Hymn, stanza 15 of “O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken” (LSB 439), practically brought me to our Father’s throne in heaven as our organist teased every ounce of grandeur out of the instrument. Minutes later, “No Tramp of Soldiers’ Marching Feet” (LSB 444) almost blew the roof off the church as brass, organ, and choir supplemented a robust congregational chorus and brought our service to a wondrous end anticipating the remainder of Holy Week.
I’m not trying to prove any points here. I’m just enjoying the remembrance of such things.
Your church may not have brass or a large choir or any number of other things, but I’m sure you had at least one, if not many, glorious musical moments during Holy Week. I’m nodding to you knowingly through my computer screen. Have you, too, sat mesmerized in your pew? Have you, too, been nearly unable to contain yourself during the final stanza of a hymn as the organist’s hands and feet flew over the keys and pedals more like a magician than a musician?
Have you, too, sat still and silent and wondered at truth as the choir wails Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me”?
Have you, too, sensed the anticipation while your pastor chanted the Proper Preface at the Great Vigil of Easter?
Have you, too, poured forth your voice in “Alleluias!” on Easter Day? Have you, too, grinned your way through “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” (LSB 457) or felt the goosebumps on your skin while concluding with confidence “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (LSB 461) or declaring your place “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing” (LSB 633)?
Have you, too, like me, loved music?
Makers of Music
Thanks be to God for His wondrous gift of melody and harmony, of instruments and voices and rhythm and a rich treasury of sacred song! And thanks be to God for our music makers, our church music directors, our organists, our choir directors. Have you thanked your church musicians for their Holy Week work? Have you thanked them for thinking about Easter as soon as Christmas Day concluded? Have you thanked them for their years of lessons taken and given, for their many late-night and early-morning rehearsals when they’d rather be spending time with family or sleeping?
For their reality is an exhausting and draining Holy Week. Just because they love their work doesn’t mean it’s not work. And while we rejoice on Easter Day and show up five minutes before the service starts, they have dragged themselves bleary-eyed out of bed early in the morning and have already been at church for hours rehearsing and navigating the sometimes-treacherous world of volunteer church choir members and instrumentalists. They have been patiently handling rehearsal latecomers and have smilingly led enthusiastic yet amateur singers. Easter Day may find them tired and unenthused. And while their music may appear seamless and smooth, their bodies are probably worn out and their minds muddled.
Thanks be to God for these men and women who give so much of themselves that we may hear glorious music!
Dear readers, I have no agenda here other than to urge you to enjoy music. Continue to play, continue to sing, continue to pursue excellence in music. Sit back and enjoy or lean forward and engage, but listen to and play music. Let it inspire you, let it comfort you, let it bring you to tears or to shouts of joy. Tickle the ivories; pull out all the stops. And let the wondrous sound point you to a better place, a place of perfection and beauty. Let it draw you to the kingdom of heaven.
Christ has arisen and we are set free! Christ has arisen and we have endless, true joy! The best part about our music is that we have an eternal reason to make it and to enjoy it. So play on; sing on! The joy of music is ours.
Keep the reverent musical mood going with powerful pieces for the Easter season.