Jesus Is Risen Today!

by Derek E. Nickels, Director of Music 

This past March 16, on the Second Sunday in Lent, the choir led our 20th Annual Lenten Evensong where the featured anthem was Franz Josef Haydn's Mass in E-flat (Large Organ Mass). The choir (Jean-Jacques Bernard, Jonathan Cebreros, Jenny Case, Sophia Feddersen, Abby Folberg, Luis Galvez, Ian Hosack, Stacey Kezios, Sara Litchfield, Dorothy Jean Lloyd, Rachael Long, Johanna Moffit, Stephen Mollica, and Peter Morgan) was joined by a small chamber orchestra and visiting guest organist, Jonathan Gregoire.

The dramatic readings of Holy Week and Easter provide the basis for some of the most dramatic musical compositions of the Church Year. Among the readings and proclamations of the Easter Vigil Service, a piece of music commands a powerful place in this important liturgy. The Exsultet, or "Easter proclamation" is named for the first line of the Latin text: exsultet iam angelica turba caelorum ("Rejoice now, angelic host of Heaven"). This chant is sung after the blessing of the new fire (new life) and the Paschal candle has been lit. This powerful text recalls Israel's exodus from Egypt, new Christians crossing through water and slavery to freedom, and Christ's resurrection.

Easter is heralded across much of the Christian world by the text "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" sung to the tune, Lyra Davidica, Hymn 207 of Hymnal 1982. The text originated from an early 14th century Latin text that was frequently used either at the end of Easter Mass of as part of the Easter Daily Offices. Three of the English stanzas we now know first appeared in an anonymous collection published in London in 1708 with a lengthy title: Lyra Davidica, a Collection of Divine Songs and Hymns, partly New Composed, partly translated from the High German and Latin Hymns and set to easy and pleasant tunes, for more General Use. It's usually known as Lyra Davidica. This tune was also known by a number of different tune names including The Resurrection (the original name), Salisbury (Wesley's name), Easter Morn, and Worgan. This tune was one of 25 tunes in the collection and was known in young United States by the end of the 1700s.