Phil’s Top Five Good Friday Tunes

Good Friday
Good Friday is a highly emotional day and has inspired some of the most emotive and passionate music you could ever want to hear. I have something of a reputation for making people cry on Good Friday at services of meditation and reflection at the foot of the cross – not by reveling in gory details, but in bringing out the emotion of the characters around Jesus – the hatred, the love, the vilification, the tears, the mocking…

I never apologise for this as our experience of the emotion of Good Friday only serves to heighten our joy on Easter Sunday.

Music can be a big part of this, so here I offer five pieces that you might pause to listen to on this painful day. I have tried not to pick pieces from the same work, and I am sure that if I chose again next week I might pick five different pieces – but these are my choices for today.


1. The opening of Bach’s St John’s Passion.
(The opening track “Herr, Unser Herrscher” – “Lord, our Ruler”)

Lord, our ruler, whose glory
is magnificent everywhere!
Show us through your passion,
that you , the true son of God,
at all times
even in the most lowly state,
are glorified. 

2. Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere mei, Deus”, “Have mercy on me, O God”

It was composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for use in the Sistine Chapel during matins, as part of the exclusive Tenebrae service on Holy Wednesday and Good Friday of Holy Week.

Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness: 
according to the multitude of thy mercies do away mine offenses. 

3. Handel’s Messiah “Surely he hath borne our griefs”

Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! 
He was wounded For our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; 
the Chastisement of our peace was upon Him. (Isaiah 53: 4-5)




4. Karl Jenkins, Stabat Mater: “And the Mother did Weep.”

And the Mother did weep.
And the Mother did weep.
And the Mother did weep.
And the Mother did weep.
And the Mother did weep.
Vehaeym bachetah (Hebrew)
Lacrimavit Mater (Latin)
Warkath hahi imma (Aramaic)
Kai eklausen he meter (Greek)


5. The absolutely unmissable Pergolesi setting of “Stabat Mater”

Stabat Mater dolorosa
iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.

At, the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.

Anyway – now I’ve set myself off again listening to all these gloriously mournful and Passion-full tracks… I hope they have moved you somehow today.

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