I go to church pretty much every Sunday and have done for about as long as I can remember. At school and University I attended chapel services on a daily basis and often around 3 services every Sunday. Despite this apparent devotion to the church I am not particularly religious – I am there for the music. Generally speaking I find myself at the organ console or stood in front of a choir waving around wildly in the hope that someone is gaining some benefit from watching the spectacle.
Easter is, of course, the highlight of the churches year, and consequently there are a number of services which take place in churches up and down the country and indeed throughout the world. I suppose this starts the week before with Palm Sunday which leads into Holy Week. The services on Maundy Thursday, which usually encompass the stripping of the altar, and Good Friday are often fairly limited in their musical scope. On Thursday evening, for example, I found myself just playing two hymns and spending the majority of the service sat in the dark by the organ!
By contrast the first Eucharist of Easter is generally a very musical affair full of fanfares and choral singing. The Easter vigil service at the Magdalen Chapel in Bath where I am the Sub organist and Choir Master was no exception to this and took place at 11pm on Saturday night which meant the first Eucharist was just into the early hours of Easter Sunday morning. Despite only being a choir of 7 and the choirmaster acting as the organist the service went remarkably well and I think did justice to the occasion. As the choir didn’t have the opportunity to rehearse beforehand and until 9.30pm I didn’t know who was actually going to be joining us, we kept things simple with Bach’s Heut triumphieret, first sung by the choir unaccompanied in 4 parts and then the chorale (BWV 630) played on the organ by yours truly. During communion the choir sang Mozart’s Ave Verum which may not have been the most inspired choice, but nevertheless it is a good piece. I have always believed that it is better to do something simple well than something ambitious badly. The service finished with Bach’s St Anne Fugue mostly for my friend Jane who is giving a presentation on ClavierUbung III in a couple of weeks time.
So after the musical splendour of the Easter Vigil I actually find, unusually for an organist, that I don’t have to play the organ on Easter Sunday (at least not during the normal hours anyway) so I can therefore spend the day mostly indulging in Easter Eggs. I think in theory we aren’t supposed to have eaten any eggs since pancake day on Shrove Tuesday and quite why easter eggs are made of chocolate I’m not sure. I think its an example of a religious custom having got all rather confused. But I think that’s a discussion for another day! I will sign off and bid you all a very happy Easter whatever you find yourself doing.