Thomas Weelkes’ setting of Hosanna to the Son of David marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem with bold and, at times chaotic, musical statements of praise. Weelkes lived his life a bit on the wild side frequently finding himself in jail for drunkenness and licentiousness. Nonetheless his music speaks today convincingly, particularly in the energetic crossing of rhythms over the text, “…that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Organist and Director of Music at Gloucester Cathedral, John Sanders’ The Reproaches was written in 1984 as part of the new Good Friday liturgy developed at the cathedral. The atmosphere of this piece resembles Allegri’s Miserere contrasting plainsong verses with three harmonized refrains. These refrains continually pose the unavoidable, unanswerable questions:
O my people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!
The drama of these questions is increased by the declamatory plea to be heard and to be answered. The narrative continues, describing at length the good things God has done, and humanity’s broken response which was to put Christ to death. Sanders writes this ongoing story as a simple chant while saving his rich and piercing harmonies for the refrain over the text:
Holy is God! Holy and strong! Holy immortal One, have mercy on us.
In this time when we may have more questions than answers there is comfort that these and similar questions have been asked before. Though they linger still it is the transcendent beauty of Sanders’ music that brings solace and comfort.
Music in this service:
- Hosanna to the Son of David by Thomas Weelkes
- Preces and Responses by Barnard
- Psalms 42 & 43 by S. Wesley
- Truro Service by Gabriel Jackson
- The Reproaches by John Sanders
- Alone thou goest forth, O Lord (BANGOR)