Happy Easter! It is unfortunate that the music of Easter has never caught on in society like the music of Christmas. Walk into any shopping mall and it’s doubtful you’ll hear orchestral arrangements of Welcome, happy morning or Hail thee, festival day blaring through the speakers. Similarly, nobody is clamoring for Beyoncé to record an Easter album with the hope that she’ll include He is risen! Even those of other faiths or no faith at all often love to sing Christmas carols. A few years ago, I heard a prominent atheist tell an interviewer that his favorite Christmas carol was Silent Night. As Christians, we could argue that perhaps the message of Easter is even more important than the message of Christmas. However, the music of Easter does not seem as popular as the carols that surround us all of December. I’m not sure why this is.
There are lots of good Easter “tunes” to be found. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a number of Easter cantatas as well as a marvelous Easter Oratorio that contains one of my favorite Bach arias, Seele, deine Spezereien. And, while Handel’s Messiah may get lots of performances at Christmas, only the first part deals with the Nativity story, the second and third parts tell about Christ’s rejection, death, resurrection, ascension, and the guarantee of eternal life. This work premiered during the Easter season in 1742. So, don’t be shy about popping in your favorite Messiah recording this April and May!
In 1989, Dolly Parton performed for the Academy of Country Music Association’s nationally televised awards show. It was shortly after Easter, and she opted to sing an early song written by George S. Clinton that tells the story of the resurrection from the perspective of one of the original disciples. Her marvelous arrangement and performance of this Easter song brought the crowd roaring to its feet. Who doesn’t love Dolly?! Give it a listen.
However, nothing can compare to the sound of a congregation that has patiently walked the way of Lent for 40 days finally able to proclaim their Alleluias on Easter Sunday. Rarely am I not teary-eyed as our congregation begins singing Jesus Christ is risen today at the start of the first service on Easter. There is an enthusiasm and celebration that no recording could ever catch which echoes through our singing of the Easter hymns.
A colleague of mine once admonished his choir during a rehearsal for singing rather poorly. He said to them, “If someone were to walk in off of the street and heard singing like that, do you think it would inspire them to believe that we are sincere in what we’re singing about? Would they want to ever come back and worship with us?” These 50 days of Easter, I hope we will continue to sing out confidently in our “sure and certain hope of the resurrection” so that anybody visiting us this season will know that when we’re singing about Christ’s triumph over death, we truly and deeply believe in it.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!