Easter, Lent, the Passion | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Easter, Lent, the Passion

Easter, Lent, the Passion. The term 'Easter music' is used to describe all music specific to the season beginning with Ash Wednesday, through Holy Week and ending with the Ascension.

Easter, Lent, the Passion. The term 'Easter music' is used to describe all music specific to the season beginning with Ash Wednesday, through Holy Week and ending with the Ascension. Bach's St Matthew Passion has become a staple of the season in Canada, owing mainly to the performances given for over 30 years (1923-57, many of them broadcast) by Sir Ernest MacMillan, first at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, then with the TCM (RCMT) chorus, and after 1942 with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. The other Bach passions, Beethoven's Mount of Olives, Brahms' German Requiem, the Mozart and Fauré requiems, Spohr's Calvary, and Gounod's La Rédemption also have been sung during the Easter season in public concert and in Canadian churches, though during at least the first half of the 20th century works of somewhat less distinction - John Stainer's The Crucifixion, Alfred Gaul's The Holy City, Théodore Dubois's Les Sept Paroles du Christ, and John Henry Maunder's From Olivet to Calvary - were encountered more frequently. The Dubois has remained the single most popular Easter-season work in Quebec churches, Good Friday performances often enlisting the services of such leading soloists as Raoul Jobin or Richard Verreau. Many less famous works also have been performed, eg, Messiah Victorious, a cantata by William G. Hammond, at Trinity Methodist Church in Toronto, on Easter in 1913, and Crux by Fernand de La Tombelle and Les Mystères douloureux by Charles Planchet, performed in Montreal in 1922 and 1925 respectively.

Probably the first extended seasonal offering of the kind in Canada was the plainsong passion sung at Quebec City on Good Friday 1646. A participant wrote: 'Then the service took place at which the passion was sung by three voices, - to wit, by Monsieur de St. Sauveur [Jean Le Sueur], Gospeller; by Monsieur the prior [René Chartier], who represented the synagogue; and by me' (Jérôme Lalemant, Jesuit Relations, vol 28, p. 177).

Easter-season works of major proportions composed by Canadians include Frédéric Pelletier's Stabat mater (performed 1925) and his oratorio La Rédemption (ca 1930), Roberta Geddes-Harvey's oratorio Salvator (1907, performed in Guelph, Toronto, and Kingston), Joseph-Julien Perrault's Stabat mater and Passion (both composed between 1849 and 1866), Albert Ham's cantata The Solitudes of the Passion (1917), J. Antonio Thompson's Les Sept Paroles du Christ (1933) and Messe de Pâques (1941), and Arthur Poynter's church opera The Triumph of Our Lord (1950). More recent are settings of The Passion According to St Luke by James McRae and Keith Bissell and of the Stabat mater by Welford Russell and Bernard Naylor. Naylor also composed an Easter cantata, The Resurrection According to St Matthew (1965). Other significant works are Godfrey Ridout's The Ascension (1962, the second of his Cantiones mysticae), the Easter portions of Violet Archer's Cantata sacra (1966), Paul Pedersen's Cantata and Narrative for Good Friday (1972), Ann Lauber's oratorio Jesus Christus (1984) includes sections on the Passion and the Resurrection (see Oratorio composition), as does Gerhard Wuensch's Four Episodes from St John (1987).

Among Canadian composers of anthems, carols, and motets for the Easter season are W.H. Anderson, Keith Bissell, Barrie Cabena, Jean Coulthard, George (composer) Fox, James Gayfer, Graham George, Barry Gosse, Kenneth Meek, Bernard Naylor (notably his Victimae Paschali, his Three Latin Motets, and some of his Nine English Motets), Alfred Whitehead (who probably has composed a greater number of short Easter pieces of good quality than any of his colleagues, his output being exemplified by his setting of Most Glorious Lord of Lyfe), and Healey Willan (Introit and Gradual for Dedication in Eastertide, B601, and numerous others). Willan also wrote Responsories for the Offices of Tenebrae (1956), Propers for Lent, and Antiphon for Lent.

There are several Easter-seasonal works for organ, eg, Willan's chorale preludes on Gelobt sei Gott and Vexilla regis (1950) and on the Easter Hymn and O filii et filiae (ca 1956), Matton's Suite de Pâques (1950), Morel's suite Alleluia (1964-8), Bales' Fanfare for Easter Day (organ and brass, 1964), Lynnwood Farnam's Toccata on 'O filii et filiae,' Bernard Piché's Fugue sur l'Ite missa est alliluiatique, Benoît Poirier's Cloches de Pâques, and Marius Cayouette's Prélude pour les Matines de Pâques.

Further Reading