Music for Easter Sunday
By Daniel Corneliussen
J.S. Bach’s Chorale Prelude on “Ach bleib bet uns Herr Jesu Christ”
Hymn 207: Jesus Christ is risen today
Hymn 178: Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord
Good morning, everyone and Happy Easter! I know that this year it is probably difficult for a lot of us to summon a joyful spirit, but I hope that we all can somehow. It certainly is disappointing, though, to not be able to have a service on what is normally just about the happiest of all the holidays in the church year.
I hope that the music selections today help to provide us cheer in some way today. For the organ piece, I chose a lovely chorale prelude by J.S. Bach–Ach bleib but uns, Herr Jesu Christ. Just a quick note about learning this piece: one of the good things about having to stay at home these past few weeks is that I’ve had a lot more practice time than I normally would be able to grab, and I’m glad to say I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with this piece than I was before. It’s been really nice to work on–especially the wonderfully active part in the left hand. I had wanted to play this piece at Bruton Parish a couple years ago, but I couldn’t quite manage it yet at that point. I hope you enjoy how it’s sounding today–and, as you listen, I thought it might be nice to read over a translation of a couple stanzas of the words that originally went with the tune used in this piece:
1. Ah Jesu Christ, with us abide,
For now, behold, ’tis eventide:
And bring, to cheer us through the night,
Thy Word, our true and only light.
2. In times of trial and distress
Preserve our truth and steadfastness,
And pure unto the end, O Lord,
Vouchsafe Thy Sacraments and Word.
For the hymns for today, I first chose the one that is most clearly our old stand by for Easter Sunday – Hymn 207: Jesus Christ is risen today. I then also chose a hymn that’s a little more modern, but has become very popular with many congregations in the last several decades – Hymn 178: Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord. This one might be considered a little more ephemeral compared to the other hymn today, but I find it really strikes a chord with church goers. The accompaniment for this one was originally meant for piano, but I’ve worked out an organ treatment.
Oh, and one little tidbit you might not know about the other hymn (Hymn 207): we think of this hymn as such a quintessentially Easter piece, but Charles Wesley, the esteemed eighteenth-century author of the lyrics also wrote another set of lyrics that went with this tune–“Glory be to God on high,” a paraphrase of the gloria text.
Anyway, here are the words to both Hymn 207 and Hymn 178 to follow along with as you listen. Thanks so much and have a blessed Easter!
1 Jesus Christ is ris’n today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!
2 Hymns of praise then let us sing Alleluia!
unto Christ our heav’nly King, Alleluia!
who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!
3 But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
our salvation have procured; Alleluia!
now above the sky he’s King, Alleluia!
where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!
4 Sing we to our God above Alleluia!
praise eternal as his love; Alleluia!
praise him, all ye heav’nly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!
Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord,
Alleluia, alleluia, give praise to His name.
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
He is the King of creation. Refrain.
Spread the good news o’er all the earth.
Jesus has died and has risen. Refrain.
We have been crucified with Christ.
Now we shall live forever. Refrain.
Come, let us praise the living God,
Joyfully sing to our Saviour. Refrain.