Tomorrow is the second Sunday in Lent: a time of turning inward, of reflection and preparation for the joys of Easter. For the choir, Lent is also a time of gearing up for one of the biggest sings of the year, the marathon of Holy Week. Soon we’ll be into extra weekly rehearsals. We’ll be focusing on learning and polishing all the music that will draw us and the congregation through the triumph of Palm Sunday, the growing darkness of Tenebrae and Maundy Thursday, the anguish of Good Friday. Some of us will be present in the congregation for the beauty of the Holy Saturday service: the passing from a bleak sense of loss to the dawning of new hope and the lighting of the new fire. And on Easter Day we’ll be celebrating in music the incredulous wonder of the resurrection of Christ.
The two biggest sings of the year are Christmas and Easter. Both are magical, in their own way. Easter is early this year, so it was only recently that we celebrated the miraculous incarnation of God in the world, the quiet, messy birth of a child unnoticed by everyone except a poor family, some foreigners, a few outcasts, and some sheep. Christmas is loud, and vibrant, and joyful. By Easter, that child has grown up, changed lives, left a legacy of love and taught us what God is really like. He has angered the powers that be, and now we are preparing the music that will accompany the precipitous journey from triumphant entry into Jerusalem all the way through to betrayal, torture and the death which, gloriously, is not the end of the story.
Easter’s music allows us to sing what we have all experienced: betrayal, loneliness, injustice. Hopelessness and death. It reminds us that all these things were drawn into the being of God long before any of us were thought of. And it reminds us that these things are not how the story ends: on Easter Day, the church will be decorated and warm with flowers, and the bones of the cathedral will thrum with the vibrations of the organ, and our music will ring out as we celebrate the wonder of the resurrection and all it means to us.
Choristers are lucky. We get to be present in all of this, to sing this music, to travel this journey of darkness and light. We are privileged to lead this music, to stand in a beautiful cathedral and hope that what we sing might reflect the glory of God.
This is why we will practise so hard. This is what we should remember: that each week when we sing, we are singing our faith, we are singing our despair and hope, and we are singing the glory and humanity of the Source of love in the world.
Also, we’ll be singing some really good music. Come and listen.