For those of us who worship at a church that follows the liturgical calendar and traditions, the season of Lent can seem dark and heavy. The time of year is marked by cold, cloudy skies full of rain or snow. The weight of the ever-present gray can get to even the most optimistic of souls – even those who don’t closely follow the church calendar!
In our worship services, the music can match that weather outside as we move through Lent toward Holy Week and Christ’s Passion. By the time we get to Good Friday, it can feel like we’ve been on a liturgical death march that culminates with the lifeless body of Christ hanging on a cross as darkness envelops the earth. There is no sun. There is no warmth. There is no one to say “Alleluia!” for there is no reason to do it.
And then there’s Easter – that great eternal explosion of color and joy. The sun shines warm again. Winter and Death are defeated in one glorious morning. It’s the day when all creation sings “Alleluia!”
For choirs, Alleluia is a classic text that has been set by hundreds of composers over the last millennia. It would be almost inconceivable to find a publishing company that has not released at least one version of Alleluia. One of the best to be written in the last twenty-five years just happens to be in the Hinshaw Music catalog. It’s by Ralph Manuel, and it is truly a work of art. As you listen to it, you can hear the initial tentative steps from dark to light, as if the singers aren’t sure that the wait is over. The middle section is a triumphant expression of joy as they realize that their release is true. Finally, it ends with a humble expression of gratitude to the One who has freed them.
Three different parts to one piece, all dedicated to the One for whom Alleluia is the only worthy expression.