Tag Archives: Musical thought

Phil’s Top Five Easter Day Tunes

As I did a Top Five for Good Friday – I thought I should also do one for Easter Day lest I be thought of as a predominantly morbid soul!  (I am!)

Truth is – I do prefer mournful music – but that doesn’t mean that I can’t tolerate a bit of joyousness on occasion – and what better day for that than Easter Day?

The “joy” of Easter Day is a deep, lasting, eternal joy – and I suspect this is harder for musicians to capture.

I have included pieces that I find are just infused with irresistible, infectious JOY and are also specifically inspired by the resurrection. (and I may have cheated!)

Here we go!

1. The Oscar Peterson Trio: “He is Risen” (from Peterson’s “Easter Suite”)

Oh Yes! No words needed!

2. Handel: “I know that My Redeemer Liveth” (from the Messiah)

Good old Kiri te Kanawa! She needs no introduction.

3. J.M.C Crum’s “Now the Green Blade Riseth”

Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

4. Prince (artist formerly known as!): “The Cross”

Possibly should be on Good Friday but it’s too loud for most contexts! So it’s here, sue me!

We all have our problems
Some big, some are small
Soon all of our problems
Will be taken by the cross.

Still one more to go?? Strewth, this is hard! 🙂

5. (Traditional) “This Morning When I Rose”

Sing it sister!

If this isn’t about Easter Day – then it should be! 🙂

OK – can I get back to my mournful sings now?  🙂

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.

I have enough.

During my morning prayer this week I was introduced to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Ich habe genug.”  (I have enough.)  It was written for the feast of the purification of Mary and based on the encounter that Mary and Joseph had with Simeon.  Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and proclaims that he can now rest in peace for his eyes have seen the God’s salvation.  “I have enough, I need nothing more from life.”

In Genesis chapter 33 we have the fabulous scene where after many long years Jacob and Esau are reconciled.  Jacob is feeling guilty and he has brought many carts full of expensive trinkets to give to his brother.  But Esau responds:

“I have enough. Keep what you have, Brother.”

I am very conscious as I reflect on this that I am probably presenting a world-view that simply doesn’t apply to everyone – there ARE so many people who absolutely DO NOT have enough, and I hope that nothing I say in what follows will give the impression that I am not aware of that – but in the lead-up to Christmas I am always struck by the fact that I DO have enough and that I don’t really need more STUFF, even if I think I do.

Partly this is because year by year I find it ever harder to write my Christmas list so that my long-suffering family don’t have to make wild-guesses in the dark – but I know they struggle too.  I am blessed with children who have never been grasping or acquisitive and have always been very modest with their Christmas lists.  

This year I am increasingly saddened by Advent calendars and how the idea has been gleefully grasped as a commercial opportunity, so that we cannot even retreat into Advent away from Christmas to escape the increasingly mad dash for more STUFF.

There is a rare whiskies advent calendar that costs £10,000!

A few years ago now (and used as the basis of some of my Christmas sermons last year!) George Monbiot wrote a searingly brutal, yet honest piece about the accumulation of STUFF – you can read it here.  It only gets more true as each year passes.

Is knowing I have enough a gift?  If so, I think it might be called the gift of contentment.

Lord, help me discover that gift of contentment.

Why not pray that short prayer for yourself as you listen to “Ich Habe Genug”…

Thursday Music moments: The truly moving story behind Matthew West’s song "Forgiveness".

Preaching about forgiveness is a dangerous game, it can drag up all kinds of bitter and hurtful memories that people hold onto for years.  We should be very cautious about telling people they must forgive, healing can take a long time and any act of forgiveness is only part of that process of healing.

What I will always unashamedly do, though, is allow others to tell their own stories about their own journeys towards forgiveness.  These stories so often remind me in an intensely powerful way that if I do not find a way to forgive I am so often the one who is left trapped, mine is the life that is held back.

So, here’s such a story – the story that inspired the song.


and here’s the actual song in full:

May God bless you and wrap her arms around you if these words bring old bitterness or pain to the surface.