Monday, April 5, 2010


Yesterday was Easter, which probably everyone in the world knows - unless they live under a rock or something like that, and I have to say it didn't really feel like Easter. Maybe it's because I didn't hide eggs for my niece to find or go to the annual church party that my dad's church hosts. Maybe it's because I'm older and a bit of a cynic, so it doesn't hold the same magic it did when I was a child. Anyway, I went to my dad's church for the Easter service and as I was singing the second hymn it hit me that because I didn't go to the Good Friday service, I missed out on one of my favorite hymns. I absolutely love "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)." The lyrics are sad but if sung well, it's hauntingly beautiful. A few years ago, the choir director at the church did an amazing arrangement of this song that I think everyone should be able to hear at least once in their life.

To set this up, my dad's church is built like a Catholic cathedral (which is kind of funny since it's a Baptist church) and at the back of the sanctuary is a balcony.

That year, the choir sat in that balcony for the Good Friday service, so that during the entire service it felt like the music was surrounding you. When they sang "Were You There," it started off with a baritone soloist singing the first verse a cappella. As he finished and began the verse again, a soprano or alto soloist started the second verse. Then a tenor sang the third and a soprano/alto sang the last verse. The song was going in a round and then the sections joined the soloists in singing their verses. Soon the entire choir was singing the song in a round. I remember the song becoming quiet as a verse finished and then growing again as each section sang "Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble." The music was echoing throughout the entire sanctuary, the words rising and falling. During the last round, all of the sections sang their verses at the same time, so there was this mixture where you could understand maybe one or two words at a time, but never the same verse all at once. Then when they reached "Oh, sometimes ..." their voices joined together and the song rose up, then slowly disappeared as they broke off into singing their own verses again. It was honestly the most beautiful piece of music I had ever heard. Every time I sing this song, I remember that arrangement and it makes me tear up a little.

The director who arranged it has been gone from the church for a couple of years now - I hope that wherever he is, he has another choir perform "Were You There" on Good Friday.

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